Skip to main content

Starting a small homestead: What you need to know

When you think of homesteading, you may be envisioning the idyllic lifestyles portrayed in the video game “Stardew Valley” or in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. These examples showcase a slower pace of life as characters learn how to live without modern luxuries. So, what is homesteading? At the core of homesteading is the desire to be self-sufficient, which can mean everything from growing your own food to making your own tools. Today, many homesteaders also show their love for nature by embracing sustainable alternatives to mass-produced convenience.

Curious about what homesteading entails? Ahead, we break down what it means today and offer tips on how to start a homestead — no matter where you live.

Farm homestead
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Defining homesteading

Broadly speaking, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. Homesteaders commit to providing for themselves as much as possible. In the more devoted versions of homesteading, people don’t even use money and instead resort to creating and bartering goods. With that said, you can practice the homestead lifestyle even when you live in a suburban or urban area! You don’t have to step aside from a modern life altogether — committing to small acts of self-sufficiency counts. However you practice homesteading, you ultimately learn how to be more creative and curious with your available resources.

Starting a small homestead

If you have some backyard space or land, starting a small homestead may mean picking out some hens and setting up raised beds for vegetables. While not everyone has access to land to raise livestock or grow lots of vegetables, you can definitely still practice homesteading no matter where you live. Below, we’ve gathered a few ways in which you can start your very own small homestead.

A person in a blue shirt holding a brown basket full of assorted vegetables, including carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and lettuce
Tatevosian Yana / Shutterstock

Growing your own food

Growing fresh fruits and veggies is an excellent first step for homesteading. You can easily start with just some garden soil and heirloom seeds. Apartment dwellers may prefer smaller kitchen herbs and microgreens in containers, while those with space may opt for fruit trees and raised beds in their backyard. When you grow your own food, you’ll know exactly what went into it, and it’ll taste great as well!

Preserving your food

There are so many different ways to preserve the flavors of your delicious harvest for the long haul. Freezing and canning are some of the easiest ways to get started with preserving your fruits, veggies, and meats. Other means of food preservation include dehydrating, pickling, smoking, fermenting, and more. When you don’t want to create food from scratch, your preserved goods will go great with grains such as oatmeal, rice, and bread for a filling meal.

Developing your crafting skills

Instead of buying new clothes or home goods, consider learning how to work with textiles. Some homesteaders will learn how to spin cloth and weave baskets. If you want to start small, pick up the basics of crafts such as knitting, sewing, and crocheting to get into the habit of making small things from scratch.

hands holding compost
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Creating compost

Get creative with food scraps by composting them to make nutrient-rich soil — nut shells, eggshells, fruit peels, and coffee grounds all make for good compost. The act of composting cuts down waste that would otherwise sit in landfills, and there are many different ways to go about it. You can use a tumbler, keep a worm bin, or add scraps directly to your soil.

Using renewable energy on the homestead

Some typical sources for energy on a homestead include solar, geothermal, wind, wood, and water power. Many committed homesteaders use an off-grid system, which means that they rely on energy (most often solar) stored in batteries at their home base. This way, homesteaders can also save on electricity bills and be more eco-friendly! Without sufficient battery or energy storage, the downfall with an off-grid solar system is limited to no electricity under cloudy, nighttime, and stormy conditions. Make sure to research the best batteries for your homestead so that you always have running electricity!

overflowing rain barrel in a garden
Anton Dios / Shutterstock

Understanding the environmental impact of homesteading

The homesteading lifestyle can help leave a smaller carbon footprint on the environment. Food grown at home, for example, cuts down on transportation — you no longer have to go to the store, where your produce may have already had a long journey from a farm. If you grow your own food, you’ll also have the opportunity to use eco-friendly organic fertilizers and natural pest deterrents.

Homesteaders often waste less while producing more when they reuse and renew available resources to develop creative solutions. While growing crops, many homesteaders collect rainwater for future use, which helps conserve water. And as we mentioned before, many homesteaders take advantage of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Homesteading can be an intimidating but rewarding endeavor. From growing your own food to creating your own clothes, your efforts to start a small homestead will push you to not only be more creative but also more eco-friendly. As you research this lifestyle, you’ll discover many different ways to be more self-sufficient, no matter if you live on a spacious farm or in a studio apartment.

Editors' Recommendations

Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
From mini Christmas trees to ivy wreaths, here are the best small holiday season foliage picks
Great small-space alternatives to Christmas trees
Frosty fern

Sure, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is the epitome of holly jolly winter foliage, but large Christmas trees don’t need to be the sole focus during the holidays. There are plenty of different ways to incorporate greenery into your December festivities that don’t involve lugging home a 6-foot-tall commitment that sheds all month long. We're here to reassure you that a small Christmas tree is still absolutely suitable for channeling the holiday cheer.

If you live in a modest space or don’t want to budget out money for a tree, you can certainly tap into the Christmas spirit with a small tree or potted indoor plant. Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite plants that work as mini Christmas trees for when it's time to deck the halls!

Read more
Get festive with these houseplant “holidadecoration” ideas
Give your indoor jungle a jolly makeover this Christmas
A small potted pine tree wrapped in Christmas decorations next to a tiny snowman figurine

As you decorate for the holidays, don't forget your plants! Incorporating your houseplants into your holiday celebrations and decor is a great way to brighten up your home. Christmas may be one of the most common holidays for decorations, so don't forget that plants can be useful for other holiday festivities as well. No matter what you're celebrating this winter season, this guide has something for everyone! For tips on how to make your plants festive for the holiday season, follow this simple guide to houseplant holiday decorations.

Add ornaments and lights to your houseplants
Here’s a simple holiday plant idea: Furnish your houseplants with ornaments, tinsel, and string lights. If you’re doing this in lieu of a Christmas tree, it’ll very likely be much cheaper than furnishing a 6-foot-tall tree, as you can buy most of the mini decorations at your local dollar store! Money trees, corn plants, and rubber trees are just a few houseplants with strong central stems that can handle minor weight from lights and ornaments. If you want to avoid placing anything onto your plants, create holiday stakes with cut-out Santas, snowflakes, ornaments, and more.

Read more
These food waste apps will help you save money – and the planet
Try these apps to help reduce food waste and save the environment
Fresh vegetables with a knife on a wooden surface

According to, 40% of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted. That means nearly half of all food in the U.S. ends up in a landfill instead of being eaten. It's even more devastating to consider when there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who struggle to bring enough food home to feed their families. While these numbers may feel overwhelming, there are now apps aimed at reducing the amount of waste and redistributing it to those in need. Whether you're hoping to reduce your own food waste by passing your excess on to your neighbors or looking to pick up a grocery store's surplus, these food waste apps will be a big help to you and the environment. 

The best food waste apps
There are several food waste apps out there now, and not all do the same thing. Some are on the consumer end and offer reduced prices on overstocked food items. This means buying items that will soon be out of date or food that restaurants would throw out. Others focus on getting food to those in need, whether that's through monetary or food donations. These apps are a fantastic way for almost anyone to make a difference.

Read more