If you can make it yourself, you probably should.
Most people become homesteaders because they want to live a more deliberate, self-reliant life. One of the best ways to become more independent – financially, and from supply chains that could get disrupted unexpectedly, and add things to products that you do not want – is to stop buying easy-to-make products, and start making them on your own.
Doing so will help you achieve greater satisfaction on your homestead. You’ll reduce your reliance on external suppliers, and have greater control over the quality of the final product. You’ll also save money, too.
Here are 18 things you should stop buying and start making on your homestead.
There are few things better than a loaf of fresh baked bread. And if you’re a homesteader, you should think about making your own bread, and foregoing that trip to the supermarket or bakery.
Breads, especially fresh-baked varieties, can be expensive and don’t last long. If you learn how to make bread in your own kitchen, your family can enjoy it while you save a little bit of money at the same time.
Once you practice a bit and get the skills required to make your own bread, there’s really no reason not to bake a loaf each day as part of your normal routine.
It is great to put the grains you grow on your homestead to good use, and make basic staples with them that you need every single day. And even if you don’t grow your own grains, no worries; they are cheap to buy in bulk, and can be stored for several months.
You can also forage for items that can be turned into flour as well, like acorns. So start making and enjoying fresh bread on your homestead.
Watch this video to see how easy it is to bake you very own specialty breads:
2. Beer and Wine
As soon as you have a chance, you should learn how to make your own beer and wine. Doing so will ensure you have a healthy supply of “the good stuff” on hand come rain or shine.
Home brewing will also help you transform some of the bulk fruits, berries and grains you produce, and might otherwise have no good use for, into unique alcoholic beverages you cannot find anywhere else.
You’ll save money brewing your own beer and wine, too.
PHOTO: Dandelion and elderberry wine, and some hard cider, fermenting in the homestead’s basement.
You can purchase a basic beer and wine making kit at your local home brewing store, or find one online. There are some terrific books on home brewing that are worth looking at as well.
Once you have the equipment and a bit of knowledge, you can start making your own wines, beers and ciders right at home.
You’ll get tremendous satisfaction from making alcohol out of the items your homestead produces; you might even consider brewing up a gallon or two of dandelion wine this spring, and turning an underappreciated plant into something really amazing.
What are you going to do with all of that goat milk? Even a little Nigerian dwarf goat will produce a quart or more of milk each day. You’ll never drink it all yourself, that’s for sure.
So how about making cheese? Cheese is relatively easy to make; if you’re making it yourself, you can also produce unique varieties that are difficult to find in stores.
Cheese can also be quite expensive, so producing your own will help save money on your grocery bill as well.
Your family will appreciate having those blocks of hard cheese to snack on; homemade cheese is also an item that can make your homestead money too, if you decide to sell it at farmers markets.
Here is a great video discussing how to make your own cheddar cheese at home:
4. Peanut Butter
Almost everyone has a jar of peanut butter in their pantry. Peanut butter is, after all a popular sandwich and snack item. However, peanut butter is expensive, and often comes packed with unwanted ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup.
You can avoid those ingredients, and save some money on groceries, if you just make your own peanut butter.
If you grow peanuts, or otherwise have access to a large supply of them from a neighbor or a discount superstore, there is really no reason you should ever buy another jar of peanut butter ever again.
To prepare two cups (about an average jar’s worth) of peanut butter, you just need one pound of shelled peanuts, 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
Add the nuts to a pot of boiling water, and boil them for one minute. Strain the nuts, place them on a baking pan, and bake them in your oven at 350 degrees.
Remove them from the oven, remove any remaining skins from the nuts, and then place them in your food processor.
Process them for about a minute or so, until the nuts are ground down, then slowly add in the oil and salt. Keep processing until the peanut butter is at the desired consistency, then you’re ready to serve it!
Here is a great video which shows how to make homemade peanut butter:
5. Salad Dressing
Like peanut butter, salad dressing is another grocery list staple that is expensive, and can just as easily be made on the homestead. Many salad dressings have also additives and preservatives in them, so making your own helps you avoid those unwanted ingredients as well.
Popular salad dressings, such as Italian, various vinaigrettes, or ranch are easy to make at home, too, so there really is no reason to pay top dollar for them.
If you’re a homesteader, you can also experiment with items you have on hand to make unique salad dressings of your very own.
For example, the leftover juice from your dilled carrots may help make a delicious saladdressing; just mix it with a few teaspoons of virgin olive oil.
Or throw one of your homemade pickles into the food processor, along with some vinegar and yogurt, and you’ll have a delicious topping for your farm raised kales and lettuce.
Whatever you decide to do, making your own dressing will help you prepare delicious salads, and save money while doing it.
Here is a great video that demonstrates how to make your own buttermilk ranch dressing:
Dips are yet another item consumers pay a premium for, while they usually have the items on hand at home to prepare right in their kitchen pantry. If you’re buying dips for your favorite snack foods, you’re paying for the convenience of having someone do the work of mixing basic food ingredients together for you.
Most dips are easy to make at home from standard ingredients. You’ll save a little money making them yourself, and they’ll often taste better if they’re homemade, too.
Hummus is a terrific example of a dip you should be making yourself. A tub of hummus can cost you four or five dollars at the grocery store, but with a few low cost ingredients – chickpeas, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, and water – you can make your own hummus for mere pennies on the dollar.
It is also easy to make great dips to serve with vegetables, or your favorite chips. Just combine a powdered onion soup mix with some sour cream for example, and you’ve got a great potato chip dip.
Here’s a video with a great step-by-step hummus recipe:
If you cook chicken, beef and vegetable dishes from time to time, you should never buy broth at the supermarket; just make it at home.
Canned broth or bouillon cubes can be expensive, and you can make it in your own kitchen, out of items you’d otherwise just throw away.
You can control the herbs and spices that go into your homemade broth, too, so it will usually end up more flavorful than anything you’d buy in a store, too.
To make your own beef or chicken broth. Place a tablespoon of olive oil at the bottom of a large pot, heat it, and then add leftover chicken or beef bones, some minced garlic, and some salt and pepper.
Sauté all of these items for several minutes, then cover with one gallon of water. Add herbs and spices according to taste.
Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, and let it simmer, stirring frequently. When you have about one quart of liquid left, remove it from heat, strain the liquid through a cheese cloth into another bowl, and then discard the bones and other ingredients. Your broth will then be ready!
Here is a great video demonstrating how to make chicken broth:
And here is another video, this time discussing how to make vegetable broth:
8. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is really expensive to buy at the supermarket; unless you’re wealthy, that bottle of maple syrup will only get pulled out on special occasions. However, if you make your own, you can ensure that you have gallons on hand to use all year long.
If you have maple trees on your homestead, you can simply tap them, collect the sap, and boil it down into syrup. If you get permission first, you can also tap your neighbors’ trees, or sugar maples on public property as well.
Maple syrup is also easy to preserve, and a great item to sell at farmers markets. It is not hard to get three or four gallons of syrup from a season from a dozen or so tapped trees.
If you have black, or sweet birch trees in your area, those can also be tapped. Sweet birch sap, though more diluted than sugar maples, makes a great table syrup as well.
Here is a great video that illustrates how to tap a maple tree and collect sap:
And here is another video, which shows how maple sap can be boiled down to maple syrup:
9. Cleaning Products
Why bother buying expensive cleaning products, when you can just make your own? Homemade vinegar-based spray cleaners work just as well as the ones you’d pay for at the supermarket; plus, they’re safer and better for the environment as well.
And if you’re brewing your own wine, you’ll also have an unlimited supply of vinegar on hand as an added bonus.
There are other items in your house that you can use to make great cleaning products, too. Most are cheaper and safer than the products you’d otherwise buy.
Add some water and lemon to that baking soda in your kitchen, and you’ve got a great oven cleaner.
Mix some of that hydrogen peroxide you use on to treat cuts and scrapes with water, and you’ve got something to tackle tile grout in the bathroom.
And all of those extra jars of goat milk in your fridge? Besides the cheeses noted earlier, they can also be turned into soap, too.
10. Paper Towels and Napkins
How much do you spend on paper products every month? Chances are it’s quite a lot. Families can go through rolls of paper towels and napkins pretty quick, and it all adds up.
If you pay to have your trash picked up, chances are paper products make up a big part of the weekly haul, too. If you want to save a little bit of money, quit buying these products, and replace them with reusable items instead.
Buy cloth napkins, and substitute them for the paper ones you usually set out on the table during meals. Throw them in the washing machine once you have accumulated enough dirty napkins, and then put them back into use again.
Similarly, save old towels, t-shirts, etc., and repurpose them as dish towels. You’ll be able to use them to wipe down surfaces or clean up messes, and then wash and reuse them again and again. This is a much more environmentally sound practice, and it can save you a little money as well.
It’s good to have candles around. You can use them to light your home if the power goes out; they also are good for lighting tinder in your fireplace. And candles are another thing you should just make yourself.
You can recycle wax from old used up candles to make new ones. And if you are a beekeeper, you can put your ready supply of beeswax to work making candles as well.
And what about candle wicks? You can buy new wicks in bulk at a craft/hobby store for your homemade candles, or you can make those on your own as well.
Here is a great video demonstrating how to make candles out of old wax:
If your hives are producing beeswax, or you can buy some from a farmers market, here is how to make beeswax candles:
And here is another video that shows you how to fashion your very own candle wicks:
Are you growing your own mushrooms? If not, you should definitely start. Most grocery stores have limited varieties of mushrooms available for sale, and they can be expensive.
If you grow your own, you’ll have a more dependable supply. Mushrooms are often in high demand at farmers markets; local restaurants are always looking for fresh supplies as well.
Another great thing about mushrooms is they can be grown in spaces on your homestead that otherwise do not serve much purpose.
Some varieties colonize piles of dead wood, and can be cultivated in forest areas that you don’t really use.
Other varieties will grow best in dark corners of your basement. So put those unused areas into production, and make gourmet mushrooms yet another item that your homestead produces!
13. Live Bait
Most homesteaders like to get out on the lakes, ponds and rivers around their homes when they can, and try their hand at fishing. It’s nice to bring home a few bass, panfish, or trout to cook for dinner every once in a while.
The next time you head out fishing, maybe you should bring your own bait along, too. Bait can be hard to find at certain times of the year, and sometimes it’s expensive; if you can produce your own supply, you’ll never have to worry about finding a store with bait in stock.
Build a worm bin, or buy one, and stock it with red wiggler worms. They multiply rapidly, and you’ll always have enough worms on hand for a fishing trip.
You can also raise mealworms, a kind of beetle larva, on your homestead as well. Mealworms and red wigglers also make great treats for your chickens and other poultry, too.
If you have a small pond on your homestead, you can stock it with minnows or shiners, and you’ll likely have an enduring supply of baitfish as well.
This video shows how to build a worm bin out of basic household items, so you can start raising your own earthworms indoors:
Here is a great video on raising meal worms:
If you intend to grow your own fruits and vegetables, you’ll have to keep your soil in top shape. Many farmers, especially those growing organically, rely on compost to enrich their soil season after season.
Compost can be expensive, however, especially if you have a large garden or orchard. And if you get it from somewhere else, you never really know what’s in it. So why don’t you just make your own?
Every homesteader should start a compost pile to turn their yard and home waste into something that can make your soil more productive.
Composting what would otherwise get tossed in the trash will save you money, too; you’ll use less garbage bags and may even be able to cut back on trash pickup services, or trips to the dump. And you’ll have a great supply of fresh compost to add to your soil whenever you need it.
15. Canned Goods
Your homestead likely produces all types of vegetables, fruits and animal products; so why should you spend you ever spend your hard-earned money buying canned goods at the grocery store? Instead, you should learn how to can everything you produce.
If you have a boiling water canner and a pressure canner, you can preserve just about all of the food you produce. You can make fruit jams, preserves, jellies, and butters, as well as pickles and sauces.
If you use a pressure canner, you can also can items like meat, or preserve soups as well. Once you learn how to safely can all of your own foods, you’ll be able to enjoy everything your homestead produces all year long.
16. Dehydrated Foods
When you head out on that next hike or camping trip, maybe you should pack your own beef jerky and dehydrated fruit slices.
Most dried foods are expensive at the store, especially if you buy them in bulk; many are loaded with unwanted additives and preservatives as well.
If you learn how to make them yourself, you can produce delicious, healthy dried foods right on your homestead, and save some money while you’re at it.
If you really enjoy these kind of foods, you should definitely purchase a dehydrator for your homestead. These little appliances are easy to use, and can help you produce dehydrated foods in large quantities.
However, you can also use most standard ovens to prepare dried foods as well. Harder fruits, like dehydrated apples and pears make terrific snacks as does spicy beef jerky.
You can also use softer fruits, such as berries, to make delicious fruit leather, too. If you produce a lot of greens like kale on your homestead, you can dehydrate those as well.
Here is a great video showing how you can use a dehydrator to make beef jerky:
Herbs are key ingredients for many important dishes, canned goods, teas, and even mixed drinks. Herbs can also be expensive at the grocery store, and their availability can be hit or miss. So grow your own.
Build an herb garden, or set aside a little space in your current growing spaces, and start growing your own herbs. You can also raise them indoors as well. Doing so will ensure that you have a fresh supply of herbs on hand for all of your favorite recipes.
Herbs are great fresh. Adding fresh-picked leaves of basil, rosemary or other herbs to your favorite recipes or dressings really imparts terrific flavor. However you don’t have to use your herbs right away; they are very easy to preserve.
You can air dry them, or use your oven or dehydrator, and preserve your herbs for later use; you can also freeze them in an ice cube tray as well.
Here is a great video that demonstrates how to preserve your home-grown herbs for later use:
Quit buying tortillas for taco night. When you’re in the mood for a tortilla, you can easily whip up a batch at home. A homemade flour tortilla is easy to make and it will taste much better than the store-bought version!
All you need is simple ingredients like salt, flour, and baking powder. You can make a big batch and freeze them if you want to have some on hand!
19. Pasta and Pizza Sauce
If you grow your own tomatoes, you probably already know how many tomatoes you will end up with in a season. So stop buying premade pasta and pizza sauces! Not only are these loaded with sugar and other preservatives, but they’re expensive, too.
Even if you don’t grow your own tomatoes, you can purchase a bushel of tomatoes at your local farmer’s market this summer for much less than you would pay during the off-season. Then bust out that canner, grab some of your favorite spices, and get going!
20. Bone Broth
If you raise your own animals for meat, then this one is a no-brainer. You can make your own bone broth by boiling down carcasses in a large stew pot.
If you don’t have the time to sit around and watch them simmer, you can even do this in a Crock Pot – no attendance required.
If you don’t raise animals for meat, you can easily pick up bones from a local farm or butcher shop – they often want to part with these for free or for pennies at most.
21. Seasoning Mixes
Do you spend hundreds of dollars a year on premade seasoning mixes at the grocery store? Are you surprised to realize that you probably spend that much? Instead of buying “taco mix,” “barbeque rubs,” and other premade seasonings at the store, make your own at home.
They’ll last forever when you put them in mason jars, and you can even make cute labels for them so that they ornate your pantry, too.
We already mentioned canned goods, but this homemade good deserves a mention all to itself.
If you have access to fresh fruit, either growing on your property or from purchasing it cheap at the farmer’s market or local orchard during the off-season, you need to start making your own jam.
Because you will be able to control the amount of sugar that is in it, you will have a much healthier product to have on hand. Plus, it makes a great gift!
23. Pancake Mix
Sure, it’s convenient to have ready-made pancake mix on hand for Saturday morning breakfast extravaganzas. But that doesn’t mean you have to rely on Jiffy to do it for you!
You can combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar to make a ready-made mix that will last for three months in the pantry – all you will need to do is add eggs and water.
Again, if you’ve got lots of tomatoes on hand and aren’t sure what to do with them, whip up a batch of salsa. It’s easy to make and will use up those garden bell peppers, onions, and jalapeno peppers, too.
25. Barbeque Sauce
Homemade barbeque sauce is surprisingly easy to make and it has way fewer preservatives in it that the store-bought stuff.
All you need is basic ingredients like ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, honey, Worcestshire sauce, and lemon juice.
You can even add hot sauce for an extra kick. It lasts forever in the refrigerator, but you can process it in a canner, too!
So you have a homestead – that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on your beauty routine! Makeup is loaded with a myriad of harmful ingredients, including triclosan, ethylene oxide, lead, phthalates, parabens, and more – these have been linked to various problems.
You can make your own eye shadow with a bit of arrowroot and natural dyes – for brown, think cocoa powder, for pink, think beet powder. If you want it to look creamier, just add a bit of shea butter.
You can even make eyeliner and mascara at home! You’ll just need beeswax, coconut oil, aloe vera gel, activated charcoal, and shea butter. You’ll look gorgeous, and your health (and wallet!) will thank you.
27. Cologne and Perfume
If you like to smell nice for that special date night out but don’t want to spend a fortune on pricy colognes and perfumes, you can make your own at home.
You’ll just need a bit of ethanol (vodka will work), some distilled water, a coffee filter, essential oils of your choosing, and some sweet almond oil (jojoba oil will also work in a pinch).
You can then brew your own mixture in some dark-colored glass bottles. It will last for practically forever!
28. Wrinkle Cream
Don’t rush to the store for your anti-aging cream. There are lots of natural anti-wrinkle remedies that not only make your skin look better, but help it to feel better, too.
You can use natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, vitamin E oil, beeswax, meadowfoam seed oil, and lavender essential oil to beautify and lighten up your skin – or you can mix a combination of these ingredients together for a pleasantly scented (and effective) cream.
Even deodorant is easy to make. The store-bought stuff is loaded with chemicals and aluminum, both of which have been tied to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Instead, make your own no-stink mixture by combining coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch. You can reuse an old antiperspirant stick and store it in the refrigerator.
Nobody wants their breath to stink – we get that. But instead of swishing with harmful chemicals (and spending all your cash in the process), consider making your own homemade mouthwash.
Simply combine some baking soda, distilled water, tea tree oil, and peppermint essential oil in a mason jar. Mix it all together, and swish whenever you feel the need.
31. Body Creams and Lotion
When winter’s dry spells have your skin screaming for hydration, know that you don’t need to have a pharmacy or beauty supply store nearby in order to get your fix.
You can save money by making your own hand creams, body creams, and lotions right at home. simply combine shea butter or cocoa butter, vitamin E oil, beeswax, coconut oil, and jojoba oil.
You can also add scents from essential oils, vanilla extracts, or other natural extracts to make them smell extra-nice.
While you may feel as though you need to rely on your favorite tube of Crest or Colgate to keep your smile minty fresh, know that you can get the same effect (and save some cash) by making your own tube of toothpaste at home.
You may need to store it in a mason jar or another small glass jar to make it easier to use, but all you will need is some coconut oil, baking soda, cinnamon or clove essential oil, and peppermint essential oil.
You can also add xylitol powder if you’d like, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have any on hand.
33. Shaving Cream
There are lots of natural ingredients you can use as a substitute for shaving cream, or you can combine several of them for an effective remedy. Consider options like coconut oil, almond paste, and shea butter to get that close, smooth shave every time.
34. Body Scrub
There are so many stores that make a killing off selling overpriced body scrubs and other bath products – which makes no sense, since you can easily make your own at home.
Combine sea salt, melted coconut oil, and a few mint leaves in a food processor. Then, add the scent of your choice by adding a few drops of essential oils. Easy as pie!
While you’ll want to experiment with this one if you have sensitive skin, many homesteaders report being able to make their own natural sunscreens.
There are certain natural ingredients, like red raspberry seed oil and carrot seed oil, that have remarkably high SPFs – up to 50 SPF in the case of red raspberry seed oil! Other good sunscreens include almond oil, coconut oil, zinc oxide, and shea butter.
36. Bug Spray
Bug sprays contain a ton of harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects, and other serious problems. So stop using them and make your own at home!
You can combine essential oils like rosemary, lavender, lemon eucalyptus, citronella, geranium, and witch hazel. You’ll also need a bit of water, some vinegar, and rubbing alcohol or vodka. That’s all you need to keep the mosquitoes andf lies away!
37. Lip Balm
Homemade lip balm is super easy to make, especially if you have the beeswax on hand that we mentioned above! You’ll just need some beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, and the essential oils of your choosing.
Then, it’s just a matter of combining them and melting them down to fit in the container of your choice.
38. Laundry Detergent and Dryer Sheets
Just as you can make your own cleaning supplies, you can also make your own detergent at home. You’ll need some hot water, borax, baking soda, washing soda, and lye. You can then add whatever essential oil you like to make your clothes smell clothes-line fresh.
And if you have an addiction to dryer sheets, you can easily make your own by using old cloth scraps, vinegar, and essential oils. You just use one cloth per load of laundry to freshen it up – and you can reuse the wipes, too.
39. Dog Treats
Everybody deserves a treat now and then, and that includes your favorite four-legged friend. Instead of running to the local pet store to buy a box of preservative-laden treats, consider making your own homemade snacks.
You can combine dog-friendly favorites like peanut butter, milk, applesauce, bacon, oats, and flour to create tasty snacks that will last seemingly forever in dry storage.
We told you earlier about how you can make your own homemade barbeque sauce – and yes, that recipe includes ketchup! You can also make your own ketchup at home. All you will need is some olive oil, garlic, onion, tomatoes, brown sugar, molasses, and apple cider vinegar.
You can add a few other spices to taste, too, like mustard powder, salt, and celery salt. Blend them until pure, and you’ve got yourself a ketchup worthy of your favorite hot dog – without all the gross preservatives and added sugar!
Even mayonnaise can be made at home. You’ll need to store this in the refrigerator, but all it takes is a large egg yolk, some Dijon mustard, vegetable oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and white pepper. Easy peasy.
42. Craft Supplies
If you have little kids, you probably already know how the craft supply expensive can add up quickly.
But you can make your own homemade stickers, sidewalk chalk, silly putty, clay, paint, crayons, and even paper at home all your own.
43. Granola Bars
Stop spending money on overpriced snack foods at the grocery store! If you’re looking for a convenient, kid-friendly snack, you can make your own granola bars by combining ingredients like brown sugar, oats, honey, nuts, vanilla, and your favorite additions (like peanut butter, coconut, or chocolate chips).
If you love fresh salads in the summer, you might find it hard to eat them without having croutons on top.
You can easily make croutons from scratch with your stale bread! They’ll last a while in a plastic bag stored in a dark location, too.
Even your favorite shampoo can be replicated at home. All you need to do is combine coconut milk, liquid Castile soap, and the essential oils of your choosing.
If your hair is especially dry, just add some olive or almond oil. Get to lathering!
46. Bonus Item: Lunch!
Economist Milton Freedman wrote a book titled There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. However, while lunch may not be free anywhere, some lunches are certainly more expensive than others.
Most homesteaders are on a tight budget, so rethinking how you enjoy your mid-day work break is worth a second look.
Eating out for lunch each day can set you back more than $80 each month. So don’t do it! Pack a homemade lunch each day on your way to work, and eat that instead.
You’ll still get to enjoy a delicious meal during your lunch break, and you’ll realize considerable savings each month, too.
If you want to be less reliant on others and save a little money while you’re at it, learn to make things yourself.
Learning how to make things you’d otherwise buy at a supermarket or big box store will give you greater satisfaction as a homesteader; chances are the things you make at home will be better than what you’d buy, too.
So what are you waiting for? Try these tips, and others, and make your homestead a little bit more independent today!
updated 07/27/2019 – Rebekah White
When Tom Harkins is not busy doing emergency repairs to his 200 year-old New England home, he tries to send all of his time gardening, home brewing, foraging, and taking care of his ever-growing flock of chickens, turkey and geese.