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Living the simple life is something many dream about, but let's be honest, in order to raise your own food, preserve it, and increase your self-sufficiency, you need to invest in some tools and equipment. Most of want to be more self-sufficient, but how do you go about transitioning or getting started when you're strapped for cash?
I've been thinking about this for weeks after reading so many of your responses to our reader survey. Which, huge thank you to all who filled it out and responded. You've no idea how much it has helped me know what kind of things you need more information and help on.
By far, one of the biggest challenges is finding the extra cash or money to use on your simple life projects. Oh, my friends, I hear you, I do. My husband and I were just crunching the numbers after raising and harvesting 25 chickens.
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If you're like me, there's never enough money to fund all the things we want to do, and sometimes, barely enough to cover what we need just to make ends meet. And I don't foresee this changing for most of us.
So while more money would certainly help us, realistically, that's not the answer to our financial issues. We'll discuss in part 2 ways to add income though.
My father is a wise man, he was raised through the Great Depression, entered into logging in the 10th grade, and has been self-employed while raising 10 children for his entire life. He knows a thing or two about stretching a dollar and he's always told me, “It's not about how much money you make, but about how much money you save of what you do make.”
And this is where we need to start, each and every one of us.
The best place to find extra money to fund your endeavors is by saving some of the money you're already earning.
In other words, your job right now is to be frugal. This is going to take time. You most likely won't save a huge amount of money right away, but it all adds up over time.
1. First thing is to get everyone on the same page and on board with what you're saving up your money for. If it's a pressure canner, dehydrator, solar oven, water treatment, bills (because getting out of debt should be a major priority) whatever it is, make sure your whole family knows why it's important to have it and why you'll be cutting back on some things until you've saved enough money to purchase it.
In fact, it may be you who needs to be reminded of why and what you're saving for. Because trust me, old habits die hard and you'll be tempted to fall back into old habits. Remember your why.
2. Use cash. I know, you've heard this before, it's nothing new. But there's a reason so many folks say it, because it works. If you stick to only spending the cash you designated, you won't overspend.
3. Meal plan. The area I can cut back the quickest on is our food budget, especially during the summer and fall months when the garden is producing and prices are low at local produce stands and farmer's markets. It also means I won't end up at 6 o'clock at night with nothing for supper and be tempted to use pre-made food or go out to dinner.
Instead of making your favorite dinner, cook with the items you already have on hand. Shop from your pantry. If you're used to purchasing items, find one of the items you purchase pre-made on a daily or at least weekly basis, and learn how to make it at home. We did this first with bread, this 5 minute a day no knead bread works well when you're pressed for time, and then worked our way into making our own yogurt at home. With these two items alone, I save $7 dollars a week.
Need some from scratch recipe ideas? Here's our full recipe page
4. Little things add up. Sometimes we just look at the big bills and large ways to save money. I did this with out mortgage (by paying bi-weekly I knocked 7 years off our mortgage, which is pretty huge). But I've justified small purchases with the thought, it's not that much so it won't matter.
When you're serious about saving up, every little bit counts. Sometimes those little things add up to being a whole lot. Track your purchases.
5. Volunteer at a food bank. If you volunteer at a food bank, you also get to take home groceries. Many people don't meet the qualifications for food banks and I'm not endorsing fibbing about your income to get food from them. But, if you put in your time as a volunteer, you get to bring home food as well. This may be a way to stretch your grocery budget and also help others.
6. Look into gleaning. Gleaning is a biblical practice. Farmers were told to leave part of their harvest for the orphans and widows to come and pick in order to feed themselves. In our county, there is an organization called The Gleaners. You pay a dollar a day (can pay monthly or yearly) and then you may come to their “store” and shop daily or weekly. You do have to volunteer a set amount of hours a month as well.
You can also find large farmers and glean at the end of the harvest. Sometimes for free or sometimes at a greatly reduced price per pound and u-pick.
7. Preserve your own food. It doesn't do you much good to have food if you let it go to waste. Often times the food you will get from a food bank or gleaning is close to being passed its prime. You'll need to preserve it soon, sometimes within the next 24 hours.
Ya know I have you covered on that end with our Ultimate Home Food Preservation Guide
8. Wait 24 hours before making a purchase or save the receipt. I might be the only one who sometimes doesn't follow her own advice and ends up making an impulse purchase. It's always from the clearance rack and a really good deal…. but that doesn't mean I truly need it.
I've found by waiting at least 24 hours, I usually don't need it like I thought I did. Or, if I do purchase it, I leave the tags on and the receipt in the bag. If I've had it at home for a few days and don't use it, then I re-evaluate if I really need to keep it. Truthfully, about 9 times of 10 I end up returning it.
9. Re-Use and Re-Purpose. Many times we throw things out because we're tired of them, not because they're wore out. If it's broken, see if it can be fixed. Learn to do simple mending, like re-attaching a button or sewing up a ripped seam.
I had an pair of fifteen-year-old sweat pants I tossed in our rag bin. Part of the material had worn so thin it couldn't be mended, but the legs were fine. I used a piece last night to stitch up a small sachet of dried lavender for my husband's truck as an air freshener.
We found an old cast iron sink, buried in the dirt for decades, we washed it and put it to use as a pig feeder. After the pigs are gone, I plan on using it as a new herb garden container. You can check it out on Instragram
10. Grow your own food. This is how we save quite a bit of money. In fact, I've got a whole podcast on this very subject and the foods we grow at home and never purchase from the store. 7 Foods Never to Purchase from the Store
Bonus article–> 7 Tips to Spending Less & Living the Good Life
What are you ways to help save money and live more frugally within your means?
Verse of the Week
I've been circling back over these two verses in the book of John this week. I've mentioned before we're having some extremely dry conditions here in the Pacific Northwest this summer and I have to say, I caught myself complaining about the sunshine and lack of rain. Then I read this verse.
To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” John 3:27
I decided instead of complaining about something I can't change, to receive it as a gift from heaven. I've been thanking God for the day He's given me, including the sunshine.
And just a little bit further down this same passage of scripture is this verse.
He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
Oh, this is so true in every area of my life. I need to step back and let Jesus step forward. I wrestle with this. A lot of the time. So every morning this week, I've been reading over this verse and asking God to help it become true in my life. May it be a prayer for you as well.
Because not only how much better our world would be if we lived this verse, but how much better our lives would be if we were less and Jesus was more.
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Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.