When you hear the word “homestead” what comes to mind? Is it acres upon acres of land? Living off the grid? Livestock grazing? A homestead can be all of those things, but it can also be none of them. My homestead is on 6 acres. We have electricity & running water so we are not off grid. We do have livestock, but only what our land area can sustain. Some people homestead on less than an acre of land and others work on their homestead skills while living in a city apartment. With these basic homestead skills, you can get started wherever you are.
31 Basic Homestead Skills to Practice Right Where You Are
If you have enough space to garden outside, you can plant straight into the ground (I prefer the Back to Eden method) or into a raised bed. If you do not have the land to garden outside, you can plant a window garden or a vertical garden. Growing Plants indoors is convenient and it helps to purify the air in your home.
Window or Wall Garden
2. Food Preservation
So you don’t grow your own food yet… that doesn’t mean that you can’t stock your pantry and freezer for the winter months. Make jams & jellies, wine & mead, apple butter, pickles, and more through canning, dehydrating, and freezing fruit & veggies from your local farmer’s market!
Canning to Preserve Food
You can learn to can by asking someone to mentor you, reading articles, or watching video tutorials. If you don’t know anyone who can teach you face to face, then I highly recommend using video tutorial or a webinar in addition to reading articles. I also recommend starting out with hot water bath canning before moving onto pressure canning. Be sure to do your research before canning any food because different types of food require different canning methods and you want to be sure that you are using safe storage methods.
Dehydrating to Preserve Food
Freezing to Preserve Food
3. From Scratch Cooking
Even if you don’t grow your own produce or raise animals for meat, you can start cooking from scratch. Replace pre-packaged and processed foods with homemade goodies! A good place to start is with these recipes for biscuits and bread.
Keep your pantry stocked with staples that will allow you to make just about any food from scratch without needing to make a trip to the store.
4. Household Supply DIY
DIY Cleaning & Laundry Supplies
I started making my own household supplies because I ran out of cleaning spray and I couldn’t get to the store to purchase more (we live way out of town). My all-purpose spray is my favorite homemade cleaner and I use it on everything from counters to floors to toilets.
DIY Bath & Body Products
Make your own soaps, lotions, body butter, salves, balms, bath bombs, makeup, and more! I LOVE using fresh goat milk for all of these products! Source local ingredients like beeswax, milk, and herbs if you don’t have your own.
5. Learn to Use Herbs
Herbs have many different uses in the home & on the farm. They can be used in food, drinks, tinctures, salves, essential oils, infused oils, and they can play a role in human and livestock health & wellness. Amy Fewell’s book The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion: The Ultimate Guide to Growing, Preserving, and Using Herbs outlines how to use herbs all over your homestead so you don’t have to do any guesswork 🙂
6. Budgeting & Frugal Living
Frugal living isn’t limited to homesteaders, but it is vital to living a homestead lifestyle. Be conscious of your spending habits and make sure that everything you spend money on serves a valuable purpose.
- Start out by creating a budget. Make sure that you set realistic numbers so that you don’t get discouraged as soon as you start. You will want this budget to work for you, not set you up to fail.
- Implement a cash envelope system for your monthly spending categories. This will help you avoid frivolous spending and overdraft fees.
- Plan your meals and stick to a grocery list. Don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list.
- Download grocery rebate apps to give you cash back for your shopping trips.
- The art of bartering is another way that you can save money. If you have herbs that you have grown, maybe you can trade them for some honey or produce.
- Shop second-hand for clothing and toys.
7. Raise Livestock
This one is a little trickier if you live inside city limits, but there might be an option that will work for you. Rabbits, chickens, goats, quail, fish, and bees are small animals that you can raise if you have a little space in your yard. The Livestock Management Binder, the Homestead Management Binder, and Homestead Mama’s Planning Pack can help you keep up with all of the important pedigree, breeding, and medical information.
8. Waste Less Food
One of the easiest of these homestead skills is to simply waste less of your food. Make use of pieces of food that typically get thrown in the trash. You can make vinegar with apple cores, bone broth with leftover bones, compost everything that you can, feed scraps to your animals, make banana bread with mushy bananas… the options are truly endless.
9. Cheese & Butter Making
If you own a dairy goat or cow, this one is a no brainer. Otherwise, you can purchase locally sourced milk & cream to make cheeses and butter for your family. If you are making a small amount of butter, you can make it in a jar or even a zip lock bag. For larger amounts, use a stand mixer.
10. Reduce Your Household Waste & Carbon Footprint
Being a good steward of the land and natural resources is a God-given duty. We should take it seriously and do the best we can to leave Earth better than we found it. You can reduce your waste & your carbon footprint in many ways:
- Recycling paper, plastic, and glass
- Reducing your paper & plastic waste
- Buying food in bulk
- Making your own cleaning supplies
- Using alternative energy
- Switching to energy efficient light bulbs
- Using a gravity fed drip-irrigation system in your garden
- Eating locally sourced food (or growing your own)
- Making your own cosmetics
- Shopping second-hand
- Using reusable glass spice jars instead of plastic
- Saving seeds instead of buying more each year
- Capture & reuse rainwater (check local laws first). Use a Berkey to purify for drinking.
- Zero Waste Home has a ton of additional great ideas!
You can compost almost any leftover food plus a few other things like grass clippings and newspapers. Keep a small compost pail in your kitchen to store scraps (avoid composting meat & dairy) until you can take it to your outdoor heap or bin. You can make your own simple & small compost bin out of a 5 gallon bucket. To make faster use of your compost, you could add worms to your bin or heap. They will eat the scraps and break it down much more quickly. You can also download my Garden Compost Guide in the Member Resource Library.
12. Grind your own grains
Grinding your own grain has many benefits. You can grind grain using the KitchenAid Grain Mill Attachment or a stand-alone mill. Melissa K. Norris, author of Hand Made: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Made-from-Scratch Living, lays out the details of grinding grain here.
13. Render Fat
Add a some needlework knowledge to your homestead skills repertoire. Learn how to sew, crochet, and/or knit. You can mend clothing and make items (like dishcloths, hats, and pot holders) that are needing around your home.
15. Learn to cook without electricity
I currently live in a home without a gas stove… This HAS to change soon because cooking on electric is just not my thing. If you have gas, then cherish it (but don’t rub it in). Even without a gas cooking option, you can make hot food without using electricity with a solar oven! You can make your own or you can purchase a high quality oven, like the All-American Sun Oven, that will last long-term.
You don’t have to live on a farm to start learning new homestead skills!
16. Cook with Cast Iron
Cast Iron will last for.ev.er and that is no exaggeration. I have one skillet that was made before 1890 (I know this because of the gate mark on the bottom) and it cooks beautifully! Skillet Corn Bread & Apple Pie Bread Pudding are two of my favorite special recipes to make in these pans, but I use them for all of my daily cooking.
17. Cook According to what is in season
When you eat produce that is not in season, it has been shipped from (most likely) another country. Part of homesteading is supporting your local community and buying food from other countries isn’t the most community-based sustainable option. Try to buy local produce from stores (just check labels for growing location), directly from local farmers, or grow seasonal fruits & veggies yourself.
18. Line Dry Clothes
Line drying saves money by reducing the amount of electricity used on laundry and it can make your clothes feel & smell fresher. If you can’t hang them outside, purchase a drying rack to keep in your laundry room.
19. Start a Seed Bank
Saving seeds from year to year is one of my favorite of these homestead skills. If you preserve them well, they can last several years and be used as a “just-in-case” seed bank as well as a yearly seed starting stash.You can use pre-made seed pack labels to keep your seeds properly labeled. Store your labeled seed containers in a cool, dark, and dry place.
20. Growing Fodder for Livestock
Fodder is an affordable, fast-growing, nutritious feed for livestock. While fodder doesn’t completely replace feed, it is a wonderful companion to regular livestock feed & hay and cuts back on the amount that you would typically use. You can grow this indoors or outdoors in a DIY system with plastic mesh-bottom trays.
Many of the plants that grow in your yard can be foraged and used in food, drinks, an home remedies. White Clover, Dandelions, and Mushrooms are just a few of these edible plants. White Clover is wonderful in tea and dandelions make delicious jelly. When you forage for mushrooms, be extra careful that you know which ones are edible and which are toxic.
22. Hunting to fill your freezer
Hunting is an excellent way to fill your freezer with meat without breaking the bank. Refer to #8 & #13 when preparing the meat to eat.
23. Proper use of a firearm
Homesteaders need to know how to use a firearm safely especially if you raise animals. There are many predators that pose a threat to livestock and you have to be able to protect them if needed. You also want to be able to defend your family because, if you live outside of city limits, police response time isn’t as fast as you would need it to be in a dire situation. Read through this post to help you determine which firearm is right for you.
24. Catch, Clean, and Cook Fish
In addition to hunting and raising livestock, fishing is a great way to stock up on meat. You can earn how to catch, clean & cook fish whether you fish in your own pond, in a neighbor’s pond or in a public lake.
25. Know Basic First Aid
CPR, Wound care, and basic medication knowledge for humans and livestock is a must-learn on the homestead skills list. You can start working on this skill now whether you currently live on a farm, in an apartment, or somewhere in between. You can purchase a good First Aid Kit or make one yourself.
26. Water Purification
Knowing how to purify water for drinking is an important skill to have no matter where you live. You can make your own filtration systems (you need to be sure that you really know what you are doing for safety’s sake) or you can use a tried & tested filtration system like Berkey Filters.
27. Make your own essential oils
Making your own DIY essentials oil isn’t as hard as you may think. You can also make infused oils and floral waters (like rose water).
28. Carpentry & General Handy-Work
Knowing how to build and fix things is one of the most important homestead skills. In the past two years we have saved a ton of money by building our own furniture (specifically our children’s beds, a farmhouse baby gate, and an office desk), doing our own basic plumbing (fixing pipes), and completing other projects on our own without hiring help. You can even take Online Woodworking Classes if you aren’t sure where to start.
29. Vehicle Maintenance
This one is really great whether you desire to become a homesteader or not. Knowing how to change your oil, change a tire, add air, check tire pressure, and other vehicle maintenance basic can save you a lot of time, money, and hassle. Youtube can become your best friend when it comes to this topic if you aren’t mechanically inclined.
30. Harness Alternative Energy Sources
Putting in solar panels has become a very popular energy option for homes and businesses recently. It seems expensive on the front end, but it pays for itself over the first few years. If you rent ready to make the jump to solar panels, you can start by cooking with a solar oven instead of an electric or gas powered oven.
31. Home Brewing
If you enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine, you can brew your own at home! My friend Scott at North Country Farmer has a great post about the equipment needed for home brewing.