How to develop self reliance

16 November 2015
There used to be a time when there were no supermarkets - this was in my lifetime, few people owned a car or a phone, the only screens were at the cinema and most people knew how to cook and make general repairs and they lived their lives without much outside help. If a shoe sole was wearing out, the sole was tidied up, a leather patch was glued and tacked on, the patch was cut to suit the shape of the sole and it kept the shoes going another year. Everyone knew how to darn and mend clothes, backyard gardens and chickens were commonplace and haircuts were done at home. There were no convenience foods, few packaged products and every home had at least one person who could easily put up jam, relish, sauce and cordial, as well as store the surplus from the garden and make the daily bread and enough cake and biscuits for the family and visitors. Life was simple then.

Then it wasn't. That life started to quietly fade away in the 1960s and has been replaced by what we have now. First let me say that I love living during this time. I do not yearn for the 1920s, 40s or 60s. Life is easier now, but it's not nearly as simple and safe. We do have the luxury of choice though and many of us have chosen to modify the way we live to regain some of that lost simplicity and become more self reliant.  Those small adjustments make us more capable people and if we're going to survive during the difficult periods that no doubt will come along, we'll need some of the traditional home skills that we so quickly walked away from.

The ease we have now has been brought about by appliances that do a lot of our heavy house work in a very efficient manner, the abundance of good food, cheap shoes and clothing, a wide range of materials that were unknown earlier on and a better understanding of bacteria and viruses and how we should clean our homes. But all of it has to be paid for and often it means working longer to have the money to buy what you need and the convenience you desire.

So if you are going to buy into modern life, how do you develop self reliance? You develop the mindset, take responsibility for yourself and then carefully choose what you'll pay money for and what you can do yourself. Don't look at my life and think I'm the model for simple life. I've got time to do things during the day when you're probably at work, or working in your home looking after children.

If your time is limited, work out what changes will make the biggest difference in your life and go from there. If I were working for a living now, I'd take my lunch and a drink to work every day so I didn't have the added expense of buying something I could easily make myself. No matter how much time is available, most of us have to shop for food, so work out what your food budget is and change the way you shop to get the best value for money. Learn how to store food correctly so you don't waste any. Cook from scratch. That will save you money and keep you healthier because you won't be eating so many preservatives and food additives. If you have more time, do some batch cooking so you have a stock of your own frozen home cooking in the freezer and can feed yourself and the family without having to buy convenience or fast food on those nights when you're tired or running late.

Another thing we all have to do is clean, so find some reliable recipes for cleaners, soap and laundry products and depending on how much time you have, make as many of them as you can. This is a huge money saver and you'll have far fewer chemicals in your home as a result. Start with laundry powder or liquid because it's easy and quick to make and it will save you a packet. If you have more time, cut up old towels for cleaning rags, recycle a spray bottle, fill it with half water and half white vinegar and do some of your cleaning with that. If you have more time, make a citrus version of that. More time? Make your own homemade version of Gumption by mixing a cup of homemade laundry liquid with a cup of bicarb. Or learn how to make soap. If you have more time, do more.

It's the mindset that will see you through. If you convince yourself that being self reliant will make a real difference to your life, you'll eventually fall into the habit of looking for ways to make much of what you use instead of working longer so you can buy it at the supermarket. After a while, home production and being the person who makes that happen will become your new normal and you'll recycle, repair, cut back, save, mend, cook, preserve and make do because that is who you are.

It's a fine way to live - the choice about your level of self reliance is yours - but from my own experiences, the more I did, the more sense it made to keep going. Time is the the biggest barrier. The more you cut back and save, the less you'll have to work and that will give you time to increase what you do in your home. But what can you do right now? The important thing to do today is to make the commitment to develop the twin habits of self reliance and responsibility and then see where that takes you.


  1. What a lovely post! Thank you for pointing out that one shouldn't compare their lives with yours. I forget sometimes that my life is different. It is good to point out that you do what time allows you.

  2. Little steps are the key in simplifying your life, I don't work outside the home but I have two kids and I do lots of sewing for my home-base business. I started with making my own bread and drinks like ice tea ( everyone's favorite ) and for the past two months I made a laundry powder from the recipe I found on your blog and it saves me a lot of money.

  3. Happy Monday Ronda...and thanks for another great post.

    You are right about having the time....Being retired and living in a caravan means we have the time do some things to be more self baking.

    DH has taken to like a bee to honey and he loves baking the seed crackers and sesame biscuits that we have each week. We make bone broth for health and I am about the embark on making some fermented foods, starting with cabbage....wish me luck.

  4. Hi Rhonda,

    This is one of your best messages in my opinion. I, too, grew up in a simpler time, but have been guilty of giving in to so many of the "conveniences" that keep bombarding us all the time. I am now retired and it is a joy to feel more and more self-reliant again. I feel so fortunate to have grown up in a time when I was exposed to and learned how to make things from scratch. You are such an inspiration to young people who need guidance in how to begin simplying.

    Thanks and love from Diane in North Carolina

  5. Lately, we have spent less than we have in a long time. When looking at it closely, it's really clear that it's lots of little things that we do that added up to that significant saving. Things like all the homemade meals. lunches and baking I do every day, no restaurant or takeaway meals, the lettuce and cucumbers I grew for salads that I didn't have to buy, washing powder I saved on because I bought in bulk on a great special earlier in the year, water tanks that are full, running the dishwasher during the day when we can use the power from our solar panels instead of at night when we'd have to pay for it from the grid. All that and more! Now, I'm working on keeping my Xmas expenses down as much as possible by making things here at home for gifts. Seeing the savings we've been making has definitely made me feel more self reliant and spurred me on to find even more savings wherever I can.

  6. I've noticed this new normal/deepening of mindset really sink in for me this past year. Party because of desire to be more self-reliant, but also very much because of necessity - a blessing in disguise! What I've found most rewarding is the increased contentment I feel, even though I'm working with fewer resources and less time in some ways (more babies = less time LOL). It is a wonderful, peaceful way to live.

  7. I think self reliance to a certain degree is in everyones best interest. Yes it can save money but beyond that there is the point of not handing over our skills for the sake of convenience. It only takes one generation to loose self reliance skills. We now have teenagers and young adullts who don't know how to cook an egg because everything is take away or instant. While I don't exclusively use homemade cleaning products in the house, I know how to. One thing I have been making my own of is laundry detergent. I have a family of 7 and have only just finished the supplies I bought a year ago for the recipe. My children have been taught to make simple dishes such as bolognaise, roast dinners, stir fries and can make a cake and simple biscuits/deserts. I also believe in being productive instead of consuming even when there isn't a monetary benefit. This year I taught myself to crochet and have a number of projects that could have been bought cheaper at Big W but I feel proud that I have produced something with my own two hands.

  8. Thanks for the lovely post Rhonda. I'm a stay at home mother and housewife on a small budget which makes self reliance crucial and fun. Also these homemaking skills must be past on to the next generations. Your blog inspired me to start my own. Here's to a blessed upcoming week.

  9. Lovely post Rhonda. Thank you. A great way to start the week. It all comes down to how you see yourself in the mix, with the right mindset we are free.
    kate xx

  10. An inspiring post today. I've followed you now for several years (5?). Hubby and I both work full time professional jobs. I started raising our food bit by bit nearly 20 years ago. Our small yard (front and back) in the city, is now filled with raised beds and I do as much as I can. I have waste every year because I do not have enough time away from work to manage it all. That makes me sad. It is impossible to schedule vacation time around nature. This year my garden produce "came on" 5 weeks later than last year.

    I intend to work another 6y. By that time I hope to have the skill to raise food in a biointensive manner and perhaps put up as much as 75% of what we need for a year? Perhaps too high a goal but a good aim I think.

    Our biggest challenge? Our neighbor has trees maturing rapidly and shading my oldest garden beds and they produced almost nothing this year. This is 25% of our garden beds. Our blackberry patch put out less than 1cup of berries this year. He does not want to let us prune his tree back to the fenceline and since we are all here for the duration of retirement, I don't want to make him angry. It's a sad compromise for me.

    I have cleaned with baking soda and vinegar only for years. I do buy laundry liquid-organic. We spend less than $20/year on this so making it doesn't make sense to me.

    The hardest part I think, is deciding where to make and where to buy. What is the biggest "bang for the buck"?

    Thank you again for all you do for us out here in Blogreading World.

  11. Great advice Rhonda :) Its hard to belief how much has changed in your lifetime. I am lucky I had frugal Grannies, parents and aunts and uncles to learn from, all have vege gardens, chooks and make and repair things themselves, so it just seems normal to me, even though I should be Gen Y and buying everything!

  12. I love this post!
    And I love living in this period in time.
    The fact that I can let a machine wash my clothes, that I can press a button and watch a video on how to do a particular knitting cast on, that I can cook on gas over the summer months and let my dishwasher sterilise my bottles, helps me and makes me happy every day. But having said that the joy I get out of seeing my kids wearing clothing I have made, eating food we have grown, and making birthday presents for each other fills me up with so much joy that I search constantly for more ways we can do things together and at home. I like that we have a balance but I definitely lean heavily to the DIY side. xx

  13. I love this post! It really is all in the mindset. I'm a stay at home mum of 3 under 5 while hubby works full-time. Our biggest challenges are time and the 'fussiness' of the kids, nonetheless we persist bit by bit. Each new thing I learn is a little reward of happiness for myself. I have come to love the times we live in now too, happy to incorporate the days gone by into our daily lives while still keeping current and finding the balance of both. Thanks Rhonda x

  14. Today I am reading this under an apricot tree in my back garden, on raven watch. One of our ducks hatched 5 babies yesterday and the ravens are circling, calling to each other. We have lost a duckling to them once before and do not want to lose another of these fluffy bundles. So here I am with my laptop, making like a scarecrow, while the mother and her babies have some time out of their little raven-proof shelter, in the main duckyard. It seems to me like a very pleasant meshing of the old and the new.

  15. My first year at home was pretty tough. We had to make some cuts to our budget and of course the first thing we cut was the food bill. I started scouring the internet for recipes. So time consuming (the biggest barrier), but now I can make my own sourdough. Next I started crocheting, and now my family doesn't go without warm blankets and to be honest, these are much better quality than what Walmart has to offer. It's a process, learning how to do these things...things that used to be handed down mother to daughter. I don't know what I'd do without the internet.

  16. A wonderful post. The internet and blogging is wonderful but I think your advice of not comparing ourselves is sound, it is all too easy to do that. It is a waste of energy wanting the things that it is impossible to have, in my case a longer growing season for example. Self reliance does come in many guises, thank you for that reminder.

    It was interesting to read the beginning of your post, I am a child of the 70s and we didn't have a car, tv or a supermarket anywhere near us either! We got our first phone when I was about three and my mum was pregnant with her third child :)

  17. Dear Rhonda Thank you for this lovely post, best wishes Jackie :)


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