When Donna asked me for an article, we were gearing up for our county 4-H fair...just the busiest time of the year for me, but I was flattered to come up with something for her. Donna is such a wonderful, caring and talented pillar in our community and I didn't want to let her down. Below is the article I submitted. I hope you enjoy it!
Self-Sufficiency is Easier than You Think
Not long ago, as the economy took yet another nose dive and gas prices surged again, I decided it was time to become more self-sufficient. We don’t live frivolously, but I decided that there was more that I could do at home to help save money and live off the land. According to an April USDA report, a family of two adults can spend $479 to $745 a month for groceries. Add some children in the mix and that price could increase to over $1,000 a month just for food. Of course this expense is on top of your mortgage, electric and transportation costs. How is the average consumer to survive?
The level of self-sufficiency that you want to achieve is up to you. In the beginning, I learned different methods to cut costs and start an emergency food stock pile at home. These are some of the ideas and things I have done that you can do too:
· Plant a garden. Gardening is an excellent family or individual project and if you grow items from seed, there is little cost involved. Your garden doesn’t have to be big, just enough to provide food for your family. Don’t have a big yard for a garden? Try using pots to plant tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs in. They will look great on your porch or deck and still give you extra food during the summer months. Rhubarb and strawberries make great additions to yards or gardens as well and can take as much or as little room as you want them too.
· Can and freeze fresh fruits and vegetables for use later in the year. When these items are in season, buy in bulk from your local farmer’s market, neighbor or grocery store and can or freeze them for later. I have to admit that I didn’t know how to can until several years ago, but my mother-in-law took the time to show me and now I love it! There are many organizations that offer canning classes and your local extension office can provide you with publications on canning and freezing as well. I recently purchased a dehydrator to dry fruits for cereal, make beef jerky, etc. The possibilities of things you can do are limitless!
· Use coupons! Unlike some of the television shows, you don’t have to go extreme, but each coupon represents a savings to you, the consumer. Take advantage of it. My only words of caution would be not to buy something just because you have a coupon…make sure it is something that you need at home and will you use. Also, find a friend and share coupons. This is the best way to collect a lot of coupons that you can use at a fraction of the cost of purchasing them in the Sunday paper.
· When it makes sense, buy in bulk. There are some things in the home that you know you will need no matter what. Toilet paper is a great example. If it’s on sale, or you can buy it in bulk at a good price, stock up. This will save you trips here and there to the store for items like this because you will always have it at home and you won’t spend extra money on unnecessary trips.
· Plant fruit and berry trees. There is nothing better than being able to walk into your back yard and pick an apple off the tree, clean it and eat it! Berry trees like blackberries, raspberries and blueberries can be fairly easy to grow as well and are a wonderful source of food during the summer.
· If you can, raise a few chickens for meat and eggs (trust me, you don’t want more chickens than you can handle). Chickens are great not only as a food source, but can also be extremely amusing to watch. We have been raising chickens for over five years and selling our farm fresh eggs to clients and it is a very rewarding process. Fresh eggs also have a deeper orange yolk color than those that you purchase in the store.
Self-sufficiency is all about you and can be taken to any level you want. There are even opportunities to make your own candles, butter and soaps. If children are involved, you can encourage them to help with some of these projects and to make a difference in your household budget by turning off a light when they aren’t in a room and not leaving the water running while they’re brushing their teeth. Children love to be a part of what we are doing, so be sure to include them.
With the economic uncertainty that we face today, taking little steps in being self-sufficient can go a long way. By being self-sufficient, you gain valuable skills and knowledge that you can share with others about growing your own food, living off your land, and making useful items for your family.