Homesteading is all about building a life based on the fundamentals. The skills needed to live a simple existence are often forgotten in our fast-paced world.
Many people believe that homesteading requires living entirely off the land and operating a farm, but this isn’t always the case, especially when you’re first starting out. Even those who live in metropolitan areas can start implementing some basic homesteading principles to make themselves a bit more food independent.
Some people may do a few minor homesteading activities for fun or to save money. Others go all out intending to be self-sufficient, living off what they grow themselves and not buying anything from stores unless it’s necessities like food and water.
How To Start Homesteading With No Money
Growing your food may seem unattainable if you live in the city and work at a low-paying job. You may think you need to have acres of land to grow food on, but you can often get starting with a corner of a room and a few spare 5-gallon buckets.
Here are some ways for you to get started with homesteading while you save up for your dream property (or decide whether you actually like it enough to do so).
Growing Vegetables In Buckets
Growing vegetables in buckets is a great way to get started on your homesteading journey. This can be done indoors (in a spare corner of a room) or outdoors (on a patio or balcony), and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can start for free if you have access to free buckets.
First, pick out a 5-gallon size bucket that has a lid with it. Drill holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage. Next, put some potting soil into the bucket filled all the way to the top of the bucket with soil, and let it settle over several days so that it compacts naturally without being tamped down.
Plant your seeds according to their need for light–some plants need full sun while others prefer partial shade–and then water them well following planting directions on their seed packets. Some good plants to grow in buckets include:
- Cucumbers (If you can Provide a Trellis)
- Pole Beans
If you want to grow dry weather herbs like sage or rosemary, be sure to water less often to avoid killing your plants. Adding gravel to the bottom of the buckets doesn’t improve drainage at all, so you need to control how much water you put into the buckets in the first place.
If you want to get started growing your own food in an easy way that requires next to no space, arugula is a great way to start. It’s healthy, easy to grow, and you can go from seed to harvest in only a month.
Arugula is a fast-growing annual plant that is a member of the brassica family. It has a slightly spicy flavor. If you are not familiar with arugula, it’s often used in “spring mix” salads.
Arugula is easy to grow and only prefers a sunny location for optimal growth.
Arugula can be harvested in as little as 30 days from seeding, though it will continue producing over several months. It is considered a cool weather crop and will bolt (go to seed) if grown in the hot summer months.
Once established, arugula grows quickly and requires minimal attention from the gardener, making it an ideal choice for beginners who want to establish a basic garden with minimal time invested. An added bonus is that arugula leaves are packed full of health benefits!
Cook Your Own Food From Scratch
The best way to save money on food during the summer and autumn months is by cooking your meal plans. You can reduce costs even more if you shop for fresh produce at its lowest price point, rather than waiting until the last minute.
Pick a few simple dishes that everyone in your family enjoys and get into the habit of preparing them on the same night each week. Monday might be spaghetti and meatballs, Tuesday is Taco Night, etc.
Start Preserving Your Own Food
Food storage is an essential part of homesteading. Without it, you won’t be able to preserve any produce for winter months when nothing grows in your climate zone. All that’s available are nutrient-poverty foods high in sugar or processed carbs with minimal nutritional value!
You may also save money on fruits and veggies by buying in bulk from a vendor. Even if you aren’t growing your food, you can stock up on groceries while they’re on sale and preserve them yourself.
Luckily, there are many ways to preserve food on a budget: canning/bottling, drying/dehydrating and freezing.
Canning is probably the first thing you think of when thinking of preserving food on a homestead. For the simplest method of canning, choose canning—and in particular water bath canning.
Water bath means that jars of food are placed in boiling water for the time required to kill any micro-organisms. The best thing about water bath canning is that you only need one piece of equipment: an inexpensive stockpot with a rack or insert to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot.
You will also need some clean quart or pint jars with lids and rings (you should be able to get these from family or friends). When you have enough produce or have purchased produce from your local farmer’s market, you’re ready to begin!
Note, though, that water bath canning is only good for high acid foods like jams, pickles, and vinegars. If you want to preserve soups and stews, you’ll need to learn how to use a pressure canning setup.
Learn To Sew
Learning how to make your clothes can seem daunting, but you don’t have to start with complicated things. The next time you need fixing up some clothes, don’t waste your money re-purchasing something you can quickly fix with just a needle and thread.
Sewing is a skill that will make you less dependent on stores, and it might even help you make some cash to support your homestead.
You can practice sewing with secondhand materials, so don’t hesitate to get started. With enough practice on simple projects like pillowcases, you can move on to more complicated projects like clothes and curtains. There are plenty of tutorials for learning to sew on YouTube, so don’t hesitate to pull out the needle and thread.
Lean How to Compost
If you’re just getting into composting and want to start with a small, controlled project that won’t require significant funds or space, you may want to consider vermicomposting. Vermicompost is decomposable organic material that goes through the digestive tract of earthworms before being converted into nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Vermicomposting requires little space and can be done indoors throughout the winter months.
While many homesteaders follow a strict no-purchase rule for their homesteading projects, you don’t have to be bound by those same rules if it’s not necessary for your personal situation. Consider purchasing a worm bin (they typically cost between $30 and $150) or building one yourself using an old storage container or repurposed wine crate.
You’ll also need two pounds of red worms for every pound of food/gardening waste you want to compost per day and bedding made of sawdust, shredded cardboard, or newspaper strips. You can often acquire the worms for relatively cheap and bedding free of charge—just ask around at local farms in your area!
Before attempting to raise chickens in your backyard, you’ll study your local bylaws. However, a surprising number of cities allow it. If you wish to start raising livestock, chickens are an excellent place to start.
Chickens can be gotten relatively cheap and aren’t likely to upset your neighbors as long as you don’t get any roosters. You do need to learn how to keep them in your own yard, though, and protect them from hawks and eagles. I’ve had my neighbor’s chickens come visit me from time to time, so it can be an issue.
Try a Little Bit of Market Farming
Homesteading won’t make most people wealthy, but it can help many people become self-sufficient and allow you to generate products and sell them to generate cash for other items on your farm.
An easy way to get started with selling some of the stuff you’ve produced on your homestead would be either getting into backyard beekeeping or soap making, both of which produce products that are easy to store and can be sold online in an Etsy shop or on eBay.
Here is a guide that goes more into detail with what you need to be aware of if you want to start selling soap.
Learn To Make Soap
Making your soap is easy, and when you do it in bulk (which will help save money), the process can be satisfying.
Making your own soap is a huge step toward becoming self-reliant and eliminating the need for many harsh commercial products. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to do, cheap and fun!
There are two ways to make soap:
- using lye, oil and water (the traditional method)
- using leftover scraps of bar soap (the grating method)
Both can be done with or without the use of a homemade double boiler. The first method uses lye, which is available in hardware stores, some pharmacies and online. If you want to make your own lye from wood ash you can learn about that here.
Recycle Soap Scraps
Soap flakes are a great way to recycle your soap scraps. We’ve found that using a cheese grater on the smallest setting is the easiest way to make soap flakes. You can use any type of cheese grater, but we recommend the box-shaped ones because they are easier to store than a flat grater.
Once you have flakes, you can use them to make new soap bars! This should be as simple as melting them in the microwave (in a bowl covered to prevent moisture from escaping) and pouring the melted soap into a mold.
Soap flakes can also be used to make cheap foaming liquid soap.
There are lots of different recipes out there for making your own bar soap from scratch, but our favorite uses just 2 ingredients – soap flakes and water. Mixing a cup of soap flakes into a gallon of warm water is a great start for a foaming liquid soap – then just add your choice of essential oils and natural colorants like cinnamon or turmeric powder.
Making Your Own Bread
Bread is a common item in most homes, and it’s not something that’s getting cheaper with all of the supply chain issues we’ve been having recently. Because buying bread at the store is more expensive than making it yourself, it’s an excellent candidate for low-cost homesteading.
You can make flatbread with only flour and water (and a little salt or sugar for taste). You don’t need any special equipment (such as bread makers). All you need is a place to prepare it and a stove top or oven.
Getting Started With Homebrewing
The prices at the bar are starting to add up, and you’re spending more time drinking home brew instead. The cost of alcohol is not something you should take lightly because it can seriously affect your finances in just one night.
You may save a lot of money by brewing your beer and making your wine, but it does take some time to master. Plus, you may customize your drink of choice to precisely fit your preferences.
It’s actually easier and less expensive than most people think (plus it tastes better). You can make beer, kombucha, wine, cider and other natural beverages at home for a fraction of what they would cost in the store.
To get started, you don’t need to invest in hundreds of dollars worth of fancy equipment. Just a basic homebrewing kit for beginners will get you going with everything you need. You can find them online or at local homebrew stores.
Once your first batch is ready to drink, you might find yourself hooked on the hobby!
You can start your homestead from scratch today. You’ll want to do even things for it, not just be about growing food! You should consider bartering, preserving, or learning how to sew so many of these tasks will help on the journey towards self-sufficiency which may take years, but if begun small with continuing changes being made, then yes – someone like me who started at nothing has been able to achieve what they wanted by keeping going one step (or task) after another.