Everyone wants to be self sufficient, but no one really knows where to start. There are plenty of books on the subject, but I thought I would share five easy steps with you to get you started and maybe some things to keep in mind as you are working toward your goal.
1) Set Realistic Goals
So you want to be self sufficient? That’s a great goal! Being self sufficient is not easy or fast. It takes time and dedication to learn the necessary skills and to apply them properly. Most people want to become self sufficient to be more independent, to live greener, or to be more active and healthy. Either way, there are a few things you should consider first.
-Are you completely dependent on processed foods?
-Are you completely dependent on goods and services?
-Do you own a home or land?
These are important things to consider. If you are completely dependent, then this is going to be a big change for you, so don’t force it all at once. If you have a home and land you are ahead already, but even if you live in an apartment there are ways to supplement yourself, which I will cover in the following steps.
Start with a realistic goal. For the first year, try to supply yourself with 5-10% of your food needs. This could mean starting a small garden or learning to bake breads, cakes, donuts and other small items that you buy occasionally. Don’t try to quit buying groceries your first year. Unless you are a master gardener and have no other obligations, don’t try for 100%, don’t even try for 50%. If you are really zealous, try for 20%. For others who have a lot to learn, try for the 5% and be overjoyed when you achieve beyond that goal. You will be surprised how fast you can grow or produce 5% of your groceries.
Just remember, don’t overwhelm yourself and turn it into a chore. If it becomes too much to handle, you will most likely give up or let your garden go to waste! Don’t be that person! Start small and celebrate when you achieve your goal!
2) Learn Food Preservation Techniques
If you are going to be self sufficient, you have to learn to preserve food. You just have to. This can be as simple as freezing extra vegetables and meat. It could also mean that you learn to can.
I put this step before starting a garden because I think it’s important to learn these skills before your livelihood depends on it. Chances are, when you first can or first start freezing, you will make mistakes and food will be lost. It happens to the best of us. So before you have 200lbs of vegetables on your counters and you are losing your mind, learn to can by getting some farmer’s market produce and practicing. If your jar doesn’t seal, pop it in the fridge and use it that week, not a big deal.
Basically, don’t wait until you need the skills to learn them, make it easier on yourself and learn them ahead of time.
3) Planning and Starting Realistic Garden/Raising Animals for Meat
Gardening is a tricky game. During the dead of winter when everything seems bleak and hopeless, seed companies send you the most beautiful, full color catalogs of the most gorgeous flowers, fruits, trees and vegetables you have ever seen. It’s a disgrace! They know you are feeling the winter blues and you’ll buy 10x more than you can handle because it cheers you up and seeds aren’t that expensive. And then, boom! Spring comes, you need 10x more space than anticipated, you struggle to get everything planted. Then it grows up, takes over your life, strangles you and leaves you dead on the floor.
Don’t laugh, it happens.
Be realistic about what you buy. If you are going to start gardening for the first time in your life, you should probably make an 8x10ft bed and call it good. You CANNOT handle a 100x100ft bed, I can almost guarantee it. Go outside in the fall and plan out a small garden. Stake it out and stick to it. Don’t add six more beds because you couldn’t help buying seeds. Just don’t.
Raising animals is another HUGE commitment. Gardens can take care of themselves for a while, but animals need constant daily care. If you choose to get chickens for eggs and a pig for pork, you are making a commitment to feed those animals twice a day, morning and night, everyday, forever, until they go to the butcher. You can’t skip a day, you can’t go on vacation for a week (without an animal sitter), you must take care of them.
Most people find it difficult to raise animals for meat. The hard truth is that an animal had to die for you to eat it. While that’s sad, what’s worse it that many animals we eat are kept in poor conditions and treated very badly in order to be killed and butchered. In my opinion, raising your own meat is the only way to do it. You can give that animal a proper life where it was treated well and cared for before you eat it. This experience usually gives people a better, more humble understanding of food consumption.
And whatever you do, don’t name an animal you intend to eat.
4) Consider Alternative Energy Sources
Alternative energy is booming now. Solar panels are very easy to come by and getting better every year. Hydroelectricity is a reliable source for people with access to natural running water. Wood heating is a laborious, but effective way to be more self sufficient. All of these things take careful consideration and financial investment. Do your research and see if they are right for you! Some states will even give you tax breaks for switching to “green energy”.
5) Expand your Skills and Knowledge
Keep learning. Always learn. Ask people for help, get books at the library, attend seminars and learn from one another. If your highest goal is to become 100% self sufficient, you are going to need as much help as you can get to achieve it. Most think that self sufficiency is achieved through independence, when really it is achieved through community. If you have a support system of friends, neighbors and like-minded people, they will help you to learn and be there when you need them. In turn, make it your duty to help those in need and to teach those traveling down the same path as you.
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