Taking steps to self-reliance may seem a bit daunting at first, but this list will help you get on the right path!
What is Self-Reliance?
Self-reliance: reliance on one’s own efforts, abilities, powers and resources rather than those of others.
Most homesteaders dream of total self-reliance. Growing 100% of the food we consume, going solar for all of our power needs, living on well water instead of relying on the city. It’s all a bit daunting, and sometimes that make people stagger before they get started.
While some of this will take a bit of getting used to, none of it is that difficult. Being mindful of your habits, knowing what you have and what you need, and having a few commonsense skills will help you along the way.
Steps to Self-Reliance: 11 Ways to Get Started
Here are a few extremely basic tips (in no particular order) that will help you start on a more self-reliant path.
Plant a Garden
Growing your own food is a huge step to self-reliance. Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow food in containers or grow bags. Everything you can grow is less you have to buy.
Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs are just a few ideas to get you started, and they’re all relatively easy to grow. This is a basic skill for modern homesteaders and people looking for self-sustainability.
Even if you have no outdoor space in an apartment, you can still grow some things inside. You may be limited as to what you can grow, but using grow lights and containers, you can still make the effort.
Cook for Yourself
In my article 42 Ways to Save Money on Groceries, we discussed how cooking your own food as opposed to eating out will save you money.
If you don’t have time enough through the week to cook every night, set aside a day each month to spend a few hours in the kitchen. Cook in large batches and freeze meals in gallon-sized freezer bags. This way, when you’re short on time (or just don’t feel like cooking), all you have to do is pop a frozen meal into the oven and relax while dinner cooks!
Instead of throwing out leftovers, repurpose them. If you cook a roast one night and don’t eat it all, use the leftovers to make roast beef sandwiches, beef stew, and beef pot pie. There is a myriad of other recipes you can use for your leftovers to make sure you’re not wasting any food.
Learn to Preserve Food
Canning, dehydrating, freezing, and freeze drying are all excellent ways to preserve food. If you buy food in bulk, you’ll spend less money per unit on what you buy. In turn, if you grow a lot of your own food, you don’t want to lose any of that harvest.
Preserving your food will keep you from wasting any of your time and money by throwing away food that goes bad. Can your tomatoes, chop and freeze your peppers, dehydrate your onions to make onion powder.
A pressure canner isn’t that costly, nor is a decent dehydrator or a vacuum sealer (to help with the freezing). The most expensive option here is the freeze dryer, so that may actually be more of a luxury. It’s a luxury we eventually want, though, as it will help with the food preservation!
Stop Using Paper Products
Paper towels, paper napkins and paper plates are all convenient. However, if you’re trying to become more self-reliant, paper products are just another thing you have to buy every time you go to the grocery store.
Instead of buying paper products, why not just use the real thing?
Hand towels will replace paper towels. Linen napkins replace paper ones. Use actual plates in place of paper plates. Of course, you have to wash these items when you’re done, but they’re reusable, and that’s what we’re going for here.
We’re actually in the process of converting from paper. We’ll be making our own no-paper towel rolls soon!
Switch to Simple Cleaning Solutions
Did you know you can make cleaner from citrus and vinegar? It’s as simple as letting citrus peels (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit) steep in white vinegar for a couple of weeks. After steeping, use a mesh sieve to strain the vinegar from the peels and pour into a spray bottle.
Just like cooking your own food cuts out a lot of the harmful chemicals you get in fast food, making your own natural cleaners at home also eliminates unnecessary chemicals. So long as the citrus was grown organically and washed thoroughly, there should be no issues whatsoever.
Vinegar itself can also be a good cleaner on its own, and it is food safe. If you clean your counters with chemical-based cleaners, every time you prepare any food on that counter, you may be ingesting those cleaning chemicals, too. Vinegar is safe to ingest and is often times a better cleaner.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Not only is this concept environmentally friendly, but it also lends itself to self-reliance. Don’t waste anything you can potentially reuse.
- Those chicken bones and vegetable ends? Boil them and make chicken (or beef, or veggie) stock. (Bonus points if you can it!)
- That spaghetti sauce jar? Save it, drop a wick into it and fill it with filtered bacon grease to use as an emergency candle.
- Those cardboard tubes from the toilet tissue can be used to start seeds in for your garden next season.
There’s always something you can do with those old things around your house. Find something you never use anymore and make something with it you’ll use daily.
Make It Yourself
Want a new scarf for the winter? Knit one for yourself. Need some more shelves in the garage? Build them yourself.
Being able to make what you need instead of buying it is probably the most fundamental idea of self-sufficiency. There’s a lot to be said when you can look around your house and see the fruits of your labor instead of just a bunch of things you bought.
These are also dying skills – if we don’t teach them to our children, they may never learn the true meaning of self-sufficiency.
Whether you’re in a drought situation or not, collecting rainwater is a good idea. When you have to water your garden or your inside plants, you won’t have to turn on the spigot and run up your water bill. This is an amazing idea for any homesteader.
Rainwater can also serve as emergency water in times of need if you know how to purify water. Self-reliance becomes much easier when you have a virtually unlimited water supply.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
I can hear some of you right now: “This isn’t a way to be self-reliant.” I beg to differ.
No matter how close or how far away from your neighbors you are, the better you know them, the more they’re prone to help you when you need something. Whether you need a ride somewhere or need to borrow a cup of sugar, your neighbor can be there for you in a matter of moments.
You also may end up bartering with your neighbor. Let’s say you grow tons of tomatoes, and your neighbor has chickens that produce more eggs than he needs. You could barter your tomatoes for your neighbor’s eggs.
Neighbors are a great resource, and bartering is one of the key steps to self-reliance.
Train yourself and your family to turn off things when they’re not in use.
Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth. Don’t leave televisions on when they’re not being watched. Turn off the lights and open the curtains to let the sunshine in.
Conserving resources also applies to your food, dryer sheets, laundry detergent, shower gel… basically everything you have can be rationed out in smaller increments. Conservation makes your resources last longer saving you a ton of money.
Invest in a Good Set of Tools
What happens when your doorknob works loose, or the pull-cord comes off the mower? If you don’t have a decent set of tools, you can’t fix things when they break. Of course, you need the knowledge to work with these tools, too, but all the knowledge in the world won’t replace a good screwdriver.
Here’s a really good tool set I found on Amazon. It’s a Craftsman set and has just about everything you need for basic repairs and building.
“A good set of tools” doesn’t have to be top of the line, either. You can find tools at yard sales and thrift shops all the time to add to your collection. Just make sure you’re not picking up something that will tear up days later.
Your self-reliance may depend on that screwdriver.
What can you do today to live more self-reliantly?
Are you on a path to self-reliance? What do you do now that could be considered a step to self-reliance? What more could you do?
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Patrick & Jessie homestead in Middle Georgia with two of their four children and their three dogs. They love gardening, food preservation, and keeping their family prepared for any disaster that may come.