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41 Ways to Become more Self-Sufficient

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Never in a million years did I ever think I would be even remotely interested in self-sufficient living. Yet, there I was with two little girls living in the suburbs for the first time in almost 10 years. And I was yearning for something more…. To stop being so dependent on everyone else to provide my family and me with basic sustenance. And to teach our children about life.

Fresh beets held in hands

And I sat there wondering how I could possibly make it happen when we had less than a quarter acre. Most of which was covered by 100% shade and a huge home. I thought I was just going to have to wait it out until we could get back out into a rural area to work toward our dreams. 

But, I was determined. Determined to leave this modern, consumer-driven mindset far behind and start becoming more of a producer and an informed consumer. So, I found ways, on that itty bitty lot to work toward our dreams and goals. And now, on our 1-acre homestead, I still have to think outside of the box. Are we striving toward 100% self-sufficiency? No… But, we are striving to become more self-sufficient, right here where we are at. Make do with what we’ve been given and teach our children about the hard work, dedication, and integrity that go into producing their own food. 

And if I can do this, you can absolutely do this. Whether you live in a tiny, studio apartment in the middle of a huge urban area or you have 2,000 acres and don’t know what to do with it all. You can become more self-sufficient. 

There is no reason to bow down and say okay and give in and buy everything. It’s not necessary to buy into the consumerism that is rampant all over this country, all over this world. You can do something to work toward your goals of self-sufficiency and homesteading right now. 

The only thing holding you back… is you. 

Sure, we could all sit here and think up excuses. Our living arrangements, time restraints, budget, health all keep us from reaching our goals and living a more self-sufficient life. But that’s all they are, excuses. If you want something bad enough, you can find a way. Nothing can stop you, as long as you put your mind to it. There are ways to work around just about anything holding you back.

It’s time to stand up and do something. Do something better for ourselves, our families, humanity, animals, plants, the environment. Self-sufficiency and sustainability are bigger than just you or me. It’s the whole world. If we all care, if we take steps to become more self-sufficient then it rubs off on our family, our neighbors… their families, their neighbors, and on and on it goes.

Don’t let anything hold you back. The smallest thing can make a huge impact.

41 Skills to Help You Become More Self Sufficient

I’m just going to list these in no particular order. Obviously, if you’re in an apartment, some of these aren’t currently achievable, but a lot of them are, you just have to think outside the box… 

When we lived in the suburbs (which was a huge mistake on our part), we weren’t allowed to have chickens or any other livestock (even rabbits). We had a small corner in our front yard that was big enough for a tiny 6X6 garden bed. Our kitchen was the smallest kitchen I’ve ever had. It belonged on a boat! 

My point is, we achieved a lot of these goals right there in that huge home with a tiny yard and a tinier kitchen. And we thrived. Did we produce absolutely everything ourselves? No. But self-sufficiency is more than just trying to produce everything yourself. It’s about community. Supporting local farms, working together, and building skills that will help you become more self-sufficient regardless of your location. Even if it’s just baking a loaf of bread with store-bought flour or growing some herbs in your kitchen window. They’re all skills that are becoming lost in our society today and they all help you learn to become more self-sufficient. 

Grow Your Own Food

Garden full of fresh produce

1. Start a kitchen herb garden. 

Did you know that you can grow herbs right in your kitchen? Not even outside, right there in your kitchen. Just stick them by a window for a while, or use artificial light. Herbs are incredibly easy to grow, require very little maintenance, and very little water.

2. Grow a planter garden.

Stuck in an apartment or rent from someone who doesn’t want you to dig up their precious “lawn”? Totally ok. You would be amazed at the number of things that can be grown in planters. It’s astonishing, really.

3. Start a community garden.

Community gardens are becoming more popular each year. They are popping up more frequently in urban, and even suburban areas. This is great. Even if you don’t have room because you live in an apartment, or have a small lot, or covenants that do not allow you to grow a garden. You can still start, or join, a community garden. Lots of fun and they benefit lots of people!

4. Ditch the grass and go for an edible lawn. 

We do not need pretty grass, seriously. Tear out decorative shrubs and put some blueberry bushes in their place. Grow a few fruit trees. Make a raised bed garden… just go with the mentality of growing food instead of lawns. Edible lawns can even be pretty! It amazes me how beautiful some edibles really are when they grow. Whoever thought well-manicured grass was important was crazy.

5. Build a compost pile. 

You can feed that edible lawn and beautiful garden of yours with completely organic, natural fertilizer. Create less trash and a happier, healthier garden! Win, win!

6. Try vermicomposting

You can even do this in an apartment! Even without any room at all, you can have rich compost for your plants or garden. It doesn’t take much and you’re still creating less trash!

Raise Livestock for Meat, Dairy & Eggs

7. Get some backyard chickens

Lavender orpington hen

I know this isn’t allowed in some areas, it wasn’t allowed at our previous residence. However, if there are no laws or ordinances prohibiting it, get some! They’re well worth it. Amazing pets that keep you in breakfast. It doesn’t get much better than that.

8. Learn to hunt. 

We hunt for survival in our family. Without a successful hunting season, we lack a lot in the way of meat and have an over-abundance of freezer space. Knowing that an animal lived a free life and was killed humanely to feed our family is important to us. Our food should serve a purpose and live happily, not live on a commercial feedlot with its sole purpose to get fattened up and sent to slaughter for the grocery.

9. Learn to butcher. 

You harvested the game, now learn how to butcher it yourself. We learned how to do this a few years ago after a local butcher mixed our meat with another deer and divided it in half between the recipients. I’ll never take our meat to butcher again. I know exactly where the animal came from, that it’s all the same animal, and how it was handled from harvest to freezer.

10. Learn to fish and how to clean them.

It kind of goes along the same lines as hunting, but angling is quite a bit different. We love fishing, it’s a favorite pass time of our girls. They are learning how to line a pole, but they can bait a hook and can handle most catches. Except for catfish… I have trouble with those still myself. Slimy, pointy things…

11. Join a farm share.

This is an excellent idea for people who live in areas where farming, especially livestock, isn’t possible. There are shares almost everywhere. These farmers are committed to sustainable farming practices, their livestock is treated humanely, and fed things far healthier than skittles.

12. Get meat rabbits.

One buck and two does can produce enough meat for you to eat one rabbit a week for a year. Most people who have restraints on chicken keeping do not have the same restraints for meat rabbits. Why? Because they forgot to include it in the wording. Sure, rabbits are cute and cuddly, but they can be a great way to fill your freezer.

13. Get your own dairy animal.

Nubian dairy goat doe

I cannot wait for the day we can add dairy goats to our homestead. Fresh, raw milk is delicious and good for you! If you have the room, add a couple of goats or a cow. I’ll live vicariously through you until we can get our goats.

14. Learn how to tan a hide. 

It amazes me how the Native Americans, and most cultures, used all of their harvested animals. They didn’t just toss the carcass aside. We plan to learn how to tan this year. We have a couple of deer hides ready to tan, we just need to figure out how to do it. Absolutely nothing wrong with some handmade, soft leather. Lots of purposes!

15. Learn to make butter, cheese, and yogurt. 

These are really 3 things, but they are all dairy-related. Butter is easy, start with that. Yogurt isn’t so bad… cheese, I’m wanting to tackle that next.

16. Learn to render fat

Contrary to what we’ve been told forever and ever, animal fats are good for us! Learn how to render your own, because there are very few places that have healthy animal fats available for sale. Knowing how to make your own lard and tallow is a beautiful thing.

17. Become a bee farmer. 

We’re killing our bees! In fact, most honey on store shelves isn’t even honey… Start your own and you’ll have fresh, local honey and beeswax to make some candles!!

Learn Simple Old-Fashioned Skills

18. Stop using your clothes dryer. 

Clothes dryers are some of the biggest energy suckers out there. Not only do they waste tons of energy, they tear up your clothes! One less thing you have to pay for and your clothes will last longer! You can even do this in an apartment. Just dry your clothes on racks indoors.

19. Ditch cable, or even TV altogether.

Seriously, you do not need all of that mindless garbage in your home! There are better ways to entertain yourself. Less money out of your pocket, more time for more important things in life. Trust me on this. You will be far more productive and you will buy less! We save over $1,500 a year by not subscribing to satellite TV and lord knows how much more we save by simply not seeing the ridiculous advertisements telling us some new contraption we need in our lives.

20. Learn to sew.

I don’t care if you learn how to sew by hand, with a machine, or both. Just learn. This is a skill that is incredibly underused and even becoming extinct. Very, very few people know how to sew. It’s a helpful skill. You can mend clothes instead of buying new ones and you can even sew your own. If you shop around, it’s cheaper, and they will be better quality if you make your own.

21. Learn to knit or crochet (or both). 

Same as sewing! If you could knit your own gloves or hat you would stay warm all winter :). Make a blanket, socks, the sky is the limit. You could even do one better and learn how to spin your own wool.

22. Make your own candles. 

Homemade candles, especially those made with beeswax or animal fat, are much more natural and healthier for your home and your indoor air quality! You can use these instead of lights and cut down on your power bill. The more you learn to do without electricity (even once in a while) the better off you are.

23. Install rain barrels.

You can use these to water your garden, water your livestock, and if you purify it, you can even use it for personal use, or dishes, or… anything really. Especially if you don’t have an asphalt roof.

24. Install a gray water system.

So much water gets wasted by pouring it down the drain. You do dishes, water gets wasted, you do laundry. This is especially useful and beneficial if you use natural cleaners, as a lot of the cleaners on the market today are too harsh to utilize a gray water system.

25. Make your own cleaners. 

It’s amazing what a bottle of vinegar and some citrus fruit can do. Most of us have everything we need to clean our homes sitting right in our kitchen. No harsh chemicals, no overpriced cleansers, no overpowering smells. Just plain clean.

26. Learn how to make soap.

Homemade soap

This is pretty easy if you go with melt and pour types. Although making cold process soap is more time-consuming, it doesn’t come without reward. It’s a lot cheaper, you know what’s in it, and it cleans better. We love our homemade soap!

27. Learn how to make a fire. 

And seriously consider finding a way to get a fireplace or wood burner in your house. No electricity means no heat for the vast majority of us, even if we have gas or propane furnaces… you have to have electricity to kick them on! Plus, knowing how to build a fire outside is a good idea too.

28. Learn to can your food

Even food you picked up at the grocery can be canned! If you find a great deal on some organic produce, pick up some extra and learn to preserve it! Check out my post on how to can dry beans, too.

29. Learn to tap trees. 

Tapping maple trees and other varieties in your yard can give you an amazing experience and syrup and sugar. It may not produce a lot, but it’s a skill you will have.

30. Make your own food from scratch

Sure, you might have to purchase some of the goods, but you can best bet that all of those things you had to purchase can be grown if necessary.

31. Learn the elements of building a basic structure. 

Not saying you need to build one, but knowledge is power, folks!!

32. Learn how to ferment foods. 

Fermented foods are good for you! They help your gut develop healthy flora which, in turn, helps you be your healthiest. All disease starts in the gut, folks. Ferment some foods and help yourself stay healthy!

33. Learn to forage. 

There are so many edible weeds out there that we don’t know about! Find a good book to help guide you along, and get to it and stop killing your dandelions!!! It kills bees and they’re actually beneficial to you as well!

34. Learn medicinal uses of herbs. 

In a booming essential oil world, I encourage you to learn more about herbs. Those herbs you can grow right in your kitchen or on your back deck! You don’t need to depend on a company to make them. They can even be found in the wild. A lot of them have tons of medicinal purposes!!

35. Make your own salves, remedies, and tinctures. 

You learned all about those herbs, now put them to use. There used to be a time where natural medicine was the norm. We’ve definitely swayed way far away from that. While sometimes you still can’t beat a good doctor, many times a home remedy will do the trick or a homeopath can help you find a natural remedy for just about anything that ails you.

36. Build a root cellar. 

I hope we have the opportunity to build one soon. They can be elaborate or as simple as an old freezer buried in the ground! Don’t overthink this project.

37. Learn to source healthy food and maybe even barter for it. 

The truth is, no matter what we do, we will probably still need a helping hand once in a while. Maybe the house down the road raises pigs and you have a dairy cow. Maybe they grow wheat, and you don’t have room for it. Lots of different scenarios. You can certainly learn to live without those things, but you can source healthy foods and sometimes even barter something you have. If you’re in an apartment, this is so important!

Fresh produce in a basket

38. Learn to live with less. 

If you haven’t checked out my post on 32 tips on becoming a minimalist, you should. We don’t need all this junk, people!

39. Exercise. 

What the? How’s exercising help me become more self-sufficient?? Well, if you aren’t in shape, you aren’t your best and then you don’t function as well… I could keep going, just do it.

40. Read, read, read. 

Seriously, any book or post you can get your hands on that affords information about self-sufficiency to you, and read it!

Last but not least…

41. Never be too proud to ask for help. 

We’re all here, and some of us know more about certain things. Ask for help, whether that be sourcing food like I mentioned above or getting someone to help, or even just to teach you, how to hunt wild game… never, ever be too proud to ask for help or you’ll never meet that goal.

That’s it! This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a good start!

Other Self Sufficient Posts You’ll Love:

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Catherine Ewers

Sunday 29th of August 2021

Wow. This is quite an extensive list! Give me a bunch of ideas I can try to incorporate into my own routine. A similar resource that comes to mind is the Sustainabilitist Hub, which tackles personal sustainability from the different angles of life.

Dishita Singh

Monday 28th of June 2021

Danielle,what you wrote above was so important for the world to read.We're destroying mother nature constantly but self sufficient living helps us to protect her too.You just gave me the solution from a lifestyle full of guilt.And great writing skills too!

Danielle McCoy

Monday 28th of June 2021

Thank you! I'm glad it gave you some ideas :).

Regeneration in the 21st Century – Milan Meyberg

Saturday 30th of January 2021

[…] level, there is much we can do from our own homes as we move away from consumerism and towards self-sufficiency. Regenerative lifestyles are a move toward restoring the Earth while reconnecting us to nature so […]

Marjorie Goodson

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Thank you for all the information that you are sending to us. I love it. Keep inspiring.

Danielle McCoy

Thursday 30th of July 2020

Awww... thanks for stopping by! This is why I do what I do :)

Skylar Williams

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

I enjoyed your tip to not be afraid to ask for help when you want to become self-sufficient. I've been thinking of more ways that I could become self-sufficient whether that means growing my own garden or learning how to make a fire. I wonder if there is a webinar that I could take to learn more about it.

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