Are you in love with the homesteading idea? The thought of producing your own food and goods is appealing, but what if you don’t have any land? I am a renter who lives in the middle of the city. I just don’t have the blunt to be able to buy land and homestead like I would love to. Despite that, I still put up most of the fruit and veggies we eat in winter and I have chickens who produce the eggs we eat.
Even if you aren’t able to have animals or break ground for a garden, there is still a lot you can do to be more self-sufficient.
This fall I saw a lady who had posted on Facebook that she had a bunch of Buttercup Squash for sale. I adore Buttercup Squash! I had already spent my grocery budget for the month though and I was going to have to pass. As an experiment I messaged her and asked if she would take something in trade. She was dubious at first, but when I offered her a basket full of fresh tomatoes she quickly said yes! Since I had way too many tomatoes I was able to trade 10 pounds of tomatoes and a dozen home grown eggs for 20 pounds of squash. Some people aren’t fond bartering, but I always like to ask. After all, the worst they can say is no.
Make sure you are realistic about the value of the products. That man who sells raw honey for $15 a jar isn’t going to be interested in trading a jar of honey for a jar of jelly. Be generous with your bartering and you will find people will be willing to barter with you again.
Last summer I let my co-worker know that I was looking for a used dehydrator since I couldn’t spend $100 on a new one from the store. Being the yard sale fiend that she is, a week later she called to tell me she had found one for $10. Whenever I have someone offer me the extra herbs that are taking over their gardens I immediately say “Yes!” A co-worker brought me a garbage bag full of basil plants that they had cut out of their garden, now I have 3 pint jars full of dried basil I use in my sauces and soups. Extra jalapenos were dehydrated to make my own hot pepper flakes. Onions were dehydrated to make onions flakes (make sure you are out of the house for the first few hours on that one, whew-ee!).
Dehydrating is a great way as well to make your own snacks. I personally LOVE dehydrated Banana slices with a handful of nuts and some m&m’s. My kids adore the plum and mango slices I dehydrated for them.
I love seeing a cupboard full of cans of jams and jellies, but unfortunately I am not a jam and jelly sort of person (unless it’s Watermelon which is the bright pink jelly above). One batch will last us all year, so I try not to make too much. Salsa, on the other hand, is inhaled in our house. Especially when it is homemade. I raised my tomato plants in 5 gallon buckets and ended up with more Roma tomatoes than I knew what to do with. So of course I made salsa, lots of salsa.
I also was given a ton of pears and apples from the family trees, so of course I had to try my hand at make canned Apple pie filling and canned pears. It’s like eating candy. My kids get so excited when I grab a can of pears out of the pantry for supper. For that matter, so do I!
As much as I would love to raise my own beef or pork, I don’t think my landlords would appreciate the backyard being turned into a feedlot. Maybe just a goat? I’ll have to check on that one. I did talk them into letting me build a small coop a keep a few chickens, but not enough to keep us in meat all year long.
I have an issue not knowing where my meat comes from, being a farm raised kid I am picky about what goes into my food. I buy meat that is direct from the farm (and cheaper than the store). It tastes like the beef and pork we used to raise when I was younger, and I love that I know I am giving my kids all-natural products.
This summer I watched craigslist and picked up a small chest freezer for $60. My parents have a bad habits of planting an ENORMOUS garden and then having too much produce. I always make a bargain with them that I will care for their garden when they take trips in return for some of the gains. The year it was baskets full of green beans and acorn squash. I love fresh green beans, so I picked as much as I could, blanched them, and flash froze them. I just pull a freezer bag out when I need a veggie for supper and steam them quickly. My kids even love them (they usually hate anything green) and they taste like they were picked that morning.
This goes hand in hand with all of the above, because what good is it to have all of the canned, frozen, and bartered goods if you don’t have a place to keep it? I picked up a tall cabinet that a family member was going to throw out and put it in the mud room for a pantry. The bottom half is full of squash, potatoes, and onions while the top is full of canned goods, dehydrated food, and cans of food that I find at my local discount store. I have the room to be able to store what I have, that way I can stock up when it’s on sale and not have to run to the store when I suddenly realize I am out of Tomato Paste.
Learn some frugal hobbies
Growing up I was never girly, as a homeschooled ranch kid I was more likely to be out in the tractor making hay than I was inside cooking or learning to sew. Later in life though I made sure to learn how to do both. I can whip up some cloth napkins (much cheaper than buying paper towels), crochet some new wash cloths, or mend a rip in my favorite sweater. It saves me a ton of money and I find it very relaxing in the evening to sit and sew or knit while watching a movie.
I learned how to make my own chicken stock, bake bread, and make refried beans in the crockpot to save on convenience food. I have cut out most of the pre-made ingredients I use by learning to make my own. (Try making your own baked beans once in the crock pot, you will never go back to the can)
Use what you have
I am blessed to rent somewhere where I can tear up the yard a bit and build a coop, but many people do not have that option. I used to live in a small neighborhood with very strict regulations about what was and wasn’t allowed. Needless to say that a garden was out of the question. Instead, I used big decorative pots on my front steps. Instead of geraniums and pansies, they were filled with bell peppers and herbs. Outside right now it is 5 degrees, but inside I have a little window box in my kitchen that is growing parsley and cilantro. In the summer I plant herbs in my decorative pots on the front porch, it keeps them from taking over the garden and they look great.
Make it yourself
This is probably the biggest money saver that any homesteader, or any person at all does. Right now I am making my bread by hand, the recipe makes a huge amount so I only have to make bread once a week or so. Since we go through so much bread as a filler, it’s much more frugal for me to make healthy bread for pennies rather than spending $3 a loaf from the store. (I have my crazy sale-skilled co-worker on the hunt for a used bread-maker.)
This fall I also learned how to make Ricotta cheese at home (it’s so simple). I had some extra milk that was going to go bad, instead of throwing it out, I made cheese. Now I love to make a pound of cheese every month to use up any extra milk before it sours. It’s a great way to supplement the grocery budget, and I love being able to add very cheap and healthy cheese to my pasta dishes. On a less healthy note, it’s great plain and spread on crackers too!
REDUCE YOUR WASTE
Between putting eggs shells and coffee grounds in my compost and giving my chickens the veggies scraps, I have gone down to emptying the trash twice a week. Since I made my compost bins out of old plastic barrels, they only cost me $5, but you can buy them too in a smaller and more apartment friendly size. My garden loves getting the nutrient rich boost in the spring and I love that I can just put all my raked leaves, grass trimmings and kitchen waste in compost rather than paying more for it to end up at the city dump.
Do you use homesteading techniques in town? What have been your favorite or most useful ideas?