Anxious over environmental concerns or burnt out at work?
You know the feeling…..
Most people who embrace self-sufficient living used to feel the same way. The only difference is they took a leap of faith and made the change.
If your dreaming of working less, growing your own food, generating your own energy, working from a home and helping the environment, that’s a great first step. But it won’t be enough.
You should know that it’s a long-term commitment and a change as big as this one doesn’t happen overnight.
You need a plan. And, to make it, you’ll need the right information. Read on and learn how to live life the way it was meant to be.
How do you start being self-sufficient? The first step is embracing DIY. To become independent of certain products or services, you must learn to do things yourself.
Do-it-yourself skills are not hard to acquire. Check out DIY-guides.com to learn more skills.
Start by learning the basics of repair and maintenance. Learn the basics of the systems in your house:
- roofing, and so on.
With online tutorials and classes at local home improvement centers, you’ll soon become independent when it comes to maintenance and repair on your home.
A word of caution:Leave major electrical work to a licensed professional. If you mess up, you could burn your house down or be electrocuted.
Learn to sew. You can save money by repairing and handing down your clothing. With enough practice, you can even start making new cloths.
Before you decide to toss something that’s broken, you should try to fix it – especially everyday items that tend to wear out due to constant and repeated use. People generally spend too much money and resources on buying new things.
It’s free to practice repairing old and broken things in your home. You will learn valuable skills without the stress of messing up something important.
The right to repair is a major issue these days as most companies want you to buy new rather than fix your existing product. But it doesn’t hurt to call the manufacturer and see if they will sell you the part you need.
Put together a basic toolbox:
- small socket set/wrenches
- super glue
- sewing kit
- duct tape
Consult DIY guides on blogs and YouTube. You’ll be able to get things working again in no time. Look here to get started.
Re-think Where You Live
To walk the path of self-sustained living, you must start questioning your housing needs. People tend to move from smaller to larger houses throughout their lives.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is your house the right size for your needs? Or is it too big/small?
- Is living in the city necessary?
- Are you planning to quit your job and work from home?
- Do you want to start a garden and raise livestock? Or hunt and fish?
- Can you afford to move?
Bear in mind, though, that if you want to experience simple living to the fullest, you’ll need a home with at least a quarter acre. Raising chickens and being able to grow your own food takes space.
If your plan includes hunting and fishing as your main source of food, you need to make sure you live in an area near a river or lake and make sure hunting is permitted.
Feel free to stay in the city if you can’t afford to move. You can still have a small garden and raise chickens to supplement some of your food needs. If you don’t have room for a garden, look to see if there’s a local community garden you can join.
You’ll still need to rely on a grocery store. But don’t despair. Every small step you take gets you closer to your goal.
A little bit of planning, forward-thinking, and research can help you decide whether to upsize or stay where you are.
Live Simply Within Your Means
The next item on your list is frugal living, or in other words, learning the fine art of financial discipline. It is absolutely imperative that you take control of your finances.
Once you do this you can make accurate financial decisions about your future.
Start by establishing a monthly budget. Be honest with yourself and write down all of your expenses. This will help you face your spending habits and learn which items you can live without. Here’s a quick guide to get you started:
1. Set up a simple spreadsheet
Take a look at this simple setup:
If you don’t know how to set up a spreadsheet that’s ok. You can download this exact one. It’s set up so the columns total automatically and you can see if you are spending more or less than you make.
2. Calculate your monthly income
List all your sources of income under the income column like this:
Make sure to only include your net pay. That’s the money you take home after taxes. If your income is inconsistent, average out the last 3 months and use that.
Don’t forget to include all your income. That includes side hustles or part-time work. If you’re married, include your spouse’s take-home income. You will notice the total income is displayed automatically at the top.
3. Add your fixed monthly expenses and financial goals
In this next step, you’ll want to add your fixed expenses like rent and utilities. Take a look:
It may seem strange to add your financial goals to “expenses” but that’s exactly what I want you to do.
Treat your savings as a mandatory expense. Include your total debt payments every month, money for retirement savings, and anything else you want to save for like a car or trip.
Next, its time to add discretionary expenses. This would include going out to eat, hobbies, or any other fun activity you like to spend your money on.
Once you’ve completed filling out the spreadsheet, the difference between your total income and expenses is calculated and displayed at the top of the sheet like this:
If the difference is positive (in the black), that means you are spending less than you make! You can take that difference and save it for emergencies or put it towards paying down debt or saving for a future purchase.
If the difference is negative (in the red), that means you are spending more than you make. It’s time to take a look at those expenses and start making cuts.
This is a really simplified guide to get your finances on track. If you want to live self sustainably you need to spend less and save.
Check out this guide for more in-depth information.
Self-sufficient living involves an ongoing commitment to frugality. This means becoming debt-free. Hold minimal or no balance on your credit cards, shop for clothes at clothing swaps, getting free movies from a library, use renewable energy like solar panels, and so on.
Make sure to track how much money your new frugal activities are saving you. Do this to stay motivated. Over time, you’ll get rid of all your debt and get the financial freedom you’ve only dreamed about.
You don’t need to keep up with your neighbors. You don’t need the latest gadget. Only buy new products when the old ones wear out. STOP being a consumer and live simply.
Change How You Eat
A good diet is a big part of being self-sufficient. Going out to eat and ordering delivery isn’t sustainable for you or the environment. Here are some tips to keep you on track:
Create a Weekly Meal Plan
Creating a meal plan will take the stress out of wondering what you will make for supper every night. With a weekly meal plan its easy to make a shopping list. No more wasting time wandering the grocery store.
Make sure to use recipes that include fresh and in-season produce. Why? Because in-season produce is much cheaper than out of season.
Here’s how you do it:
- Download a list app for your phone or tablet. Try Our Groceries app. This app allows you to make 1 account for the whole household. You can see real-time changes made to the list by others.
- The app automatically creates a list called Recipes and one called Shopping List. Perfect!
3. Go online or search through recipe books and find at least 10 recipes you like. This is a good place to start. You can always find more later. Make sure to include the whole family in the process.
4. Start adding the recipes to the list. Make sure to include the name, title of the book and page number. Like this:
If your recipe is from a website, add the URL to the recipe notes like this:
Paste the URL:
5. Next, all you have to do is click on the recipe and start adding ingredients.
Now you have a list of 10 recipes with their ingredients. Pick 5 or 7 recipes for the week. You can add the ingredients to the shopping list just by clicking on them. No need to consult the recipe book when making your grocery list.
You can do this old school with a pen and paper. But technology is a real time saver.
Buy in Bulk
A great way to save money on groceries and reduce waste is bulk buying. You can shop at stores that offer discounts on a certain volume like Cost-Co or Sam’s Club. These stores usually have the best deals on meat.
Instead of buying pre-cut pork chops, buy a whole pork loin and cut it up. There are numerous guides online detailing how it’s done.
Check out your local grocery store fliers and only buy produce where it’s on sale.
Bulk food stores are great for those who have minimal pantry space. Don’t forget to bring your reusable containers!
Grow Your Own
If you have enough land, you can produce your own food. Plant a garden, raise chickens and livestock and if you’re in the right climate you can plant fruit trees. Don’t forget to save the seeds! This will save you money on future crops.
Growing vegetables isn’t reserved just for people with a house and a backyard, though – you can easily create a small garden on a balcony. It’s easy to grow herbs indoors all year round.
Learn how to make a compost pile and improve your gardening skills.
Check out the video below to find out how to preserve your garden harvest:
To be truly self-sufficient, you need to minimize your carbon footprint and use renewable energy. This has two benefits. First, you’ll contribute to preserving the planet. And, secondly, you’ll save a lot of money on electricity bills.
This isn’t difficult. Here is a partial list of energy-saving ideas:
- unplug all the items you’re not using and turn off your lights during the day.
- Hand-wash your dishes. Pro Tip: Rinse them immediately after you eat.
- use the power of the sun and wind to dry your clothes and your hair naturally.
- Cut down your water usage by using a compost toilet
- Take a shower instead of a bath and Install a low flow showerhead.
- If you live in the right climate, consider installing a solar water heater.
If you can downsize your home, consider installing a wood stove. They can be very efficient at heating a small house. They’ll save you money too. Especially if you have land you can harvest wood from.
If you’re building a new house, consider having your main living area facing south with lots of windows. This will minimize your need for artificial light.
Start a Business and Work from Home
Being your own boss will help you become more financially aware and, ultimately, debt-free. There are plenty of home-based business opportunities. For instance:
- If you have a large house, consider renting an empty room or create an income suite.
- Rent or lease part of your land. If you have lots of land it makes sense to lease out parts to other farmers.
- Big backyard? You can grow vegetables and raise meat to sell at a local farmer’s market. However, this is a saturated market and you should evaluate the market in your area.
- Create an online course and teach people how to garden, raise livestock and live self-sufficiently. Or better yet, teach people in person.
- Keep bees and sell honey. This will benefit your garden and community.
- Grow high demand mushrooms like shiitake, portabella, and oyster. They’re easy to grow, high yielding and very lucrative.
- Sell hatching eggs and chicks from in-demand poultry breeds.
- If your property has an abundance of maple trees, consider selling maple syrup.
- Freelance or work remotely.
- Sell timber and firewood.
- Host retreats, campers or even outdoor weddings.
But keep in mind, if you live in a country that doesn’t have free health care, working for yourself can be problematic. Make sure you research insurance plans so you’re covered for trips to the doctor and dentist.
Glasses can be very expensive and a lot of insurance plans don’t include eye care. Keeping your existing job that already has a benefit plan might be a better choice.
If you’re going to be self-sufficient you must switch to a zero-waste lifestyle. But what does that mean?
The idea is to think about a purchase before you make it. Buy what you need and only buy products that are plastic-free, package-free and produce the least amount of waste. Don’t go crazy trying to replace all your plastic products right away. There is no need to replace what you have until it’s worn out.
Think about the waste you generate daily. Come up with a plan to cut your waste:
- Instead of throwing away food scraps, start a compost.
- Take reusable grocery and produce bags when you shop.
- Make a pot of coffee instead of a single-use pod.
- Instead of toilet paper get a bidet.
For more tips check out 101 Easy Eco-Friendly, Zero Waste Tips by my favorite zero-waste blogger, Kathryn.
Reduce your dependence on single-use items that can’t be recycled or composted. Reducing single-use items, in general, is a good idea. It’s better to buy products that are durable and can be repurposed at the end of its life.
When you’re ready to swap out your current products for zero-waste alternatives, check out Top Zero-Waste Products – Where to Start. I list my favorite zero-waste swaps everyone should have.
Self-sufficient living has so much to offer, both to people who decide to adopt such a lifestyle and the planet we live on. Hopefully, the ideas we’ve shared will help you understand what it means to be self-sufficient.
Please leave a comment and tell us what you’ve done to make your life more self-sufficient.