When we first moved to our current home, I had no idea that I wanted to be a homesteader.
None at all. I didn’t know the first thing about gardening, chickens, ducks, rabbits, or even how to can food. I had some things to learn along the way, and I have made many, many mistakes. Well, “opportunities to learn more” is what we call them. There were days it was easier, and days it was much harder. You can easily learn how to have the mind of a homesteader, too. It just takes a few steps and you are on your way to becoming more self sufficient. And you don’t even need to own land, or have any animals. You don’t need to move to a tiny cabin far away from anyone or anything “modern”, either. Anyone can do these!
Step 1~ Learn to Cook From Scratch
Although many people already do this, it was the first thing I really needed to learn how to do. I bought so much boxed, processed and prepared foods it was insane. We “nuked” almost everything, and when I made spaghetti, it became code in our family for “we are going out to eat” since I was lousy at boiling water for pasta. Learning to cook from scratch has saved our family so much money, too. A bag of flour, some salt, yeast, and sugar was much cheaper and better for us than store bought bread. Of course, as you get comfortable with that, you can move on to more traditional prepared foods like sourdough, kombucha, homemade sauerkraut and such. But, for now, if you are buying that blue box of mac and cheese, try making it yourself from scratch instead. You’ll have a much better flavor, trust me.
Step 2~ Declutter and get rid of things you don’t need
This was the hardest thing for me to do at first. I mean, who doesn’t need to have 12 of the exact same item? For us, it was a process, and still is. We are paring down cookware to only those things I love and use daily, like my cast iron. I said goodbye to the 12 different types of tupperware bowls without lids and instead learned to wash a stainless steel bowl out when I was done. Movies that were on DVD went on to a raspberry Pi computer to take up less space. Clothes were pared down to what we truly loved, wore, and what fit. We accomplish that each year, by turning the hangers backward in January and June. Whatever is still backwards gets donated. (Well, except the winter coats in June, but you get the idea.)
The best part is that I no longer have to take hours to clean my house. There is less stuff to make a mess, and less stuff to clean up! Win-win! You can start by boxing up appliances and kitchen wares you think you don’t use. Write the date on the box, put the box out of the way, but don’t give anything away yet. After 6 months, donate the entire box, without opening it. You aren’t using it, or maybe you already replaced it with something better.
Step 3~ Try a no spend month at least once a year.
This may or may not be easy for you, depending on what you have in food storage. We typically do this either in January or February, as the roads are often snow and ice covered and going to the store is a pain. This gives us the opportunity to make sure our canned foods are rotated, our food storage is still full of foods we eat, and it helps the creative juices flow in the kitchen. This also means no buying clothing, appliances, or anything. (emergency situations may change that). Our rules mean nothing new is brought into the house at all that 30 days. Nothing. Zilch, zip, nada. I don’t even like to bring in anything to review in that time period as well.
Step 4~ Grow your own food
This will make you feel like a homesteader right off the bat. Once you pick your own lettuce or tomato, it’s almost impossible to go back to store bought. There is something soothing about digging in dirt, seeing that plant grow and enjoying the harvest. Of course, if you do it “right”, the entire neighborhood will get tomatoes. Or zucchini.
Step 5~ Learn how to preserve that food
My first canning “episode” was not pretty. I knew nothing about how to really do it. I bought 1/2 bushel of apples to make my own applesauce. I had some quart jars, fresh from the store and a large aluminum pot. That’s it. So, I cut up the apples, removing the cores, filled that large pot, covered with water, and boiled the apples. Sounds about right, ya know? Well, the issue was that pot was ALL I had to can in as well. So, after the apples were cooked, I put them in the blender to blend, then filled the jars. I then had to wash the pot, fill it with water and then boil it to put the jars in. Instead of a rack on the bottom, I had an old dishtowel to protect the jars. For better or worse, that 1/2 bushel took me nearly 12 hours to sauce and can and for my efforts I got about 8 quarts.
I’ve learned so much since then, but that first time was the most memorable. It took me from “canning virgin” to “canning novice”, on my way to “canning expert”. I would recommend that first timers actually make sure to have the proper equipment, such as jars, lids, and a real canner. And read the book that comes with the canner. It does have a lot of good information. The rest comes with experience and just trying. If at all possible, try and can with someone else the first time to get a feel for the process. Or, just jump in with both feet and learn as you go…worked for me!
And, don’t forget that you can also learn to dehydrate and freeze your garden harvest!
Step 6~ Get out of debt
This one is the toughest. We have floated back and forth on this to be honest. First, paying off all your debts frees you in so many ways. You suddenly have cash you never realized you had, and not having payments going out each month is less stressful. However, our emergency fund has always been eaten up within seconds of building it, and the crisis usually called for more money. Like replacing our well, or the washing machine. Or the oven. Or when my daughter broke her wrist. Or when the van died and needed to be replaced.
The first step is to NOT be okay with debt. You have got to realize that paying for things with a credit card is only keeping you a slave to that card. Work on spending less than you make, saving the rest, and doing that often. We like to use GoodBudget to help us with that. You can put it on a computer, phone, or tablet, up to 5 items and it really has worked for us.
But, it’ll only work if you really want it to. It’s easy to make excuses of “oh, we need this or that” trust me, I KNOW. Being out of debt really is freeing and worth the effort.
Having the mind of a homesteader is really about self sufficiency.
That doesn’t mean you always do without, but that you make every effort to do with what you have first. It’s not a race, and each of us can go at our own pace, and do what is important to us personally. These 6 steps can help anyone achieve their dream of being more self sufficient, however, and anyone can do them. So, what are you waiting for?