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33 Ways To Start Homesteading Right Now
Pining for the simpler, rural life, but don’t have acres of land?
Believe it or not, you can still make massive shifts towards the homesteading life- exactly where you are today.
Homesteading isn’t about having a certain number of acres or a certain number of animals. Homesteading is about having an attitude of responsibility, productivity, and participation in life. Paying attention to your food and the home economy, learning skills, and stewarding whatever it is you have to steward- whether that’s 1/10th of an acre or 100. After all, our ability to learn and our attitudes are under our control in any circumstance or place.
I know that making the most of the situation you’re in (even if it doesn’t feel “homestead-y”) will pay off. I grew up homesteading on just under an acre. But we were still able to participate in 4-H & FFA, keep goats (and chickens, sheep, geese, etc.), grow gardens, bake & can food, and learn all sorts of skills that are still useful to this day.
I hope that this post will encourage you and help you to see new ways that you can embrace and participate in this simpler, homesteading life- without having to take on a mortgage.
33 Ways You Can Start Homesteading Right Now
Chickens- You’ve probably heard the saying that “chickens are the gateway drug to homesteading.” It’s said in the most positive way possible, and it’s absolutely true.
Once you start raising chickens, you’ll probably start composting their bedding- so you’ll need a garden to use it up. And ducks and turkeys both live happily with chickens, so why not add a few?
Now you’re fencing in the property (so the chickens can free-range) so we may as well have a pair of goats move into the space…
Chickens are a great place to start homesteading. They’re productive, friendly, fun, and have a pretty low barrier to entry. Plus keeping backyard chickens is in vogue, and most cities and counties allow backyard chicken ownership.
If you can fit a micro coop (or major coop) in the backyard, why not add a few hens? They’ll lay eggs, eat your kitchen scraps, and, of course, help make compost for the garden. (Find good sources for spring chicks here, and 10 reasons to consider getting into chickens here)
Quail- If you’re in a space too small for a chicken coop, or on a very strict budget, I think keeping quail is the next best homesteading animal to start with.
Coturnix quail (the variety of quail I raise) mature quickly, lay eggs prolifically, and are easy to house in smaller spaces. You can easily keep 3 or 4 quail in a 3 foot by 3 foot rabbit cage.
Quail eggs are a good substitute for chicken eggs in most any recipe (3 quail eggs for 1 chicken egg). But unlike chickens, quail will lay essentially year round, even without supplemental light- and they start laying at just 6 or 8 weeks old. (Compared to 6 months for a chicken)
Quail meat is mild flavored, similar to, you guessed it, chicken. They’re fully grown and ready to harvest at about 2 months old.
Besides eggs and meat, quail will also produce messy bedding and manure that can be a great boost to your compost bin. And they’re quieter than chickens, less likely to bug the neighbors.
For more information about how I’m raising quail, on a rather small scale, you should check out this post.
Rabbits- I would consider rabbits to be an equal gateway with chickens. Sure, most people keep rabbits just as pets. But if you start to breed rabbits, keep them outside, get involved in 4-H (etc.) it won’t be long before you bring home chickens too.
Rabbits don’t lay eggs, of course, but they do produce plenty of high quality meat in a short time frame.
Their furs are great for sewing and craft projects. Their manure is a great addition to a compost bin- or it can be added to the garden beds directly. Plus, they’re totally quiet- a huge benefit if you have close neighbors.
One more benefit of keeping rabbits is actually their diet. They can turn garden waste, weeds, grass, veggie scraps, etc into meat, and require less grain than chickens or quail.
I have more posts all about keeping rabbits in the works.
Have a Compost Bin- If you have an unused corner of the yard, what are you doing NOT having a compost bin?
If you’re gardening, keeping animals, mowing the lawn, or eating- you have access to compostable material. Why not make the most of it?
Composting is super simple and doesn’t require much space.
Simply layer browns (leaves, wood shavings, straw, etc.) with greens (manures, green leaves, veggie scraps), and leave the bin to do its work. Stir and water as needed. After a few months, you’ll have a rich boost of organic matter for your garden, trees, lawn, etc.
I recommend checking out The Rodale Book of Composting for more information about composting, it’s an in-depth but approachable guide that will tell you everything you need to know (and more!). You can find it on Amazon here.
Raised Beds- Even with 2.5 acres, we’re still growing most of our vegetables in raised beds. They are perfect for gardeners in small spaces or with rocky soils (like us).
A raised bed is basically a frame that sits on the ground to hold soil and plants. This means there is a deeper reserve of high quality soil for your plants to root into, reduces the amount of weeds, and makes harvesting and tending to the garden easier.
Our raised beds are 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, and 1 foot deep. But you can make them any size to fit your garden space. (We have potato boxes that are 2 feet tall, wide, and deep for example) (You can find more about our raised garden beds & garden plan here)
Your raised beds can be filled with topsoil, garden soil, compost, etc. and then they’re ready to plant.
Even if your yard is tiny, you probably have room for a raised bed or two.
Tuck Vegetables into the Flower Beds- If you live in an HOA, or just have to keep up the curb appeal in your neighborhood, you can probably still do a little gardening on the down low.
Herbs can be tucked into your flower beds.
Carrots can be hidden behind hedges.
If you look around your yard with a creative eye, you’ll probably start to find unused or unnoticed places to add a few plants.
Bucket Garden- For the truly tiny yard, semi-permanent raised beds can be swapped for totally temporary buckets.
A 5 gallon bucket (or another large pot, tote, container, etc) is big enough to grow a variety of different plants in.
From tomatoes to potatoes, zucchini to egg plant, pepper to kohlrabi- you can grow nearly anything in a container.
The benefit of using 5 gallon buckets is that they’re highly mobile. You can set up and take down your garden almost anywhere.
(By the way, cracked buckets or buckets with holes in the bottom are perfect for this. You get to avoid throwing them out and they’ll let excess water drain from around the roots)
Hydroponic Setup Indoors- No yard space at all? Avoid the dirt and grow plants indoors, hydroponically.
Hydroponic growing means growing plants without soil. The plants root in a medium (such as pebbles or a fibrous mat) and get their nutrients from additives mixed into their water.
Lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, celery, and strawberries are grown hydroponically by commercial growers. But at home, you could grow almost anything, including herbs.
(Root vegetables are another matter, but they could be grown in buckets or small planters if you wanted to)
There are all sorts of ready-made hydroponic systems on the market nowadays, making it pretty easy to start growing your own food in an indoor space. (This countertop setup seems to be highly rated on Amazon- it’s basically all-in-one and might be a good place to start.)
Windowsill Planter Box- A windowsill planter is a good place for flowers to grow and brighten up your home. Why not swap the decorative flowers for edible ones? Or grow herbs in windowsill boxes instead?
This usually unused space can be a great source of flavor for your family.
Plus growing and drying your own herbs can save money over having to buy seasonings from the store.
Or grow quick growing and compact edibles like radishes, peas, or lettuce.
Grow Herbs Instead of Houseplants- Since many herbs are perennials, keeping them as a houseplant just makes sense.
Swap out the inedible pothos for some Rosemary.
Other perennial herbs include marjoram, oregano, fennel, thyme, parsley, and more.
If the herbs are growing right there in the kitchen, you’ll probably cook with them more often too. Find my post on starting herb seeds here.
Convert the Garage into an Indoor Homestead- Combine the last few ideas into one. Keep quail and rabbits in hutches along the wall. Hang grow lights from the ceiling. Run a hydroponic system. Or keep veggies growing in buckets.
This weather-proof space is perfect for starting seeds, keeping fragile animals in from the cold, or growing food year-round. Make good use of the space.
Who needs a garage anyway?
Utilize a Community Garden- Whether you have space for a garden at home or not, participating in a community garden can be a great idea.
Nonprofits and Cooperative Extension Services all over the US have started converting extra green spaces into community gardens.
In some cases, the plots are divided up between participating families- each getting space to plant and grow whatever they want.
In other places, the community garden is overseen and run by an organization. Members of the community can come in and volunteer, maintaining and caring for the garden space in trade for produce.
However your community garden is organized, getting involved is a great way to get outside, learn gardening skills, and connect with your community. You can read about community gardens here, on the Soil Science Society of America’s website. The American Community Gardening Association’s website, here, has links to a variety of resources and events.
Don’t have one in your area? Maybe you should be the one to take that project on!
Subscribe to a CSA Box- CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.
In most cases, this looks like paying a farmer up front for produce that will be delivered throughout the growing season. By paying for the produce subscription up front, you’re helping the farmer afford seeds and other equipment they’ll need to grow the produce- allowing them to start production without having to take on debt.
Once the growing season is underway, most CSA’s deliver produce weekly. This weekly box will be made up of whatever is ripe that week. The variety means that you’ll have all sorts of new ingredients to try out in the kitchen.
Some CSA’s will also include honey, flowers, meat, or other goods grown and sourced locally.
A CSA is a great way to support your local small farmers while also ensuring that you’ll have a regular supply of fresh produce, even without your own garden.
Buy Meat Directly from the Farmer- Buying directly from the farmer is the next best thing to growing it yourself. But if you’re limited on space, this is a great way to support your local agricultural community.
Buying from the farmer means you’ll know exactly how your food was raised- the kind of assurance you won’t get at the grocery store.
Plus buying from the farmer means you’re probably getting a bulk amount at once. This is a great way to be more prepared, and will introduce you to cuts of meat and recipes that you’ve probably never tried before.
Eat Wild is a great website to find local food producers near you. You can find their website here.
Farmers will also be a great source for lard and tallow that you can render yourself too. (Find my post on how to render animal fats here)
Find Gleaning Opportunities- Gleaning means going back through a field after it was harvested to pick up anything left behind.
Village Harvest and the National Gleaning Project both maintain directories of places to glean.
This is a great way to get high-quality, fresh produce in bulk at a reduced price. You can fill your pantry and prepare for winter with just a little bit of sweat equity.
Outside of official organizations, posting in your local Craigslist listing or on a local Facebook page can also yield gleaning opportunities.
Shop the Farmer’s Market- Just like a CSA or buying meat directly from the farmer, shopping at the local farmer’s market is a great way to make connections within your local community.
Farmer’s markets are great sources for locally grown vegetables and fruit, plus homemade goods such as jams, jellies, and baked goods.
You might just find that after shopping at the farmer’s market, you’ll want to sell there too.
Learn to Forage- Learning to recognize edible and medicinal plants in your area is a skill that can help you and your family forever. The health and flavor that can come from foraging is a definite benefit. But to me, the connection to the land around you is the greatest value.
Start Hunting- Hunting isn’t as easy as it seems. And you’re probably not going to start living off of game meat.
But the intangible benefits of hunting make the whole endeavor worthwhile to me.
Spending serious time outdoors, surrounded by trees and brush and rocks and mountains that are just there, existing irrespective of the fast-paced world elsewhere. It’s refreshing and renewing to wake before the sun rises and to see stars without light pollution. To study a track. To stare at hillside and wait for a boulder to become a buck.
Hunting is both a way to take responsibility for your food and to connect to it. Plus a greater depth of connection and appreciation to the wild spaces around you, the physical capabilities of your body, and relationships with other hunters in your community and family.
Learn to Can- Canning is my favorite method of food preservation these days. It’s a great way to store the produce from our garden and use it year-round, without a root cellar or freezer space.
But canning is a useful skill even if you don’t have a garden of your own.
I’ve canned all sorts of store bought groceries that I found on a great deal too. From chickens to pork to carrots to dried beans, and much much more.
Canning’s also a great way to save your leftovers and make them last longer. The other day I used leftover spaghetti sauce (canned back in November) in a thrown-together cast iron casserole that came together in about 15 minutes. I couldn’t have pulled that off if I was making sauce from scratch or had to thaw it out ahead of time. Soups and stews alike have been saved for future quick meals by a little bit of labor today.
All that to say, I can’t recommend learning how to can enough. It’s a fantastic skill and hobby that will serve you for a long time.
The book “Putting Food By” is also a great resource for new canners, you can find it on Amazon here.
Utilize Bulk Buying- In the same vein as canning and buying from the farmer and cooking from scratch (and and and) buying in bulk is just one of those habits that yields layer after layer of benefit.
For example, I bought a 50lb bag of onions at the beginning of October. I paid about 30 cents a pound for them, compared to $1 a pound in smaller amounts from the grocery store. 70 cents a pound savings, times 50, is $35 in savings. The best part of buying the onions then is that they’ve lasted all winter long; through a pantry challenge, making batch upon batch of broth, and all sorts of cooking from scratch… It’s March 2nd and I still have a few pounds of onions left- that’s 5 months without having to put them on the shopping list.
Whether it’s buying produce in bulk, flour, sugar, meat, seasonings… if you’re willing to do a little bit of searching around and a little bit of math (“is this really cheaper per pound?”) you can save yourself quite a bit of time and shopping trips by buying in bulk.
Walmart and restaurant stores (such as US Foods) are good places to start. Azure Standard is a great resource for bulk buying as well.
Learn How to Cook & Bake from Scratch- Thank goodness for books and the internet. (And a spouse who’s supportive of the cooking learning curve.)
I grew up doing some limited cooking and baking from scratch- primarily repeating a handful of recipes that were familiar and nothing new. After moving away, I learned pretty quickly that the same 3 meals weren’t going to carry me through life. There’s a whole world of flavors and possibilities out there.
In the last 3 or so years I’ve been trying to really learn how to cook. I’ve made more bread from scratch than ever. More roux. More roasts, soups, stews, casseroles, meat loaf, stir-fry’s… I’ve learned how to make pie crust and I’ve tried cheesecake and cake and all manner of quick breads from scratch. Biscuits are still a work in progress- among many other things.
My point is twofold- first, learning to cook from scratch is a long journey, and second, it is absolutely worth pursuing. Not just for the financial aspect, but the health, connection, confidence, and fun that comes from cooking from scratch.
Bake Your Own Bread- Baking my own bread from scratch seemed intimidating to me a few years ago. I hesitated to even try. “We don’t eat that much bread, I’ll just keep buying it.” But a loaf of sourdough bread from the store has doubled in price, and I started to think that maybe I could bake it for less.
Plus it felt a little silly to be promoting a simpler, from scratch, homesteading life while still buying bread (of all things).
I ripped off the bandaid last spring and started baking bread more regularly. And I don’t think I’ll be going back to the store-bought stuff. Homemade bread is delicious, it’s easy, it’s cheap, and it makes the house smell amazing.
I’ve stopped following recipes when baking bread, but this basic yeast bread is a good jumping off point.
Make Your Own Soap- This had lived on my to do list for, no joke, a decade. When I was first milking my own goats in high school, making soap seemed to be the only thing people used their milk for. I didn’t pursue soap-making then, but I’ve come back around to it as an adult.
Nowadays I’m making an old school soap from homegrown, home-rendered lard and homemade lye. It’s way easier than it sounds and I feel like moving to a cabin in the woods every time I think about it.
You don’t have to go all in on the DIY lard & lye to get started soap making though. There are many, many, many, kits and tutorials designed with beginners in mind. It’s a lot of fun, makes great gifts, and it’s a skill you won’t regret having.
Make & Mend Your Clothes- Whether you dive in with a sewing machine and all the works, or utilize a simple needle and thread, having a working knowledge of sewing is a great idea.
Being able to replace a button or close up little rips can save you from having to buy new clothes and lengthens the life of the clothes you have.
If you can learn how to hem or do some basic alterations, you can keep growing kids in their current wardrobe longer. Or turn thrift store finds into your new favorite ensemble.
The internet is absolutely crawling with sewing tutorials, but don’t be afraid to dive in and just try it hands on, that’s the best way to learn.
Use a Dehydrator- I love using the dehydrator for all sorts of little tasks around the homestead. From drying out carrot tops to herbs to eggs- I’m using the dehydrator to preserve all sorts of things.
The best part is that it’s a good project and chore that you can “set and forget” (for a few hours at least). If you don’t have a dehydrator, check Facebook Marketplace or the thrift store. Or go totally DIY and build a solar dehydrator. I’m using an older American Harvest/NESCO dehydrator, similar to this one. I’d suggest springing for the fruit leather trays, it makes dehydrating smaller things and liquids SO much easier.
Make Your Own Vinegar- This is way easier than you might think.
Start with some fruit, some water, and maybe some sugar. Put it all in a jar. Put it in your pantry or on a shelf somewhere, and ignore it for a few weeks. Then strain the fruit out of the vinegar and you’re done.
Voila. Homemade vinegar.
This homemade vinegar is essentially free, easy, flavorful, and packed with healthy microbes, unlike the pasteurized store bought stuff.
Pickle & Ferment Veggies- Similar to making your own vinegar, pickling and fermenting vegetables is easy and delicious.
It’s as simple as combining vegetables and salt, or vegetables and a salt brine, and leaving them to ferment and do their own thing for a few weeks. Sauerkraut is a great first ferment. It’s simply shredded cabbage and salt, packed into a jar or crock, and left until it tastes as sour as you’d like.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, beets, snap peas, ginger carrots, kombucha, water kefir… they’re all easy and delicious ferments to get into, and an excellent way to use and preserve those homegrown veggies.
Buy a Herdshare- In states where raw milk sales aren’t allowed directly, buying into a herdshare is a way to support your local farmer while getting access to raw milk.
A herdshare is similar to a CSA in the sense that you’ll buy into the herd in return for some of what is produced. You’re buying a share of the cow (or goat) for a certain price up front, plus any on-going feed or boarding costs, in return for a certain portion of the milk produced.
If you live in a state where raw milk sales are legal, buying directly from the farmer (even without buying into the herd) is a great idea. Real Milk is the place to source raw milk in the US. Check out their website here.
Learn to Spin Yarn- Mostly for fun, but it’s a great hobby and a fun way to work with your hands. Whether you spin wool from backyard sheep, backyard angora rabbits, or buy some locally-grown wool, learning how to go from raw fiber to finished wool is a lot of work, but so rewarding. If you’re not already knitting and crocheting, learning how to spin yarn might be the gateway to learning how.
Maybe this can even become a little homestead side hustle for you.
Connect with Other Homesteaders- From Facebook groups to Instagram to Homesteading Conferences, ways to connect with other homesteaders from your area (or around the globe) abound.
Making like-minded connections is a great way to open up all sorts of doors and opportunities. Collaborations on projects, bartering instead of buying, swapping genetics in chicken or livestock flocks, farm-sitting for each other… just making friends and connections in general can be such a boost.
Keep a worm bin- Keeping worms is (almost) as easy as keeping a compost pile- and the resulting castings are the biggest boost available to your vegetable garden.
We started out with a basic layered worm bin kit. It came with rock dust, coco coir, and all sorts of other goodies to get you started. We keep red wiggler compost worms that we ordered from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
All in all it’s pretty simple to keep your worms alive and happy and productive- maintain a good temperature, the right humidity, and feed them regularly. They’re a great way to turn your kitchen scraps into the best plant food you can get.
Regrow Veggie Scraps- From green onions to carrot tops, regrowing your vegetable ends is a fun little project for the kitchen window.
It may not seem like much, but every little bit can count towards your grocery list and your budget. Plus that little bit of greenery in the window makes the kitchen more inviting.
Vegetables that you can regrow include green onions, carrots tops, potatoes, garlic cloves, ginger roots, sweet potatoes, avocado pits, etc.
Start Reading Homesteading Books- Even with space or financial limitations, you can build skills and learn more information in preparation for your future homestead.
There’s no shortage of good homesteading books in print, with more being published every day it seems.
Chelsea Green Publishing and Storey Publishing both have a nearly endless library of homesteading, farming, crafting, cooking, livestock-keeping, etc. books and are a great place to start your book search.
The Foxfire Book series is another great resource for old school homesteading skills, while providing an interesting peek into the way things used to be.
I can’t recommend reading enough, the ideas and inspiration you’ll find in the pages of a book can be invaluable.
33 Ways to Start Homesteading Now
There you have it, 33 ways to start homesteading where you are right now. I won’t pretend that it’s an exhaustive list (it was written off the top of my head after all), but I hope that it will work to get the wheels turning.
You’ll find opportunities everywhere, if you look for them. And remember that stewarding the little things now will prepare us to be responsible stewards of the bigger opportunities we may be given down the road. Patience and perseverance will pay of exponentially.
Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!