Self-sufficiency is a life-long goal for many people. A debt-free abundant existence. All of your food growing in the garden, preserves in the cellar, an off-grid home, and the skills and equipment to make whatever else you need to live a good life.
This is the future I imagine for my family and I. Working towards this goal has become a hobby and a passion. Most of my time these days is spent making things like bread and soap, tending to the kitchen garden, learning to crochet and sew, planning how to spend less on groceries, and designing how to retro-fit our home to be off the grid.
There’s no end to the interesting and creative work you can do when working towards a self-sufficient life.
But what is self-sufficiency and is it actually achievable? And why do I and so many others feel the daily quiet yearning, and at times, all-consuming burning desire, towards this way of life?
Self reliance vs self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency is “the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction for survival” (Wikipedia). As a lifestyle, this means that nothing is consumed other than which is produced by the self-sufficient person. To be self-sufficient I can imagine would require spending most of the day working to provide everything I need to survive, let alone live comfortably.
When I think of being self-sufficient, I imagine obtaining everything I need to survive from within my community, fairly locally. Maybe a few things from farther away if necessary. Not just providing it all myself.
I will be self-reliant, relying on my skills, and what I can make and grow to provide for my own needs. We will be as self-reliant as possible on our property. But hopefuly self-sufficient once we barter and buy what we need from within our community. Those items and services that we cannot provide directly for ourselves.
On self-reliance vs. self-sufficiency, Bill Mollison, the co-founder of Permaculture, says “we can also begin to take some part in food production. This doesn’t mean that we all need to grow our own potatoes, but it may mean that we will buy them directly from a person who is already growing potatoes responsibly”.
I use the term self-sufficiency alot more than the term self-reliance, as I think self-sufficiency is more commonly understood. But they are both lifestyles and life-goals along the same spectrum.
Personal satisfaction and life-purpose
There’s a lot of satisfaction and feeling of empowerment in growing and making some of what you need. It’s creative, and I feel when I have made something for myself instead of buying it, that the quality of the product is so much better than what is available commercially.
Since re-orienting my life’s path towards self-sufficiency, I feel a deep sense of purpose. Everyday I can do something meaningful with my own hands for myself and my family, and care for and heal the earth that provides so much for us.
The sense of peace I feel when I go to sleep at night knowing that I am doing what I can to give my family a better life whilst looking after the earth is something I value.
Ancestral instincts and connection with nature
It’s not so long ago that self-sufficient living was the way everyone lived. Not by choice but by necessity. If you didn’t provide for your own needs yourself or obtained what you needed from within your community you couldn’t survive.
Now I don’t want to go back to those days, but I feel we can learn a lot from how things were done pre-Industrialisation, and even in our grandparent’s time. It’s comforting to know that our ancestral instincts are to provide for ourselves and our families. It’s surprising sometimes that when I learn a new skill that I just seem to “know” in my bones how to do it.
We still have our survival instincts, and within us, in our blood, is also a deep connection with nature. We are part of an earth that supports us. Genetically I think we still know how to obtain what we need from the world around us and each other, without relying on corporations that have profit and not people or planet as their purpose.
This connection with nature, which we are a part of, and knowing how to survive in the world, I think is one of the reasons why living on the path of self-sufficiency feels so natural and “right” for me and maybe for you too.
Health and wellbeing
Growing food and medicine organically and eating from the garden is one of the best ways I know to stay healthy and strong. Even store-bought organic food just doesn’t have the dense nutrition and taste that food pulled from the ground, prepared and served soon thereafter to your kitchen table does. And it’s incredibly satisfying doing so.
Living a life close to the land also guarantees that you will get a good dose of sunshine and Vitamin D, exercise, fresh air and social connection to those around you. Great benefits from working together on the common goal of growing food. This to me is a recipe for physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing.
Security and safety
Sometimes I wonder how my family and I would fare if we were flooded in or without power for a few weeks, or even a few months. I must admit, when we had an unprecedented rain event here recently with no power for days and the chance of being cut off by flood, I was a little scared and I started thinking about how prepared we actually were for natural or economic disaster.
I would call myself a survivalist. I think it’s sensible to at least have a few weeks supply of food, water, toiletries and other essentials stored away properly for times when we need to survive off the grid.
I wouldn’t like to think that in my time or my children’s time that any huge upheavals will occur in society, but there is the possibility of tough times with advancing climate change, and associated weather events and related economic impacts. I feel comfort in knowing that we are working towards a store of what we need for at least 3 months survival. We are supplementing this with plans for a big and productive kitchen garden and food forest, as well as saving up for our home to be off-grid.
Debt reduction and retirement
Being able to give up full-time work outside of our home is something that I admit I think about a fair bit. I love my job, and feel blessed that I can work locally for a big organisation in a role that directly helps others.
But there is part of me that wants to be at home, on my own schedule, tending to my family, my garden and my home. Not having to commute to work each day. I also want to give back to my community and volunteer my time for causes I believe in. At present, all I can do whilst working in outside employment is donate money.
Over time our plan is to strategically grow and make a lot more of what we need in terms of food, toiletries, home supplies and even focus more on homegrown entertainment and hobbies. We are hoping this will see us start to save increasing amounts of money to invest. Then we can “retire” a lot sooner from paid employment than the standard retirement age in Australia of 65 years old.
Working toward self-sufficiency has really started reducing our costs around the home. We have started with our groceries, and in one of my previous blog posts I spoke about how we are attempting to keep to our $250 per week budget. This week we have so far, so I’m pleased that we are making progress.
Growing some of our food is also saving us money. This past summer, I grew so many tomatoes that I didn’t need to buy any from the supermarket for weeks at $6.95 per kg. This was an exhilerating feeling – providing fresh and tasty tomatoes for my family and I and saving money on veggies those few weeks.
Family relationship building and teaching children life-skills
Being able to cook from scratch and make home supplies are useful life-skills. Making pizza and biscuits with one of my sons over the last school holidays was a happy time for us. I felt so content when we were both in the moment working on our homemade baking projects together.
There is so much that children can learn from preparing food from scratch. The opportunities for maths in measuring ingredients, learning about where food comes from, and even the chemistry behind why dough rises, are fascinating real-world learning opportunites.
The time spent with my kids and my husband growing food, cooking and making what we need brings us closer together. I have also found that being outside in the garden sowing seeds and harvesting can lead to more outside time, like strolls through the local neighbourhood and exploring our property. This nature time for our family makes us happy and no doubt healthier, as well as strengthens our bond.
Even though I dream one day of being self-sufficient, it’s the journey there that matters, and living the self-reliant life right now is a good place to be.
Do you dream of being self-sufficient too? What’s your reasons for wanting to live a self-sufficient/self-reliant life?
Image credit: OffGridHub