1. Snub convenience foods for a better, healthier way. By putting back healthy foods and learning how to cook them from scratch, you can be fine when others are in a total panic for what to do for the next meal. Seek out farmers or gardeners around you so you can begin learning how to can or freeze foods your family will eat/need in the winter or could survive on in a worst case scenario. Make friends with farmers, gardeners or the Amish. Ask to buy their leftovers or even ask to pick what they don't want to. Biblically it's called gleaning. Some farmers will offer you the ability to 'pick on the half'. This means they grow it, you pick it, and split the harvest with them. You each get half of what you've picked. This is a great way to get produce that you haven't put sweat equity or time and money into growing.
When it comes to canning, my favorite canner is an All American Pressure Canner. They have a few different sizes so you can choose the one that fits your budget or needs. Hands down the best canner ever. You can also find it at Shetler's Wholesale, I give the number below in #10. You can do a water bath and pressure canning in it. You can also do some cooking as well. I will also add here that teaching your self how to cook from scratch would be a very useful skill. *If you don't have the 'right' ingredients, right equipment or a recipe book, can you throw together something that is in your freezer? Or make something from leftovers, that the family will actually eat? Start teaching yourself scratch cooking because it will be needed in worst case scenario or on a farm when the store is 45minutes way and the natives are hungry. :)
These strawberries are a combination of ours and some that were bought as day old berries from a local farm. They made good jam. The tops were used to make wine!
2. Buy in bulk from growers, not the store. Also look for the day or two old stuff. Ask the folks at the farmers market if they have anything that you might be able to buy in bulk. An example is something like tomatoes that are a day or two old and will go bad. The farmers there will usually let these go for pennies on the dollar because they are just about to go rotten anyway. The picky population in our current society who want everything to look 'perfect' will snub their nose up at spots and such, but you can walk away with tons of produce this way. Some family owned supermarkets will do this for you as well, but the deals are not as good because they need to make a profit too.
3. Learn how to sew, this is something that can be done inside your home without needing a ton of space or money. Ask friends and neighbors who may assist you if they know how. They may even be looking to get rid of a machine or extra material. Take a class near you and bring the kids, they would most likely love learning it too, if you have taught them that learning is a virtue not to be overlooked. Start with looking at the $1 rack of material at your local Walmart or craft stores. I hardly ever pay full price for material. If it isn't what I was looking for, I usually find a way to make it work anyway. My husband has worn many a patched pair of jeans to work. I've made my girls lots of dresses and we've saved hundreds if not more because of this simple skill.
4. Learn how to make soap and teach at least one other member of the family in case you aren't able to do it. When we lived in the suburbs, I learned how to make soap for my children's skin problems. I also learned how to make it from scratch buy buying fat from a butcher and getting wood ashes from a friends wood stove. In a worst case scenario, we would have a very important bartering item, when everyone else's supply had run out in a few days or weeks. Knowing how to make soap will cover so many bases. You need soap for cleaning people, pets, washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, shampoo, and it can even be used for brushing teeth when you cannot get tooth paste. Look for easy ways to get started, learning to do it with and without electricity. Our Survival & Homesteader's Soap Making Kit has easy to follow instructions and all you need to make a batch of soap with or without the power being on. I'll be teaching this in a class in Gonzolas, LA (near Baton Rouge) March 4th-5th, 2017 at the National Prepper & Survivalits Expo.
5. Make do, do over or do without. Ha, this sounds cliché but it really is a skill that requires discipline. It's simply practicing self discipline. On a farm, there are usually BIG set backs that must be tended to and that much anticipated clothes shopping trip for fun, just flies right out the window when an animal gets sick or the tractor tire has to be replaced for $300. These types of things will break many people in their homesteading venture. On a bigger scale, it could cause some to lose it in a survival situation because of no self discipline, determination and willingness to do without. I've seen it happen in adults, who were never made to except they must do without for others, a greater good or other things more important than what they wanted at the time. Wavering the cost of being more self sufficient against clothes that can wait, be gotten at a thrift store or made yourself is not a even a compromise in my book. It's smart. I started making myself and my children watch our pennies and do without extras (wants) way before we moved to the country. This helped us stay out of financial trouble when other events were weighing down on us. We quit keeping up with the Jones'. We don't buy many new things and are willin' to make do with seconds so we can do other things with our hard earned money, like put up fencing for animals or buy seed for the pasture. The entire family benefits from these animals and therefore the entire family should understand the work to keep them safe, fed and in good health. This is big responsibility in action. Even if your children don't know it, you can explain it to them so they learn these things young. Give everyone in the family what they need, but wants are extras that take away from a greater good or the ability to be self sufficient. *Don't hand your children everything they ask for and have some dream that they will magically turn out to help with garden chores, if they've been plugged into a video game half the day. If you have TV, movies or video games in their face most of the time, you can hang it up. Teach them self discipline now and give rewards for it, like a date for thrift store shopping or a trip to the coffee shop. These little extras do make life sweet and won't kill your pocket book as well.
6. Put up a clothes line. I know this seems like a simple thing, but it helps in many ways. Where we live, it is HOT and HUMID. I was raised hanging clothes on a line. Single Mom, dryer breaks, thank goodness there was a line out back. We had been using the small clothes line in the suburbs so it wasn't a new idea or hard to get used to on our homestead. This year, it made a big difference. I resolved to use it only and no dryer, unless it rained. Because our dryer puts out heat, that makes the AC work harder as well. It did indeed save us 20% on our electric bill to use the line as our only way to dry clothes. The dryer was only used as a back up. Wow, 20% is a lot of money to save and it adds up when it continues for several months during the summer. I'll be looking into putting up a good one on the inside this winter.
7. Teach the kids gardening skills, how to use wild herb and where to find water. *You may not always be with them. Can they do it if they had to? Or will they say, "I can't?" Try things to make it an awesome experience. Even if you only have a few raised beds, you can get them involved. Let them pick some of the things to grow. Even if it bombs, so what. I started making a notebook of our gardening adventures. Each year we have a contest for the cover artwork. Some years it's colorful, sometimes in black and white. The winner gets to put their artwork in the cover pocket for that year's garden. It is a good way for us to turn a chore into fun. We log everything we grow in this three ring binder by cutting out the picture and description of each item from seed catalogs. Then we glue them to white sheets of paper that get slipped in to tabbed clear pockets. This way we know when an item is due to be ready and all other specifics about that crop. Get organic sprays that the kids can easily use without you worrying if it gets on them. Use my Safe Farm Spray recipe found here. Grow the coolest things ever, for their benefit, not just what you want. I never ask, but usually say "So, what are you going to grow this year?" In this way my child just automatically knows they will be growing something and get excited about looking the seed catalogs over for the coolest tomato or squash that they can show off to others. It does make it fun. Below are some pictures of the binder from last year.
Also take them to the park, with a Peterson's Field Guide in hand. Go to a near by field or forest to identify useful herbs in a survival situation. If you weren't around, could they pick out the herbs and plants useful for food and medicine? Do they know where the good supply of native herbs are in relation to your home if needed for sustaining life? Can they get there without you? If they were kidnapped could they find there way around a forest or field near you? Do they know which direction moss grows? This sounds silly, but folks are walking off cliffs now a days, chasing cartoons. Simply put, it's your job to teach your kids these survival skills, not anyone else. Don't think your kids have learned anything from a one time a year camping trip. You have to live it, or it's not going to be natural for them.
*Add a bit of situational awareness here: besides gardening, wild foods and herbs, make sure they know how to locate water (not in your own home) in your immediate area and how to clean it if needed. Do you store it, is there a pond or river near by, can they haul it without you? Ask them how they could get to it and bring it to the house if they needed to in a survival situation. Make them think outside the box. Critical thinking shouldn't only be done at school. Your unit, your responsibility.
Below, the girls are wild herb pickin'; we do this with friends and as a family all year round. I can now send them out for something I need and they know what to get, how to properly gather it and where to find it.
8. Begin teaching team work now! Practice makes perfect. If times get hard where you are, is your family used to functioning like a well oiled machine? Are the kids 'go getters' or they type to complain and whine that things are hard? Will they drive you crazy and pitch a fit, or get in and help? If not, you need to unplug and get the family into a routine that allows for the entire group to work together. On the weekends, start working together in the garden, on projects around the house, raking leaves, cutting wood or even doing chores for neighbors. We took turns helping friends with farm work when we lived in the suburbs. We drove to other people's houses to milk their animals, pick vegetables, gather eggs and learn to can. We made it a point to do this together. The kids learned WITH US. We don't ask our kids to do anything we aren't willing to do ourselves. Likewise, we do expect them to do all that their age and physical abilities will allow. When you work together, the children will see the willingness of the parents and naturally learn to work with them. If doing as little as possible is your motto, it's there's too! "Monkey see, monkey do". That's another absolute from my Momma. When or if you have a rough time, survival scenario or are planning to move to the country, every imaginable and unimaginable catastrophe will happen. Do you all break under pressure or react in real time? You need to know now. Once we woke up to a cow face down on the ground inches from a water hole. She had caught her foot in her bridle and fell, nose to dirt, and was worming herself around, seconds from drowning. Because hubby and kids knew how to function as a team it saved her life. Another time my husband cut down a neighbors tree, it fell the wrong way and ended up across the road blocking traffic and tearing down a fence on the other side. Thank God our kids didn't even wait to be told what to do. They jumped in, elbow deep with the right equipment (tractor and chains) and knew how to help us at the right time. My husband had to stay in the road, with the tree and make sure no one came by and hit any debris and explain why the road was unable to be traveled. Although it was not a big deal situation, we were very pleased to see them react in a helpful way that 'got 'er done'. Your kids need to be able to be told what to do, but also they need to have enough life experience to understand the situation at hand and react in a manner that is going to get the job done well even without being told in some cases. If your kids aren't getting these experiences on a regular basis, don't expect them to be of any help in a bad case, life or death situation. Did you allow them to say "I can't"? Our did you give them the skills to be able say, "No Problem"? Remember, we reap what we sow. Kids aren't little robots, they are people who will have their own will, but the more encouragement, preparation and skills you give them, the more confidence you give them to handle the rough times with ease.
Another thing here on this topic of team work, is to get them practicing fire drills or if you live near a fault line have them know what to do in an earthquake. Have a day where you work together on doing laundry by hand. Stop going shopping on Saturday and plan a practice drill together. Our new washing machines always seem to break. Yes, even brand new and top of line and they cannot hold up. So, we've gotten plenty of practice in this area.
*A quick tip here, a good ringer helps get out all the water. Ours is this one I found on Amazon. It's worth every penny and does a great job. Doing clothes by hand makes for a very long, hard day, but it's also good team work. Will your family know how or complain if they ever need to do it for survival? Whether you live in the city or country you need to be practicing the idea of team work and how to 'move' together in an "Oh, Sh*t" kinda situation. Quit blowing money on take out food and take a CPR course as a family. Look up how to do it on youtube if money is a problem. I put my oldest through a suturing class, just in case she is ever in a situation that requires it. Then she came home and showed me how. Visit the park and practice with the family dog locating a hidden child. I did this many times to see if our kids got abducted or lost in the woods, could the dog be a helpful member of the team and find our child? He did very well. Simply use the child's clothes for the dog to smell and each time the hidden child is found, reward the dog with a treat. Simply put, this is your unit. Your leading will determine the success or failure of the team. Every member, even the dog, can be a participating and beneficial member! :)9. Buy a wheat or corn grinder and get some grains to start learning how it operates. These grains can be stored for a very long time in the whole grain form and put in a closet if needed, but could save your family when other foods aren't an option. Grinding your own grains will help lower the grocery budget too. It's a lot cheaper and healthier to make your own flour and breads from scratch. Even whole wheat flour from the store is processed in many ways that leave the nutrition virtually worthless. Whether you are teaching yourself homesteading skills or putting food aside for a rainy day, a grinder is absolutely an investment with many rewards. If you needed or wanted to grow your own grains or your animal's food supply you will need a grinder to crack the corn for the animals, grind your own wheat for bread or both. All old time stories from world war stories to famines include the much needed grains as part of survival. I am not affiliated with any company but of all the grinders I have seen I like the Grain Maker the best. Just personal choice, as my husband is a metal guy by trade and helps me with my big purchases. We both like the quality, price and versatility of this one the best. It is by far a better purchase for the money spent. Here is the link.
10. Start buying those large pieces of equipment, tools, and things now. Those things that are industrial strength and good for the long haul, will only go up in price and value when/if the SHTF or you finally moves to your place in the country. We bought our tractor on payments while we still lived in the suburbs. We bought almost all of our big needed items for our farm while we were living frugal in a tiny home with a little .25 acre lot. From a good canner to good tools needed to mend a fence, we started putting back money to make these purchases ahead of time so when we moved and needed them, we had them already. Even if you aren't ever planning a move to the country, you will find that having the 'right' equipment or tools will determine the success of your job. That has been my husband's motto for life, "the right tools for the job" are very important indeed. Craigslist is a great place to start for equipment that is second hand. I LOVE the farm and garden section. Also check out Shetler's Amish Wholesale. You have to call and request a catalog and they carry almost any farm/garden item you can imagine. The number is 260-368-9902. It's like an Amish version of Harbor Freight (but with much better quality) and Sam's Club combined. The more you buy, the more you save. Tons of great stuff and a lot of it is American or Amish made. Another great place to look is here, at Scruggs farm and garden. They carry everything from pea shellers and animal medicine to boots and tractor parts.
I hope you found this helpful.