Becoming self-sufficient is more important than ever right now. Everything has gone up in the grocery stores. Gas is expensive and driving very far from home to get the best deals is not always good to do. There are ways to overcome that and I will share some of my ideas here. Being self-sufficient provides food and supplies in bad economic times, as well as during storms, emergencies, illnesses and loss of income.
1. Grow a Garden.
The garden has been a life saver for us. Growing a garden is not that hard and will give you plenty of food. A small yard can easily be made into a garden. You don't really need fancy equipment to get started. Even a container garden can add to your grocery supply significantly. A package of seeds will explain how to plant and care for them.
Working together in a garden can become a family activity. It is good for children to learn to garden! It is a skill that may feed them and their families in the future. Being outside on a nice day, enjoying nature while working in your garden is a good way to get the benefits of the fresh air and sunshine. Nothing is more satisfying than a day spent producing your own food in your own garden!
2. Can Foods
Producing a lot of extra food in your garden is perfect for preserving foods for the future. All those tomatoes can easily be canned. Or made into the various tomato products you purchase in the store, such as tomato sauces, juice, paste, ketchup, salsa, whole and diced, etc. Whatever you buy, you can make with your own fresh produce.
Canning equipment can be purchased used. Buy a canning book and learn the basics. There is a difference between a pressure Canner and a pressure Cooker . Make sure you use the right one! Some foods have to be pressure canned and some can be water bath canned. This is another rule that cannot be broken or you will risk your family's life.
3. Dehydrate Foods
Dehydrating or drying foods is another method of preserving foods. It is a very healthy way to keep the foods for future use. There are many different types of dehydrators available for sale. If you can find a used one for sale, that is a good way to get started. There are many articles and books available teaching how to build a solar dehydrator. That way you can use the sun to preserve the foods.
Make sure that you store the dried foods safely so they do not mold. Using canning jars for storage is the method I like best. When you use the foods you have grown, you know that nothing bad has been added in the process.
4. Buy In Bulk
Buying in bulk is another way to build up a supply of food for the future. Buy when foods are on sale or plentiful in season. The cost is way less. I always buy in bulk the foods I can't or don't grow or raise. Then I can or dehydrate those foods for the future. Building up a supply of food for the winter is the way it was done for centuries. Even the wild critters do that.
When you see meat on sale or offered by a local meat producer, purchase a quanity. Bring it home and can, dehydrate or freeze it. It can also be made into various dishes, like soups, stews, casseroles, main or side dishes. That gives you fast foods that are good for you and have no garbage in them during the processing.
5. Cook From Scratch
Cooking from scratch is not complicated. So many people will admit they do not know how to cook. Why not? Can they read? Don't they eat? If you know how to do some simple processes, cooking from scratch becomes second nature. Buy a good cookbook and just follow the directions. There are many videos available on the internet that show you how to make various recipes. Try some.
Making your own food will really cut the cost! Not only will it be cheaper, but it will healthier and taste good. As you do it more and more, you will not even be tempted to buy processed foods any more. When you do, you will taste the difference immediately!
6. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
I use vinegar and baking soda for most cleaning jobs. It works on everything and will even clear a clogged drain. There are recipes all over the internet for makeing your onw cleaning supplies. One thing I do not make is my dish detergent. The reason is that I use Dawn, and Dawn can be used on more than dishes. It is also a main ingredient in various other cleaning supplies or jobs.
This is my recipe for laundry detergent. It can be adjusted and other products substituted after you have made it a few times.
1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda
Melt and dissolve grated Fels Naptha soap in 2 cups of water in a pot on the stove on medium heat (Be sure to use an old pot for this. Reserve this pot for this purpose from now on.). Stir in the Borax and Washing soda till it gets kind of sloppy and thick. Pour it into a bucket that has a lid and add enough water to make about 2 gallons. Stir it until it is well mixed. It can be used right away or set overnight to thicken. It gets thick and may not look pleasant, but it works great. Use about 1/2 cup per load. Use more if your laundry is really dirty or your washer is really large.
If it is not getting your laundry really clean, try increasing the Borax. Instead of bleach try using Hydrogen Peroxide. Instead of fabric softener, use plain old vinegar, 1/2 cup in the rinse water. You can use homemade soap for the Fels Naptha, or any type of soap. I have used liquid Ivory soap in this recipe many times.
7. Make Personal Care Supplies
Many people have taken up soap making, but what about shampoo and other personal care items? There are many wild plants that can be added to your own products. Just takes some research. I wrote a blog post about making my own shampoo, using a recipe I had found in this post, Homemade Shampoo.You can find thousands of recipes and instructions on the internet for making every personal care item you purchase. You don't have to make all of them, but if you at least make some of them, it will save you money. In fact, once you start making your own, you probably won't like the store bought ones after that.
8. Buy Second Hand First
I shop regularly in thrift stores. In my kitchen, I cook with cast iron pans and skillets exclusively. My whole collection, which is quite impressive, was purchased in thrift and second hand stores. Some for as little as a dollar! Whatever you need can be found at good prices or even free if you look. It is a good way to recycle what someone else is getting rid of.
9. Generate Electric From Sunshine!
We have lived off-the-grid going on fourteen years now. Everybody can generate at least a little power by having a small stand alone system. One or two solar panels, of at least 50 watts each, a small charge controller, two golf cart or marine batteries, and an automotive inverter can power up a part of your household electric.
Hook up your lights, televison, stereo and computers to your small system. That will cut your electric bill a bit. When there is a power outage, these items will stay powered and running. It is not that hard to do and it will save you money. Try it and see. The cost of the solar panels and related equipment have gone down a lot since we started living with our own system.
10. Share With Others
Build a network of friends who you can share with. If you are going shopping, go with a couple of friends and you can split the gas for the trip. If you need to buy a piece of equipment, split the cost of it with a couple of friends. Another way is to share equipment you already own, but take turns using each other's things.
Share the work load too. If you have a lot of tomatoes to can, do it together and share the product. Then go to another's house and can whatever they have coming in. If you each grow different items and you do the picking and processing together, you should be able to put up a lot more food in a shorter period of time. Besides doing it together makes the jobs or trips go faster and be more fun.
Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole