Are you prepared to survive tough times and prosper in times that aren't so tough?

Self-Sufficient, Food-Wise

by Pat Veretto


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I've written several times about living on the edge, economically speaking, and I know that's not the primary focus of frugal living. It is, however, well within the scope of being frugal to prepare for tough times and make the most of times that are not so tough. Learning to be as self sufficient as possible will only make us more secure and less apt to be hurt financially no matter what.

There isn't nearly enough room to tackle all the ways there are of being self sufficient. Some of you have more opportunity than others and some of you have a lot more interest than others. I realize that some of you live in apartments in large cities and feel as if some things are not possible. You can still provide at least some of your own food needs.

I wish I could convince everyone reading this to begin to take more personal responsibility for providing as much food as you can for yourselves. You don't have to live on an old fashioned farm with an apple orchard, a flock of chickens and a two acre garden to make a big difference in your budget. You can be more self sufficient food wise almost anywhere you are.

It may be too much to grow your own wheat, but it's not too much to buy wheat, along with a hand grinder that will turn out the freshest and cheapest whole wheat flour to make the best frugal bread ever.

It's also not too hard to plant a few cloves of garlic in a pot to put on the windowsill for very frugal seasoning. It's only a little more trouble to plant vegetables, either in garden plots or in large containers, even on the balcony or front step, and that means more frugal food.

A grow light is not as expensive as buying fresh vegetables throughout the year. Even if you're in an apartment or don't have access to a garden area, you can grow things like lettuce, radishes, onions, peppers, or even tomatoes if you have the room. You'll have to pollinate tomatoes and peppers by hand. (Beans don't do well indoors. Although they grow into interesting plants, most of the time they won't bloom without direct sunshine.)

The Shoestring Gardener provides creatively frugal gardening how-tos, remedies & tips.

If produce from your own garden, a neighbor's garden, a farmer's market or gleaning is available, canning, dehydrating or otherwise preserving the food will stock your pantry nicely. If you've never done that before, be ready to experience a wonderfully elated feeling of satisfaction when you see the rows of dehydrated or canned foods waiting for your winter enjoyment.

"Putting by" food can include wild foods, too. Learn what's available in your area and go looking for them. They can make a good dent in your food budget and they can be canned, dehydrated or frozen. Use methods and recipes that are close to their domesticated counterparts. "Greens" like dandelion leaves, lambsquarter and dock can be treated like spinach. Roots like daylilies can be treated like potatoes. Wild fruit should be treated the same as cultivated fruit.

Nothing beats the quality of fresh food, home grown, harvested and preserved by hand, and being self sufficient food-wise can be the beginning of a very satisfying lifestyle that's more frugal than you ever thought possible.


Pat Veretto is a work-at-home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances.

Take the Next Step:

  • Come up with one simple way that you can become more self-sufficient, food-wise.
  • Gardening on the cheap is simple. Just visit the TDS Frugal Gardening Guide and we'll show you the many ways frugal gardeners maintain beautiful, bountiful gardens for less.
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