Our Guide To Being Self-Sufficient
How to be self sufficient in a consumerist society…
What Is Self Sufficiency?
needing no outside help in satisfying one’s basic needs, especially with regard to the production of food.
Personally, I don’t think that you have to grow, process, make and mend everything yourself from scratch from your off-grid house to be considered self-sufficient. (How amazing if you do manage all that though!)
For most of us, that is entirely unrealistic and unachievable…and let’s be honest – seriously hard work!
I see being self-sufficient as an attitude and a way of life.
It’s about the questions that you ask yourself and the skills that you development along the way.
How To Be Self Sufficient
There is no exact step-by-step guide to being self sufficient but we think this how to be self sufficient guide is a good place to start!
Learning how to be self sufficient is a journey and yours will depend on your own lifestyle and enthusiasms.
Find what works for you and leave the rest for another time.
So, here is our guide on how to be self sufficient:
1. Your Vision Of Self Sufficiency
What matters to you?
A good place to start is to take some time to think about how you’d like your life to look.
Think about which aspects of self sufficiency interests you most.
Do you want to grow vegetables, keep bees, make your own clothes?
If you have little experience of living self sufficiently then you might like to volunteer at a local small holding, try out some smaller scale gardening in a raised bed or chat to people with similar interests (social media can be a great forum for these conversations).
Getting started with self sufficiency
Analyze your current lifestyle by considering your diet, interests and day-to-day basic needs.
Make a list of your essentials.
Mark a tick next to the items you think you could have a go at providing for yourself. Then, mark a cross next to the items that you could probably do without.
Part of being self sufficient is about changing the way that we see things and looking for alternatives.
For example, we’ve become accustomed to having fresh strawberries available all year round rather than waiting for them to appear in our gardens in early summer. If you love fresh berries, could you go without them for over half the year and find a seasonal alternative like apples?
2. A Self Sufficient Garden or Smallholding
Grow your own fruits and vegetables
Growing at least some of your food is an important step towards self sufficiency.
You don’t need a huge amount of space to grow fruits and vegetables although it obviously helps!
If you’re short on space then consider growing high yielding produce or things that is expensive to buy.
Sugar snap peas will happily climb up a trellis or tree, even across a balcony. It will supply you with fresh peas all Summer.
Swiss chard or pick-and-come-again lettuce will give you a supply of fresh leaves and take up little space.
If you’d like more space than you have then consider renting an allotment or volunteering at another garden in exchange for some produce.
Add a poly tunnel or greenhouse
Once you have an established garden you can extend your growing season by weeks with a poly tunnel or greenhouse.
Save your seeds
Saving seeds from the plants you grow will save you money and is pretty easy to do.
Tomato seeds can be dried on a window sill and used the following year.
If you want to save them for longer then you’ll need to soak them for 24 hours before rinsing them well and drying them thoroughly.
If you have plenty of land then fill it with fruit and nut trees.
You may need to wait a few years to harvest any crops but the wait will be well worth it. You’ll be inundated with fruits for decades to come!
If you have a log fire then plant rows of alder or hazel to coppice and provide firewood.
Learn to preserve food
If your already a gardener then you’ll know that food often comes in gluts.
That means that you’ll have no tomatoes for months and then suddenly you’ll have more tomatoes than you can handle!
Preserving food correctly will help you to eat a varied diet throughout the year.
Try canning, dehydrating, pickling, freezing vegetables or make jams, jellies and chutneys.
Compost your food waste
Deal with your own food waste by building a compost heap.
If you’re not vegan, then you may like to consider keeping your own animals.
Ducks are great slug hunters and will provide regular fresh eggs.
A beehive can be a great addition to your garden.
They’ll pollinate your fruit trees and provide valuable honey.
Speak to your local bee keeping association to find out more.
We lost our first hive of bees after a particularly bad winter. Our second hive gave us around 40 jars last year and are doing well after winter. We even gained another swarm in our empty hive!
Use grey water on your plants
Grey water is generally used water from your sinks, showers and bath.
Provided you don’t use any chemicals in the water you can use it to water your plot.
3. A Self Sufficient House
Live in an eco house
The type of house that you live in is going to have a big influence over how self sufficiently you can live.
It is also one of the most difficult things to change, especially if moving isn’t an option.
Ideally you want to be using your own resources to sustain your lifestyle.
If your on the lookout for new house then consider it’s suitability for being your self sufficiency haven.
Does it have solar panels, a spring, fertile soil, south facing land, a stove, woodland, a poly tunnel?
If not, then make the best of what you have:
Meet your energy needs
Consider obtaining permission to add solar panels to your roof or erect a small turbine.
Drill a borehole
A potentially expensive option but one worth considering, especially if you run a small holding.
Depending on just how self sufficient you want to be you could drill a borehole to get your own water.
4. Household Purchases
Buy second hand instead of new
Always try to source second had items before buying new.
Try resisting the urge to impulse buy by setting a 15 day rule. That means that when you see something you want you put it back on the shelf!
Resist buying it for 15 days. If you still need it 15 days later…buy it.
Go zero waste!
Not only is buying unpackaged and reusable items much better for the environment, but it can also support your self sufficient lifestyle.
Swap single use paper towels for napkins or tea towels.
Use washable nappies, face wipes, hankies and menstrual products.
It saves a lot of waste going to landfill but also saves you money.
Buy quality items
Don’t be tempted to always go for the cheapest option.
It’s usually cheap for a reason…
Either they have been shipped across the world and/or they are poor quality.
Buy well and buy once!
Do it yourself…or at least give ot your best shot!
There are some things in life that we pay other people to do that we are quite capable of doing ourselves.
If you pay for any specific services then consider whether it’s something you could take on yourself.
For example, make a packed lunch, bring a hot drink with you from home, cut your families hair…
Borrow, exchange or rent
If there’s an item that you will need but won’t use that often then have a look if there are opportunities to borrow or rent one.
Expensive items like fruit presses can sometimes be borrowed in exchange for some juice or a reasonable fee.
If it’s something you’ll use a lot then it may be worth you investing in your own.
If it’s broke, fix it!
With a little practice or some useful guidance you should be able to repair many items, instead of replacing them with new.
Find out if you have a repair club in your area. These are places where people get together to mend items.
Often you’ll find some expert advice and a helping hand.
Failing that you can find the answers to most problems on the internet!
5. A Self Sufficient Income
Your employment and skills
Is your job something that could be easily dispensed of if funding was cut?
Are your skills transferable?
Could you become self employed?
Allocate time to learning new skills that are in demand as it will help to ensure that your income is sustainable.
Pay off debts
It’s difficult to live a self sufficient lifestyle if you have huge debts.
You’ll most likely want to work towards financial freedom.
Being self sufficient and living more frugally has the added advantage of helping you to spend less and make more mindful purchases.
Think about how you could boost your income while promoting your self sufficient values.
You could look into renting a room in your house or even airbnbing your entire house to holiday makers!
Offer courses to share your knowledge and skills…soap making, foraging, gardening are all popular topics.
6. Self Sufficient Travel
Reduce your dependency on fossil fuels
Do your driving habits depend on cheap oil?
It’s a good idea to seek alternatives to fossil fuels…both for the sustainability of the planet and your household.
Electric cars are becoming better and better and it is possible to charge them from solar panels.
Other options for getting around could include animal transport, cycling or walking.
Until then think about car sharing or public transport.
Would you add anything to our how to be self sufficient guide?