The path to self-reliance may seem a bit daunting if you’re not sure where to start. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s usually not that hard. Being mindful of your habits, knowing what you have and what you need, and having a few common sense skills will help you along the way. Here are a few extremely basic tips to help you start on a more self-reliant path.
1. Plant a Garden
Growing your own food is a huge step to self-reliance. Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow food in containers. Everything you can grow is less you have to buy. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs are just a few ideas to get you started, and they’re all relatively easy to grow. This is a basic skill for modern homesteaders and people looking for self-sustainability.
2. Cook for Yourself
In my article 40 Ways to Save Money on Groceries, we discussed how cooking your own food as opposed to eating out will save you money. If you don’t have time enough through the week to cook every night, set aside a day each month to spend a few hours in the kitchen. Cook in large batches and freeze meals. This way, when you’re short on time (or just don’t feel like cooking), all you have to do is pop a frozen meal into the oven and relax while dinner cooks!
3. Stop Using Paper Products
Paper towels, paper napkins and paper plates are all convenient, but if you’re trying to become more self-reliant, they’re just one more thing you have to buy every time you go to the grocery store. Instead of buying paper products, why not use the real thing? Hand towels in place of paper towels; linen napkins instead of paper ones; actual plates in place of paper plates. Of course you have to wash them when you’re done, but they’re reusable, and that’s what we’re going for here.
Did you know you can make cleaner from citrus and vinegar? Just like cooking your own food cuts out a lot of the harmful chemicals you get in fast food, making your own natural cleaners at home also eliminates unnecessary chemicals. Vinegar itself can be a good cleaner on its own, and it’s food-safe. If you clean your counters with chemical-based cleaners, every time you prepare any food on that counter, you may be eating those cleaning chemicals, too. Vinegar is safe to ingest, and is often times a better cleaner.
5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Not only is this concept environmentally friendly, but it also lends itself to self-reliance. Don’t waste anything you can potentially reuse. That spaghetti sauce jar? Save it, drop a wick into it and fill it with filtered bacon grease to use as an emergency candle. Those cardboard tubes from the toilet tissue can be used to start seeds in for your garden next season. There’s always something you can do with those old things around your house. Find something you never use anymore and make something with it you’ll use daily.
6. Make It Yourself
Want a new scarf for the winter? Knit one for yourself. Need some more shelves in the garage? Build them yourself. Being able to make what you need instead of buying it is probably the most fundamental idea of self-sufficiency. There’s a lot to be said when you can look around your house and see the fruits of your labor instead of just a bunch of things you bought. These are also dying skills – if we don’t teach them to our children, they may never learn the true meaning of self-sufficiency.Whether you’re in a drought situation or not, collecting rainwater is a good idea. When you have to water your garden or your inside plants, you won’t have to turn on the spigot and run up your water bill. Rainwater can also serve as emergency water in times of need if you know how to purify water. Self-reliance becomes much easier when you have a virtually unlimited water supply.
8. Know Your Neighbors
No matter how close or how far away from your neighbors you are, the better you know them, the more they’re prone to help you when you need something. Whether you need a ride somewhere or need to borrow a cup of sugar, your neighbor can be there for you in a matter of moments. You also may end up bartering with your neighbor. Let’s say you grow tons of tomatoes, and your neighbor has chickens that produce more eggs than he needs. You could barter your tomatoes for your neighbor’s eggs. Neighbors are a great resource.
9. Conserve Resources
Train yourself and your family to turn off things when they’re not in use. Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth. Don’t leave televisions on when they’re not being watched. Turn off the lights and open the curtains to let the sun shine in. Conserving resources also applies to your food, dryer sheets, laundry detergent, shower gel… basically everything you have can be rationed out in smaller increments. Conservation makes your resources last longer saving you a ton of money.
What happens when your doorknob works loose or the pull-cord comes off the mower? If you don’t have a decent set of tools, you can’t fix things when they break. Of course, you need the knowledge to work with these tools, too, but all the knowledge in the world won’t replace a good screwdriver. “A good set of tools” doesn’t have to be top of the line, either. You can find tools at yard sales and thrift shops all the time to add to your collection. Just make sure you’re not picking up something that will tear up days later. Your self-reliance may depend on that screwdriver.
What can you do today to live more self-reliantly?