“Self-sufficient living” is a popular term, but what does it really mean? As with related terms like “homesteading” and “prepping,” the concept of being self-sufficient can be quite different depending on who you’re talking to.
To some, being self-sufficient means totally living off of the grid. To others it simply means they’re prepared for the worst, they’ve made the best of their current scenario, and they’re supremely confident that they have the resources and knowledge to handle whatever comes their way.
An increasing number of people have been showing a proclivity towards this “off-grid” lifestyle. In fact, one study revealed that 95% of utility executives were concerned that potentially large chunks of electricity consumers may try to move off the grid in the upcoming years.
While people may be shifting in that direction, though, being self-sufficient isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes mental, physical, and emotional investment. Here are eight ways that you can train your mind and body to live in a self-sufficient manner, whether that simply consists of being more independent within society or of leaving the grid behind for good.
1. Be More Frugal
One of the first rules of independent living is being frugal. Now, it’s important to differentiate the difference between “frugal” and “cheap.” A self-sufficient person is knowledgeable enough to infer that if you purchase a $5 shovel from the hardware store, you’re likely to be back for another one within a year or two.
In order to genuinely embrace frugality, you must be willing to identify what things are truly valuable and to avoid things that aren’t worth your time. Then, once you know what you really need, you must be willing to invest in high-quality items that will last far into the future.
2. Go Back to Basics
Another primary tenet of a self-sufficient lifestyle is the concept of going back to basics. This goes hand in hand with being frugal and it revolves around separating wants from needs.
American culture is a materialistic one, and having the latest and the greatest is the primary modus operandi for many people.
If you want to make it on your own, though, you have to learn to do without. Whenever you feel the need to buy something, pause and consider if it’s an essential need that is worth your time, effort, and resources. In other words, get rid of luxuries like the latest smartphone, don’t invest in an overblown home theater, and clear out all of that junk in the attic or the basement.
Instead, focus on living minimally. With each item that you possess, ask yourself if it genuinely brings you joy or serves a purpose. If it doesn’t, chuck it. If it does, keep it. Then focus on things that matter more than owning more stuff, such as spending time outdoors or learning how to hunt.
3. Find New Sources of Food
Everyone needs food to live. A successful self-sustainer, though, knows that doesn’t equate to needing a grocery store. One of the simplest ways to dramatically increase your independence is by identifying new sources of food. This can include:
- Becoming proficient at hunting and processing your quarry.
- Raising animals like chickens, goats, pigs, and cows.
- Practicing your fishing and cleaning skills.
- Cultivating a large garden.
It’s also a good idea to establish friendships with local farmers who may be able to sell you goods or even barter with you outside of the supermarket system.
4. Follow the Seasons
Properly living a self-sufficient lifestyle involves embracing a certain harmony with nature. This requires the “unlearning” of many modern, artificial behaviors, such as buying fruits and veggies out of season or heading south for the winter.
If you truly want to be able to survive off the grid, it’s important that you practice following the natural rhythm of the seasons as they ebb and flow in your region. For most Americans that involves fresh fruits and veggies in the summer and fall and stored and canned goods throughout the winter and early spring months.
It also includes surviving the heat in natural ways like avoiding being outside at noontime and staying warm in the cold seasons with sustainable, easily available forms of heat like burning wood.
5. Learn New Skills
A truly self-sufficient person is never done learning new things. Everything from cutting down wood to milking a cow, hooking up solar panels, or any other homesteading or prepping activity is fair game.
In particular, it’s important to focus on basic skills like cooking, sewing, gardening, and first aid. These have been critical activities for most of human history, but in the modern technologically-driven world many of them have been outdated and outsourced to machines.
In fact, the crisis is so severe that it has literally led to the rise of home economics lessons known as “adulting classes,” in which millennials learn basic skills that are literally essential to survival. For a self-sufficient survivor, these are skills that should be learned as soon as possible. In keeping with item #3 above, maybe it is time to invest in some basic hunting gear and learning to acquire your own food. By investing in your own skills, you can save money in the longer term.
6. Reuse and Repurpose
Modern individuals sometimes operate with a disposable mentality. If a shirt rips, if shoes wear out, if a lawnmower stops working, if a barn collapses, the tendency is to throw away or get rid of the old item and replace it with something new.
If you want to survive on your own, though, it’s important that you eschew this “newer is better” mentality. Instead, get used to a “reuse and repurpose” mindset. Whether you’re talking about a missing button on your favorite shirt or a pile of wood from a collapsed barn, look for ways that you can preserve the original or recycle it into something else of value. In combination with a “buy it for life” mentality, prioritizing buying high-quality, durable gear, repurposing, and reusing can help you get more out of all your belongings.
7. Think Long-Term
The “newer is better” mindset infects more than just our willingness to throw things away. It also impacts our ability to think beyond the short-term.
As a self-sufficient aficionado, though, it’s important that you invest in a long-term mindset with all things that you do. This has been on display throughout these tips so far. If you buy a shovel, get one that will last a lifetime. If your shirt wears out, fix it. If you plant a garden, invest in one that you can keep going for decades.
8. Find Your Community
Finally, being self-sufficient doesn’t have to mean you’re all alone. On the contrary, finding and socializing with other independently-minded individuals can have an excellent cross-pollination effect.
Look for online forums, Facebook groups, or even local farmers, park rangers, or preppers that agree with your self-sufficient philosophy. As you interact and share ideas, you will naturally be able to benefit from each other’s knowledge. This will help you to stay on the self-sufficient straight and narrow over the long-term and ensure that you’re ready to survive off of the grid if the time ever comes to do so.