Homesteading is about becoming more self-sufficient, decreasing your dependence on external sources like utilities and retail providers, and living a more local life to be healthier and diminish your impact on the environment.
Achieving those goals requires that we are continually learning new skills and expanding on that knowledge.
If you’re just starting to see yourself as someone who wants to homestead or you’re already living the country life and you are ready to commit to the self-sufficient lifestyle, then think about honing in on one of these homesteading basics and essential skills every homesteader needs to know.
1. Cooking from scratch
Sometime several years ago, the food industry saw a golden opportunity! With the rise of the working mom came the microwave dinner and processed and packaged meats and veggies.
And because of that, many adults now have no idea how to cook their own meal from scratch. So one of the first things anyone can do to start homesteading no matter where you live is to start cooking your own meals.
Even if you can’t grow your own produce, you can start shopping for your produce at your local farmer’s market and try out a few of those recipes you found on Pinterest!
Expanding on this you could learn to make your own bread, granola bars, spices, butter, yogurt, and cheese! Anything you want to eat, you can learn to make it at home. You’ll save money and eat a lot healthier foods.
I love watching Gordon Ramsay cook. My husband has been taking his master class, and it’s very good! We’ve been eating some amazing meals since he started learning from the MasterChef.
Here’s Chef Ramsay with 10 expert cooking tips.
2. Preserving food
Even before you start growing food, you can learn the skill of preserving it. Freeze your farmer’s market finds and make jelly from your harvest at the blueberry farm.
The art of preserving food is one that is so quickly lost. When a jar of jelly became conveniently available at the corner store, moms stopped making their jams at home.
But with everything we know about processed foods and how unhealthy they can be, it makes a lot more sense to learn to make your own jellies at home.
And canning is not hard to do! You can definitely do it in any size kitchen for even just one or two jars. Don’t be intimidated by the process. Just follow the recipe and you’ll be fine!
If you’re interested in starting to can food at home, I highly recommend that you read “The Most Essential Canning Supplies” and sign up to my newsletter at the bottom of this page to get a free book on preserving food.
Besides canning, there are many ways to preserve fresh produce including freezing, dehydrating, and fermenting. You can also grow or purchase produce that stores well like potatoes, pumpkins, onions, garlic, and many winter squashes.
3. Food Gardening
Growing your own food is my favorite homesteading skill! And it may sound crazy, but I believe growing your own food will have a profound effect on how you view your role on this earth.
Just like anything else on this list, start small so you don’t get discouraged.
Start with something easy like basil and tomatoes. They are easy to use in the kitchen, and you can practice growing, harvesting, cooking, and preserving your own food with these plants.
Over time, you’ll want to expand your garden and eventually, the goal is to learn how to grow enough food to feed your family full-time. But that is not an easy task!
It is an advanced homesteading skill that you can continue to work toward. It doesn’t matter what you grow when you’re just starting out as long as you learn to grow from seed and cultivate your crops.
Here are some tips for getting started with organic gardening:
- Choose a sunny location for your garden. Most vegetable plants will need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
- Use compost. Whether you buy it or make your own, compost is an excellent mulch, fertilizer, and growing medium.
- Grow from seed. You’ll get more variety and healthier plants when you start from seed.
- Water appropriately. This means don’t under or over water. The best way to accomplish this is to check your plants daily. Poke a finger into the soil to see if it’s moist under the crust.
- Use organic fertilizers and pest control methods. When growing food you definitely need to fertilize them and monitor for pests.
4. Meal planning
What is the point of saving all of your own produce if you don’t eat it?
Meal planning is one way to make sure that you stay on budget and use up all of the produce that you have put away for the year.
Even if you aren’t growing and putting away your own produce yet, learning to meal plan is still a good basic homestead skill to master. It’s easy to accumulate but never use canned goods, dry goods, and frozen foods if you don’t have a meal plan.
Being new to meal planning, I find it is easier to start by planning just one week at a time. And I don’t always plan for a specific recipe.
Once you have some basic cooking skills up your sleeve, you can simply fill in your meal plan with a meat, starch, and a veggie so that you at least have a shopping list to follow. Then just add seasonings and sauces to suit your tastes.
Or you might choose to go through your pantry and freezer and make a plan using what you already have. This is a great frugal tip to make sure you’re using up what you have at home before buying new items.
For more information on meal planning and prepping, take a look at “The Best Meal Prep Containers + 11 Meal Prep Tips“
5. Raising Chickens
Anyone who wants to be a homesteader will eventually want chickens. Chickens are an amazing resource on the modern homestead.
For one thing, if you get the right breeds of chickens, you’ll find that they not only have many jobs on the homestead, but they are fun little companions.
But beyond being fun to have around, chickens give you eggs and meat, can help you make rich compost, and even make you money.
The key to raising chickens is getting the right breed for your purposes and making sure you have a safe and clean coop for them to live in. Do your homework before you get your first chickens so you can get the most from their presence on your homestead.
Chickens don’t require much care once you’ve got them set up, and you don’t have to dedicate much space for them. For our family of 5, we currently have 3 laying hens and more than enough farm fresh eggs to keep us fed with free-range organic eggs. Plus, they bring such joy to our family.
6. Raise goats
Goats are the next farm animal that I plan to add to our farm. They are great for even the smallest homestead because they require less space, food, and investment than larger ruminants, but they still offer the benefit of fresh raw milk.
Read through this great article on using cows vs goats for your home dairy needs.
Goats are beneficial for your homestead because they can help you clear weeds, their droppings make great fertilizer, and they can provide you with meat, milk, and the kids can be sold as an excellent source of income.
Selling goat kids can be a lucrative business, but you can also profit from goats by making cheese, soap, and lotions with their milk.
Before you bring home your goats, you’ll need to plan for a place to house and milk them and some space for them to forage. Spend some time learning about the basic needs of goats now so you’re better prepared to bring them to your homestead.
7. Use herbs for your health
There are many ways in which the medicinal properties of herbs can be beneficial to use on the homestead.
Herbs are especially useful for preventing and treating minor illnesses, can be used to speed healing and administer first-aid, and have an important role in pest control on the homestead.
Grow herbs to make your own teas, body care products, fly sprays, medicinal tinctures, and more.
If you’ve never done the research before you might be surprised to find out how many culinary herbs also have powerful medicinal properties. For example, basil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and oregano has impressive antibacterial effects.
If you’re interested in growing your own medicinal herbs, here is a great resource for learning to use medicinal herbs at home.
8. Being frugal
Being frugal is not just for homesteaders, but it is a good life skill for any person trying to take care of themselves in our society. You’ll never achieve your financial goals if you don’t practice frugal living.
Spending less and saving money does come naturally when you begin to do more for yourself, but it’s still a skill that requires practice. A lot of us are prone to falling into bad spending habits, but there are lots of resources for learning to be more frugal.
How does being frugal fit into homesteading?
- Repurposing: homesteaders are masters at DIY and upcycling! Both of our chicken coops were made from materials we found around the farm. We only spent about $100 on hardware and fencing for each of our coops.
- Repair don’t replace: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” It’s just a part of homesteading life.
- Use less energy: hand washing and drying your dishes and clothes saves money on electricity and decreases your carbon footprint.
See these and more frugal tips in this post.
9. Make money
The ultimate goal of any homestead is to become fully self-sufficient. So, as a homesteader, I am always looking for ways to make money from our farm.
Although it would be nice to be completely off the grid, there’s just no escaping the reality that homesteaders must be able to support themselves financially.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to make money on a homestead. The trick is to do a bit of everything, and it starts to add up very quickly.
You can start learning ways to make money wherever you are right now.
One of the most common ways to earn money from your homestead is to sell your produce at the farmer’s market. But there are actually many ways to make money gardening.
Even before you’ve started homesteading, do your research so you can learn how to make money on the homestead. Here are 52 ideas to get you started!
10. Being goal oriented
Why is this one the homesteading basics? Well if you don’t set realistic goals you will either be disappointed with your progress and tempted to quit or you will flounder around and not be able to accomplish anything.
Setting goals is a skill that should be applied to all aspects of our lives, so the homestead is no exception.
You absolutely can not learn everything you need to know about homesteading before you begin living the lifestyle. Becoming a homesteader is more of a process that you live through.
So you’re going to have to set priorities as you begin to learn and implement these homesteading skills.
But that is much easier said than done! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you want to do!
Your head is spinning with dreams of stocking your pantry with home canned goods, growing all the food for your family, collecting farm fresh eggs, milking goats and making your own cheese and soap…the list goes on and on!
There’s no way to accomplish everything all at once, and taking the time to evaluate, prioritize, and put your goals on a timeline is the only way to succeed.
When it comes to setting goals, you need to consider your plans for your homestead. Ask yourself these questions to help you set the right goals and check out these tips for staying motivated while you work on achieving your goals.
11. Staying organized
Running a homestead is a lot of work! And you’re going to get overwhelmed quickly if you don’t keep yourself organized.
When you’ve got animals to take care of, a home and a garden to maintain, plus you have kids in school or are homeschooling, it’s so easy to forget little things like when you last dewormed the goats or when the 4-H project is due.
If you’re not used to keeping all your important records, dates, and tasks in one convenient place, the time to start learning to be organized is now.
While you’re still learning these basic homestead skills, you have less on your plate so it’s easier to add in learning a new habit.
Have you mastered any of these homesteading basics?
Share your experience in the comments below!