Why Permaculture?

Homesteading Can Get You Out of Debt

Homesteading is a really good tool to dig yourself out of debt. That was one of my big first goals: to become a homesteader. I was disgusted in the way I was living; I was dependent on money for every single aspect of my life. I felt that from the time I woke up in the morning to when my head hit the pillow, the world revolved around money. Honestly, I am not a fan of it. I think of it as a necessary evil for the most part. I love to barter when I can and feel good about it.

Most people love money. This is how many people truly come into debt. I spent a good time of my life working for pennies to keep the refrigerator stocked with unhealthy foods that never sustained me.

Homesteading and permaculture got me out of debt, fixed my credit and fixed my life. I was spending about $450 every 2 weeks feeding my family. Every time I went to the grocery store I would leave upset and frustrated that most of my paycheck would go to one shopping cart of food. I would cringe standing in line feeling like cattle going through a shoot waiting my turn for the slaughter. I’m sure most of you can sympathize with me.

I asked myself: Why can’t I just grow most if not all of my food? So, my journey began into gardening. Everything I read said it would take acres of land to support a family’s food, so I just tried to do the best I could the first few years. Then I started to implement this wild idea of permaculture, and I abandoned the theory that I needed acres to feed my family. Not only did we produce most of our own food, but we even sold a few (CSA Community Supported Agriculture) shares that paid for the other food items we needed and could not produce. This saved us almost $1,000 a month. With those savings, you do do a whole lot!

The other byproduct of not going shopping often was the savings on fuel to get to the market and back. That was another $10.00 savings per trip along with less wear and tear on the cars! Driving less is also a more environmentaly correct thing to do. The hardest part of not shopping was that my kids used that as an escape from being home. We all suffered from cabin fever until we got used to less shopping.

I also saved so much money on impulse buying. While shopping, I would never stick to the list; my cart would always get an extra item or 2. The larger supermarkets even change placement of items knowing you will spend more time in the store looking for your items and add others. Just a couple of extra items a month can cost you hundreds of dollar.

So, we made the change slowly. As we produced more food, we just bought less. Growing your food enables this awesome ability to make you healthier and lose weight. Did you know your home-grown food has more value than the store-bought equivalent? If you grow using the permaculture method of growing you even have a greater value in your produce.

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You may be able to eat 6 carrots from the grocery store and still feel hungry, but eat 2 of my carrots and feel full. This carrot scenario is a common one among gardeners using more natural methods. Sure, they look the same, but they aren’t even close. An analogy is like 2 children in the same class at the same school. One is an underachiever and one is an overachiever. A test would clearly tell you which is which. Our test is just to grow and eat the better one. So, you don’t have to grow as much food to sustain you as you buy to sustain you.

Our electric bill went down dramatically as we converted to homesteading. It seemed like we always had 2 tv’s going at the same time. Three to four of us were on a computer or iPad and no one was really interacting with each other much. Now our children help us do our chores, play with our animals and each other. So, we save on electric and saved our family structure.

Homesteading will save money on medical bills now and in the future. Growing your food not only gives you access to a healthier product; it gives you the full potential of vitamins and minerals.

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From the time vegetables are cut from the plant they begin to lose their goodness. The longer it takes you to eat the produce or meat, the less you get out of it. A great example is to buy fresh cut corn and try one right off the plant. It will be so sweet like candy and full of vitamins and minerals. Try another ear after it sits for a day and you may not believe it’s the same corn.

Almost all supermarkets sell you these subpar foods that have been sitting for days or weeks on the shelves. All these extra vitamins and minerals will fill your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Staying healthy for as long as possible keeps you out of the hospitals which no one can afford!

Raising your own livestock increases your savings. Consider a milk goat to make your own milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. Making our own butter alone covers the expense of our internet service.

Goats cheese is delicious and so is properly handled goat milk. We used to have larger goat breeds like Nubians and Oberhaslis but found that Nigerian Dwarf goats fit our homestead better. They also convert feed into milk more efficiently.

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If you are having trouble paying your bills and are sick of the rat race, consider changing your lifestyle. I don’t know anyone that went to the homestead lifestyle and wanted to go back. Now I have met tons of city people that went to the homestead lifestyle and are happy. Sure, this isn’t for everyone, but it is a way out for some that may not have considered the benefits of this lifestyle.

30 Comments

      1. I’ve been planning to homestead for quite some time and occasionally get discouraged. My situation is a major impediment but stories like yours help me continue with my goal. Thanks for sharing!

        1. While this isn’t Facebook, rather than reply to all, I do “LIKE” all the comments. Each is uniquely encouraging to be a homesteader.

        2. John keep your chin up. If you have to start with one planting box and 2 chickens. You can always build up but don’t worry about taking that first step.

          Thanks for reading, Rich

  1. My husband and I have been homesteading pretty steadily since 2008 when we purchased this house. I grew a box garden the first year and put in eleven apple trees, two plums, three cherries and several hazelnut trees. Then the next year I tore off half the deck which was way too big and turned most of the rest of the yard into a veg garden. I also built a coop and hen yard and we got chickens. My husband learned to bake and brew. We decided to live on my income only and throw his at the mortgage, and we paid off the house in five years. Then we took some savings and invested in a 4.5Kw solar PV system and a solar water heater. This year I want to install a rain catchment system and cistern, and get some rabbits. And homesteading is not just for young people. My husband is fifty and I’m fifty-seven. I think we’ll always homestead, because things just get better and better as we go along.

  2. and the most delicious vegetables are the ones you can only grow yourself, stores never sell those because they can only be consumed the same day they are cut from the garden (f.e. Swiss Chard)

    1. Swiss Chard is regularly sold in shops here. If anything it travels better than the spinach that’s often right next to it.

      That being said, garden-fresh greens are miles better than store greens any day of the week.

  3. Eating homegrown, healthier, nutrient dense food will also lower, in the long term, your medical bills. The reduction in transport miles will save you money on auto costs, both fuel and upkeep. That same reduction in transport mileage, offset by the increased carbon-sequestration and storage in your soil, will lower atmospheric CO2 and reduce the rate of Global Climate Change.

    Geoff was dead-on right, We really can solve ALL the world’s problems in a garden!

    1. Hello Galen, that is a view I haven’t really thought about because thank the Good Lord we have not had any medical issues. But I do have friends that need regular medical visits for diabetes and other illnesses. Guess what they don’t even grow one tomato plant!
      Thanks for reading!

  4. I aspire to create a similar life for my wife and I
    It is a complex process sometimes to break away from the debt you create over a life time!

    1. Hello Kevin, try not to think of the debt in whole just concentrate on saving one week at a time one meal at a time. Small steps will still get up up that flight.
      Thanks, Rich

  5. I love the article. However, I’m not sure how the sausages picture and the mushroom picture relate to the story. Did you grow the mushrooms, too? Are you making your own sausages? Do you borrow the sausage stuffing machine or did you buy it? What did you use for the sausage stuffing? Did you grow the meat or seasonings? I ask because I want the rest of the story. It is all very fascinating.

    1. Hello Twiddlebug, :)

      Did you grow the mushrooms, too? Yes we grow shiitake, oyster, enoki and others like rishi at times.

      Are you making your own sausages? Yes we always make our own sausage. I am making some today!

      Do you borrow the sausage stuffing machine or did you buy it? I use to borrow a grinder and stuffer but eventually bought one. It’s not really fast but I can grind a deer up in an hour or so. When I need a whole pig ground I just bring the de-boned meat to my Amish friend and he grinds 200 lbs of meat in about an hour!

      What did you use for the sausage stuffing? I use all my own spices but do have to buy salt. I don’t live near the ocean or I would probably render my own salt too.

      Did you grow the meat or seasonings? Yes I grow my own meat chicken, rabbit, pork, goat and barter with my brother for beef.

      I will see if I can write an article about sausage.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Fabulous article… many a peoples dream… my husband and I are on the way… fruit veg herbs, some nuts all fresh and angry when I have to buy something from the shops… and plenty to preserve for the rest of the year… Compliments to the author for telling us about his life and thank you too for taking the time to respond to most comments…. that is really special.. … Just imagine when more and more people will change their lifestyle even just with a veg patch and some fruit grown at home… beware it is catching …. …Regards Jen

    1. Hello Jen! Thanks for your comment. You are right this lifestyle is catching on and the future looks bright. A small vegi patch is a gateway farmer future.

  7. I have 64sqm veg garden, 30 trees 15 berries, 2 aquaponics and 2 hives, 4 wicking beds, 10 root pouches. I produce enough to save lots of money. This is a suburban block not an acreage. People realise how much gardening can be done when they visit my place. I still have some empty spots. I feel like I am not utilising the empty spots and grin about it.

    1. Hello Gurkan, now that is really impressive. I know the feeling you have that you can always squeeze something else in. I love to vertical garden because for that reason squeeze one more plant in. This year I would love to try out a top bar bee hive! Bees are awesome!

  8. Well, that’s really impressive! Also the other people that explain their homesteading. And I finally know what CSA stands for. I’ve been seeing it everywhere since starting the online PDC and wondered what it meant ;-) Thanks for clearing that up! I am left with one question, though, do you pr your partner work your garden full time? Or do you both still have a paid day job? I always associated reaching my dream of homesteading by no longer having a day job (my husband would still work in that scenario leaving us still one income) and my frustrations generally revolve around still having to work because we have a long list of investments needed to make our house more energy efficient and I also dream about acquiring more land. I wondered how much can be done on top of a day job or if the scale if homesteading you described needs fulltime attention.

    1. Hello Creatleen,
      I do get help from my 3 daughters and my wife does the harvesting. I am a stay at home dad and do make some income writing and giving occasional classes.

      My wife is the main bread winner as a nurse. Before she became a nurse we still homesteaded while she went to school. Money was tight but it never really bugged us. Somehow, we can always live within our means. You can be broke if you make a million a year and you can be rich if you don’t have a dollar to your name.

      Thanks for reading, Rich

  9. I have a question I don’t know where to start. I’m interested in homesteading. I’m currently renting some property. My question is should I countinue to work and save the amount of money to buy the land and house that I need. To sustain animals and garden. In my area I have a lot of people giving away goats and other animals. Please help with some ideas of how to start.

    1. Hello Hank,
      As a former renter, I know where you are coming from. As long as you have an understanding with your land lord do what you can. My regret is not putting the first priority on buying my house.

      The regret is that now I have to wait 3-5 yrs. for my trees to grow. If you know for sure that you can buy your property that won’t be an issue but if you can’t guarantee it then you may be wasting time you can’t get back.

      Really think it out because time is really valuable when it comes to building your homestead.

      Use caution when taking livestock. I never received any free animals even when they were given to me. Medical issues, productivity and bad behavior are usually the reasons for free livestock. You are 100% better off paying fair prices for better stock. I learned this after buying cheap goats, cheap rabbits and cheap sheep.

      Good luck it will all work out, Rich

  10. Good read. I’m 22 and this is the life I wanted. It sucks my parents and my sibling think I’m a fool every time I open up about this growing my own food; not to mention that we live in an agricultural country where the government doesn’t prioritise this industry. Anyhow, I’m excited to start this journey after my professional board exam. Thanks a lot, your blog is helpful.

    1. Hello Gabrielle,

      I was exactly where you are when we started. I grew up in the city from family that think you can only make it working for someone 9-5 and buying everything you need.

      You just have to know it’s possible to homestead and having a degree that allows you to bring in income is helpful.

      Don’t let anyone bust your bubble! You will find many people are willing to help you become a successful homesteader.

      After 20 years of homesteading and writing a few books my parents still say I have no job (lol) but they do come for harvest and my brother that though I was nuts now has a farm of his own!

      Follow your dream, Rich

  11. I have the same question as Creatleen and Hank. My husband and I would love to get out of the city and ‘live off the land’ but are uncertain how we would support ourselves and still manage to pay off our debt from school, etc. We do what we can in the city, but no where near what I hope for some day once we have land. So just wondering what else you do for income other than the CSA shares, and how did you get the funds to purchase the land initially?

    1. Hello Amanda,
      Ok first thing I would do is make sure you have a secure income and try to live well below your income. Living below your income seems to be our key to homesteading. Sometimes you can even renegotiate your school debt so talk to a good accountant before making a major change.

      I’m glad you are already doing what you can in the city. No reason to hold back on many of the things you can do in your situation.

      I wear many hats from writing to cleaning stalls. I never been the type to wait for a paycheck. If you have some gumption you can find a living that fits into your plans.

      Try your hand at writing, teaching or helping someone else with their farm. We also make some natural products like soap, bath bombs, aroma therapy, body sprays and the like. I don’t have one income I have many sources of income because none will pay off all year but all help in the long run.

      Think of things you like to do or are good at.
      -Can you teach anything
      -Do you like working with animals
      -What can you offer someone
      -How creative are you

      Most people don’t know there worth so you just have to find ways to be positive and knowledgeable.

  12. I love homesteading and own a 10+ acre homestead myself, but being completely honest, this article omits the one crucial thing many articles of this nature do. The cost of your own time!

    Even with permaculture, getting these systems going and established, whether it be swales, wicking beds etc takes up a tremendous amount of time. Setting up fencing / infrastructure for small livestock takes time (and money)

    I don’t want to discourage people, but be careful, don’t jump into homesteading thinking you’re going to save a ton of money, because you won’t, at least not at first, and for some, perhaps not ever.

    1. Hello Jason,
      Thanks for pointing that side of things out. Yes, if you plan to buy a chunk of land put fence up and buy equipment you will be in for big surprise.

      I am a small homesteader and don’t work like a farm. I don’t buy fence and don’t own any equipment. The only power tool I have to work outside is my chainsaw.

      All my posts I do use are cut from trees that I get for free. I do get some free posts from local farms that have pulled them and still have plenty of life.

      I also get free pallets and free fencing from time to time but not more than a few hundred feet. The only wire I bought cost me $200 to make 25 rabbit cages. I am really thrifty and don’t mind recycling. If you need to protect crops dogs are cheaper than fence.

      I think about getting a larger piece of land for homesteading but cringe at the thought of 10 acres. That would not be sustainable for me and I would end up letting nature use most of it.

      I do save money doing it my way with shovel in hand but if you have to buy a tractor and fence Jason is correct. It can possibly take years or decades to recoup your money.

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