When Your Back is at the Wall-Crisis Homesteading

Yep. Reusing a photo.

This might go slightly beyond Homesteading 101.

I have had to move, quickly and harshly. My new landlord is a thousand times more pleasant and my actual living space is going to be of significantly better quality. However this is also going to cost me.

Enough that I’m basically losing any financial gain I might have made over the past few years.

It happens. You get sick, you lose your job, there’s a natural disaster. In a perfect world we would all have the best case nest egg and nothing would ever hurt. Life doesn’t work like that. Homesteading, even urban homesteading, can help stretch small budgets that much farther.

In no particular order-

1. Use as much cloth in as many places you can 

And I do mean as many places. Paper towels, feminine supplies, toilet paper, diapers, napkins-these are all places you can cut back on.

Before you say it. I know this is where people get hot. Use as much cloth as you’re comfortable with, and don’t wash them separately. I don’t use cloth as toilet paper and I used paper towels during this summer’s roach debacle. But any place where you can mentally handle cloth is a place you can drop your paper budget down.

2. Whole use cooking

You want to get as much food out of your food as you can. Broths are a good place to start.

3. Trade

If you have a skill, use it to get other services or items.

4. Just ask

This one really pushes my limits. It’s not in my character. But if there’s something you need, just ask if someone can help, whether it’s old furniture, rides or $10 for groceries.

5. Bartering 

Slightly different from trading, you might be able to pay friends and family in skills over cash. I have paid for rides in jam before.

6. Learn new homemaking skills

Carpentry, knitting, spinning, soapmaking-new skills open up new opportunities.

7. Process food

Learn your way around a canner, a freezer, and a dehydrator.

8. Seasonal eating

Track sales and google what should be in season when. If you have growing space it’s that much easier. Cook around what’s in season, and attempt to do your processing around the same. 

9. Go 1/2 or more vegetarian 

Dedicate days to go meat free. Meat is much more expensive per pound than produce.

10. ‘Beer money’ sites

These are sites like S.wagbucks that let you earn gift cards for small tasks. It’s how I earn some play money when times are lean.

11. Thrifting and sales

Try to not pay full price for anything. It might mean waiting for something you want, but you can save serioys money.

12. Upcycle or repurpose

Rework an item you would normally toss into something you need. Just be careful not start holding onto everything because it might be useful some random day in the future.

13. Budget for comfort

Try to leave space for creature comforts, even it’s just a bag of good coffee. Or whatever your thing is. The happier you are, the easier this will be.

14. Meal sharing

This is a hold over from my grad school days. Rotating family style meals amibg a social circle will get you out of the house, and pot lucks mean making less food at a given time.

15. DIY supplies 

Make even a couple of your cleaning and beauty supplies. You’ll save a lot of money. 

16. Avoid single use items

I mean things like k cups and parchment paper. Get a brew cup and a silpat. Only use single use if it legimately saves you something over reusable.

17. Canning jars

Canning jars are way trendy right now, but for storage purposes they’re cheaper than kitchen sets and come in a range of sizes. You can hold onto food jars for the same reason, but again, be aware of your space and actual need.

18. Pay cash (when you can)

One of my pet peeves is credit judgment. Sometimes things just happen, and it’s not my place to tell you how to pay for things. But cash will be cheaper in the long run, and seeing your money will give you a better feel for what you have.

19. Couponing apps

There are a few apps on the market like Ibotta that will repay you for purchases as long as there’s a rebate available. I don’t use them that often, but it is a way of boosting coupons if you use them. 

20. Loyalty cards

Especially multi vendor cards like Plenti. I use Plenti points a lot at Rite Aid for things like milk. 

21. Sturdy staple pieces

My purse is 13 years old. It looks like new. It’s not stylish, but I’m not replacing it all the time. Buy as high quality as you can on at least a few pieces.

22. Thrift your furs and leathers 

Assuming you wear them. They’re so much cheaper, and this gets into whole use for me-they’re on the used market, they might as well be worn. I saved close to $150 on my bike jacket last fall.

23. Thrift or make as much furniture as you can

Buffalo is a bedbug city. I will mot thrift soft surface furniture. But I might thrift a table, and Mid is going to build shelving.

24. Furniture wholesalers 

We got the couch at the top from a wholesaler. We had to go with what was on the show floor, but it was hundreds cheaper going that route.

25. Utilize mirrors

Mirrors will reflect light and cut down on the number of lamps needed to light a space.

26. Crisis cooking

Come up with a list of truly cheap meals [think rice and beans] and rotate them through every so often.

27. Exercise outside 

If you live in a place safe enough to exercise outside, walk or jog over a gym membership.

28. Youtube for exercise 

You can also find many videos online for free or cheaper than a membership.

29. Use public transportation 

This is for the urbanites but even a few trips a month would cut down on gas [if feasible. It’s not always, speaking as an urbanite.]

30. Spices

Learn your way around your spices. You will be happier in the long run with scratch cooking if it’s well seasoned.

31. Unconventional shopping places

We get our light bulbs at Pep Boys when they go on clearance. Think beyond the obvious.

32. Bread Outlets

I admittedly forget about this one. It’s normally day old, but much cheaper.

33. Figure out your comfort points

You’re going to have to cut corners, but figure out what is easiest on you mentally and start there.  Don’t try to overhaul everything in a week, you’ll get overwhelmed and possibly feel deprived. Work out what you have to have to be happy and work towards cutting back.

34. Amazon wishlists

This one always makes me cringe a little but I do it anyway. Put stuff on your Amazon wishlist and then check for items with price drops. The site will tell you when stuff goes on sale. I almost never, as in less than twice a year, pay full price for Kindle books.

35. Share accounts

There are a few services that will let you share family accounts. Spotify just announced it will. If you can trust people to pay you, splitting accounts may be cheaper.

36. Ditch cable

Use a service like Netflix or Hulu. Even with recent price increases it’s still cheaper than cable.

37. Keep a spare change jar

Let your change build up. It’s called found money and it seems to ve a blind spot for a lot of people. Especially pennies.

38. Fizz but not soda

Seltzer water and fruit syrup is a lot cheaper than soda, if you’re into such things. 

39. No poo

My scalp doesn’t like no poo, but if you’re up to it, ditch shampoo and look into the no poo method.

40. Seasonal sales for big ticket items 

RVs go on sale in January. That’s what I’ve been told by salesmen. Try to find out the pattern to sales and wait if you can until your big purchases are at their natural lowest price point.

41. Switch to glass

Nothing is more annoying than vermin. Packing your food in glass will help cut down on bugs and mice. It also holds up better than plastic for things like travel mugs. I’m not even going to touch on plastic politics, I just feel like glass works better and holds up longer.

42. Organize

Nothing is more annoying than having food go off before you remember you have it or buying yet another package of thyme because you can’t find the other 3. Organize and reorganize.

43. Bring your own bags

A lot of places are now offering admittedly small discounts if you don’t use their bahs. I’ve also heard from exterminators that bugs like plastic bags, and after the Summer of the Bug I’m avoiding plastic shopping bags.

44. Travel in the off season 

I call this the Cooperstown effect. Go when it’s cheaper and less crowded.

45. Train travel

Look into Amtrak. It’s slower but cheaper.

46. Freeze grains

Another Summer of the Bug thing. Pantry moths are annoying and gross. Freeze your grains for a week and store in glass to avoid feeding them before you can feed yourself.

47. Check your plans

Call to see if you’re on the right insurance and phone plans, especially if you’re a long term customer.

48. Split your payments 

Try to pay bills across checks, and try to avoid late fees. I read someplace that late fees are basically stealing from yourself and it’s stuck with me.

49. Comparison shop for everything

You may not save a ton of money but you’ll get a feel for what things cost on average, to tell if you’re really saving money.

50. Keep a price database

When you go grocery shopping, start a file of what you pay and where, so you know who is cheapest.

51. 1% changes

Change slowly. If you change hard and fast, you’re more likely to burn out. Go for small changes frequently but over time. 1% a day.

52. Give up fabric softener

It’s an added expense and not great for fabric. Get a tennis ball or formal dryer balls.

53. Learn to cook cheaper cuts of meat

It takes more work but saves money

On gardening and food production 

I feel like I need to add gardening to the list because it’s always pushed as tge ultimate tip. If you have the space, time, and skills, let alone soil quality and lighting, go for it. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t. The pinnacle of [urban] homesteading doesn’t have to be farming.



  1. i do the majority of these things and live on next to nothing with four kids. i am so far underneath the poverty level it’s crazy by U.S. standards. but we don’t really suffer because we don’t really “consume” at the U.S. standard.

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