18 Ways We Homestead In The Suburbs To Live More Sustainably
People are beginning to shift towards more self-sufficient and slower living lifestyles, which is leading to people starting to homestead no matter where they live. This post gives a brief overview of the modern-day term of homesteading, a list of 18+ ways to homestead in the suburbs, and some beginner homesteading tips.
Ever been curious about homesteading? In a lot of ways, you might already be “homesteading” without considering yourself a homesteader. I know that’s how we started as I wasn’t familiar with the term homestead in the modern-day context.
We love to “live big while leaving a little footprint” on our environment and suburban homesteading is one of the ways we accomplish this. So read on if you’re curious about ways to homestead in the suburbs and live more sustainably.
What Is Homesteading?
Firstly, the term homesteading might be a little unfamiliar or you might be thinking back to the days of covered wagons, exploring the frontier, and big remote farmland.
In a modern context, homesteading is about living a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and sustainability. It involves growing and preserving food, DIYing, repairing, reducing food waste, and even creating products if desired.
You can truly homestead no matter where you live whether that’s a rural, suburban, or urban area. We homestead in our suburban neighborhood on our under a half acre property, and many people even homestead on urban patios.
What Do I Need To Homestead?
There’s not a lot you need as a beginner homesteader, but here are a couple of critical items we’ve found are necessary.
Just like we need water to survive, water is a critical part of the homesteading lifestyle and it needs to be constant and reliable. It can be standard piped water from a city or local source, well water, or even collecting and storing rainwater. Having access to water when you need it is necessary for growing food.
Sunlight & Growing Area
Most vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers require a decent amount of sunlight. So you need to evaluate your space, know where the most sun occurs and capitalize on that area for growing food.
You don’t have to have an expansive wide open area or even flat space to grow food. In our suburb, we utilize our back deck for growing in pots and DIY planter boxes, and built a terraced garden in our front yard to access the sunny spots on our property. We even use some windowsills to grow and propagate plants. You can also grow a lot vertically on the sides of houses, up a pergola/trellis, or in cages in a pot.
The growing season is only so long, and you’ll likely end up with harvested produce and herbs that you need to preserve and store. Preserving food is one homesteading skill that is highly valuable and lets you enjoy your garden year-round. It can also save you a lot on grocery bills in our experience. You can learn to can, pickle, ferment, and dehydrate all with a few simple tools.
Build your own DIY floating shelves for pantry items or utilize some stand-alone racks or shelves in a storage hallway/closet. You’d be amazed what you can find secondhand on FB Marketplace, Local Buy Nothing Groups, Ebay, and other places that would work great for cheap storage options.
Composting is semi-optional for homesteading life, but if you want to reduce your waste and not have to pay for bags of compost for your garden, then I highly recommend composting in some form.
Compost not only can enrich your soil, help retain moisture, and provide nutrients to plants, but it can also reduce food waste from ending up in landfills.
18 Ways To Homestead To Live More Sustainably
Here are 18+ ways we homestead in the suburbs as a way to live more sustainably. A lot of these we were doing before we even understood it was considered “homesteading!
1. Have A Budget
Having a budget is important whether you homestead or not. Saving, being frugal, and being resourceful will help you not be so overwhelmed and stressed about whether you have enough in your bank account or overcome with debt. It’s simply living within or below your means and not spending more than you have.
It’s being strategic about where money is spent, having long-term plans, and not impulse buying items. We tend to ask ourselves these questions a lot:
- Do we truly need to buy this?
- Can we make/build it ourselves?
- Do we need to pay someone to fix this or can we do it ourselves?
- If we invest in this, then what is the payback period? (aka how long will it be until it will pay for itself like our electric composter and solar panels).
- Is there a creative solution for this issue, so we don’t have to throw a lot of money at it?
- Can we get this secondhand or borrow it from someone?
Don’t get me wrong, we’re human and we still purchase items purely for joy sometimes or to save time. But we try our best to be intentional and when we do buy items, they are eco-friendly and/or will get a lot of use. We have a “shopping” budget limit every month to ensure we keep within our means.
2. DIYing Projects
We are serial DIYers over here and will pretty much attempt anything. Doing it yourself (DIY) has many benefits for anyone. It can save you money, teach you new skills, and reduce waste by using what you have. From small DIY projects like repairing drywall cracks around the house to larger-scale projects like building a terraced garden or furniture. A lot of our DIY projects we’ve created plans for so you can do them yourself! Check out our DIY plans in the Shop.
3. Utilize Green Energy (DIY Solar Panel System)
A great way to homestead and be more self-sufficient is to rely on green energy sources. Solar energy is a clean renewable energy that has become fairly affordable and in some cases, government rebates can help pay for them. It’s overall better for the environment and you can even set up to be off-grid if you’d like.
Installing a solar panel system yourself can also save you a ton of money and reduce any payback period drastically. We installed our own DIY solar panel system a few years ago! The whole DIY going solar journey is documented, and we’ve created How To’s for installing solar yourselves.
4. Electrify The Home
If you have solar, then it’s a no-brainer to slowly shift your home and appliances to electric. Almost any appliance or item in your household has an electric alternative and most are more efficient than utilizing gas.
Recently, we switched an old furnace for a heat pump system that runs off electricity. It’s more efficient in heating/cooling the house, reduced our gas bill extremely, and utilizes our renewable solar energy.
5. Rainwater Collection System
Harvesting rainwater and collecting it to use for your garden and plants is a great way to reduce your city water usage. A rainwater collection system can be a simple rain barrel setup to a large cistern or tank system. We designed and built a DIY stacked rain barrel system connected to our house’s gutter system. It is an effective way to collect free water from the roof.
The rainwater can then be used to water the vegetable garden, herbs, container plants, trees, and more. It’s also a great way to reduce stormwater runoff that can overwhelm some urban/suburban locations.
6. Grow A Garden
One of the fundamentals of beginner homesteading is growing some of your own food. Evaluate and pick a sunny spot to start your garden. Start small and pick a few different types of produce to grow.
Also, only grow things you and/or your family will eat! Unless of course, you intend to sell vegetables you won’t use. We planned and built our terraced garden solely to feed our family (and give some to friends!). Check out how the terraced garden went this year and our tips for beginners.
7. Create Edible Landscapes
Growing food doesn’t have to happen in a traditional farming style or even in raised beds. You can create edible landscapes in and among standard planting beds around a house.
- Plant some berry shrubs and herbs along the sides of the house.
- Plant fruit trees in planting beds or lawns.
- Grow flowers that are edible and can be used in cooking
It doesn’t have to look like a farm to produce food. It’s also a great way to extend your homestead garden to the front yard if your neighborhood has restrictions on row crops and raised beds.
8. Canning & Preserving
Another key milestone for many beginner homesteaders is learning to preserve your harvests, especially when you have excess produce you don’t want to waste. A couple of key tools to have are a dehydrator, a pressure canner, and canning supplies. These will allow you to preserve your hard work and enjoy it year-round.
There are tons of resources out there for learning to can food safely for shelf-stable storage.
Tip – Skip buying a water bath canner and just buy a pressure canner as it can double as a water bath canner. No need to have extra! We love our Presto pressure canner as it has a flat bottom and can be used on an electric stove top.
9. Preserve Grocery Store Food
If you can’t grow as much produce as you’d like, don’t be afraid to raid the discount grocery store food and preserve that instead!
A lot of grocery stores (especially Kroger brand stores) have a discount produce area where they are trying to get rid of fresh veggies and fruit that might go bad soon. It’s usually heavily discounted (like $1 bags!) and honestly, most of the produce is still perfectly good. Buy what you can use, go home, cook up the recipes, and can them to be shelf-stable filling your pantry with fresh homemade goods.
I’ve done this with apples to make applesauce and tomatoes to make tomato sauce adding several jars of canned food to my pantry shelves for a fraction of the cost of buying them at the store.
This is a great way to reduce food waste that is likely bound for the landfill too! However, don’t buy it if you can’t use it and it’d go to waste. Leave it in the hopes that someone else who needs it will buy it.
Composting can help reduce food waste, while also providing a valuable soil amendment for a homestead garden space. Here are a few different ways to compost and convert food waste to soil amendments:
- Traditional Compost Bin or Pile – requires a larger outdoor space and labor to turn/maintain. However, it easy to DIY build and cheap/free.
- Double-barrel Tumbler System – a tumbler requires a small outdoor space, looks clean, and easy to turn to make compost. Great suburban option!
- Electric Kitchen Composter – A machine that speeds up the composting process and allows you to compost atypical products. A great option for small urban/suburban spaces if you have a way to utilize the “compost output”.
- Vermicomposting aka Worm Composting – It utilizes a small stack of bins with a specific type of worm to product aerobic decomposition using micro/macroorganisms. If maintained correctly, it doesn’t smell and can be done inside. Great for urban apartments or suburban areas with little outdoor space.
- Bokashi Bin – This indoor composting bin utilizes bacteria and fermentation to break down food waste and produce a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Another great option for homesteaders with restricted space.
11. Cook Homemade Meals
Cooking homemade meals is another staple of homesteading and sustainable living. You purchase less pre-packaged food, which reduces unnecessary packaging waste as well as food waste. It can also be cheaper in the long run as you can buy ingredients in bulk for cheaper and store them to use when needed. It also allows you to have more control of what goes into your body.
We meal plan every week to ensure we only purchase what we need and spend as little as possible at a grocery store. Cooking homemade meals does take time, but like anything important you have to make time for it and a conscious effort. And honestly, there are a lot of easy good meals you can make in under 20 minutes, which is less time than it’ll take to get delivery!
12. Make Bread
Sourdough and sourdough starters are synonymous with slow living and homesteading. Many homesteaders love it and making sourdough bread and tending to the starter is part of their routine.
But to be honest, my husband doesn’t really like sourdough, and I don’t enjoy the thought of managing a starter. So we stick to basic yeast bread recipes to fulfill our bread-making needs. You can even cheat and utilize a bread machine to do the work for you if it makes sense for your homestead lifestyle.
Making bread requires only a few simple ingredients you can purchase in bulk, which helps you reduce excess packaging waste and can be cheaper.
13. Repair Whenever You Can
Repairing something when it breaks typically means you’ll spend less money than buying something brand new. It also helps the environment by reducing waste as fewer broken objects end up being thrown away.
For example, our washer’s water pump stopped working, and instead of buying a full new washer, we figured out how to install a new water pump ourselves for only $40. We definitely had never done it before, but with some research, we taught ourselves how.
So don’t be afraid to try repairing something prior to hiring someone to fix it or buying a whole new thing.
14. Learn Basic Sewing
Sewing is an important life skill to have and it comes into play with homesteading. Having the ability to fix clothes, holes, stuffed animals, and other items means you can extend their usage and lifecycle instead of throwing them away. It is also a great skill for DIYing new items like curtains, reupholstering cushions, and more.
Knitting and crocheting are an extension of this creative skill that could allow you to make artisanal products and sell them as well. Some homesteaders even enjoy making their own clothing. We’re not there (and likely won’t ever be!) except maybe when it comes to homemade costumes!
15. Repurpose & Upcycle
Repurposing and upcycling what you have is a great way to have something new and functioning without having to spend any of your homestead budgets. There are a ton of ways to repurpose materials to reduce waste and save some money.
If you buy seedlings, reuse the containers for seed starting the next year. Or even save any plastic containers you get from the store to upcycle into seed starters (think yogurt containers, milk cartons, etc.).
We saved old cedar railing pickets and used them to build a decorative privacy screen for our heat pump. We used the old retaining wall blocks from our front yard to make pathways around the new terraced garden. And we constantly repurpose wood offcuts or burn unusable pieces as firewood in the winter.
16. Create A Pollinator Garden
The more pollinators you can bring to your property, the better for your vegetable garden. Pollinators mean less work for you and more fruit. It also attracts beneficial insects to help fight off unwanted pests and diseases.
So plant a variety of colorful plants to attract bees, butterflies, birds, and more to help pollinate your garden all season.
17. Propagate Plants
Many types of plants can propagate by taking cuttings from larger healthy plants. It’s a great way to not have to start new plants from seed. And it means more plants for free!
A lot of herbs can actually be propagated in water like basil and rosemary. We take cuttings of these herbs, put them in a glass of water, set them in a sunny window, and let them grow roots for a few weeks. Then transfer them to some soil and you have a whole new seedling.
18. Save Seeds
Saving seeds from the vegetables you already purchased or were given means you won’t have to pay for them again. It takes just a little work to keep having free fruit and veggie plants in the future. Saving seeds works with most plants if you let them flower or go bolt.
Always try to save seeds from the plants that grow and produce the best in your garden. These seeds that did better will typically produce better and larger plants the next growing season. So save the seeds from the most delicious big tomato or squash and save the larger garlic bulbs to get more large garlic next time.
There are so many other ways to homestead in the suburbs or urban areas that we don’t do yet. Here are a few bonus beginner homesteading ideas!
- Keep Chickens for Eggs
- Keep Bees
- Care for Rabbits (Poop = great garden fertilizers)
- Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
- Make Your Own Butter
- Make Your Own Cheese
- Make Your Own Pasta
- Grow Mushrooms
- Grow Microgreens
- Grow Tea Plants
Beginner Homesteading Tips
As “beginner homesteaders” ourselves, we’ve learned a lot, and here are some of our beginner homesteading tips and lessons.
Make A Project List & Prioritize
With homesteading, there are hundreds of possible projects and ideas you can try. That said, you won’t be able to or need to do it all at once, so don’t stress yourself out. Make a list of homesteading projects and skills you want to learn. Then prioritize and put a loose deadline on them.
Setting up a homesteading lifestyle is a journey and process of slowly adding things/doing projects as time allows and can be afforded. You have to start somewhere and likely aren’t going to be able to afford to do everything at once.
We always have an endless list of DIY projects we want to do, but prioritizing what needs to happen and by when helps us keep running smoothly without too much stress.
Start Small & Slow
I’ll be honest, I jumped into a lot at first. Some were successful and some were a flop, especially in the garden. Focus on a few small ideas and master those skills before starting something new or scaling up. Start small and make adjustments as needed
- Purchase seedlings the first year instead of starting from seed
- Grow only a few vegetables/fruit, master those, and grow new ones the following year
- Start with a few chickens instead of a full flock
- Update a few home items for energy-efficiency and slowly add each year
- Be realistic with your project timelines and don’t stress if it takes months to complete
Know Your Space & Growing Season
With growing food being one of the cornerstones of homesteading, you need to know your “land” and know your growing season.
Knowing your “land” aka the space you have for growing food is important. This can be in-ground planting, raised beds, and even patio containers. You need to understand how much sun the space receives, the health of the soil, water needs, and more to grow in abundance. It takes time to know your growing space intimately and reap the full benefits it can provide.
Knowing your growing season is part of that as well. In some climates, you can grow most months of the year, while in others it’s more limited. Make sure to look up your plant hardiness zone and it’ll give you a reference of the area’s approximate growing season timeline and what might grow best there. For example, in our area, we hover between Zone 6b and 6a, which means the growing season for us is from late March to late October. Also consider microclimate conditions that can occur in areas, especially urban zones where wind and heat might be intensified.
Always Keep Learning
All I can say is always keep learning, especially in the winter when maybe you have a little free time. You can absorb so much more details and learn new skills simply by seeking out knowledge and information.
- Read books borrowed from the library or a friend
- Watch Youtube videos and tutorials
- Find a blog (like this one!) to follow
- Pinterest is a visual search engine full of abundant resources
- Simply try trial and error and take note of what works
Do What Brings You Joy
I’m all for trying things one time to see if it works for us. But, if I didn’t enjoy it or find out I”m not going to use it, then I’m not going to do it again. So take my homesteading tip and do what works for your family and what brings you joy. It’s not an all-or-nothing situation!
Connect With Others
This is how I’ve learned and taught myself most of my “homesteading skills” this year. I find resources by connecting with others.
- Find a gardener or homesteader on social media to follow
- It helps if they live in the same growing zone as you for garden-related learning.
- Find a local gardening or homesteading group to join
- Find a mentor to help you along the journey
Embrace Failure & Look For Positives
Whenever you’re learning a new skill, there are bound to be some failures. It’s part of the learning cycle and is an opportunity to adjust for future success. I definitely had some gardening failures this year, but I also had a lot of firsts and positives. Focus on the positives of what grew, what you learned, and how far you’ve come with your homestead!
More Sustainable Living Ideas & DIY Projects
I hope you’ve made it this far and are super excited to begin homesteading as a way to live more sustainably. It’s a journey and we’ve loved to see what it brings each year. Make sure to check out some of our Sustainable Living posts as well as our ever-growing DIY project How-Tos and ideas.
Hope these beginner homesteading ideas and tips help you start your homestead journey! Let us know what you do to homestead and live more sustainably in the comments below!
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