18 Things You Should Stop Buying and Start Making

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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.

1. Bread

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.

Dandelion and elderberry wine, and some hard cider

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 weed into something really amazing.

3. Cheese

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:

6. Dips

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:

7. Broth

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 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.

11. Candles

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:

12. Mushrooms

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 online, 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:

14. Compost

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?

compost pile

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 cooker, 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 cooker, 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:

17. Herbs

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:

18. 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.  

Parting Thoughts

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!

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About Tom Harkins 26 Articles
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.

4 Comments

  1. Honestly I don’t think paper towels/napkins are worth considering and cheese is not worth making since I don’t eat a lot of it, personally I’d rather make my own omelette with fresh organic eggs every morning by owning a few chickens.

    The rest of the list is great, I never considered a lot of those things. 🙂

  2. Havent done Only the worms, candles,maple
    syrup, nut butters (I do roast raw ones) do havssemente the wine kit, my son makes beer in his basement. Thanks, Ifully agree and iI haven’t even started to get my homestead purchased and started. I’m on 11 acres but it’s not a good location for it, I’m trying to sell and relicate
    though, just not peanuts as they are highly pesticides and I’m not wild about the taste),

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