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9 Quick Steps to Start a Modern Homestead Today: A Practical Guide for Beginners

Many people are looking to move back to the old ways of our ancestors, what I call “living a homestead life.” This means reassessing what is most important, cutting out the junk, slowing down, and becoming more mindful about how we spend our time and what we bring into our homes. But I don’t want to go back to the old ways. I want to do it better with a modern homestead.

mama in kitchen with baby on her hip

Do you long to live a simpler life, but you are already overwhelmed by the thought of becoming a homesteader?

Do you want to enhance your city life and create your own urban homestead, but aren’t sure of your next step?

Perhaps you don’t even think the homestead lifestyle is for you, but want to supplement your modern lifestyle with basic homesteading principles.

Most of us did not grow up learning basic homesteading skills like cooking from scratch, gardening, and self-sufficiency. Learning new skills as an adult can be hard work, but incredibly rewarding.

In this post, I want to help you become a homesteader in nine simple steps, breaking down the practical steps one-by-one to build your confidence and knowledge.

What is homesteading, anyways?

a real homestead

Wikipedia (an obviously reliable source) defines homesteading as “a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture (read: Backyard gardening), home preservation of food, and may also involve the small-scale production of textiles, clothing, and craft work for household use or sale.”

Wait, so you don’t need a farm to homestead?

Nope! That’s right. You don’t need a farm, tract of land, animals, or any prior knowledge on how to cook, clean, preserve or become self-sufficient in order to become a homesteader.

You don’t even need to own your own house! I practice homesteading principles from my small rental home on a military base.

Modern homesteading does not have to be all or nothing. At The Homestead Challenge, I am constantly looking for small ways to incorporate homesteading principles into my everyday routines. You can pick and choose the skills you want to learn to customize your modern homestead to fit your busy life.

I polled my Instagram followers and asked, “What intimidates you most about living a homestead life,” and here are the results:

What Intimidates you most about homesteading?
The money it costs to start 28%
The amount of time it takes 28%
The amount of things there are to learn 44%

I agree, there is so much to learn. The good news is, you do not have to learn all these things overnight. Heck, you don’t have to learn all these things at all! Choose what is most important to you.

The only way to become a homesteader is to get started, even if you fumble along the way.

You should know, homesteading is not easy. But it is simple. These challenges might take some effort, but anyone can do them, regardless of how much space, time, or money you have.

Trust me. If I can learn these things, you can too! Learn more about my journey to homesteading by visiting my About page.

9 Simple Steps to Begin Your Homestead Journey Right Now

Click each link to jump to that specific section.

  1. Start your sourdough starter now!
  2. Grow something
  3. Compost
  4. Source food locally
  5. Meal Plan
  6. Preserve food
  7. Make something!
  8. Practice self-sufficiency and sustainability
  9. Learn!

I hope these nine steps will help you find your own groove to homestead the way you want, at the pace that is manageable and sustainable for your lifestyle.

Join The Homestead Challenge for more Beginner Homesteading Inspiration!

1. Start your sourdough starter now

easy sourdough starter for beginners

Let’s be clear. You definitely do not need a sourdough starter to be a homesteader. I have nothing against packaged yeast.

Creating a starter will help build your momentum to launch you forward on your homesteading journey. It is something that makes people nervous, but it’s really not bad! It is the first thing I recommend.

So many people feel intimidated by sourdough. I am telling you, it is just flour and water! That is it. Go make your sourdough starter right now.

Please. It’s okay. Stop reading and do it (but come back when you’re done).

If you already have a sourdough starter, go give her some love. Feed her. Perhaps change her out of that crusty jar into a fresh one (IYKYK).

This is one small hurdle that can change your mindset. Maybe these homestead projects do not have to be so daunting after all.

2. Grow something on your homestead

urban homestead garden

Gardening is a ton of work and there is so much to learn. I honestly feel overwhelmed by this on a weekly basis. But you don’t need to go all out!

The point of homesteading is to slow down and live a more sustainable and manageable lifestyle. You do not need to master every single skill immediately.

If you have never grown anything a day in your life (aka me last year), I actually beg you to not go all in! Start small.

You can regrow food that you buy at the grocery store. Cut down those green onions and put them in some water to re-grow. Imagine how fancy your next dish will look with fresh-grown green onions chopped to garnish the top.

Buy some herbs to have on your windowsill. It is so inspiring to add a fresh sprig of rosemary or thyme to your dish. You will feel like a culinary genius, and this requires little effort. Let’s be honest here though… I have killed many windowsill plants.

When you feel absolutely ready, you can start your own backyard vegetable garden. First, you need to learn your growing zone and know what is best for each growing season. Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map to get started.

Then, you can decide if you want to plant from seed (the cheapest option) or buy plant starts (less likely to die).

In addition to the vegetable garden, many people overlook fruit trees and bushes, but these can be a great low-maintenance source of food that will regrow on their own, year after year.

If you feel inspired to start gardening, you can check out my Garden Planner printable and see how I garden on my own tiny urban homestead.

3. Compost

Composting is a way to recycle organic matter from your lawn and food waste and turn it into a fertilizer you can use to enrich the soil in your garden.

Composting is the best way to put your waste to good use, reducing waste, adding nutrients to your garden, and saving you money.

It is okay if you do not understand all of the science behind composting. There are many ways to go about it, but the three easiest ways to compost at home are a compost turner, a compost pile, and vermiculture.

There is not a huge learning curve with composting. Simply learn what you are able to compost at home, and balance your “browns” and “greens.” If you stop paying attention for a long time (speaking from experience), you can simply rebalance the pile. You really cannot screw this one up.

  1. Compost turners are not the cheapest route, but they are so easy to use! Simply add your scraps and wait.
  2. Compost piles are the cheapest way to compost at home. You literally put your scraps in a pile. Unlike compost turners, you physically have to turn the pile yourself with a shovel or a rake.
  3. Vermiculture is using earthworms to speed up your composting process. This is by far the most efficient way to compost at home so you will never have to pay for compost again (but worms are obviously not for everyone).

4. Source food locally

shopping for local dairy

Don’t homesteaders have to grow all of their own food and be fully self-sufficient?

No. Many people do not have the time or desire to be fully self-sufficient. For the things we do not grow or raise ourselves, we can find the best local sources to rely on.

Homesteading can take a village. Find the people around you who are using best practices in sustainable farming and use them to build a community in order to reach your homesteading goals.

Shopping at farmers’ markets, joining a CSA, and meeting local farmers will immerse you in your local homesteading community, adding a village to rely upon and contacts for future homesteading needs.

I also have a blog post on learning how to find the best food staples in your area (meat, dairy, and of course, beer!).

5. Meal Plan

homestead challenge meal planning

A large part of moving to a homesteading mindset is planning in advance and frugality. Meal planning can help you make a huge difference in how you think about grocery shopping, bulk buying, and saving money.

I see many people recommend meal planning for one week at a time. While this is a great idea to help eat out less and cook more, it will not make as big of a difference as monthly meal planning.

Check out this free guide on how to meal plan for an entire month or download the meal planner below! Shopping this way can create huge strides in learning to use the same ingredients in creative ways.

text "subscribe to download your free 2024 meal planner"

6. Preserve food

homestead challenge ferment

Food preservation is another daunting homesteading task. Dare I say, canning might not even be everyone’s jam (teehee).

There are several tiers of food preservation. You decide on your own what works best for your family. Starting to learn about how to best store food for the long term and freezing your own bulk finds can actually be a huge step in increasing your self-reliance.

Here are my picks for the best books on canning and preserving to get you started.

Click the links below to learn more about each food preservation method from my favorite industry experts on YouTube.

You can also preserve your herbs from the garden by drying them or learning fresh preservation methods so you have herbs year-round!

If you want to buy in bulk to save money (and use less packaging), you must learn how to preserve that food.

7. Make something from scratch

Once you start cooking from scratch, you will probably fall down the rabbit hole of clean vs. toxic ingredients. Soon you will want to make all of your own soap, candles, and cleaning supplies using herbs, essential oils, and common household ingredients.

Do not throw away everything you own overnight. Slowly replace household items as you run out.

The easiest household item to make is a simple household cleaner. Visit my post on three simple cleaning supply recipes using ingredients you already have around your house to get started!

making cleaners at home

Trying your hand at bath products can be frustrating at first. I recommend you start with simple oils and salves. I tried making homemade bath bombs and it involved many tears and even a little fire.

Sewing intimidates me more than any other facet of homesteading. I love the idea of repairing clothing and other fabric items. By renewing items through repairs and alterations, you can save money and become more sustainable on your homestead.

Herbalism is beginning to become more popular as preventative medicine from home becomes less taboo. Creating teas and tinctures to have on hand when mild symptoms arise is an empowering step toward sustainability. Herbalism does require extensive knowledge, so please contact your medical practitioner before beginning any type of herbal medicine.

Remember, you do not need to learn all of these skills in one day. Choose what seems the most fun to you and start there. Little by little, you will master the skills of our ancestors on your own modern homestead.

8. Practice self-sufficiency and sustainability

filter water at home

You may hear buzzwords like sustainability and self-sufficiency from your favorite homesteading Instagrammers and YouTube channels, but what do they even mean?

The Dictionary defines being self-sufficient as, “needing no outside help in satisfying one’s basic needs, especially with regard to the production of food.” 

I appreciate this definition, but I think that asking for absolutely no outside help is not a reasonable goal or desire for many of us. I prefer to look at self-sufficiency as living a sustainable lifestyle.

According to the United Nations, “Sustainable living means understanding how our lifestyle choices impact the world around us and finding ways for everyone to live better and lighter.” Sustainable living can also mean reassessing your priorities to avoid burnout and live a rich life that reflects your personal goals and values.

There are so many ways to practice these principles. A few examples to research are: prepping, long-term food storage, water saving, reducing and reusing, sustainable farming practices, composting, rainwater collection, and a frugal lifestyle.

I reviewed the Alexapure water filter (as shown above) if you’re interested in learning more.

9. Homesteading is committing to lifelong learning

If you haven’t already guessed it, I am no homesteading expert. I am just a typical Millennial American mom trying to learn new skills. Even the most experienced homesteaders admit they do not know everything.

The beauty of it is… you do not have to know everything.

Hopefully one of these challenges will ignite a fire within you to start your journey. Different people find joy in different things, and homesteading is no different. Once you find something that interests you the most, go with it!

If you want to spend less time online, there are also so many great books, blogs, and podcasts to get you started. There is also something so cozy about slowing down with a good book and a notepad to start creating your dream homesteading life from scratch.

Check out the Best Beginner Homesteading Blogs to Follow in order to get started on your journey!

No time to read? I also compiled the very Best Homesteading Podcasts so you can listen on the go!

BONUS TIP: Raise Animals

Notice I haven’t mentioned raising animals. For me, making the shift to homesteading gradually has meant a steep learning curve, a bit of frustration, and definitely some anger around the giant pile of never-ending dishes (it’s all totally worth it though!).

Adding more living beings to my life does not seem plausible at the moment for me, but if you feel ready PLEASE GO FOR IT! Raising animals for eggs, dairy, or meat can make a massive difference in your reliance on grocery stores and in your bank account.

Quality meat is very expensive. Raising your own meat will add immeasurable rich nutrients to your family’s diet. From meat rabbits on your patio to backyard chickens, there are many easy options that do not cost a lot of money to start. Just be sure you are ready.

I hope that these 9 homesteading challenges do not overwhelm you. My hope is to create a step-by-step process of learning these basic skills at your own pace.

Whether you dream to be a weekend homesteader or a full-blown farmer, I would love for you to join the Homestead Challenge where we learn to live a simpler, fuller life of greater self-sufficiency.

Start Your Modern Homestead Today!

In conclusion, starting a modern homestead can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. By following these nine steps, you can lay the groundwork for a successful homestead that provides you with fresh, healthy food and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Remember to take things one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice when you need it (contact me below!). With patience, persistence, and a willingness to learn, you can create a thriving homestead that meets your needs and enhances your quality of life. So why not start your homesteading journey today? Good luck and happy homesteading!

If you want to learn more about my views on Modern Homesteading and why I DON’T want to go back to the “olden ways,” check out this interview below!

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pin with sourdough starter and water filter

About the Author:

I’m Brittany, totally modern and mainstream turned crunchy mama!

Read more here about how I went from a totally incompetent cook and hyper-consumer to striving to live a more meaningful life from scratch.

I can’t wait to share my modern homesteading journey with you and I hope I inspire you to join along!

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6 Comments

  1. These are fantastic tips! We live in an urban area and have been trying our hand at a bit of urban homesteading in between full time jobs and fixer upper renos. My most favorite – composting and my worm babies! Oh, and you just reminded me that my mother-in-law gave me a hunk of her sourdough starter to start using and I think I need to feed it here soon! ☺️

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