Self-reliance is a path which 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 all 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 basic tips to help you start on a more self-reliant path.
1. Plant a Garden
Ask any gardener and they’ll tell you the same thing — gardening is very therapeutic to the soul, plus you get tomatoes (at least I do)!
The fact is, growing your own food is a huge step to self-reliance. Each crop you can grow is one less item you have to buy from the grocery store or farmers market. Depending on what you grow, you may even get more food than you thought you would.
Plants like cucumbers and cherry tomatoes can be very prolific, and they’re good with any meal. If you have enough room, just one watermelon plant can spread and produce up to 6 or more full-sized, healthy melons. With a garden that is 10′ x 40′, and a well-planned crop schedule, you can grow enough produce to feed a family of 3 all the vegetables they need. Just remember to plant what your family will eat — there’s no need in planting tomatoes if your family doesn’t like them (but seriously, who doesn’t like a deliciously fresh tomato??).
Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow food in containers on your patio or balcony. In fact, many herbs and smaller crops can actually be grown indoors (and grown year-round). Having a kitchen window sill full of fresh herbs is every home cook’s dream, right? Speaking of which…
2. Cook for Yourself
In my article 40 Ways to Save Money on Groceries, I discussed how cooking your own food (as opposed to eating out) will save you money. What I failed to mention is the fact that cooking at home with fresh ingredients is a lot healthier for you, and will help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. As long as you’re using fresh, organic ingredients, your overall health may actually begin to improve, as well.
If you don’t have time enough through the week to cook every single night, set aside a day each month to spend a few hours in the kitchen. Cook in large batches and freeze meals, prep ingredients ahead of time to be cooked later, and plan your meals for a week (or even a month). Now you’re set to cook with pre-cut foods on nights when time is short, or you can pop something into the crock pot in the morning from the freezer to have it done when you get home. If nothing else, you can make up some homemade casseroles and freeze them, then 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. Self-reliance is less about convenience and more about doing things for yourself.
4. Switch to Simple Cleaning Solutions
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.
7. Collect Rainwater
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 (who are also hopefully on the road to self-reliance)
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.
10. Invest in a Good Set of Tools
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 are some more steps you can take towards self-reliance?
Those ten steps toward self-reliance are ones that most anyone can do. The bottom line to this article is if you’re trying to live a more self-sufficient life, you’re going to have to put more work into it. At the end of the day, if you’re committed to self-reliance, convenience becomes less and less important to you — although you will figure out a few neat tricks along the way that will make your self-reliant lifestyle increasingly more convenient!
What are some other steps that might be a little more advanced? Leave me a comment and let me know!