Whether you’re just looking to live a more sustainable, simple lifestyle or have big plans for an entirely off-grid homestead, becoming more self-sufficient is an incredibly useful and rewarding undertaking. In the age of convenience and mass-production, it’s a way to better connect with the world around you and your place in it. And if you do find yourself in hard times at some point in the future, these kinds of skills can prove invaluable in coping with the challenge.
What does self-sufficiency mean to you?
Some people have a desire to get more involved with the production of the food they eat, some people are seeking a lifestyle that makes it easier for them to save money for their retirement or travel plans, and some people want to be prepared even in the case of a large-scale disaster. No matter what your own personal circumstances – whether you already have a big piece of land and can start growing your own food on a significant scale or only have a window free for some herbs – there are simple steps anyone can take.
Aside from relying less on external factors like the grocery store and the reliable supply of water and electricity, you’re likely to discover talents in yourself that might otherwise have remained hidden forever – like a knack for gardening, DIY, canning food, making soap and candles, sewing… the list is endless. Here are some simple ways to get started.
Because so many of the skills needed to become self-sufficient have been around since the dawn of humanity, even very old books on the subject can be immensely valuable – and you can access them for free at your local library. Replacing an hour of Netflix with some quality reading time is a great way to find inspiration and do a little digital detoxing too! Other than that, there are free eBooks and articles all over the web, so get curious.
Use your shopping receipts as inspiration
The best skills to learn are the ones that are going to be of the most use to you – and that’s generally all the stuff you spend money on. Keep your receipts, and start taking note of the things you buy often but might actually be able to make yourself. Things like soaps and detergents are a great place to start, as well as items like herbs you could be easily growing yourself. As you gain confidence, you could try your hand at making your own clothes, baking your own bread or pasta, preparing those readymade meals from scratch, etc.
Learn to DIY
Changing a tire, home maintenance and repairs and basic fixes around the home are all great skills to set you on the right course. You might find you have a talent for upcycling old things, creating your own furniture or landscaping. While you might not want to tackle skilled work like your own appliance repairs, you could learn the basics of rewiring a plug, tiling your bathroom, and basically learning to make better use of your own two hands… and maybe even build your own home one day. The key is to start small!
Manage your money
Whether you want to be able to buy your own piece of land to farm on or invest in a solar power or rainwater harvesting system, you don’t want your journey to self-sufficiency to make you reliant on credit – the whole idea is to rely more on your own resources, after all. That means getting into good financial habits, saving for unexpected costs, and making your money work for you rather than the other way around. Forcing yourself to save money each month also forces you to prioritize better and live more simply anyway.
Learn from nature when planning your garden
If you have an existing garden, make it your mission to slowly replace less useful plants with ones that provide food and ideally are indigenous to the region you live in. Become aware of the natural cycles around you and use those to your advantage when planning a veggie garden and choosing which plants to experiment with. In many parts of the world, what we call ‘weeds’ are actually very nutritious potential food sources – and as any gardener will attest, they’re hardy little buggers! If you grow plants that are naturally adapted to your region anyway, you’re making life a lot easier for yourself. If you’ve never tried them before, experiment in the kitchen and see which you enjoy eating most, as those are the ones you’ll want to focus on after all. If your space is very limited, start a little worm farm to deal with scraps from the kitchen, and plant a few hardy herbs in a window-box or on the balcony.
Get others involved
We will always rely on others to some extent – even in totally off-grid communes, people have different roles to play and talents to bring to the table. If you can, getting your family, friends and community involved can help you learn self-sufficiency skills from each other, and share the journey of discovery!