I hear a lot from folks that like the idea of self-reliance and the security that homesteading offers and definitely plan to do that when they retire. But homesteading is more than just moving out of the city, leaving the rat race, and planting a garden. There are skills to learn. There are mistakes to make – lots of them. While you can begin to learn these essential homestead skills from a well-stocked homestead library, there is no substitution for experience and learning from your own mistakes.
There are 5 essential steps that you can take before you go shopping for your dream acreage – that will make you a better homesteader. Practising these steps now will help you build your skills and your self-reliance before you quit the rat race. In this 3 part post I offer you the 5 steps that you can begin right now. Gain confidence in these 5 steps and you will save money, save time, and have fun while you build your homestead skill-set. Master these 5 steps and you’ll have a firm foundation to build your homestead when your dreams and reality converge.
Step 1: Cook all your meals from scratch
Begin cooking from scratch most meals every week. As you cook from scratch you will improve your health, and save money, too. Many people even lose weight when they begin to cook from scratch. So much of homesteading is learning to cook and to eat what you grow – learning YOUR way to create nourishing, daily meals with organic, wholesome, natural ingredients. How you do it will probably be different than how I do it. As you increase in your confidence, you’ll get comfortable in your kitchen and have a lot of fun, too. Soon you’ll be able to cook everything you want to, from scratch and you’ll be well established in your skill-set, and less likely to follow the siren call of convenience.
Replace packaged foods with staples
Start by replacing the packaged food in your cupboards with staples like rice, beans, and flour. Just by making your own main courses and sides without the prepackaged mixes, you’ll be removing chemicals and hidden calories from your diet. Learn how to use spices judiciously and you’ll save money and increase your enjoyment of everyday cooking.
Evict the GMOs
Get the GMOs out of your cupboards and out of your body. You don’t need the extra chemicals in your gut wreaking havoc with your immune system. GMOs (Genetically Modified Food) are bad on two counts. The first is that they are liberally sprayed with pesticides and herbicides during their growing season. They are chemically fertilized and grown in a mono-culture on depleted soils. It’s a fact that our food is less nutritious today than it was 50 years ago, and this is going to affect your health and your ability to nourish your family. Secondly, GMO plants are unpredictable once inside your body. No one knows how harmful they actually are. Studies have shown that GMO corn and GMO soy cause cancerous tumours in laboratory animals. No one knows what they do in the human body. Don’t be part of the experiment.
A quick reminder: GMO ingredients are those made from soy, corn, cottonseed, sugar, canola/rapeseed and their derivatives. Although there are other GMO ingredients these are the most common ones that you will encounter when reading labels.
Buy (or grow) organic
As you can afford it, switch out conventionally grown foods with certified organic or locally grown food. Begin with the fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw, without peeling. Then include grains, beans, dairy products, herbs, and spices. As you take steps to get out of debt and grow some of your own food, steps 3 and 4 in the 10 steps to Homestead success, (links coming) you’ll find it easier to follow through on your organic resolve. Note that certified organic food can not knowingly be GMO.
Simplify your cooking. Instead of having a repertoire of 25 different spices, 6 different cooking oils, and 12 different condiments – narrow it down. Simplify your spice rack. Simplify the number of salad dressings, mustard, and sauces in the fridge. They are so much more healthful and flavourful made fresh, as you use them, rather than bought from the store. Find a few favourites that you can consistently cook from scratch. Instead of 100 different dishes, save 90 of them for special weekends, and consistently cook 10 easy dishes, from scratch, on a rotation. Use your crock pot judiciously on busy days and scratch cooking won’t be onerous.
Right now, take a look in your fridge and note the condiments in the fridge door. Which condiments can you make a healthier version from scratch? Make a plan. Look online for recipes. This is doable.
I asked my fellow Homestead Bloggers for their favorite condiment and salad dressing recipes to help you on your journey.
Fresh Homemade Ketchup – Five Little Homesteaders (Colleen at Five Little Homesteaders)
Homemade Barbeque Sauce (Colleen at Five Little Homesteaders)
Hot Pepper Oil (Lesa at Better Hens and Gardens)
Mountain Woman Hot Pepper Mustard (Tammy at Trayer Wilderness)
Doubly Hot Mustard (Lesa from Better Hens and Gardens)
Dijon Mustard (Joybilee Farm)
Fail-proof mayonnaise (Joybilee Farm)
Homemade mayonnaise (Tessa at Homestead Lady)
Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix (Heather at The Homesteading Hippy)
10 Awesome Salad Dressing Recipes (a round-up) – MomPrepares (Erica at Mom Prepares)
3 Minute Hemp Caesar Salad (Isis at Little Mountain Haven)
Flavourings and Spice Mixes
How to make homemade vanilla extract (Tammy at Trayer Wilderness)
Homemade Chili Mix (Patrick at Survival at Home)
Homemade Taco Seasoning (Patrick at Survival at Home)
This is just a start. Almost everything that you buy at the store can be made from scratch at home and become cheaper, better, healthier, and more appetizing. You can do this.
Take the label-reading cure
I went to the store in a hurry a month ago. I was taking a salad to a potluck and I didn’t want to take the time to make the dressing. I searched the fresh produce aisle and found the cooler with the fresh, “healthy,” salad dressings. I took the time to read the label. Soy oil. Canola oil. Guar gum. Not certified organic so that tells me that these are GMO ingredients. And the price tag – $5.98. I made a dressing at home for pennies and used that on my potluck salad instead. Oh, and it actually took less time to make in jar than it took me to walk from my parked car to the store – no special equipment necessary.
Scratch cooking doesn’t take more time than opening a box, so much as more planning. The flavour and texture is worth the extra effort. Enlist the help of a slow cooker and start dinner in the morning before you leave for work. Your dinner will be ready when you walk in the door at night. By the end of the first month, of doing this faithfully every day, you’ll see a change in your energy levels and a change in your food bill, for the better.
Make scratch cooking a habit and you’ll be well prepared to begin step two of the 10 steps to homestead success.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 next week: