THE GOOD LIFE: 5 TIPS FOR BECOMING SELF-SUFFICIENT
Nothing is more rewarding than growing your own produce. Here, Hayley Baddiley from Denby shares her tips for incorporating elements of self-sufficiency into your daily life
Becoming more self-sufficient can mean different things to different people, but the general idea remains the same: to be able to produce essentials for yourself at home. People choose to do this for many reasons, whether that’s to live a little more sustainably, cut back on their household spending, or improve their health. But, one of the biggest perks of living more self-sufficiently is the pride you can take in providing your own food.
Going back to basics and growing your own produce, rearing animals, and reusing as much as possible can feel incredibly rewarding. Self-sufficiency doesn’t have to be a major life change, either. By making one or two swaps, you can still get all the benefits.
If you want to take inspiration from self-sustainable culture and have a go at providing for yourself a little more, I’ll be offering my tips to do just that. Simply pick which ones work for you and try them out.
Grow your own produce
One of the simplest ways to become more self-sufficient is by growing your own produce in your garden, on your windowsill, or in an allotment. If you’re new to gardening, you can ease yourself into the process by picking one or two of your family’s favourite fruits, vegetables, and herbs, to begin with. Root vegetables, such as potatoes and beetroot, are great options for beginners. As your confidence grows, you can expand your collection to incorporate even more options as plants go in and out of season. Once you’ve harvested your crops, don’t forget to save the seeds so you can plant more next year.
Not only can you provide your own fruits and vegetables but, if you have the time and the space, you could also consider keeping your own chickens to supply fresh eggs for your family breakfast.
To start keeping hens, you’ll first need to invest in a chicken coop to give them a warm, dry place to lay their eggs and stay safe from predators such as foxes. Then, you’ll need to work out how many chickens you’ll need. Around four to six hens will usually be enough to sustain the average family, but you may need more if you have a large family or plan on having fresh eggs every day.
Although more difficult to set-up and manage, beekeeping is another great way to live more self-sufficiently. Not only can they provide plenty of sweet honey, but bees can also help keep your vegetable garden in good shape by pollinating your plants and helping them grow a bountiful harvest.
You could also use up the wax left over from harvesting your honey to make your own beeswax candles. These are perfect for adding a touch of fragrance to your home, and make great personalised gifts for loved ones. Just melt the wax down, add your favourite scent, and pour the mixture into a container with a wick. Jars and tins make great candle holders, but you could also consider reusing your old teacups, mugs, or bowls.
Invest in homewares built to last
One key aspect of living more self-sufficiently is reducing your reliance on fast interiors. This means cutting back on the amount of low-quality homewares you buy and instead looking for well-made, beautiful, and durable pieces that are built to withstand daily life. Not only can this save you money, but high-quality pieces are more likely to last you for years to come, reducing the amount you need to throw away. Additionally, if anything starts to show signs of wear and tear, you can reuse them for other purposes, such as making your homemade beeswax candles.
When shopping for high-quality homewares, try to look for versatile pieces that can fulfil multiple purposes. For example, you can use freezer-safe ceramic bowls to store your leftovers in, covering them in reusable beeswax wraps.
Recycle your leftovers
Being self-sufficient is all about making the most of everything you can. If you’re growing your own food at home or have simply made more than you can eat, use your leftovers to make another delicious meal.
Vegetable scraps and leftovers can be transformed into flavourful stocks, soups, and stews. Boil your homegrown fruits into jam, or preserve your chilli, garlic, and herbs in oil to make an infusion that is bound to add an instant hit of flavour to any dish.
If you have any bread that’s started to go a little bit stale, you can transform it into croutons by cutting it into small chunks. Lay the pieces out on a baking sheet, drizzle them with oil, and bake them in the oven until they turn crispy.
For food that can’t be reused, such as eggshells or teabags, why not use it to feed your plants and start a compost bin? Any kind of box would make the perfect container for your compost bin, and you can build your own from recycled wood. Just make sure it has plenty of drainage holes and is raised from the ground to let moisture escape.
Once you have your container, you can start layering your waste. Start with dry waste, such as cardboard packaging, and layer your food scraps on top before adding another layer of dry waste. If you keep alternating your layers this way, you’ll get more air pockets into your compost, which will help everything break down much easier. Stirring your compost every week will also ensure it stays aerated.
When your compost starts to look like soil, it’s ready to be used on your garden. Why not use yours to fertilise your vegetable patch?
There’s a real sense of pride from providing for yourself, and these are just a few great ways to get started. Whether you choose to try one or two of these tips, or take them all on board, you can begin to reap the benefits and enjoy living more self-sufficiently.