9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living

Get back to basics, achieve food security and find financial independence with these 9 key aspects of achieving true self-sufficient living. Here are tips from a family that is making it work.

  • A 2.28-kw solar photovoltaic system powers the author’s rental cabin, generating a surplus that's sold back to the utility. A solar thermal system heats water.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • A one-third acre-garden supplies the author and his family with a majority of their food.
    Photo By Lisa Kivirist
  • Seasonality determines what’s on the dinner table.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • Creative cooking methods can save big. The author bakes wood-fired pizza in his homemade brick oven.
    Photo By Liam Kivirist
  • The author’s wife, Lisa Kivirist, bakes bread in a Sun Oven solar cooker.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • A 10-kw Bergey wind turbine has powered the author’s homestead since 2003. Cracked blades were repaired in 2012.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • Neighbor and mentor Phil Welty designed his solar thermal system to heat domestic hot water on his homestead.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • Neighbor and mentor Phil Welty produced homemade biodiesel from fryer oil donated by local restaurants.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • The author’s son, Liam (left), sells garden produce with his parents at the family’s farmstand.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • A PV-charged, all-electric CitiCar is used for short trips to town to run errands.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • Community support: Transition Green County meets for farm skills training.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko
  • Potlucks are a regular farmstead event for Transition Green County. Creating community has been the way of homesteaders for centuries.
    Photo By John D. Ivanko

When you grow your own food, generate your own energy, and work from a home office or farm for your livelihood, the so-called “costs of living” largely disappear. You become untethered to the work-earn-spend consumer economy and thrive, instead, in a more locally centered, self-sufficient economy in which monetary income is less essential for a rich life. Making this self-sufficiency dream a reality has been our goal since my wife, Lisa Kivirist, and I moved to our 5 1⁄2-acre farmstead in southwestern Wisconsin in 1996.

Self-reliant living can take many forms. You can provide your own food and energy and be your own barber, repair person, home-school teacher, house cleaner, painter, and child care provider. By running a home-based business, you can generate the money needed to obtain essential products or services you’re unable to produce for yourself.

Transitioning to self-sufficient living requires research and planning. But have no fear: You can get started today, wherever you live and with whatever resources and skills you already have.

The Journey to Self-Reliance Begins

Today, our one-third-acre garden meets about 70 percent of our food needs. A wind turbine and a photovoltaic system generate a surplus of electricity annually. Our home-based enterprises include running a bed-and-breakfast named Inn Serendipity, consulting for various nonprofit organizations, and writing books about sustainable living. A modest farmhouse houses both our family and our businesses. But it didn’t start out this way.

We moved to our farm from Chicago, newly married and eager to begin our quest to reclaim the skills and services that we had been buying from others for so long. We wanted to break free from our fossil fuel addiction and sequester more carbon dioxide than we emit each year. We knew these goals would take years to achieve. Here are the strategies we have followed to make our vision a reality.

1. Be Frugal

Practice financial discipline by making a commitment to frugality. Forgoing luxuries, such as satellite TV and smartphone service, allows us to live below our means. We’ve never owned a new car or carried a balance on our credit card.

2/19/2021 11:32:42 AM

I'm glad I found your website, I was wondering if it was possible, now I'm going to commit to the idea of a healthy and happy family. Thanks for understanding the time we are in and providing a wisdom everyone will benefit from. Hope all is well.

6/27/2015 3:09:01 PM

Being frugal has been a way of life for us for years. We like to make homemade because the flavor is usually much better than store bought and you can control how salty or sweet according to your taste and dietary needs. Also, we wanted to let you all know, you can get a FREE copy of our "Snacks & More -Homemade Instead of a Store: A collection of Unusual, Unique and Good to Eat Recipes"cookbook during our FREE Promo days June 27th, 28th & 29th 2015. So remember to grab your free copy during the next three days and tell everyone that you know so that they can get a free copy too. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RDPQKJU

5/30/2015 1:45:32 PM

My son & I just love Mother Earth News and living as self-sufficient as we can. It is because of our love for this life-style that we wrote a book about self-sufficiency. Just to let you know, you can get a FREE copy of "Our Survival Essentials " during our FREE Promo days May 29, June 1st & 2nd 2015. So remember to grab your free copy during the next three days and tell everyone that you know so that they can get a free copy too http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I87QPR4?

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