Starting a homestead doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are 20 creative ways you can start homesteading right now.
If you’re thinking about starting a homestead but you don’t know how, I want you to know that it’s more than possible to start today! You may have grand plans for your dream homestead, but getting there will be a journey, and it’s the entire lifestyle is a culmination of various skills and small adjustments.
Everyone’s version of homesteading is different. Some people may envision a farm, with cows and rows and rows of vegetables. Others may simply want three to four chickens and an understanding of how to be more eco-friendly and self-sufficient.
For me, homesteading is a way to get back to our roots. When I think of a homesteader, I think of someone who does things “the old fashioned way” and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty in the process. I got tired of living a fast-paced life where convenience is key and my time is limited.
My version of homesteading includes raising animals, making as many natural home products as I can, growing our own vegetables, practicing frugality by reusing and upcycling products that I normally would have thrown away, and relying on the grocery store less. It includes my life being centered around my home and my family. It’s lifestyle that requires me to put effort into creating things, instead of just picking up some cheap version from Walmart. It’s all about self-reliance, opting to make my own eco-friendly products, and it allows me to keep myself focused on the things that really matter in life, instead of getting swallowed up in my blog, my freelance writing, or anything else for that matter.
So in my eyes, homesteading is all about doing for yourself. If you can make it, make it! If you can grow it, grow it! You don’t have to live in the country. You don’t have to raise animals. You don’t have to follow any specific set of rules to start your homestead. All you need is to figure out what it is you want out of life, and make minor adjustments until you get there.
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Starting A Homestead – 20 Ways You Can Start Right Now
1. Start A Garden
Big or small, a garden is a wonderful step in the right direction. If you’ve never gardened before, it’s smart to start small. I didn’t listen to this advice though, and I don’t regret it. This was the first year I really tried to start a vegetable garden, and I went all out, y’all.
Dozens and dozens of seedlings were growing in my kitchen towards the end of winter. And yes, literally every single one of them died when I transplanted them outdoors. But I learned a lot! You can’t be afraid of failure, because there’s plenty of that to go around during the first few years of gardening. Just make sure you buy plenty of seeds!
Growing your own food is rewarding, and if you ask me, it’s a big part of homesteading. It’s not the cheapest thing in the world when you first start, but once you have all of your supplies, you’ll be good to go.
We didn’t have extra money sitting around when I started my garden, so I bought little things here and there. I started with some heirloom seeds from Walmart, some potting soil, peat pots, and a glass spray bottle. The seeds take a few weeks to grow, so it gave me time to get bigger pots and a raised garden bed for outside.
There is nothing more satisfying than eating fruits and vegetables that you’ve grown yourself.
2. Make Your Own Products
Anytime you can make something yourself instead of buying it, it’s a win in my book. It’s almost always more expensive at first, but over time, as you build up your supplies and get the hang of things, it becomes way cheaper. Just like growing your own food, making your own natural household products is rewarding, (eventually) cost effective, and almost always healthier for everyone in your family.
One by one, switch out your store-bought products for homemade. There are so many things you can make yourself. When you see that you’re about to run out of shampoo, spend the extra few dollars buying the supplies you need to make your own. If you don’t like the way something turns out, try out a new recipe until you find something that fits your needs.
If you want to switch everything over at once, be my guest. I don’t suggest doing things that way, because it’s expensive, and it doesn’t give you time to get used to each new change. If you suddenly go from using bath products that smell like an upscale spa, to using castile soap with a little essential oil for everything, it might turn you off. Let your family adjust to each small change, and give yourself time to experiment with each recipe.
3. Go Paperless
Reducing your waste and cutting your expenses by ditching paper towels is a great step to practicing self reliance and frugality. There’s simply no need to buy paper towels every week. Switching to rags and “un-paper towels” definitely takes some getting used to, but it reduces your waste, and saves you a ton of money!
It took me a while to make this change, and I kept lolly-gagging and making excuses in order to buy “just one more roll”. Honestly, I just wasn’t ready for all that extra laundry. I’ve always had paper towels around, and it almost turned into a security type of thing, as silly as that sounds. “What if the dog poops inside?” “What if a big spill happens and I don’t want to stain my towels?”
Well, you just kind of… get over it. I have rags with stains all over them that I reserve for nasty messes, and I have my pretty floral dish towels that I try not to stain. You get used to it. As for picking up poop or something else totally disgusting, we just use toilet paper for that.
The main reason we finally made the switch was – honest to God – we ran out of extra money and had to cut some expenses. And by “cutting some expenses”, I mean we lived on next to nothing last month because there was a hiccup in my pay. I’m thankful for our struggle, because now we’ll saving about $50 a month on an unnecessary product that goes straight in the trash immediately after use.
Starting a compost pile sounds easy in theory, but it’s actually a tad more difficult than most people realize. There’s more to it than throwing your garbage in a pile outside your back door. There are foods you can and can’t add to it, you can’t let it dry out too much or stay too moist. You don’t want it to sit directly in the sun, and Lord have mercy – can it stink!
If you have the money to spend on a fancy compost bin, go for it! I plan on getting something like this in the near future, but you should know it’s not necessary at all.
TreeHugger says, “Finished compost is a free soil amendment and fertilizer for the garden. It is mild and won’t burn plants like chemical fertilizers. By adding compost you’ll improve the overall texture of your soil enabling it to retain and drain water better.”
It’s yet another way to not only reduce your waste, but utilize it. Why throw your kitchen scraps away when you can turn it into something nutritious for your garden?
Main things you need to know when starting a compost pile:
- DO add: egg shells, fruits, vegetable scraps, tea bags, flowers, sawdust, dirt, tree trimmings, dry leaves, and other brown and green materials.
- Do NOT add: oil, bread, meat, bones, weeds, dairy products, cat/dog waste, or fish.
- Chopping your materials into smaller pieces will help it breakdown faster.
- Keep your compost moist, but not sopping wet, and make sure it can drain.
- Layering your compost is the way to go.
5. Start Making Healthier Choices
If you’re used to eating processed foods, it’s hard to immediately stop buying those products. But it’s always, always a good thing! Logic and common sense will tell you that it’s not normal for human beings (or any living creature) to ingest the harmful ingredients found in processed foods as often as we do. If you aren’t willing to totally give up your frozen blueberry Eggos (and trust me, I get it), moderation is key.
This is still a work in progress for my family. My husband has been great about it since he started the Keto diet. My son and I eat dinners that fall in line with his diet, but we also eat unhealthy food too. (My biggest weakness is chips).
Cutting out processed foods when you can is an incredibly smart move for your entire family health-wise, but it also helps guide you to the path of self reliance and sustainability. No matter what your homesteading goals are, whether it be less trips to the grocery store, or a completely off-grid lifestyle, remember, making things for yourself is a key component here. It will take a long time to get where you want to be, but starting these changes now will set you up for a healthier, more sustainable life in the future.
6. Plan Out Your Space
Whether you live in a one-bedroom apartment in the city, or fifteen acres in the country, you’ll have to spend some time planning out how to maximize your space and organize your projects in a way that works for you.
Be realistic with what you can accomplish where you currently are. If you’re renting, or you plan on moving in the next couple of years, you need to keep that in mind when planning out your next big homesteading project. Take everything into account – where is there shade, what areas receive the most sunlight each day, how many animals or raised garden beds can you realistically fit in the space you have?
For instance, my husband and I are renting a small house and we have one acre to do with as we please. We have a lot planned since we’ll hopefully be staying here for another year or two, but we also have to keep in mind that this land does not belong to us. For us, this means we’re not currently interested in planting fruit trees or building expensive fences. It also means we aren’t going to own donkeys, horses, or other big animals for quite some time. What we can do is raise chickens and other small animals, garden, and build things that we can take with us when we move.
7. Buy Local
Ozark Natural Foods has a nice quick little article about the importance of buying locally, which you can read here.
What it comes down to, is it supports your local economy, it typically tastes better, it’s fresher, it reduces your carbon footprint, and it keeps you in touch with the current season. More on that later.
The most important thing to me is supporting others in your community. Supporting real people nearby who put hard work into growing, preserving, or creating the things your family will be using. According to ONF, “When we buy local foods, we support local farmers. This gives those with farms and pastures a reason to stay undeveloped.”
The food will typically be more natural, meaning it wasn’t tampered with or contaminated, because it didn’t have to travel long distances to reach the consumer (you). And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be in their position. Growing and selling plants, eggs, chickens, preserves, or crafts. And you’ll be thankful to know those that live in your community that are willing to support each other.
8. Reuse And Upcylce
Reusing and upcylcing things that are typically thrown away is another small change you can make that will ultimately help you become more self reliant. I mean, really, why throw away all of those useful pickle jars, when they have so many uses? Sure, you’ll probably end up with an entire cabinet full of “junk,” but it’s worth it!
Jars, bottles, toilet paper rolls, cardboard, small tin containers, old clothes, the list goes on. There are so many things that people are used to simply throwing away that could instead be used to create something new. I used an old pickle jar, shown above, to hold my homemade reusable dryer sheets. I let my son play with toilet paper rolls, and instead of throwing out peanut cans, I reuse them for leftovers and little knick-knacks that don’t have a place to be.
There are a ton of crafts and uses for old materials, so before throwing something away, always ask yourself if it’s something you could potentially reuse. Your wallet will thank you! Homesteading, to me, is all about getting the most out of what you have. So save those pickle jars, but don’t forget to actually do something with them. Otherwise you’ll just be one of those people with junk in your house and no real plan. (Don’t worry, I have plenty of that going on too).
My mother-in-law is quickly becoming the Queen of foraging. My husband calls her a basket-case, (okay, she is a little bit of a basket case, love you Kris!) But she’s also getting really dang good at identifying plants and figuring out what they can be used for. It won’t be long before she won’t need to Google things at all.
She’s made acorn flour, canned and preserved pears that were gifted to her, she even found a bunch of berries on the edges of our property that I didn’t even know about. She’s pretty much a modern-day foraging bad-a**.
Again, homesteading is all about getting the most out of what you have. You have dandelions growing in your backyard? Don’t mow over them, make a dandelion salve! Why let those acorns rot outside, when you can make a flour out of them? Use the resources that Mother Nature has blessed you with.
Also, the amount of time that goes into foraging and creating something out of nothing distracts you from the pain of saying goodbye to processed foods and paper towels. Or maybe that’s just me.
10. Leave Plastic In The Past
This is another work in progress for my family, and my husband isn’t thrilled about it. But it’s an important step! DITCH THOSE DARN PLASTIC BAGGIES!
There’s no reason to have them. They suck money out of your account, and most of us throw them in the trash immediately after using them. Ziploc has a “compostable” version but even still – just quit ’em.
Instead, you can use beeswax wraps, jars, or other containers to keep your food fresh. Better yet, make your own darn beeswax wraps! You can even use wide-mouth mason jars to freeze food. (Don’t use jars with a lip).
I’m not a total nut when it comes to plastic bags. I’m not sure how else I’ll freeze whole chickens when we start butchering, but that’s something I’ll look into when the time comes. But what I do know is the average American family uses a ton of Ziploc bags, for no reason other than convenience. I don’t judge anyone for it, I’m not a snooty, in-your-face, eco-friendly hipster. My family literally just ran out of Ziploc bags yesterday, and I’m hopeful that we’ll give them up for good now. Making eco-friendly choices and homesteading go hand-in-hand.
I only suggest this if it’s something you want to do. And it doesn’t have to be something you do right away. Buying beeswax wraps and mason jars isn’t as cheap as a small box of sandwich bags, I get that. If you’re interested in homesteading, I think this is an important step to take when you have extra money and time to do so.
11. Cut Costs Where You Can
Starting a homestead gets expensive, depending on what your goals are! Find creative ways to make money, with your goals in mind. If you’re dead set on raising goats in the future, you’re going to need to save up a considerable amount of money to make it happen. And in order to ensure your animals have the best life possible, you have to have even more money saved in case they fall ill or need special accommodations.
If you want an awesome, beautiful vegetable garden, it’s going to take money to get it all set up. Chickens, canning materials, etc. It all costs money! Start couponing, making and selling candles, cutting out frivolous purchases, whatever you need to do in order to reach your major homesteading goals.
Some people will hatch and raise chickens and then sell them for more than they bought the eggs for. Others will start seeds and sell the plants at farmers markets. You can make crafts and sell them to people in your community or online. There’s a ton you can do to cut costs and earn money.
12. Get Chickens
Chickens are amazing. I’m a full fledged crazy chicken lady now. Every time they do something cute, I just want to hop online and order a dozen more! I can’t recommend owning chickens enough.
They’re hilarious, full of personality, cheap to raise, and you get the most delicious eggs you’ve ever tasted, straight from your backyard. There’s really nothing I don’t like about raising chickens. Well, okay, I’m not a fan of stepping in poop every time I walk out on my back porch, but even still, it’s worth it!
Raising backyard chickens is becoming increasingly more popular. You can easily check to see if they’re permitted in your area, and go from there. I have two posts about the first few weeks of raising chicks. You can check them out below:
13. Buy Mason Jars
If you don’t have any mason jars, what are you doing with your life? They’re cute, versatile, and did I mention that they’re cute? You’ll need them more than ever if you’re planning on homesteading. Most homesteaders can and preserve their own food so they can enjoy their harvest all year long.
As I mentioned above, you can freeze wide-mouth mason jars, so you’ll definitely want some of those around. Any and all sizes are great though! I love these jelly jars for salves, creams, and small snacks.
14. Can And Preserve Your Food
You can learn to can and preserve your own food no matter where you live. Even if you don’t grow your own food for a while, you can still make your own pickles, sauerkraut, jellies and more, all with food from the grocery store. I have my eye on this pressure canner, but there are plenty of options out there for you. It’s an important skill to have!
15. Bake Your Own Bread
Baking your own bread takes a lot of patience and practice. Some of your loaves might turn out great, but you’ll probably be disappointed from time to time, as you find your rhythm. Baking your own bread is another homesteading skill that you can learn no matter where you live.
Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be making your bread completely from scratch using ingredients you’ve grown yourself. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s absolutely worth it. There’s nothing like homemade bread!
16. Dabble In Herbology And Natural Home Remedies
First of all, let me say that I’m not one to go completely natural as far as my family’s health is concerned. I’m very much for antibiotics and other medications when it’s necessary. But the more I can do at home, the better. If I can help my child through a small cold with natural home remedies, limiting the amount of Motrin he has to take, I am 100% all for that. My point in saying this is, I never suggest anyone try to tackle everything with honey and calendula, if you catch my drift.
But I do believe in using medicinal herbs to make salves, homemade cough drops, and all that jazz. It’s something I feel is worth looking into if you’re interested in self-reliance and homesteading. Imagine how awesome it would be to have an in-home apothecary, where you grow your own herbs, dry them, and use them for various things around your home, and to ease minor pain and sicknesses.
17. Make Your Own Butter
There are plenty of things you can make yourself, like sour cream and cream cheese. Butter is typically a staple in most houses, so why not start there? It’s not hard, and like most other things you can make yourself, it’s not convenient, but it’s always worth it. Your Home Based Mom has a great post with delicious flavored butters you can make yourself.
18. Plan Meals According To The Season
While you may not be growing the majority of your food yet, planning meals according to the season is a great way to prepare yourself for the future. It gets you in the habit of preparing meals using vegetables that are in season, and it goes hand-in-hand with buying locally. As I mentioned above, most local vendors will sell fruits and vegetables that are currently in season, so it should work to your advantage.
Think about how things might be in the future, if your goal is to depend less on stores. What would you be harvesting right now? How would you prepare those meals and how would you preserve them so you can enjoy them next season?
19. Dry Your Own Herbs
Anyone can start an indoor herb garden, so while you’re at it, why not learn how to dry them to make your own spices? Some herbs can be air dried, while other require a dehydrator or the oven-drying method. There are plenty of posts out there for you to learn how to dry your own herbs like a pro, which leads me to my next tip.
20. Read Read Read
Read, read, and then read some more! There are some great blogs and other online resources about homesteading and everything that comes with it, as well as some awesome planners and books. I’m a big fan of The Backyard Homestead, and their Seasonal Planner.
There are so many skills you’ll pick up while on this journey, and the first step is just to start! Read and learn from other people’s experiences, and build the life you want to live one plant at a time.
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