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20+ Urban Homesteading Skills to Learn: Start Where You Are NOW

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Self sufficient living is no longer limited to a 160 acre tract of homestead land; you can learn and embrace many homesteading skills even if you live in the heart of the city!

brown and green eggs in a wire basket

There are a whole lot of things in our modern world to be discontent with, but where you live? That doesn’t have to be one of them. Sure, you might dream of a bigger place, but there’s no reason that you can’t embrace some traditional self sufficient living skills right where you are.

Start slow, start now. It’s a process. You can tackle just about any of these homesteading skills from your apartment, urban dwelling, or suburban plot for more self sufficient living.

Homesteading skills for self sufficient living

While I grew up on a small farm, I’ve lived in a condominium and in a number of urban homes over the years. Even when I lived in the condo with a 12′ x 12′ backyard (mostly concrete), I managed to grow some edibles. Not a ton, mind you, but some.

When I lived in a subdivision, my pantry was overflowing with canned goods made from locally sourced produce. It is possible to adopt a homesteadish lifestyle without having a perfect homesteading location!

homemade chicken stock (bone broth) in a white, two-handled cup on a wood background

1. Learn to cook at home

If you’re unsure about cooking from scratch and don’t know anyone who can guide you, you might have to dig in and teach yourself. But cooking at home is bar none, the best homesteading skill you can have.

2. Make broth

Embracing the idea of using ingredients to the fullest, making bone broth (also called stock) is easy and good for you. You don’t need those boxes of broth from the store. Roast a whole chicken and extend that goodness by making broth.

3. Bake bread

Is there anything better than a crusty loaf of French bread to go with your home-cooked meal? Yes, yes there is: Crusty French bread fresh out of the oven. Self sufficient living at its best!

4. Learn how to cut up a whole chicken

If you’re buying chicken, it’s way less expensive to cut up a whole chicken than to buy just the pieces you like. And if you ever butcher your own chickens, that’s the only way they come.

blueberry jam in a canning jar with croissants in the background

5. Make jam and jelly at home

Most store bought jam and jelly contains high fructose corn syrup. Make it at home and you can choose fresh organic ingredients, and even use less sugar. This is one of the easiest homesteading skills to tackle, and canning jam and jelly is a great introduction to the art of canning food.

jams and jelly in glass jars on a white ladder -- romantic setting

6. Learn about home preservation

When it comes to homesteading skills you can tackle — even if you live in the city — canning is right at the top of the list. Even if you’re not growing your own food, you can seek out local produce and learn how to turn that goodness into a fully stocked pantry.

You can turn tomatoes into salsa or chutney with a simple water bath canning method. For low-acid produce like green beans, you’ll need to delve into pressure canning. If you’re really new to this, you’ll need a primer on how canning jars work.

bean sprouts growing in a glass jar

7. Grow your own sprouts

Growing your own sprouts is economical, fast, and better for the environment.When you know how to sprout mung beans you’ll be able to sprout a variety of different beans, all winter long. They are crunchy, nutritious, and rich in antioxidants. Microgreens are a bit different than sprouts and another way to grow some salad fixings.

8. Make cheese

Of course, since you probably don’t have a cow yet, you’ll have to find milk from a local farmer or use what you have available at your supermarket, but making cheese is one of those totally doable homesteading skills that you can tackle in your kitchen.

9. Make yogurt

Those little yogurt cups? What a waste they are. Especially when you can easily make a batch at home. If you don’t want to send your kids to school with glass, these containers are a great reusable option.

bread dough rising in a silver bowl as an example of homesteading skills

10. Learn to use sourdough starter

Once you’ve got a healthy sourdough starter thriving, you can use it in making bread, pancakes, pizza dough, and so much more. If you care for your starter, it will live with you for years. You should totally name it.

tomatoes growing in containers in an urban homestead backyard

11. Grow food in containers

If you have a balcony, you can turn that area into a growing space! Many small space gardeners have been growing in containers with lots of success. Try growing in hanging containers, too, to make the most of your space. If you’ve got an outdoor patio or driveway, don’t discount those as places to set up a container garden. As long as

12. Compost under your sink

There are two good methods for composting with limited space: Vermicomposting with worms and and using a bokashi system. If done properly, neither of them will emit rank odors, so they’re excellent for self-sufficient city dwellers.

13. Learn to forage in your backyard

You probably walk past edible wild food every single day and don’t know it. Why not learn what’s wild foods are growing in your neighborhood and how to use them? Commercial laundry detergent contains some harsh chemicals. And then there’s the packaging. You can make your own using simple ingredients that are gentler on the environment and eliminate skin rashes for people with tender skin.

seedling

16. Planting seeds is a great start to self sufficient living

If you’ve never planted a garden, it’s possible that you’ve never planted a seed at all. Time to learn! Even if you don’t have garden space, you can tuck some seeds into a planter on the windowsill. By saving seeds from your heirloom or open-pollinated veggie plants, you can keep the growing cycle going. No need to spend money on new seeds every year!

radish seed pods

17. Know how to store dry goods

One of the tenets of back-to-basics cooking is cooking from scratch with simple ingredients like flour, dry beans, and grains. If you don’t store them properly, though, they can go bad.

sliced bananas in a dehydrator

18. Dehydrate

A dehydrator is simple to operate. If you can slice things, you can dehydrate things. I use an Excalibur dehydrator, but you can also use a low oven to preserve local produce.

Here’s how I dry bananas.

19. Build a rocket stove

Even if you have a tiny backyard you can put together this easy rocket stove and spend some time under the night sky. (You can see a different style rocket stove here.)

20. Learn to make booze

Fermenting foods is gaining in popularity, but did you know you can also ferment your own booze? Not the hard liquor kind, but check out this recipe for homemade mead.

21. Dry laundry when the power is out

Sure, you know how to hang a brassiere so it doesn’t get all wonky in the dryer. But learning how to hang clothes to dry (it’s not hard) is good practice for homestead living and will help you lower your energy bill.

Quail cage inside a home - the ultimate in self-sufficient city living

22. Raise quail

Sound crazy? Maybe. But quail are small. People even raise them inside their homes. They don’t take much space, making them the perfect egg-laying bird for urban and suburban homestead living, leading to a more self sufficient lifestyle even in the city.

23. Make soap

Can you imagine not buying soap? I mean, we’ve always bought soap! (I have vague memories of a rock hard bar of lye soap at my grandma’s, but that was an anomaly.)

Turns out, it’s a self sufficient living skill we can all learn at home. Again with the saving money!

24. Sew on a button

It’s one of the simplest homesteading skills, but one that not many people tackle these days. Instead of tossing out that pair of pants when you bust a button, learn to sew it back on!

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

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