Becoming self-sufficient is the end goal for a lot of us that have been prepping for a long time. Of all the different steps to becoming self-sufficient, getting completely food self-sufficient could be the most difficult!
You can start being self-sufficient by growing foods that are easy to store and grow like potatoes, tomatoes, winter squash, and leafy greens. Then, consider raising chickens and goats for eggs, milk, and meat. All of this can be done on relatively little land.
Self-sufficiency is achievable for almost anyone with a couple of acres of land. It’s even possible for those living on smaller lots (or even apartments) to become almost completely food self-sufficient.
It’s absolutely possible to become completely self-sufficient. The question really should be what are you willing to give up to do it?
I don’t see only eating what you produce as a goal for when things are good. I see the goal as being able to support yourself if there’s a long term disaster and more food isn’t being shipped into the grocery store. I know other people see it differently, but that’s where I’m coming from.
Regardless of if you want to be completely self-sufficient right now or just have the ability to provide for you and your family in a disaster, these tips will get you started down the right path.
These ideas can help you get the level of self-sufficiency that you want! Use a couple of these ideas to help offset the amount of money that you spend on food. Use them all to be completely self-sufficient!
Make sure you don’t fall into these traps when you start planning for self-sufficiency:
- You can’t grow all of the vegetables that you’re used to buying from the grocery store. Trying to will hold you back and keep you from being as productive as you could be.
- Plant your crops with how you plan to use them in mind. If you end up with 100’s of pounds of cucumbers all at once, what do you plan on doing with them?
- Make sure that you plan your garden so plants don’t interfere with one another. An example of this is planting popcorn and sweetcorn too close together.
One of the first things that you should do is really think about how serious you are about becoming completely self-sufficient.
It goes beyond just simply gardening as a hobby. It becomes a full-time job and takes up a lot of your free time.
Do you have that time to give up? Are you willing to work a full-time job just to come home to work in the garden?
For a lot of people, the answer is “no” and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a lot of work!
If you have the time and the desire to grow your own food, then I definitely think it’s worth it to grow your own food. There’s something special that comes from knowing where your food is coming from and knowing that you grew it yourself!
The exact size of the lot that you’ll need in order to be self-sufficient is going to depend on where you live and how large your family is. Small families can almost completely eliminate the need to buy produce with a garden as small as a tenth of an acre! This is after a couple seasons of growing and getting everything ironed out, but it’s certainly possible.
Larger families need more area to completely supplement their store-bought vegetables and fruit. I’ve found that the more experienced you are, the less land you need to produce more food.
Becoming self-sufficient begins with the types of vegetables and fruits that you grow. Start with the staple foods that will provide you with the most calories and are easiest to grow at home. You also want to make sure that they can be easily stored or last for a long time. Make sure you know how to properly store the food you produce.
Winter Squash – Winter squash covers a wide range of different types of squash. Acorn squash, amber cup squash, autumn cup squash, banana squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, carnival squash, delica squash, pumpkin, and spaghetti squash are all varieties of winter squash.
They store for long periods of time as long as they’re kept cool and can be frozen indefinitely once they’re cooked.
Winter squash grows best in temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They usually take between 60 and 110 days before they’re ready for harvest.
Potatoes – Potatoes are one of the most common foods in the world. They’re easy to grow and can be stored for a long time.
Since potatoes can be prepared in so many ways and last for so long, they’re great for the homesteader! Potatoes alone can get you the close to being completely self-sufficient by themselves.
The average medium-sized potato contains 110 calories. As long as they’re stored properly, potatoes can last for 3-4 months in storage.
Potatoes grow during the fall, winter, and spring. Depending on the type of potato they need 75 – 135 days of cool, frost-free days to reach maturity.
Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes give you a little bit of a different flavor profile than regular potatoes but they don’t last as long.
You can expect them to last for up to a month without any kind of special preparation.
Sweet potatoes will hit their maturity between 90 – 170 days ar they’re planted. They’re very sensitive to frost so they should only be planted after the last frost is expected (about 3-4 weeks after the last frost). They do best in areas that receive full sun.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes are great for anyone striving to get self-sufficient. Just 16 plants can produce almost 200 pounds of fruit in a single year.
They can grow in most environments and are a great source of vitamin K, C, potassium, and folate.
Tomatoes last around 2 weeks in cold storage.
Tomatoes are a warm-weather plant. They should be planted in late spring and summer in most areas. I prefer to start them doors during the spring so they’re ready to get planted outside once it’s warm enough.
Radish – Radishes provide vitamins A, C, E, B6, and potassium.
They last for about two weeks in the refrigerator once they’re cut.
Radishes do very well in all but the hottest part of the summer. They are also hearty enough to handle frost but will be ruined if they’re completely frozen. Planting them in a sunny area allows the plant to put more energy into growing its root rather than growing larger leaves.
Beets – Beets are a great source of fiber, vitamin B9, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. They also have additional health benefits and are popular in health drinks and supplements.
Beets can be stored for up to 10 days in the refrigerator or cooked and frozen for use later.
Beets do best during the cooler temperatures of fall and spring. They’re very frost resistant so it’s okay to get a jump on the growing season and plant them before the last frost in spring.
Carrots – Carrots have a bunch of vitamins and antioxidants. They’re similar to beets in that they’re added to many health drinks and supplements.
Whole carrots will last for about a month in the refrigerator.
Carrots prefer direct sun and cool soil. You can begin planting them in late spring. They take about 75 days to reach full maturity.
Greens – This includes things like kale, collard greens, spinach, cabbage, watercress, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, arugula, and endive.
Leafy greens are a good source of vitamin A, C, K, and folate and minerals iron and calcium. They’re also a good of fiber.
They don’t store for very long but they grow well and can do a lot to diversify your food intake.
Greens can usually be grown from spring to fall in areas that don’t get really hot during the summer. In mild areas, you can grow greens all year round and in hotter areas, you may only be able to grow during the fall in hotter climates.
Turnips – Turnips have fiber, protein, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins K, A, C, E, B1, B3, B5, B6, B2, and folate, as well as minerals like manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and copper.
Turnips last for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
They do the best in cool weather and should be planted in the spring or late summer. Turnips do really well planted alongside carrots and radishes.
Onions – Onions don’t provide a massive amount of calories, but they do something else that’s extremely important…they provide flavor to your food! If you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, you’re less likely to stick to being self-sufficient.
Onions are high in vitamin C, a good source of dietary fiber, and folic acid. They also contain calcium and iron.
When onions are properly stored they can last for up to 2 months in the summer and 6 months in the winter.
Onions do well in odd spots between other vegetables in your garden. (You can grow 20 – 50 onions in about 1.5 sq/ft) They take about 100 to 175 days to fully mature.
You can also simply harvest the onions when they’re young if you want green onions.
Garlic – Garlic is another great way to change up the flavor of your food.
Garlic provides vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese, but its primary advantage comes in making food taste better.
An unpeeled clove of garlic will last up to a month.
Garlic should be planted 3 – 8 weeks before the first autumn freeze. They grow best when they get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and are ready to be harvested after about 9 months of growth.
Cabbage – Cabbage provides 22 calories per cup and provides vitamin K, C, B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
In a proper root cellar or in the refrigerator, cabbage can last up to two months.
You can get a head start on the growing season by starting your cabbage indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost in spring. They can be moved outside once they’re 3 – 4 inches tall and as early as 4 weeks before the last frost.
If you want to directly plant them outside, you can sow the seeds directly into the ground as soon as the ground is soft enough to work.
Parsnips – A half of a cup of parsnips has 3 grams of fiber and 55 calories. They are a good source of vitamin C, folate, and manganese.
In cold storage, you can expect parsnips to last a couple of weeks.
Parsnips need a long growing season so you should plant them as soon as the soil is workable. Water them during the summer if you get less than 1 inch of rainfall. They’re ready to be harvested in about 16 weeks.
Leeks – One cup of raw leeks has 54 calories. Leeks are high in vitamin A, and they’re a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin B6, as well as the minerals iron and manganese.
Raw leeks will last for up to 2 weeks in cold storage.
Leeks need fertile and moist soil. Plant them in early to mid-spring.
Corn – Corn is high in carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. One of its best uses is in cornmeal.
Raw corn on the cob will keep for 1 to 3 days in cold storage. Cooked corn on the cob will usually stay good for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator and 10 to 12 months in the freezer.
Corn matures in 60 – 100 days. It grows best in temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Popcorn – Popcorn is an interesting crop that grows in many different areas well. You can grow it around your yard or even in your flower beds.
It’s heartier than traditional corn and can be dried and ground into cornmeal. Popcorn is a whole grain.
Just make sure that you grow sweet corn and popcorn away from each other (about 100 feet). They will cross-pollinate and the resulting corn will taste off.
Popcorn prefers similar temperatures to normal sweet corn and can take 60 – 120 days to fully mature. If you have a short summer, choose varieties that mature more quickly.
Sunflowers – Sunflowers are great for their seeds and the color they bring to your yard. They’re very high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the healthy fats).
Sunflowers should be sown directly into the soil after the threat of frost has passed in the spring. Ideally, they’re planted into soil that is at least 55 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They do well in extreme heat but their ideal growing temperature seems to be between 70 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wheat – Wheat is an all-around great thing to have growing in your garden if you can! The ability to make your own flour for baking can greatly increase your independence and the variety of foods you can make from your own garden.
Make sure you have a grain mill to grind your wheat into flour.
Winter wheat is planted in the fall and harvested about 7 months later. Spring wheat is planted in the spring and ready to harvest about 4 months later.
Legumes – These include lentils, peas, adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, Anasazi beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans and lima beans. These foods are high in protein and carbohydrates but low in fat.
The exact type of legumes that make sense for you is going to depend on where you’re growing them.
Legumes not only have the ability to provide you with food but they also increase the nitrogen levels of the soil for the crops they’re planted next to or for a follow on crop after the legumes are harvested.
The amount of money that you can save by growing your own vegetables can be pretty amazing.
According to money.com, the average family spends $750 a year on produce and close to $2,000 a year on eating out! Even a small garden plot can offset a majority of the cost of produce. A 600 sq/ft garden will cost about $70 a year to run and yield enough food to eliminate the need to buy most vegetables from the store.
Now, let’s look at the average cost of food per year for an American family, which is around $7,000. If you make the jump to self-sufficiency, that’s a lot of money that you can keep in you pocket!
Animals can go a long way to making you self sufficient and are a requirement if you want eggs, milk and meat. Growing animals for meat will increase the amount of land that you need.
I suggest starting small with chickens for eggs and a couple goats for milk. As you get used to taking care of chickens and a couple of goats, you can decide if having meat animals makes sense for you.
Cows – Cows are obviously a great source of milk. Cows can produce about 8 gallons of milk per day. Just keep in mind that you’re probably not used to drinking unpasteurized whole milk and you may need to ease into it.
If you’re going to slaughter the animal, they provide about 40% of their weight in usable meat. Be ready to store that much food!
Chickens – Chickens can be a really good source of daily protein. Hens will lay an egg about every 26 hours. This means that it’s just over one day per egg, so plan accordingly when you’re figuring out how many hens you should have around.
Chickens yield about 60-65% of their body weight in meat depending on the type of bird. Meat birds are going to have a lot more meat on them then laying hens do, but you can still eat them.
Goats – Goats can also be a solid source of milk if you live on a smaller tract of land. A good milk goat will provide 2.5. – 2.7 liters of milk per day over their 305 day lactation period.
A couple of milk goats could be all that you would need.
Goats usually provide about 45% of their body weight in meat when they’re slaughtered.
Pigs – Typically pigs are used for meat, but they can do a lot of things for your farm than that.
They’re great at turning everything you don’t want to eat, or can’t eat, into manure. They also root up the ground and can clean up an area after goats have been though.
A pig will result in about 40% of its weight in meat after it’s butchered.
The exact amount of land that you need for animals depends on the type of animal, how many you have, and what you plan on doing with them.
- Cows need about 1.8 acres per animal.
- Goats need about 250 sq/ft each and prefer to at least have a partner so plan for 500 sq/ft as a minimum.
- Pigs only need about 8 sq/ft per animal if they’re inside. Pigs left outside need more space because they need a small shelter at a minimum.
- Chickens should have about 3 sq/ft inside of the coop and 8 to 10 sq/ft in an outside run per animal.
Starting off down the road to self-sufficiency can be intimidating! There’s so much to do initially that most people never even take the first steps.
If it’s something that you’re really interested in trying to do you should start with staple foods that are easy to grow and store, followed by chickens and two or three goats.
This should let you get to the point of being almost completely self-sufficient with little need for anything besides meat from the grocery store. If you decide that maintaining animals is something that you want to do, you can look into growing more chickens and goats or even some cows and pigs.