More and more people ask me advice about homesteading, so in this post I’ll go over homesteading for beginners.
I’m a member of a number of homesteading and off-grid living Facebook groups and one simple question seems to pop up every couple of days: “How can I get started homesteading?”
Often the question has a slight variation to it: “I’m a renter, how can I get started homesteading?” or “I don’t have time (or money), what can I do to homestead?”
So instead of writing a lengthy answer to each person individually, I wanted to dedicate an entire post to that question: what can YOU do to homestead exactly where you are?
Also check out my post on the best states for homesteading.
What is Homesteading?
I’ve dedicated an entire post to exploring what homesteading means to me but in order to understand how you can begin homesteading whatever your situation is, we need to revisit the main points.
Merriam-webster’s dictionary definition of homesteading only adds to the image of a large tract of land, or an ancestral farm or cabin. Modern homesteading, however, is synonymous with self-sufficiency. Here’s my very unscientific definition of homesteading:
“striving for a self-sufficient lifestyle”
Or to take it a step farther:
“striving for a self-sufficient lifestyle by taking back control over the things we need in life.”
What do we need in life? We need food, water, shelter, clothing, electricity (for heating and cooking) and we need money.
No matter how self-sufficient you are, there will always be taxes.
So to address our self-sufficiency needs, I look at each of these categories and figure out how self-sufficient we are and where we can improve.
There’s a steep learning curve and it requires a lot of hard work, but it’s well worth it.
This means growing or harvesting our own food and preserving it so we can take back control of our nutrition from the grocery store.
It means producing our own energy (or living without) by using a well or solar panels to take back control from the utility companies.
It really means taking back control of our lives and how we decide to live them.
For me, a homestead lifestyle equals freedom. I recently read Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money and she put my feelings very elegantly into words.
Without directly quoting the book, she talks about how money is not good nor evil, but the intentions with which we use it are good or evil.
Money is simply currency, or current-cy. It is a tool with which we direct our current (or our energy) to the things that are important to us.
I know several people who spend a lot of money on things that ultimately don’t line up with their own values.
Take that a step further – how do you spend your time? Your energy? Your emotions? Are you spending on things that are important to you?
Homesteading, for me, is spending my time, money and energy on things that are important to me — creating a happy, healthy home for my family.
That doesn’t mean you’ll have to wait until you have 200 acres of your own land, or a herd of goats or sheep before you can live your homesteading dream.
I can (and have!) lived a self-sufficiency-focused, conscious lifestyle in an apartment.
But also notice how the definition of homesteading is “striving”. You never actually arrive anywhere.
However, your homestead journey quickly becomes a way of life that is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
My advice for new homesteaders is to start small. Pick one area to focus on, one skill to learn and master at a time and layer these skills over time.
And know you don’t have to do it all! Lean on your local farmers for your fruit and veg. A modern homestead requires leaning on our neighbors to do the things we can’t.
I’ve gathered a number basic homesteading skills, no matter where you are in your journey. Some of these overlap categories, but are worth repeating.
Homesteading For Beginners
The first thing to focus on is from scratch cooking. For the first year, this may be the only thing I would focus on. It doesn’t require much money and is a great way to take back control of your budget, your health, and where your food comes from.
If you have your own homestead or an urban homestead where the local laws allow chickens, next I would invest in backyard chickens.
They provide a healthy source of eggs for food, as well as the ability to bring in a little extra money if you sell eggs or baby chicks.
The next good idea would be garden beds. These require a little additional cost and require extra work, but even a small garden can produce a surprising amount of your own organic food.
If you don’t have enough land for a garden, you can always use containers to grow veg and herbs in, or join a community garden !
If you do have acres of land, the next layer to your food freedom would be fruit trees. A small orchard can produce a ton of fruit that you can preserve and can for later.
Next would be farm animals such as goats or a family dairy cow and livestock for meat.
This comes into play with the food freedom as well. In my experience, our food budget is the biggest way we can save money. Most other utilities are pretty stable, but the food budget can vary widely.
Growing your own food, cooking from scratch, and preserving the food you do make keeps money in your pocket.
The first thing I would do in this category is to learn how to can. By canning you can preserve your fruit, veg, broth and meat and make it shelf-stable and last longer.
After food, however, I would look at conserving water and electricity. By using less, you need less and it’s easier to replace.
Next come more advanced skills.
Learning how to sew and repair clothes instead of buying new, performing your own car maintenance. Learning how to build and repair your own furniture or do minor repairs on your house.
Basically, whenever you have to break out your wallet to pay for anything, think to yourself “Can I do this myself?” And the old adage from the War Advertising Council during WWII should become your knew slogan “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.
In addition to saving money, your backyard homestead can also make you money. Check out my post on 28 ways to make money from your homestead for ideas.
While cooking from scratch will naturally increase your health, as will gardening and being more physically active, there is still more we can do to improve our health.
Around 500,000 families declare bankruptcy every year in the United States due to medical bills. While a lot of these are unavoidable, putting our health first will keep us from needing prescriptions, hospitalizations, and more.
In addition to eating well and exercising a simple life will help reduce stress compared to a 9-5 till 65 scenario.
Grow medicinal herbs and learn how to make herbal medicine. The Herbal Academy has great resources including online courses and a subscription herbarium with monographs on hundreds of herbs and how to use them medicinally. For only $40/YEAR.
Homesteading For Beginners – Utility Freedom
Along with financial freedom, needing less water and power means it’s easier to replace. Urban homesteaders can simply save money by conserving water and electricity, but I also recommend having a backup in case the city utilities are shut down for any reason.
Line dry your clothes, turn off the HVAC, learn how to be uncomfortably hot or cold. Spend a day like the “pioneers” and turn off all electricity. Store bottles of water for emergencies.
For those with more land, look into solar panels in your area. Install rain barrels to water your homestead garden.
No matter where you are in your self-sufficient homestead journey, there are things we can all do to improve and take back control of our lives:
Read, read, read
Watch homesteading videos on youtube
Join homesteading Facebook groups to surround yourself with like-minded people
Get your friends and family involved – it’s always more fun with friends!
Sign up for newsletter for a few of your favorite homesteading blogs (like this one!). Surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people and getting behind-the-scenes look into the lifestyle of other homesteaders will give you an endless source of ideas, recipes and information!
Now it’s your turn! Did I miss anything? What skills do you think are essential for homesteading? Where are you in your homesteading journey? In an apartment or do you have land? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you!