How To Start A Homestead: A Beginners Guide


Homesteading has been steadily growing in popularity although there seems to have been a particularly large surge of interest in the past 2 years.  Broadly, the homesteading lifestyle refers to self-sufficiency with most people looking to be more closely connected to their food by farming on a small-scale in an effort to limit their reliance on grocery stores.  I get it.  It's incredibly gratifying to grow and/or raise at least some of the food your family consumes.  Two other reasons I think are common are to live simpler and more natural lifestyles.  All of these reasons were our driving forces as well.  

The best part of this movement, in my humble opinion, is that you get to decide your homesteading journey.  It can be unique to you and your needs, wants, or abilities.  There is no right or wrong, and you don't have to own acreage to enjoy the lifestyle, although land does make it possible to grow and raise more of what your family needs. Homesteading is rooted in self-sufficiency which is attractive to most people who begin their journey.  Although total self-sufficiency is quite difficult to achieve, being able to provide a significant amount for your family is possible even on a smaller scale. 

I've been blogging about our journey since 2010 and to this day, the number one email comment I receive is "I am so excited to someday be able to start my own homestead".  My question in response is "why wait?"  I understand the thought that you must wait to purchase acreage in order to homestead, but the reality is, that's just not true!  Whether you live in an apartment, a home in the suburbs, a home on less than an acre, or a home on many acres, you can create your own homesteading life, right where you are.  Whether you're in your 20's or in your 60's, you can begin your journey today.  Even if you plan to purchase more acreage someday, do yourself a favor and begin learning homesteading skills immediately.  Adding new skills slowly will help avoid feelings of overwhelm.

Because there is not an exact formula to homesteading, I cannot provide a detailed step-by-step instruction that will fit everyone's needs.  Instead, I hope this outline of general homesteading will provide you some useful ideas and inspiration.

A quick note before the outline.  I know this is a given, but I feel it necessary to write.  First, try to avoid comparing your journey to anyone else's.  Your journey is unique to you and it will have challenges.  It's important to remember that.  Second, it will likely be more difficult than you think it will be.  Not every day.  Not even every week, but you will have some very arduous times.  Preparing yourself for the potential challenges can be difficult, as they are typically unexpected, but just know that you will experience frustration and loss.  We all do.  Even watching someone else's experience on youtube or reading it on instagram or a blog does not prepare you for your own homesteading hardship.  

For example, after our first chickens suffered upper respiratory illness, I read all about chicken issues so that I would have some idea of what additional problems could arise in chicken keeping.  I had read about a prolapsed vent but still felt completely unprepared when I discovered one of our chickens had some of her internal reproductive tract protruding from her vent.  I was even more unprepared for dealing with her fellow coop mates chasing her around pecking at it while pulling it out further.  We had to clean her up, push it all back in, isolate her, and try to get her back to where she could be with the others.  Unfortunately, we experienced this one more time with another chicken who, by the time we discovered it, had most of her reproductive track AND her intestines out.  She was literally running around with this mess trailing behind her, attempting to escape the incessant pecking from her coop mates.  We cleaned her up and I was able to get everything back inside but, unfortunately, we couldn't keep it inside and we had to make the hard decision to cull her.  Nothing would have actually prepared me for dealing with this (thankfully it's only happened those 2 times in our 15 years of chicken-keeping) except hands-on experience, but it's important to understand that you will have to deal with difficult things.

With that being said, we truly love our lifestyle and couldn't imagine living any other way.  It's so rewarding to be able to eat full meals that come from our land.  It's amazing to open up our freezers and cupboards to see food that we both grew and preserved for later enjoyment.  We never would have believed when we started this journey that we could not only provide some of our own food including enough to preserve for year-round eating, but to also make our living from our homestead.  It's the best feeling ever!

On to the list!

How Do You Begin Homesteading?

1. Create Your Vision
It is important to learn what homesteading involves and ask yourself questions such as:   Do you want to live on-grid, partially off-grid, or completely off-grid?  Do you want to raise livestock, grow fruit trees, or other things that may require more land?  Will you make your income from your homestead?  Think about the day-to-day activities required and the time commitment to the land, animals, and crops.  Think about the finances required of any homesteading activities you are interested in pursuing.  Can you create a list of priorities so that you can gradually add more activities or projects rather than trying to implement all the changes within the first year?

As an example, let's say one of your goals is to grow your own wheat, mill it, and bake your bread and other baked goods from scratch. Instead of trying to implement all of the changes at once, think of ways to break it down.  
     First, you begin making your own bread and baked goods from scratch.  Work through some recipes until you collect a nice selection of favorites.  
     Next, you find some fresh milled whole grain flours to incorporate into your breads and baked goods.  You learn to work with each of them and figure out which your family likes and dislikes.  If you aren't currently eating mostly whole grain flours, there may be an adjustment period.  
     After that adjustment, source whole grains and a grain mill that seems the right fit for you.  If you have friends that already own grain mills, maybe you can borrow them to try?
     And lastly, if you still want to grow your own wheat/grains and you have the space and time to do so, add that into your crop plan.

Prioritize and set goals.  Give yourself the gift of making the changes in stages in order to avoid overwhelm.  You don't have to do every single thing you see someone on youtube, instagram, or a reality tv show doing in order to live a homesteading life.  You can do things in whatever order makes sense for you.  Small lifestyle changes implemented each year really do add up over time.  Remember to create your own vision of this journey and lifestyle.

If you are in a relationship, are you both 100% on board?  If you both plan to at least eventually make a living from your homestead as well, are you prepared to live and work together 24/7?  This last point is not something people always think about and it's imperative you do before making the jump.  As a personal example, my husband and I talked about this at length before I left my career to join him in our homestead business.  He had left his career almost 2 years prior and was running the business pretty much by himself with my assistance in the evenings and weekends.  We had seen some great examples of this with people we know as well as some incredibly discouraging examples.  No judgement to either, it's tough to suddenly live AND work together.  For us it has worked with really no issues, and I credit that to a few things: we already had a strong relationship, we talked openly about our concerns and making it work, and we gave ourselves workspaces apart from each other for part of the week, so we can work individually as well as together.  

2.  Pay Off Your Debt And Create (and use) A Budget
If you are someone who is debt-free and financially independent and can afford this lifestyle without a budget, that's great!  For most of us though, this is not the case.  You may not be able to pay off all of your debt before you begin your journey into homesteading, and that's ok.  Because getting your debt paid off will put you in a much better position, make it a top priority.  Especially if your hope is to eventually live and work on your homestead full-time.  

If you're trying to pay off debt and/or create a budget that fits your needs there are many financial blogs, channels, etc. out there.  I recommend you listen to a few different styles of debt management and budgeting to see what clicks with you.  If one system doesn't work, either tweak it to fit your needs or drop it and try a different one.  A few things that have been incredibly helpful for us are: 1. prioritize paying off the debt - before purchasing anything optional (i.e. not critical to your family), don't purchase it and instead put that amount as an extra payment towards your debt. The focus should always be on paying it off.  2. if you are struggling to find extra money in your budget, try cutting 10% on any expense category that is not a fixed amount (i.e. food, entertainment, clothing, etc.).  10% is a small amount but is manageable.  And it all adds up!  Once you adjust to the new amount, try cutting it by 10% again.  You may be surprised!  3. using Dave Ramsey's debt snowball, we found it more manageable and rewarding to focus on paying off one debt at a time.

Homesteading costs range depending on where you live, what you already have established, and what you want to do.  It also depends on how you prioritize.  If, for example, you prioritize not spending money, you are more likely to be able to homestead less expensively than someone who doesn't.  If you are committed to trying to not spend money, when something comes up the first thought is, do I need this?  If the answer is yes, the next question may be, can I use something I already have?  If the answer is no, the next question may be, can I borrow it from someone I know?  If it's something you need to own and not borrow, or you can't borrow it, you could next ask, can I find this used?   And so on.  Rather than running to the store to purchase something whenever a need arises, it's taking the time to think it through and ask yourself a series of questions.  

There are certainly expenses with homesteading, regardless of what you want to grow, raise, or do.  Seeds for the garden, purchasing animals, food for the animals, feeders/waterers, fencing, building outbuildings, equipment, equipment parts, gasoline/propane, etc.  Try to be realistic when trying to determine your future expenses.

Another tactic to cut expenses when building your homestead is to focus on making your homestead activities pay for themselves.  What that means is, for each homesteading activity that you decide to add to your homestead, find a way to make enough money from it to pay for it.  Here are a couple of examples:
You want to start a garden.  Seeds, soil amendments, fertilizers, tools, etc. all cost money.  How can you recoup enough money to offset the garden expenses this year?  Is your property situated (and is it allowed by your town) in a spot where it would be beneficial for you to grow extra produce that you can sell at a farmstand at the edge of your property?  Does your town have a farmers' market that is actively seeking vegetable vendors?  Or can you start extra vegetable plants and sell plant starts?  Think outside of the box to figure out how you can grow extra to make your garden pay for itself.

You want to add chickens to your homestead specifically for meat.  The chicks, feed, housing, feeders, waterers, etc. all cost money, especially if you are starting from scratch and need to purchase everything including heat lamps and butchering equipment.  Can you purchase enough extra chicks to raise and sell to recoup your investment for your chickens and start-up costs as well?  Do you have friends or family members interested in purchasing your free-range whole chickens?  If your town and state laws allow, can you advertise to people in your town to sell to?  Calculate how much you would need to charge per bird to help identify if there is a market for it in your area.

**Always check local and federal laws regarding any item you are planning to sell.**

Going through these types of questions prior to taking each step, doing the research, and trying to identify ways to make your money back before you make the investment will help control your expenses, and make it much easier to grow your homestead.  I think the keys to success are to plan ahead, think outside the box when needed, and add new homesteading activities in stages.

3. Assess Your Property
Whether or not you are currently on your forever property, evaluate it for the possibilities of what homesteading activities you could try. Obviously, if you don't plan to stay where you are long-term you don't want to sink a bunch of money into infrastructure, but there are many things you can do, including gardening, right where you are regardless of the size of your space.  Consider it your trial run.  Try to work out what you do/don't want to do once you are able to get to your next homestead.

Make sure to research your towns zoning laws.  Whether you're on your temporary or permanent homestead, it's important that you are familiar with any restrictions you may have.  

Consider the layout of your property before making the commitment of building outbuildings or putting in a garden.  Watch where your shaded areas are and where the sun hits at different times of the day.  Consider what future animals you may want to add and where they will live.  Unfortunately, you may have to tear things down at some point and move them, but the goal is to try and take your time so you can hopefully avoid doing that.

4. Start NOW
Back in the intro I suggested that no one should wait for the perfect "someday" property to homestead so the goal is to start your homesteading journey TODAY!  I'm sure your next question is "what should I start with?"  This all depends on your vision and goals for your homestead.

Here's how I would determine some things to start with.  Let's just say this is your vision of your future homestead:  
A 4-8 acre property where we raise a beef cow annually, a dairy cow, a couple of pigs for meat, chickens for eggs and meat, a small orchard of fruit trees and bushes, a few bee colonies, a large garden to provide all of our in-season fresh eating needs and a large amount of our out-of-season eating needs through preservation, and herbs for culinary and medicinal use.

Here are some things you could start with:

Beef Cow - you could begin learning all about raising a beef cow including the breeds, feed, shelter, and butchering.  This will give you an idea of the commitment and infrastructure needed to raise this animal.  Because you won't want anything to go to waste, if you haven't previously worked with tallow, liver, tongue, and other parts of the cow that you will eventually have to figure out how to use, you could start sourcing these cuts.  Search for recipes and begin experimenting to find ways your family wants to use each of them.

Dairy Cow - begin learning all about raising a dairy cow including differences between the breeds, feed, shelter, breeding, and birthing.  This will give you an idea of the commitment and infrastructure needed to raise this animal.  If you've never made dairy products from scratch (i.e. cheese, butter, yogurt, kefir, etc.) start experimenting with recipes to figure out ways your family wants to use each of them.  You'll also be able to figure out what products you'll continue to make when you have excess milk, and which products you would prefer to purchase.

Pigs - same as beef cow.

Meat Chickens - if you will be raising chickens bred specifically for meat, they differ quite a bit from egg layers.  You could research raising meat birds including the breeds, feed, shelter, and butchering.  This will give you an idea of the commitment and infrastructure needed to raise this animal.  If you don't already do this, you could begin working with whole chickens purchased from a local farm or grocery store and figure out ways to best utilize the entire bird including the feet (if you can source and if desired) and bones.  

Egg Laying Chickens - there are many different breeds including those known for production and those who supply green or blue eggs (known collectively as Easter Eggers).  You could research breeds, feed, shelter, and hatching (in case you decide to do so).  Because you will receive more eggs in the spring and summer and less in the fall and winter, research ways to utilize eggs when they are plentiful and ways to preserve them for when they are not.  
**As with every form of preservation, it's important to try the preservation method for yourself in small quantities and then use it for recipes.  You may find your family prefers one preservation method over another.  It's much easier to determine that before you fill your cupboards or freezers with something your family doesn't care for.**

Fruit Trees/Bushes - research fruit trees/bushes that can be grown in your area including how much space they need, whether or not they require a second type for cross pollination and growing and pruning requirements.  Only consider fruit trees/bushes your family will eat.  Research preservation methods and again, as noted above in Egg Laying Chickens, test these methods in small quantities to determine what your family likes and doesn't like.

Honey Bees - research the care, shelter, and what supplies are needed for bees.  If you don't already use honey in cooking or tinctures, begin replacing sweeteners in your favorite recipes with honey (if you are replacing a dry sweetener with a liquid, you will likely need to reduce the liquid in the recipe).

Gardening - it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway, only grow what your family eats.  We don't plant leeks, parsnips, or rosemary.  Ever.  We don't eat them, so we don't grow them.  If you're trying to get your family to eat a certain vegetable, then grow it in small quantities, but in general, grow what you eat.  You can research things such as seeds/seed companies, varieties, soil amending, growing methods, seed starting set-ups, saving seeds, and planting times for your zone.  If you aren't currently cooking with a large quantity of fresh vegetables and preserving them in-season, you could start experimenting.  Growing vegetables is a much different experience than purchasing them in that you will suddenly have a lot ripe at one time.  In an effort to ensure nothing goes to waste, you'll want to have recipe ideas and preservation recipes ready to go for any of the produce you grow.  

Herbs - research types of herbs, growing needs, and planting times for your zone.  If you aren't currently cooking with many herbs, or using them to make teas, start using what you can find or grow.  Learn preservation methods and recipes.  This will give you a great idea of how much of each type you need to grow.  If you don't currently use herbs medicinally, you can purchase them in small amounts and begin trying recipes.  There are many great books out there that outline each herb as well as provide recipes for different recipes including tinctures and salves.  Personally, I've used books by Rosemary Gladstar (affiliate link) and have found them thorough and immensely helpful.

Homemade Products - although not listed above, one of the common goals of homesteaders is to begin making much of what is used within the home and homestead from scratch.  It makes sense that if you're taking more responsibility for what you put in your body, you'll also want to look at what you put on your body as well as in your home.  You can begin researching and trying recipes for personal care products, cleaners, etc.  It may take some time to find or develop recipes that become family favorites, so take the time to begin researching and testing recipes and techniques now.  

The more skills, recipes, and knowledge you have in your repertoire that you are proficient at, the easier it will be when you are able to add more homesteading activities.  

5. Learn To Preserve Food
I'm making this it's own bullet point because it's so important.  With self-sufficiency being the driving force for homesteading, figuring out how to make the most out of everything you raise or grow is critical.  Food preservation ensures nothing goes to waste as well as gives your family nutritious food to eat year-round.  It's important to test out preservation methods in small amounts until you find the recipes and methods that your family will enjoy.  

There are people who do not like frozen green beans at all, instead preferring to pressure can them.  We are opposite, but we wouldn't have known that without trying them both ways first.  Some like canned meat, and others can't stand the texture or taste.  That being said, there may be pressure canning recipes that take those into consideration and your family likes.  Or different ways to use the meat (soups, stews, casseroles, etc.) where it's not so noticeable.  It's important to figure these things out before you preserve a lot of one item in a way that may not work for your family.

I think it's also important to remember that you don't have to try every preservation method at once.  It  can be expensive and very time consuming.  Pressure canning, water bath canning, dehydrating, freeze-drying, freezing, fermenting, smoking, and storing in cold storage all take different recipes and/or equipment.  Remember that once you begin growing and raising your own food, a lot can be ready all at once.  If the tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash are all ripe, a batch of meat birds have to be harvested, and you have fruit trees or bushes that must be picked, none of these items can wait without suffering loss.  It's very stressful to learn preservation techniques and recipes for each of these at that time, and they all take a lot of time to process.  If you've at least worked out the methods and recipes, you want to use for preserving and your somewhat comfortable with doing it then you're likely able to keep your head above water and push through. 
(helpful post: Marissa at Food In Jars has a nice page devoted to Q&A's of Water Bath Canning here )

6. Prepare For Animals Before Bringing Them On The Homestead
I'm also making this a separate point because of importance.  Animals require a lot more than is sometimes considered and you want to make sure you and your property are ready before making the commitment.  The animals deserve that.  It is your responsibility to thoroughly educate and prepare yourself for the addition of any animal.  Each type of animal has unique needs including shelter (with predator-proofing being a top priority) and dietary requirements.  It's also important to have an idea of what to do in the event one of them is showing signs of sickness.  If calling a vet is something you would consider, have you researched large animal or farm animal vets in your area?  Are they accepting new patients?  What are their fees?  If you plan to care for the animal(s) on your own, where will you get medication if needed in an emergency?  Once you've brought animals to your homestead, taking any time away from your property will become more difficult.  There's no calling out or taking time off from caring for them.  Make sure you are ready for that commitment. 

7.  Be Prepared To Learn
You will be constantly learning.  There are so many unexpected things that will arise year after year that will keep you feeling like a student of life.  Whether it's a need for carpentry skills, animal diagnosis, butchering how-to's, food preservation, cooking, sewing, or gardening problems, rather than get discouraged, look at it as an opportunity to learn.  Certainly, you will have to outsource from time-to-time, depending on the need, but many things will be projects you can handle with a little help from blogs, books, youtube, instagram, neighbors, or friends.  Don't be afraid of failure - failure, or mistakes, is an opportunity to learn something new!

Beginners Guide To Homesteading

8. Make The Most Of Free Resources
Free?  Who doesn't like free?  We all do, but they can be easy to overlook so begin adding them to your life today!
Examples are:
Collecting Rainwater
Foraging for Wild Edible or Medicinal Vegetation
Grow Plants From Cuttings (minimal cost - you will need a rooting hormone)
Save Seeds
Network With Like-Minded People

I sincerely hope there were bits of helpful information in this post.  If you remember anything from this post, I hope it is this.  If you are currently a homesteader or on your journey to homesteading, you are doing it correctly.  Regardless of what you are/aren't doing, you are a homesteader.  So many people think of themselves as failures or not really a homesteader if they aren't doing every activity associated with homesteading.  You don't have to raise large animals, you don't have to make sourdough bread, you don't have to make every meal from scratch, and you don't have to have a large pantry filled with only your homegrown and home-canned items.  Don't fall into the trap of judging yourself as a success or failure based on what you see other people doing. 

The most important things are that you are working toward more self-sufficiency, you are doing what feels right for you at a pace that works for you, and you are enjoying your life.  If you're trying to do too much and feel stressed out all of the time or stretched too far, you may be questioning, is it worth it?  I encourage you to take a step back, re-evaluate, and re-define your homesteading life.  Make the most of the space you've got and enjoy the journey!


  1. Some great information and resources! Homesteading is definitely an adventure!

  2. Wonderful information. And, I echo your opening paragraphs about doing it now and starting with a plan to ramp up. You don't have to do everything at once, and sometimes just tackling some of the small steps makes a huge difference. I'm in a townhome and cannot plant anything in-ground as the landscapers will rip it out. So, I'm relegated to planting my tomatoes and peppers in pots and my herbs in the deck-rail planters. But, I do work to make a majority of items I use in my daily living. I've found some wonderful farmstands that are not too far away and have developed a relationship with the farmers. I get excellent produce and a good price, directly farm to table. I can my own fruits and vegetables and know exactly what's in the jar. I was also given a breadmaker and now make a majority of my bread -- yeast breads as well as quick breads, and most recently started making homemade yogurt. Whatever I can do to eat healthier and reduce my grocery bill. Because I don't have a deep freezer, I can't purchase a half- or quarter side of beef or pork, but I do buy in bulk and vacuum pack for what freezer space I have. It may not be the realization of complete homesteading, but it's a stride toward more self-sufficiency. And that works for this 65-year old widow.

    1. Lori - thank you so much for sharing about your own journey! Your story is EXACTLY what I try to tell people who email me about not having a place to grow/raise their own food.

  3. A fantastic post Staci and yes, there are so many things to learn even in a suburban block, growing veggies, raising chickens, making yoghurt, sourdough bread etc. I first heard of the "Homesteading" word years ago and it's quite an American word however the art of "Homesteading" along with "Slow & Intentional Living" is something everyone can relate to. Have a good week. Kathy

    1. Thanks Kathy. You're right - there's soooo many things anyone can do! Wishing you a wonderful week as well!

  4. So many wonderful points. I would also encourage folks to contact their local Cooperative Extension office and perhaps attend a local homesteading conference. There will be like-minded people who love to talk homesteading!
    We have just over a half acre, but it's enough for chooks and a garden that keeps me busy. Homesteading is something I came to later in life, but it feels so right. There is always something new to learn!

    1. Thanks so much Daisy. Great points! And you are so very right - there is always something new to learn indeed!

  5. A great encouraging message! Sometimes just changing our vocabulary/the messages we tell ourselves can have a huge impact. For the person hoping/waiting for that “real” (🤔?) homestead & feeling stuck, perhaps simply naming their present location “My Little City Homestead, “The 2nd Floor Homestead” or “My Country Corner in the City” can suddenly give a new perspective to what they can begin doing right now!


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on this post!