The cost of living keeps rising on a daily basis, and this affects homesteaders as well as city dwellers. Finding new ways to keep household and farming costs down can be challenging, but fortunately, there are ways to make our pennies stretch further. Below are 17 ways to save money on the homestead, from home and garden to barn and pantry.
Household Goods and Items
One of the best ways to save money on the homestead is to create as many of your own household goods as possible. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year, and is especially handy for people who live in very rural locations.
1. Make, Mend, and Repurpose Clothes
Slogans such as “make, mend, and reuse” held true for centuries and became popular again during the Great Depression and World War II.
Clothes and other fabric-based household items can get quite costly, but we can save money as well as keeping clothes out of landfills by making our own and taking care of our clothes as well as we can.
For example, knowing how to darn holes in socks makes them last a lot longer, and mending tears with stitches and patches means they don’t need to be replaced as often.
If you have even basic sewing, knitting, or crocheting skills, you can also make a wide variety of clothes with fabric or yarn you may already have around the house.
Additionally, you’d be amazed at how you can repurpose clothes into different things. For example, you can unravel old sweaters and use the yarn to make new mittens and hats, or cut up clothes that are beyond repair to transform into quilts, etc.
2. Turn Household Sweepings and Trimmings into Soap
If you have a fireplace or wood stove that you burn hard wood in (thus creating hardwood ash), and a good source of fat (like tallow), then you can make your own soap from scratch.
It’s a bit of a painstaking process, but once you learn how to make lye from ash and learn how the right lye to fat ratios “feel,” it’s an incredibly fun pastime to partake in. You can get creative with how you scent these soaps, such as using foraged or home-grown ingredients like cedar, rose petals, oat milk, and so on.
This is an amazing way to save money while also ensuring that nothing on the homestead goes to waste.
Speaking of soap…
3. Create Liquid Soap from Bar Slivers
You know when you’ve used bar soap until it’s a tiny little sliver that threatens to fall down the drain at any moment? Save those slivers in a jar or zipper bag until you’ve collected a good, large handful of them so you can transform them into liquid soap.
When you have enough slivers, pulse them in your food processor or grate them into powder.
Combine this soap powder and water in a saucepan in a one-to-three ratio. For example, use third cup of powdered soap to a cup of water, or one cup of soap powder with three cups of water.
Heat on medium, stirring frequently until the soap has melted completely into the water. Remove from heat and let cool overnight.
It’ll be a bit goopy in the morning, so run that through a blender to smooth it well, adding a bit more water if necessary if you think it’s too thick. Decant into liquid soap dispensers and lather yourself up as needed.
4. Make New Candles from Scraps
If you light candles often, you’ve likely realized that there’s always a bit of wax left over once the candle burns out completely. Just like with the soap bits mentioned above, collect these wax leftovers in a zipper bag until it’s full.
If you use scented candles, try to keep the scents separated so you don’t end up with an olfactory nightmare from combining conflicting aromas.
Once you have enough wax scraps, melt them down in a double boiler until the wax has liquefied completely.
At this point, you can either pour it into candle molds that have already been prepped with wicks, or into jars, tins, or other containers (similarly pre-prepped with weighted wicks). Let these cool completely before lighting them up.
5. Install a Bidet
Considering how the cost of everything has gone up exponentially, keeping the bathroom stocked with toilet paper can get seriously costly. If you’re aiming to save money on the homestead in a big way, then one of the best things you can do is install a bidet in every bathroom.
These are ideal for keeping tushies tidy, and you can either use a tiny bit of TP or homemade wipes to dry off afterward. You can even buy fancy bidet seats with built-in dryers and heated seats.
6. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Let’s say that an average bottle of eco-friendly spray cleaner can set you back between $7 and $20, depending on the brand. In contrast, a gallon jug of regular white vinegar is around $5, and can be used to clean just about every surface in your home.
Other ingredients, such as baking soda and Borax, are just as cheap, and a small amount goes a long way. The only real expense you may accrue is in buying essential oils occasionally, but you might even get these for free or trade, depending on your social circles.
7. DIY Personal Care Products
Toothpaste, shampoo, facial toner, skin cream, beard care, and other personal items can all set us back quite a bit of money every month. Fortunately, these are items that can easily be made at home for a fraction of the cost of store-bought products.
Brushing your teeth with a paste of baking soda, salt, water, and a drop of essential oil costs you literally a few pennies per month!
Our guide can help you make your own shampoo, and some beeswax, cocoa butter, and essential oil can make a fantastic face cream.
Garden and Livestock
Depending on the type of homestead you run, you may have a vegetable/fruit/herb garden, livestock, or a combination of all of those. The tips mentioned below can help to keep costs low.
8. Save and Share Seeds
The average cost of a packet of seeds now ranges around $4, so the cost of planting an extensive garden may be prohibitive to many people.
As such, if you want to save money on the homestead, it’s vital to save seeds every year—both from your own crops, and from organic produce that you purchase from local farms.
When the time rolls around to start this year’s seedlings, talk to your friends and community members about seed-sharing or trading opportunities.
Someone may have a great tomato variety that you’ve been interested in trying out in exchange for some medicinal herb seeds. By sharing rather than buying, you can all save hundreds of dollars every year.
9. Make Your Own Fertilizer
Fertilizer can be incredibly expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make your own at home with scraps, or materials you collect nearby.
For example, if you go fishing regularly, reserve the fish heads, spines, and tails and transform them into fish emulsion fertilizer with some water and molasses. Or use vermicompost or aged compost to make compost tea to nourish your plants.
We also use rabbit droppings as fertilizer, which nourishes plants even better than cow or chicken manure. Simply collect them and bury them shallowly around your plants to avoid attracting flies.
10. Collect Rainwater (and/or Snow)
This will depend on what the laws are like in your area, but collecting rainwater or snow to use throughout the growing season can really help you save money on the homestead — especially if you’re charged a lot for water.
You can use something as simple as an adapted plastic garbage can or rain barrel that you’ve raised on cinder blocks or invest in a large tank (aboveground) or sunken cistern (buried).
The two latter options are ideal if you get a lot of snow, as you can fill them easily during the winter months, which will melt into usable garden water once spring arrives.
11. Save Cardboard for Weed Barriers and Mulch
If you’re creating new garden beds, skip the expensive landscaping fabric and just put down a few layers of cardboard instead. These will smother existing weeds and grass while simultaneously preventing new ones from growing.
Whenever you get a delivery in a cardboard box, simply cut them open so you can lay them flat, and ensure that you overlap them when you lay them onto the ground. Then soak them well to keep them in place, or they’ll fly away with the next strong wind.
Alternatively, you can shred them up and use them as mulch around your plants, especially if you live in a dry area and your plants could benefit greatly from extra moisture.
Just make sure you’re not using dyed or chemically treated cardboard so nothing harmful leaches into the local groundwater.
12. Use Cardboard Egg Cartons as Insulation
Cardboard egg cartons are great for mild insulation. You can use them in lieu of fiberglass “fluff” as wall insulation if you’re in a moderately temperate climate.
Or use them to add a layer of extra warmth (and help prevent heat loss) in chicken coops, outdoor cat and dog shelters, as well as other animal pens. These cartons also reduce noise, which can be of added benefit if you’re raising chickens or ducks in an urban environment.
Their noise-reducing qualities are also beneficial to line a basement room with if your kid wants to learn how to play the drums.
13. Feed Livestock with Table Scraps
This is an age-old practice used by those who want to save money on the homestead. Numerous animals can thrive on kitchen and table scraps, so not only does no food go to waste, but the animals get to broaden their palates in turn.
Mix suet with vegetable scraps and grains to give your poultry extra nutrients in wintertime. Save the bread crusts your kids refuse to eat and add them to pig feed along with vegetable trimmings, cheese rinds, and so on.
It’s not just your livestock that can benefit from these frugal endeavors:
Food and Drink
Whether you’re trying to reduce food costs or aiming to reuse as many edible items as possible, the following tips may be essential to help you save money on the homestead.
14. Preserve by Pressure-Canning Whenever Possible
It’s wonderful to have a freezer that’s stocked with protein and produce, but what happens if there’s a lengthy power outage? Just about all of us have lost precious food items after the power has gone out for days (or weeks) at a time.
By pressure-canning food instead of freezing it, you make it shelf-stable at room temperature for a year or more. This means that you never have to worry about any food going to waste due to unreliable electricity.
Although the initial cost of a good pressure canner can be a bit pricey, it’ll more than make up for its price over the years.
Pressure canning allows you to preserve low-acid foods safely, so you can keep corn, beans, meats, broths, soups, and more without a risk of harmful bacteria setting in and making your family seriously ill.
15. Save Food Scraps for Stock
I can’t remember the last time I purchased soup stock, but it must have been at least 20 years ago. Instead, I save scraps from every meal I prepare, and when I have enough of them, I transform them into stock.
Keep a few zipper bags or BPA-free plastic containers in your freezer for different types of food scraps.
For example, have one just for vegetable scraps (carrot peelings, onion ends, parsley stems, kale spines, broccoli ends, and so on) and one for each type of meat you consume, if any. I have one for chicken bones and skin, one for beef, and one for fish.
When the bags start filling up, add their contents to a large stock pot, water and whatever extra herbs you like, boil them, and then simmer for several hours. Strain it, adjust salt to taste, and voila: you have soup stock.
Alternatively, you can boil it down on medium-low heat until it’s concentrated, then freeze it in ice cube trays. These are ideal stock cubes that you can keep in the freezer and toss into stews, sauces, and so on as needed.
16. Try Depression-Era and WWII Recipes
Home cooks got incredibly creative during the 1930s and 40s, using ingredients in innovative ways so they could stretch what little they had to feed their families. As such, a great way to save money on the homestead is to check out what our grandparents, and great-grandparents were cooking in those days, and adapt them to our preferences.
For example, unless you’re completely dedicated to nose-to-tail cooking, it’s unlikely that you (or your kids) will be keen on scrapple made with pork brains and other offal.
That said, a tasty dish can be made with whatever leftover meaty bits and fat that you have, along with ingredients like stale breadcrumbs, leftovers from previous meals, and a bit of broth, mixed up well and baked into a loaf.
Add beans, lentils, and grains like ground barley, millet, or oatmeal into soups and stews to thicken them and bulk them up with extra nutrients. Casseroles, one-pot meals, and fry-ups are your friends.
Or, even better, grab yourself a cookbook or two. These work well even if the power is off and it’s always nice to have something physical to reach for.
“Depression Era Recipes” by Patricia R. Wagner, available at Amazon, has some tasty recipes, including basics and more elaborate options.
Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes and Jean Anderson explains how people cooked during WWII and includes lots of recipes to try. It’s also available at Amazon.
17. Brew Your Own Kombucha, Soft Drinks, and Beer
When my partner and I realized how much we were spending on kombucha at the grocery store, we decided to start brewing our own at home. This has reduced our monthly food costs significantly, as we can brew it from whatever happens to be in season at the time.
Considering that you can brew a gallon of kombucha for around $0.50, versus paying $4-5 for a small bottle, you can save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars annually by brewing it at home.
All you need to do is check your local garden sharing or “free stuff” marketplace to see if anyone is sharing kombucha SCOBYs, and then follow our guide on how to brew your own.
Similarly, if you and your family drink a lot of soda, you can make your own healthier, lower-cost versions by brewing them up at home.
Some people like to invest in something like a Soda Stream so they can carbonate homemade juices and interesting non-alcoholic brews. Others brew theirs naturally with wild yeast found on conifer needles and such.
Finally, if you’re more interested in beer brewing, making your own beer and ale isn’t just a great way to save money on the homestead: it can also provide you with a great product to trade with your neighbors.
As you can see, there are many different ways to keep your homesteading costs low. Determine which ones work best for you, and adapt them to your own family’s needs.