1. Grow food wherever you can.
Maybe you don't have your 40 acres and a mule yet, but do you have an apartment balcony? A back patio? A yard? Even a windowsill can produce a surprising amount of food if done properly. Food scarcity is a very real possibility, with supply chains collapsing globally and reckless government intervention destroying farms throughout the world. The current disruptions that we're seeing on grocery store shelves are likely only the beginning. A discussion of the food supply collapse is beyond the scope of this article, but it certainly is worth further research on your own. The growing inability of the system to deliver food to market will not only cause an inaccessibility of staple crops, but will quite possibly cause large-scale problems in nutrition as well.
If your growing space is limited to a window, growing a sufficient amount of food may not be possible, so focusing on high-nutrition foods may be a better fit. Popcorn microgreens can be grown anywhere from the dash of your car to a closet with a grow light. You can literally grab the popcorn kernels from your pantry, and grow a great protein-dense and delicious green in a matter of days with loads of vitamin A, C, B and E, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. You can also grow herbs like rosemary, oregano, and basil indoors, which are highly nutritious, easy, and a great flavor addition to basics such as rice and beans.
If you have a deck or patio with room for containers, there are a ton of options available to you. Dwarf/micro tomatoes, herbs, lettuce and other greens, and even potatoes do well in containers.
If you have backyard space, the list is endless. There are commercial farms on less than 1/10th of an acre growing over 5000 lbs of produce annually. If you are limited on space, consider space-efficient or nutrition-dense crops such as string beans, peas, and potatoes. (P.S, you can plant dried beans right out of the bag). As you get closer to the end of the growing season, consider crops such as turnips that may be left in the ground during the winter to store them for later.
Also, don't discount the power of community gardens! You may have a space within walking distance to plant for free, and you can also learn from and network with other gardeners. Gardening has a learning curve, and the more you can learn from others, the less mistakes you have to make on your own.
You may also consider chatting with neighbors who have large yards. You may be able to work out a trade exchanging a portion of your yields for growing space. As the food crisis worsens, people will be more receptive to such ideas.
2. Store and harvest water.
As the current disease scare wreaks havoc on workplaces, essential utilities such as water, sewer, internet, and electricity are not immune from disruption, Access to water is the single most crucial element to survival, and often overlooked. If you are in an apartment, your water planning is probably going to be limited to storage. Should things get desperate, every receptacle becomes a water storage tank. I remember chatting with a friend who was a child in Iraq during the first Gulf War. He shared his memories of watching his parents do everything possible to store water as services failed. The bathtub, sinks, cups, and bowls, and even toilets we used to store water for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning, and plants. They even ripped apart their walls to access the water in the pipes.
Water is essential to both homesteading and survival. The good news is that there many not-so-draconian ways to capture water. You can get 5-gallon buckets at many stores, and save plastic soda or other bottles for storage.
If you're more interested in capturing water, rainwater collection is the single best addition to just about any living situation. A used 55 gallon food grade barrel can be bought for very little off of sites such as Craigslist or Facebook marketplace, or even a garbage can can act as a catchment device. Simply place it underneath a rain gutter for tons of free water! Where I live in Tennessee, a 1000 square foot roof can collect upwards of 35,000 gallons of water. I can boil it for drinking and cooking, clean with it, or use it on my garden for far better yields than I would get from my chemical-laden tap water.
3. Get your finances in order.
Time for some tough love. You are probably spending recklessly. At least, that's what the stats say. Americans have long pursued the illusion of wealth over reality. Our ego causes us to buy cars we can't afford and houses much larger than we need, and to rack up high-interest credit card debt for purchases that only serve to boost our status in the cult-like culture of obsessive materialism.
Only buy clothes to protect you from the elements and look decent for work
Only buy food that is nutritious and tastes decent.
Cancel Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Read books and watch Youtube videos that educate you instead. Yes, entertainment is a necessity to some degree, but not to the extent to which we're used to. If you can't give up some entertainment, you simply don't possess the willpower to be a homesteader. Get your priorities in order.
If you have to buy a car, buy something used that still has a lot of life left. Never buy a brand new car. Never lease a car. There's no need to expound upon this, as every financial adviser worth their salt probably has a lot to say about getting deeply in debt over a car that is more luxurious than you need.
When you ask the question "Do I actually need it" every time you make a purchase, you'll embark on an incredible journey that is deeply personal, spiritual, and fulfilling. You'll start to explore what you truly value, and you'll be forced into creative pursuits to fill the void that mindless materialism brings.
Frugality and financial planning will change your life for the better. And land is expensive.
4. Educate yourself.
Homesteading is 90% learning. Nobody starts out life knowing how much water tomatoes like, or how to pick crusted poo from a baby chicken's bottom. Living a more agrarian lifestyle has an intense learning curve, much of which you find out by simply making mistakes. However, if you are unable to achieve a physical location to start on, it's actually a blessing in disguise. It means you can get a jump start on the learning process, by consuming every relevant book, Youtube video, and Finding Country article possible. It'll also help fill the time gap left by the previous step from cutting out unnecessary entertainment!
5. Build skills.
If your goal is a more holistic, self sufficient lifestyle, you may find that your current job is untenable in the long term. Rural land gets cheaper the farther you get from metropolitan centers, but employment opportunities decrease accordingly. There is a great argument to be made for self employment with an agrarian lifestyle, as you need to be on site constantly to manage crops and animals. It also cuts commute time and costs out of the equation. As we're all locked down at the moment, now is the time to explore broadening your interests as they apply to the business world. You can turn what is a personal tragedy for many into a life-altering opportunity by pursuing any number of educational goals that further your measurable value to society. This could range from obtaining a professional certification or learning how to sharpen tools.
6. Understand real estate.
If you truly want to own a homestead of your own, and you're on a budget, you need to be smarter than all of the other buyers. There are a plethora of alternative ways of obtaining land, including short sales, foreclosures, and owner financing options. Reading up on the basics of real estate transactions is invaluable, as is simply checking online listings every day to garner an intuitive sense of the market and to prepare yourself to recognize a great deal when you come across one. Understanding pricing can also help you set goals and budgets to get closer to ownership.
7. Work on a farm.
Now is the perfect time to get outside of your comfort zone and begin the process of understanding agriculture. Due to labor disruptions, many farmers are actually desperate for help right now. You can make connections to free or cheap supplies, learn invaluable skills, and literally save lives by helping bring food to market. You may even make a little money. If you're unsure of where to start, you may research smaller organic or permaculture farms in your area, or start a WWOOF account, which links farmers to laborers seeking educational opportunities. It's truly a win-win.
8. Find your community.
It may be counterintuitive to try to build or find your community of like-minded people in a world of social distancing, but in a way it's a more viable opportunity than ever before. This is a great time to reach out to fellow gardeners in your neighborhood, help the elderly person near you get supplies, or chat with your prepper friend about survival. Community and networking is crucial to surviving hard times and is definitely an essential (And often overlooked) part of homesteading.
9. Learn to forage
There is so much around you that is edible! From dandelions to oak trees, nature is full of abundance that can not only feed you, but also offer vital immune system-boosting nutrition as well as medicine. Your local library likely has a ton of great foraging books, and a quick search of Youtube and Google will reveal a wealth of information that is specific to your region. This is also a great family activity for virtually anywhere with access to an outdoor area such as a park, yard, or forest.
10. Make your homesteading plan.
You can buy land. You can build a homestead. There is viable land for sale for as little as $500 in the United States. It may require any number of sacrifices, such as changing your employability, moving to a new area, or living on rice and beans for a time, but almost anyone can draft a plan to buy a place of their own, and then achieve it. Take time to sit down and define your homesteading goals, and develop a 5-year plan to get there. If you need a starting point, check out our 30 Day Self Sufficiency Challenge.