More and more these days, thoughts of self-sufficiency are becoming top of mind for more people. When I look back on what feels like a previous life (when I was a fashion designer in southern California), it occurs to me that never in a million years did I ever think I would be even remotely interested in self-sufficient living.
Fast forward four years, and I find myself on a 36-acre mountain-top homestead, living largely off-grid, raising chickens, growing our own food, making our own medicine, and learning to be as self-reliant as possible.
It can be easy to think, well yeah, if I had acres of land, I could be self-sufficient too. But the reality is that you don’t need acres of land, flocks of chickens, and herds of cattle to become more self-reliant. Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a small house or have a little bit of land, it’s possible to start your journey to self-sufficiency wherever you’re at. So, if becoming more self-reliant is on your to-do list, here are our top 5 ways to add self-sufficiency to 2024.
What Does Self-sufficiency Mean?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, being self-sufficient is defined as needing no outside help in satisfying one's basic needs, which means that you are able to provide yourself with things like food, water, shelter, and energy without relying on anyone.
Is it Possible to be Fully Self-sufficient?
We’ve all heard the saying, no man is an island. While it may be possible to become 100% self-sufficient, as humans, we need each other to survive, whether it be for resources or relationships.
For me, I don’t believe it’s desirable to be 100% self-sufficient, but becoming more self-sufficient is a great goal to strive for. I like knowing that I can grow my own food, but having cattle on our land is not feasible. We hunt, we fish, and I’m happy to look to local ranchers to supply additional meat sources.
What Do Self-Sufficiency and Sustainable Living Have In Common?
Self-sufficiency and sustainable living go hand in hand as they both mean embracing living within your means, reducing your consumption, and living a simpler life. If self-sufficiency means being able to provide for your needs without outside help, consider it the opposite of our consumer-driven society—to be self-sufficient means you only use what you have and live within your means.
Self-sufficiency and sustainable living may not be interchangeable terms, but they do intersect. Sustainable living represents a lifestyle of reduction—a reduction in consumption and environmental impact. Living self-sufficiently is one way to achieve this. When we provide for ourselves, we reduce the need to make extra purchases, and we reduce our carbon footprint by default.
5 Ways to Add Self-Sufficiency to 2024
Remember, the goal here is to take small steps to increase your self-sufficiency. There is no need to make changes in broad strokes. Start small and work your way up. Sustainability isn't a one-size-fits-all practice.
#1 - Learn to Hunt, Fish or Forage
Learn to Hunt
Hunting isn’t for everyone, but it is a great way to provide extra meat for your family if you have the opportunity and the desire to hunt. Even small game like rabbits and ducks make excellent food sources.
Learn to Fish
If you have a lake, river, or stream nearby, fishing is a wonderful way to provide extra meat and protein for your family while also creating diversity in your meals. Fishing can also be a relaxing pastime, and who doesn’t love an excuse to spend the day at the lake?
Learn to Forage
Even in urban environments, it is possible to find a whole buffet of foods and medicines growing wild and free. Keep in mind foraging is not for amateurs. Misidentification of a plant can, at best, make you sick and, at worst, be fatal. When learning to forage, it’s best to find a guide to show you the local plants in your area.
#2 - Grow Your Own Food
Even in an apartment setting, you can grow food. Pots and planters can be placed on balconies. You can even grow herbs in a kitchen window. It’s unnecessary to grow all of your own food, but even a small amount of produce can help you feel more secure. During the winter months, we grow herbs and lettuce in pots in the kitchen window, and my mom uses her sunny living room to keep cherry tomatoes producing all year.
#3 - Learn to Cook from Scratch
This doesn’t mean you must master baking sourdough right out of the gate. You can start small with basic recipes and expand from there. Cooking your own meals from scratch has a lot of benefits. For starters, it reduces the amount of artificial dyes, preservatives, and additives you and your family consume. It also saves you money on takeout and reduces packaging waste. The other benefit is FLAVOR! My husband grew up eating takeout and packaged food. Now, after years of living off home cooking, he can’t bear the taste of packaged or fast food, and even most restaurant food is appealing when you know what “real food” tastes like.
#4 - Learn Food Preservation Techniques
One of my favorite ways to save money is using food preservation techniques to store food. Even if you don’t grow your own food, you can still take advantage of these practices. Before we started growing our own, we would take advantage of in-season produce sales and stock up. For instance, in the summer, when corn goes on sale for $0.10 an ear, we would buy it by the case, process it, and freeze it. This practice can save you a ton of money while providing you with an ample food supply.
Other options for food preservation include dehydrating. Dehydrators are relatively inexpensive, but you can also dehydrate food in the oven or on screens in the sun. Dehydration is our favorite way to preserve fruits in particular.
For the big move, learning to can is the ultimate step in food preservation. You’ll need canning jars, lids, and seals to preserve food in airtight containers for this method. The best part is that you can store both raw and cooked foods in these jars.
#5 Purchase with Purpose
Although practicing self-sufficiency arms you with skills to provide for most of your needs, there's no denying that there are still some consumables you will always need. But, as a consumer, you can purchase with a purpose. This means only buying what you truly need and prioritizing supporting local businesses and small companies that align with your values when possible.
The important thing to remember when adding self-sufficiency and sustainability practices is that you don't have to change every aspect of your life overnight. Even making just one small change can add up to a major difference and positively impact your world. Can’t grow a garden? Grow your own fresh herbs in the kitchen window and experience a flavor boom in your cooking. Don’t want to hunt? Purchase meat from a local farmer and find solace in knowing that your meat was raised well, locally.
Let us know what steps in self-sufficiency are on your 2024 to-do list in the comments below, and as always, until next time,