5 Homesteading Skills that Will Save You Money – Melissa K. Norris

5 Homesteading Skills that Will Save You Money

By Melissa Norris | Frugal Living

Oct 26

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Today we’re sharing 5 homesteading tips that will save you money. And some of the might not be in ways you’ve really thought about or considered before, while others may be a given depending upon where you’re at in your homesteading journey.
5 Homesteading skills that will save you money, even if you're not a full on homesteader. Have you put all of these skills to use? My favorite is tip 4 and 6!

For all of the fun stories and tips, you’ll want to listen to the podcast, I’ve created a shortened version for you here in the blog post.

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Tessa: Well, I’ll do my best. Our frugality is typically forced. Quite honestly, if I had my choice, I’d enjoy my central heat and air, and my take-out, and my store bought pasta as much as possible. But the fact is, I can’t afford all that stuff. So, each time we’ve had a job loss or a set-back of some kind, I’ve had to learn new skills. And I always end up grateful for the chance to learn those things.

But it can be hard. So I’ve kind of picked, I took these tips, and I got five for you. And I have a bonus one for you at the end. I took them from my book, the Do It Yourself Homestead. And that book was written on four different levels of homesteading. So there’s beginners clear up to people who have been doing it for years and doing it on acreage.

These tips are kind of graduated. Or you could take them at your level, I guess I should say.

If you’re completely new to homesteading, you’re just barely identifying yourself as a homesteader, they absolutely apply, but don’t feel overwhelmed if I mention something and you’re like I can’t do that. Just say to yourself, well I’m not doing that, yet. And maybe this is something I can think about.

Melissa: I have an awesome tribe. Tribe is kind of this word that’s thrown around, but I think really, it’s a group of people who identify and have common goals and outlooks in life. And we just share that with one another to help one another. So, I guess tribe is a way of encompassing that.

I feel that’s what homesteading kind of is separated from…it’s so funny, because homesteading and preparedness really overlap so much. But I feel like, with homesteaders, homesteaders overall have the open hand. Like let me help you. Let me teach you. Let me be a good neighbor so to speak.

Tip #1 Learn How to Barter and Share

Tessa: Absolutely. I agree. It’s good that we started out talking about community. Because that’s actually the first tip. Is to access your homestead community and to start kind of thinking outside the box when it comes to getting the things you need for your homestead.

One of my first tips is to learn how to barter with your neighbors and to share. You mentioned the generosity of homesteaders. I would also throw gardeners in there. A lot of gardeners don’t necessarily consider themselves homesteaders, though they really are.

Melissa: They really are, yeah.

Tessa: But, you are always growing more pumpkins than you need. Or have a windfall of apples. And what’s the first thing we think to do? Well, we think to share it. Because no matter how much you can and store, you sometimes just can’t save it all. So our very natural inclination is to seek outside of ourselves and try and share the things we have that are extra.

And learning how to barter and how to create this sort of sharing little niche or tribe, if you want to use that word, that’s a great word to use. This little share tribe in your community is a great way to consistently and over the years, save money.

I had a friend who cut hair professionally. I’ve got five kids and they need haircuts, but that’s not a skill I have at all.

She needed goat milk. So we looked fabulous and she got goat milk. It was a great trade off.

I encourage people, for some of us its way outside our comfort zone to even think like that. We just want to go to the store and buy what we need in a box and bring it home. And not have to talk to people. Or interact or think outside of that little box. But it really can save us money.

Frugal is a mindset, it’s great to save the money. But really, what we’re trying to do is train ourselves to become the kind of people that we want to be. So we don’t want to just save money. We want to be a frugal kind of person that looks around and uses our resources well. And that just takes training. So, all of these five little steps and the little extra one at the end, they are really just meant to teach us how to retrain ourselves.

So when we look around to barter or even host a clothing swap. Which is a higher level of engagement and activity than just bartering with your neighbor. So we’ll say that’s a higher level of homesteading.  You want to organize a clothing swap, that’s an awesome way to build community. But it’s a lot more work.

But any way that you decide to do that, really what you are doing is teaching yourself to think outside of that box. Get yourself out of the store and into the community and see what resources are there. That’s tip number one.

Resources for Bartering

6 Rules for Bartering Success

Tip #2 Raise Some Type of Livestock

Tessa: Tip number two, and I don’t want anybody who like is homesteading in an apartment or in a small space or never done livestock to freak out. Don’t freak out.

But my second tip is to keep a flock of chickens. And if that just, you can’t handle that, then try vermicomposting. Which is composting with worms.

Try and get some livestock in whatever way is feasible for you. And if it just isn’t right now or you can’t handle it, then just ignore this tip. But the reason I mention it is because, again, we are trying to become the people we want to be.

There are a lot of things livestock can do for you in changing your mindset about how you eat and what you eat and learning where your food comes from and how it’s produced, can help you become a more frugal consumer in so many different ways.

You can become a more educated consumer. You’re not buying products that are containing elements that you have decided you don’t want to consume anymore. That aren’t good for your health.

Once you’ve got that education, you kind of look around and think, well we were just at Real Foods, we were looking around, and I looked at the eggs. They are $8 a dozen. I have 5 kids. And we eat so many eggs, I don’t have $8 to spend on a dozen eggs, which we can consume in a breakfast and then some.

So I keep chickens. They are cute. They are a lot of food. They are fun. They are good for the kids to have chores. But really, I keep them because I can’t afford to consume eggs that are healthy enough to pass my kitchen test. Like, I won’t allow them in my home if they got this or that in them, but we love eggs. And they are a great source of protein.

And so, I suggest that simply for those who are ready to make that leap into some kind of livestock. Goats can do the same thing for you. And even worms, even though they don’t produce food, unless you’re a fish. If you go fishing you can use them. But they do produce compost. The chickens do as well, and so do the goats. And when you end up with all of this waste from your livestock, you want to figure out what to do with it. And that will automatically lead you into the garden and make you a better gardener over time. And then, you are producing more of your own food.

Like I said, really, these tips are to help train us to be more frugal over time. And to become sort of frugal mindset kinds of people. Rather than just doing a certain number of steps.

If chickens aren’t your thing, then do something else that involves livestock wherever you are. Because it really will get you thinking about what’s in your food. And you’ll become a more educated consumer, which will automatically make you more frugal.

Melissa: And one thing, too, that I want to add in there. Because I know a lot of time, like you said, if you are an urban homesteader, you’re in a small apartment or you’re really in the city, now depending on and you will have to check exactly where you’re at. Some urban places will let you have a small amount of chickens. Like there are a certain amount of chickens you can have or small livestock, goats and stuff. But you will definitely have to check with your city and all of that.

One option is to lease land from someone or pay a farmer to raise, or herd share, livestock for you. 

Tip #3 Homemade Cook it from Scratch

Tessa: Tip number three is something you’re audience is going to be very, very familiar with. Because you’re constantly educating them how to do it. And that’s cook from scratch. And again, don’t freak out at the words “from scratch”. This is a very take it at your level sort of enterprise. There are a lot of resources for those who are….

The problem is, your father grew up in the depression. He had all of these skills. And he taught a lot of them to you. But there has been a disconnect.

Melissa Richardson actually talks about this in her book. Her second natural loving book, she’s the bread geek, she has written about using sour dough culture and natural leavens. She’s an awesome lady and she mentions in that second book of hers that there is this cultural gap between people like your father and people like you and I and our children. That these skills have just been lost. And it’s not like we’re too ignorant to learn them. Or we’re unwilling. We just don’t know where to start a lot of the time.

And for people who know how to cook, the idea of not knowing how to cook seems odd. How do you not know how to cook? I don’t know. You just cook. Well, some of us really don’t. And we have to start from the ground up.

That’s actually why I didn’t put this step at the beginning. Because there are a lot of other steps that have to come first to convince you why you want to cook at home from scratch. It’s more work.

Sally Fallon talks about it in Nourishing Traditions a lot, that yes, you give up a certain amount of time and personal labor. But what you get back from cooking at home is more than just saving money. Although it is. You save a lot of money. And it’s really hard to quantify how much money you save. Because it’s not really about not going to the store and buying things.

It is more about, again, back to your health. What’s in your food? How much money are you wasting on the doctor every year? And how much work time are you losing because you’re ill when you don’t need to be?

Or because you’re tired and you don’t need to be. Or are you depressed and suffering from chronic illness when really, maybe your answer is the humble homegrown tomato and oatmeal in the morning that you’ve made yourself. Maybe it really is that simple for you. All you have to do is educate yourself a little bit. You can do it!

I mean, we are intelligent modern people. And we have this wonderful thing called the internet. And there’s this great site, MelissaKNorris.com that can teach you how to cook from scratch. It’s not brain surgery. Its oatmeal. So just start from where you are.

And this topic, you and I could probably talk about it for five hours, so I don’t want to go on and on. I just want to put a little bit of inspiration there. If you have been kicking around cooking at home more, take the plunge, commit, write it down.

How many days a week am I going to cook at home? And if you start out with one, good for you. That’s more than you were doing before. And maybe by the end of the month you’ll be up to 2-3 nights where you are all home and you’re all cooking. And this doesn’t mean mom has to make everything. This really needs to be a family enterprise.

Because what you are doing is learning together. And getting smarter about your food. And that, over time, will save you money. It will save you mental health.

Melissa: Yes. And I love, too, because I completely agree that a lot of these skill sets have been lost. And I actually feel, now I have to be honest, I didn’t always feel growing up, that lucky. But now, looking back, I am so blessed. Because I really was raised, because my father, I was from his second marriage. And he had me a lot later in life.

Resources for Cooking From Scratch

My book, The Made-from-Scratch Life (the bonuses include pantry sheets, recipe cards, menu plans, and more)

The recipe section of the blog all filled with from scratch goodness

Tip #4 Find Ways to Turn Off the Media

We are on tip number four. This one isn’t always popular. But this is a very modern problem that we wrestle with. And not everybody does, but homesteaders do. And that’s to go into your house and analyze the amount of media coming into your home. And find places to pull the plug.

And the reason I include that in these steps is because A. they are huge money suckers. Just the cable bill alone can be staggering. But, homesteaders have a hard time living in the real world. Because all of us are living parallel lives. Unless you’re off grid in the woods somewhere. But even then, we’ve got work and school. Those things that keep us in the modern world. But we’re really not of the modern world.

What we’re trying to do is just so different. I mean, not in the history of the world. But different in our modern culture, that we can get too pulled away and feel too split apart by all of the things demanding our attention.

And one of them is media. And the thing with media is that it’s loud. It’s blaring. There’s always a light blinking or something making a noise at you. And I’m not an anti-industrialist. I have a computer in my home. I work online for goodness sakes.

But we have benefited enormously, not just in our pocketbook, but in our family and in our homesteading efforts as well, by just simply being very aware of what is plugged in and what is coming into our home via various forms of media.

So that could be, I don’t know if you struggle with your phone, or you’re on YouTube all the time. Or you’re always wanting to watch the television. I’m not your mom. So I really can’t tell you what it is.

But I bet, when I mentioned that step, everybody got a picture in their head of something that they could go into their house and say, well, maybe I don’t need to spend as much time on that. Or maybe I don’t need it at all. Like don’t ditch TV altogether if that’s not something you want to do.

I’m not here to tell you that’s what to do. I am here just to say there’s probably something in there that you can either reduce or get rid of altogether. So the reduction of say, how about Facebook time. So if you find that you are on Facebook for three hours, when really you meant to be on there for 10 minutes, and everybody knows that’s a problem with Facebook. Because it’s interesting and your friends are on there. And there’s a lot of really good information online. Especially for homesteaders.

But, maybe you’re spending too much time on Facebook. So, I’m not suggesting throw your computer in the garbage and save yourself that kind of money. Really what we’re talking about here is time capital.

So your time is worth something. And so is your mental energy. And if you can keep it focused on the goals you have decided are important for you, you may find that you have less time for media. That it’s interfering with the things you want to do in your home and in your family and on your homestead. So just be aware of it more than anything else.

Again, we’re trying to become the people we want to be. Not just follow a certain number of steps. But being aware of our media can help us become more time conscious. How we spend our days. It may or may not end up saving you dollars. But it will certainly end up saving you capital in other areas.


Tessa: It is the simple things that often form our biggest stumbling blocks. We trip up on the simple stuff. The big stuff is easier to spot. So I think it’s just a matter of always being willing to revisit the issue. This is something Laura Ingalls Wilder did not have to compete with. In her day, it was just different. There were plenty of demands on their time, goodness knows.

We live in the age of distraction. And there are so many things calling for our attention. But you are just a person. And you’ve got things, you’ve got your family and a homestead to run. And there is only so much you can do.

To save yourself some mental energy, just let it go. The world is going to keep turning and you’re going to be just find. To ditch whatever that thing is that’s in your head right now that you’re thinking about. Just let it go. And if you do let it go and you discover you miss it desperately in a month, well pick it back up again and see if it’s really needful. But just always revisit the issue, I think is the important thing.

Melissa: I love that. Great step. That was step number four. Now we’re on to step number five already.

Tip #5 Be Energy Conscious

Tessa: Step number five. This one, if you’re interested in being more eco-conscious. This is always a favorite of homesteaders. And I don’t know why. It has some kind of magic quality. As I was preparing for the book, I interviewed, I don’t know how many, homesteaders. And all of them, when I got to saving energy, and therefore saving money.

Whether you are talking about your personal energy or the energy you consume on the grid, mentioned hang drying your laundry. I don’t know what the magic is there, but everybody, and I experience it. It’s fun. I have no idea why. It’s relaxing. It’s peaceful. It’s fun. Of all of the chores that I have during the week, that’s my favorite. And I really can’t tell you why.

Melissa: I’m so glad that you said that! Because I fell the same way. It does relax me. I don’t know if it’s because we’re outside in nature. That could be part of it. Or it’s the knowledge like yes, I’m saving money. Or it’s the handling of your family’s items, it makes you think of them fondly. I don’t know what it is either, but it’s one of my favorite things, too. I’m always really sad when it’s raining out and I can’t go outside to physically put it on the line.

Tessa: Yeah, I know. I’m mad. I want to hang dry my laundry. Why is it raining?

So if you’re talking about money, your dryer is one of the hugest energy, therefore money suckers in your home. It’s enormously consumptive. And it also damages your clothing over time. That high heat, every week, you’re washing the same garment. It’s losing some of its lint. Some of its elasticity. It’s being scorched. And so you end up losing that garment, quicker than you would otherwise. So there’s that.

But it also, hang drying your laundry, it can be done in the winter, you can do it even in frigid temperatures. It’s actually like freeze drying them. When it’s raining, or in my case, I live in Missouri now, and our summers are, you know you drink the air. It’s so wet and humid. So I have to change up how I do it in the summer. You can do it inside. There’s all kinds of stuff that you can come up with to make it work. But again, we’re retraining our brains.

One of the things this does, is just help us be more conscious of all of the appliances in the home. How are we using them? How often are we using them? Are they plugged in when we’re not using them? Because that also creates a drain. And every drain of energy costs money. So it just helps us be more generally aware of the things, the conveniences in our home. And they are conveniences.

We are used to living a certain way. But historically, it’s a very new kind of lifestyle. And even in our modern age, not everybody lives the way we do. And so, what we think of sometimes as a necessity, really once we start analyzing it, turns out to be a luxury. And maybe something we can work with. Now, I’m not saying stop using your dryer. Again, I’m not your mom. So you’re going to make that decision for yourself. It’s just an easy place to start and its fun. It really is. It’s fun.

And you might start doing crazy things, start thinking, what if I lived without my washer? How do you hand wash laundry? And how do you hand wash the dishes? That’s a crazy idea. Well it’s not so crazy.

Historically, that’s what people have done. So it’s just a thing, if you’re looking to be more energy conscious, use your footprint and all of those noble goals, maybe start with your dryer. Because hang drying laundry rocks.

Melissa:  I’ve actually been looking at upgrading my wooden drying rack to a stainless steel model one, so it will hold more clothes and two, my poor little wooden one, the glue, because I used it so much and there are wet clothes on it, the glue where it goes in, it comes undone, so the rods fall out. So that can be an option. Then, it allows you to do it inside as well. Which is great.

Electricity Saving Tips

There are two other tips that I want to share as well. Specifically with drying your clothes and any power consumption. Is most power companies, and you can check with your power company for exact hours, have a peak time, where you are actually charged more, your rate is higher. And nonpeak hours where you are charged less.

If you find out when those are, then run your dryer on the nonpeak hours when it costs you less. Same thing, run your dishwasher at that time. If you are using your dishwasher. Use your washing machine. Anything that uses a lot of power. Find out when your nonpeak hours are and try to do the majority of it then, so it will save money.

The other great thing is, even if you do use your dryer, but you’re using that dryer rack outside when you can, is you will extend the life of your dryer so much. And so you won’t be having to replace that as often, which is always great.

Tessa: Yeah. They are not cheap.

Melissa: Yeah, we bought ours used almost twelve years ago. We bought a used washer and dryer set, and it is still my washer and dryer set. And I totally know it’s because I don’t dry so much. I know that’s why. Because the dryer is not getting used like a normal dryer would. So it’s lasted a lot longer.

So those are just really simple tips.

Tessa: They burn themselves out.

Melissa: They do, they burn themselves out totally. So those are just some simple tips that can help you as well. And like I said, that can be used with anything that is drawing power, is to use those nonpeak hours as much as you can, to your advantage.

Tessa: So we’ve hit all five of our tips. But I do have a little bonus one. Do you want it?

Melissa: I love bonuses! Yes, bonuses make my world go round. So please share!

Bonus Tip #6 How to Pick the Next Thing You Should be Making at Home

Tessa: Well, it kinds of goes back to the cooking from scratch. But, not necessarily, because it’s going to be very person dependent. Over time, make your own of everything. Don’t get overwhelmed. Because again, we start baby steps. I’m not really going to give a ton of specific examples.

But I’m going to tell you how I decide the next thing that I’m going to work on that I’m making myself at home. And this could be a food item, or a health care product, like soap or lotion. A cleaning product. It could be anything.

I get my recycling bin, and I dump it out on the grass. And I look at what’s in there. I don’t use my trash that much because we just don’t throw that much stuff away. We’ve got compost, we got animals, there isn’t a ton of garbage that we create every week. So, I’m going to my recycling bin, I dump it out, and I look at what’s in there. And more often than not, it’s plastic. So, paper, we burn or reuse in some way. Typically we just don’t use a ton of metal. Typically it’s plastic.

And I’ll look at what the containers are. And this can tell you what it is that you are still buying in your home, and what you’re buying the most of and might give you a good place to start on items you can start making at home.

Now, again, the internet is a great resource for this. You’ve got books. Melissa has books that can help you. There’s a wealth of information on this topic. The actual key is to not get overwhelmed.

That is why I suggest this exercise. Because you can just focus on one thing without thinking, I have to make everything myself right now. Because that’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting you pick one thing that you are already consuming a lot of and you see if it’s something you’re interested in making yourself.

One of the first things I started making on my own when I did this for the first time, which was years ago, was yogurt. I did not know that yogurt was so easy to make. It’s probably one of the easiest dairy ferments ever.

And there was no reason for buying it. It has a bunch of fillers in it that I didn’t want to be eating. It just is so simple to make myself. Then, I wouldn’t have this plastic yogurt container sitting in my recycling when it didn’t need to be there. I started making my yogurt. And like you mentioned earlier, it’s just part of my normal. And I don’t even think about it.

So every few months, I’ll take my recycling and I’ll dump it out. Now, I’ve been homesteading for, I don’t know how you qualify it. I’ve been homesteading, I guess, since I was a kid. But in earnest, for about 15 years. Now, I’m up to stuff like, well, here’s the plastic wrapping that was around my CSA meat.

So I’m not raising my own meat, how can I change that? I am not ready for beef cattle, but I can totally raise enough chicken and turkey and can it for the year. I don’t need to be buying this. The only reason I am is because I’m buying the convenience of getting an organic hen from the store.

That’s where I am in the process. And it’s a constant thing I revisit. So, it may not be where your listeners are. And that’s fine. Judging yourself against other people is a waste of your energy. Just judge yourself against where you were last year.

So, if you go home, you take your recycling, you dump it out, and you find that yogurt container, you think, this is my year for yogurt. Rock it. Make it your year for yogurt. Next year, you’ll look back and think, I totally know how to make yogurt. Let’s go onto the next thing. And it really won’t be intimidating.

The next thing you know, you’ll be making cheese and soap and candles. And you’ll be so cool you’ll be mentoring other people as they come up through the ranks of homesteading.

That’s the last one.  That’s just a little bonus.

Melissa: I love that bonus. And I love the idea of dumping out recycling container and really looking. Because a lot of times, I don’t realize some of the things I’m still consuming and I’m still buying. Which sounds stupid, because I’m the one that’s buying it and using it. Because I’m the grocery shopper in my home.

Tessa: I know what you mean. I know exactly what you mean.

Melissa: Yeah. You really don’t realize it. It doesn’t come in and cement in your brain. So this is a very concrete way of yep, you’re buying and using these things. And like you said, I love that you say just to pick one. Because I’m that way. It can be very overwhelming. Even where I’m at. I felt like I was raised as a homesteader. And we chose to live this lifestyle when my husband and I got married and we started our own family.

But there are still things I purchase at the store. And sometimes I make it at home, and sometimes, there will come seasons, and you won’t be able to do everything you were doing. And that’s okay, too.

Tessa: I know those seasons. They are my intimate friends, those seasons.

Melissa: So I make my own laundry soap. But I will be completely honest, I have a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s laundry soap, sitting on top of my laundry machine, right now. And that’s okay. I will make it in the future. But for this month right now, I am not. I bought it. And that’s okay.

Tessa: That’s ok, you’re supporting your economy. That’s important.

Melissa: Right. But I love what you said, and for the making yogurt, it really is one of the easiest things you can make at home. So super simple. And actually I have a full tutorial on how to make it without a yogurt maker.

Tessa: He will be so pleased!

Melissa: I love that tip!

Tessa: And really, like I said I’ve been doing this for years. But I’m always taken by surprise at how simple things are to make at home.

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About the Author

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.

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