15 Easy and Cheap Urban Homesteading Ideas You Can Use Anywhere

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Although my wife and I now have country homesteads in two states (Ohio and Kentucky), we used to live in some of the largest cities in the USA – like Atlanta, New York City, and Seattle, to name a few.

And although it was a bit scaled-down for our liking, we always explored cheap and easy ways to make our lives simpler, more self-sufficient, healthier, and overall happier.

We learned that even though we sincerely wanted to get out of city life, once and for all, we could still do many everyday things to simplify our lifestyle together and help ourselves embrace a more country way of living, even in our very urbanized environments.

Plus, our urban homestead saved us A LOT of money relative to living to work and working to live as so many of our city friends did, and most still do.

Oh well, to each her own, right?

That’s what we say anyway!

OK, to the point, you do not have to own land in the country – or even have a yard – to engage in various methods of urban homesteading.

Nope, you can do it in an apartment, even if you live on the 76th floor and only have a little sunlight entering through a single window. And really, even the window is optional.

Let’s explore 15 fast, easy, and wise ways to begin urban homesteading. Today! And most of them are free to start. Right now. With what you have available!

Excitement Time – Let’s Go!

15 Ways to Start Urban Homesteading Today

Collecting rainwater, growing a patio garden, learning how to fish, and shopping for recycled goods are just a few of the many rewarding ways to begin your family’s urban homesteading journey. Let’s jump into the first on our list today: Beekeeping! A tremendously valuable, eco-friendly ancient practice.

1. Bee-come a Beekeeper

keeping backyard honeybees for honey and pollination
Beekeeping in residential and suburban homesteads brings many benefits – like fresh, delicious honey! Honeybees also do more crucial work – like pollinating herbs, flowers, vegetables, native shrubs, and fruit and nut trees. The agricultural benefit of honeybee pollination outweighs the honey and beeswax value by 10 to 20 times. In other words, honeybees help us grow lush and fruitful gardens. Earth needs far more of them!

If you have access to a rooftop or backyard, beekeeping can be an excellent source of extra income and, more importantly, something you can do to enhance your family’s health.

The health benefits of natural honey are well-proven and amazing! Did you know that bee honey is highly nutritious, an excellent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, a wound healer, and possibly, a cardiovascular system enhancer?

It’s true, and you can begin a mini-sized beekeeping operation for very little initial investment. Of course, check with your landlord, if applicable, and your local authorities because some localities don’t allow residents to practice this wonderful, nature-balancing, health-enhancing hobby.

2. Collecting Rainwater

blue plastic rain barrel for collecting and storing rainwater
Rainwater collection is another excellent urban homesteading idea that anyone can start. All you need is an empty spot in your yard and a rain barrel. Collecting rainwater also has several little-known benefits. You can use your stored water to hydrate indoor plants, help wash your car, feed your native shrubs or flower garden, and fill bird baths. Harvesting rainwater also has environmental benefits, like reducing water runoff and water-processing emissions. (We also want to note that your backyard shrubs and plants love rainwater, as it’s chlorine, salt, and calcium-free.)

In the cities and suburbs, most rainwater ends up in the sewers. What a wasted resource! Today, there are loads of products from various manufacturers, like systems of 55-gallon barrels that you can connect to your downspout system on your house to collect rainwater. This free water accumulation allows your family and homestead to run more efficiently for less money paid to the municipal water supply company. Use this free natural resource to water your plants, keep things clean around your yard, bathe Fido, and a lot more!

3. Canning

preserving leftover garden cucumbers tomatoes peas and beans
Canning is our favorite way to prolong the shelf-life of our garden crops – including tomatoes, pickled cucumbers, pears, apples, cherries, winter squash, peas, and peppers. Canning is also surprisingly tricky – so we recommend the Complete Guide to Home Canning from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It’s our favorite all-in-one resource for preserving nearly any food – like meat, fruits, jams, jellies, nuts, seafood, salsa, and more.

My family has canned fresh produce, meats, and various other foods for decades, and I couldn’t imagine life without them. We combine our canning efforts with dehydrating foods and traditional freezing, and I’ve even been considering experimenting with freeze-drying foods.

Canning foods in Mason jars like I do means that you require no preservatives, and they never need to get heated past the point where nutrients begin significantly degrading. When stored properly in a chilly, dark, dry environment, canned foods stay viable for years.

You can scale your canning operation to fit your unique space limitations and food stocking needs. And trust me, opening up a Mason jar full of freshly canned green beans from last year is superior to opening a tin can from the local grocery store.

4. Cook from Scratch

chopping pumpkin carrots and mushrooms for a tasty and zesty meal
Eating home-cooked meals has a ton of benefits. Home-cooked meals help bring the family together. And it’s a surprisingly fun hobby. Preparing meals at home can also help save you cash. Many of our homesteading friends swear that eating fresh costs more. But the price of eating out these days seems to keep increasing. A fresh homemade pizza and garden salad will likely cost you less than delivery – or eating out at your favorite restaurant. (We read from CNET that home cooking can cost 50% less than carryout and 75% less than delivery. This calculation sounds about right – in our opinion!)

In my experience, the fewer ingredients a culinary dish contains, the healthier it is. We all know how reading food labels is off-putting. We see dozens of ingredients that are multi-syllabic and difficult to pronounce. Nobody wants to eat a chemical concoction of death!

Learning to cook from scratch ingredients, like raw cuts of meat, raw vegetables, spices, lard or cooking oil, whole grains, milk, cheese, and other traditional food sources, can change your life – for the better!

Using fresh cooking ingredients you can identify (and pronounce) makes your recipe healthier. And it also empowers you to take over and control what you’re putting into your body, with no chemical additives you can’t even pronounce unless you’re a Ph.D. chemist!

My wife and I have cooked at home for so long that only a top-class restaurant could pull us away from our kitchen. We save a ton of money every month relative to eating out in the city the way we used to, and our food tastes better, is healthier, and is enjoyed in our private environment. Food production at its finest!

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5. Grow Vegetables

establishing plants in a raised garden bed
Urban homesteaders should start here. By growing some backyard veggies! And don’t worry if your yard isn’t the biggest. You don’t need much garden space to cultivate fresh veggies. You can even grow crops if you lack fertile soil. Four or five decently-sized grow bags and some compost from Lowes or Home Depot will enable you to grow ample potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, kale, salad crops, peppers, strawberries, or pineberries. (You can produce lovely, lush, healthy veggies as long as your yard, porch, or patio gets at least six hours of daily sunshine. But the more sun – the better.)

You don’t need much space to grow fresh produce on your patio in small garden beds or even sitting inside your living room in front of a sunny window. If you need to, you can add indoor plant-growing lights to accentuate the lack of sunshine you’re exposed to where you live. You can grow a substantial amount of healthy, beautiful food in five-gallon buckets – or a tiny backyard garden.

Think about it: fresh tomatoes, kale, radishes, onions, hot peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, and much more, all right out on your patio. Or even inside in gardening bags. And if you have a backyard or a front yard to utilize, even better!

You can grow a ton of fresh produce in a small operation and then preserve it by canning, as discussed above, to create a highly nutritious food supply that will last you all winter long. Plus, it goes a long way toward increasing your self-sufficiency and saving money!

6. Compost

composting old veggies yard litter and lawn clippings
Composting improves the health and biological structure of your garden soil. Composting is also one of the easiest ways to begin urban homesteading. You don’t need a massive compost bin that takes up half your driveway. A tiny compost bin that can fit in any nook or cranny can work perfectly. Start by composting leftover veggies, yard clippings, coffee grounds, old potting mix, old autumn leaves, tree litter, and used mulch.

The US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends composting to improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate drought, and sustainably recycle existing nutrients. That’s a load of notable benefits, all for simply breaking down organic material like extra produce food scraps, leaves, grass, plant clippings, and other suitable compost materials from your yard or patio. If you lack space, consider a compact compost tumbler from Home Depot. Or cheaply construct a compost pile from scrap pallets if you have the exterior space.

7. DIY Dermatology

natural homemade face creams and essential oil soaps
DIY facial creams and oils help us unwind and relax after the brutal summer heat – or the ruthless winter winds. We’ve collected recipes using organic ingredients. Our favorites include avocados, honey, shea butter, turmeric, aloe vera, and coconut oil. Here’s one of our favorite homemade lotion bar recipes perfect for natural clean skin. And here’s an elegant coconut lotion recipe that will make your skin feel divine.

Skin is the largest human organ. And it’s critical for looking, feeling, and being healthy and vital. Of course, the best thing for the skin is pure, clean, untainted water. But loads of plants and natural supplements are great for enhancing skin health. Plus, you can use them for healthy cooking.

Consider growing chamomile, aloe vera, sage, mint, lavender, calendula, thyme, and rosemary, all of which are getting studied for their skin health benefits. And, of course, they aren’t only good for the skin. Unless you have a rare allergy to them, these enriching herbs invigorate the entire body. Homemade products like these rock!

And don’t forget the excellent skin health benefits of coconut oil, olive oil, and baking soda. And, my wife’s favorite, gelatin. She loves making gelatin masks for us. We leave them on for about half an hour. And then peel them off, along with all the gross stuff that accumulates under the skin. It’s fun and good for your health!

8. Eat Whole Animals

stuffing the basement freezer with beef chicken pork and sausage
Buying bulk at your butcher is an easy way to save cash on home meal prep. But having that much meat on hand can feel overwhelming. One tip is to ask your butcher to help chop your larger orders into smaller chunks. That way – you can freeze and store your new steak, poultry, and pork loin stash. Here are some excellent meat-freezing tips – including how to freeze beef, lamb, veal, pork, plus large and small game.

Apologies for this section if you don’t eat meat. You might wish to skip it!

Eating whole animals saves mucho dinero relative to buying meat, piece by expensive piece, at the grocery store. Plus, consuming organ meats like liver, and highly nutritious bone broth, is excellent for health. Consider packing a small meat freezer (if you have the space) with ¼ cow or ½ pig.

The freshly butchered meat tastes much better than mass-processed grocery store meat, plus you can save a lot of money, which is one of the foundational reasons behind urban homesteading. Plus, IMO, it shows a lot more respect to those animals who get sacrificed for us humans to eat them.

Eat Nose-to-Tail – YUMMY!

9. Embrace Your Circadian Rhythms

lush and comfy looking bed and thick curtains for trying to get more sleep
We love blackout curtains to help us get long intervals of restful, uninterrupted sleep. Homesteaders need plenty of rest! Pulling weeds, planting seeds, raising chickens, watering, and harvesting crops is trickier than it looks. Luckily – all this exhausting effort makes sleeping at night a piece of cake! (Many scholarly sleep articles say that exercise is critical for restful sleep. We agree 100% – and we think farm work counts!)

Circadian rhythms are natural behavioral, mental, and physical changes that most living organisms cycle through daily. Chronobiology, the study of circadian rhythms, explores the integral importance of living in harmony with these natural impulses and biological stimulators – like waking with the sun and sleeping with the moon, for instance.

According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), it’s good, especially for those living in urban settings, to use darkened window shades when sleeping and keep devices and televisions turned off. Think about how animals in nature exist, and then try to be a little more like them!

10. Explore Mycology

white mushrooms found while foraging in the deep forest
Mycology is an occulted (hidden) biology science dealing with mushrooms and fungi! We say it’s an occult science because up to twenty thousand fruiting mushrooms have gotten discovered – but hardly anyone knows anything about them! (Of those 20,000 known species, only around 200 mushroom species get actively cultivated.) So – there are still tons of unknowns in this field, which makes it compelling. And you can help play a part – if you wish.

The field of mycology, the study of fungi, including yeast and mushrooms, is immense yet barely explored. And with just a tiny portion of this giant kingdom examined, the health benefits are promising. Some of the potential health advantages linked to medicinal mushrooms include:

  • Decreased risk of cancer
  • Improved brain health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better nutrition

So, it’s wise and fun for everyone to explore some rudimentary mycology education. And then start a small grow operation wherever you are. There are loads of space-friendly kits available, like mushroom logs! They usually come with spores and everything you need to start quickly and easily.

11. Forage

foraging for wild mushrooms and other tasty goodies
All creatures have unique foraging tactics – from black bears, pigeons, prairie chickens, hermit crabs, and carpentry ants! For modern humans, foraging is a fun way to harvest edible, natural, organic food – but strategies change wildly depending upon where you live. Foraging for nuts and berries in Uraguay would be 100% different from foraging for wild fish in Finland. But no matter where you live – foraging is a fun, interactive, bond-building, and rewarding practice. But if you decide to graze for wild mushrooms, fruits, and berries, forage safely! Never take unidentified wild edibles because you can get sick – or worse. (Use caution!)

I can forage for ages! I love meandering around in the woodlands or wherever I can find areas of organic plants that I’m welcome to harvest. Free natural foods help save money. And they have loads of valuable nutrients, and many have potentially powerful health benefits.

For instance, dandelion root and leaf are associated with anticancer, antioxidant, and hypoglycemic effects in humans, to name a few.

Some others to scan the wild for include stinging nettle, lavender, mint, nuts, pollen, wild mushrooms, grains, spices, moss, and tubers. There are hundreds of nutritious, delicious, and medicinal fresh food that you can harvest while having fun days outdoors. Enjoy your new sustainable lifestyle!

12. Grow Fruit

small peach tree growing in an urban garden
Berries, grapes, apples, peaches, strawberries, and nectarines. These are only a tiny handful of the yummy and delicious crops urban homesteaders can grow. Tree fruits often take years to develop – but once established, they deliver baskets of healthy, nutritious fruit yearly. Smaller plants like strawberries and raspberries grow much faster – and don’t take up much space.

You don’t have to be able to house and grow a 50-foot fruit tree to grow fresh fruit at your urban homestead. You can grow berries and fresh fruit in a small container garden on your balcony in the city. Or, if you have a little more space, consider cultivating a mulberry bush or starting some raspberry shoots. And if you have some extra property to utilize, consider planting full-size fruit trees. My friend, Smokey, has eight beautiful, productive fruit trees on one-third of an acre! We’re talking about massive amounts of food!

13. Raise Some Backyard Laying Hens

domestic hens exploring the backyard paddock
We love raising chickens! Backyard chickens are our favorite way to get delicious, protein-packed eggs without breaking the bank. Each hen can potentially lay 200 eggs yearly for several years. (Some chooks lay way more than 200 – up to 250 eggs each year.) This impressive egg production means a modest chicken coop with six or eight hens can produce more eggs than you can eat! You can sell extra to your neighbors – or give them away for good karma. And – chickens are also a ton of fun to raise.

Laying hens are female chickens raised to lay eggs not intended to hatch. Of course, some laying hens might get harvested for food when their laying capacities dwindle with age.

My wife and I keep 14 birds in a chicken tractor in Ohio. That amount keeps us and our neighbors in more eggs than we can eat. We give at least a dozen away every week. Having egg-laying hens on the homestead saves us a lot of money – even more so since the egg cost has increased about 300% over the past few years. Criminal.

Plus, having backyard chickens around our plot of land adds life and even some humor. I get a kick out of my little cluckers, and they’re also excellent natural pest control agents! If you have the room, consider adding some of these valuable, easy-to-keep, and funny animals around.

14. Second-Hand Shopping

rustic farmyard tools for trade at a garage sale
Urban homesteading is all about living closer to nature and in a more sustainable fashion. Our thrifty style often includes carefully analyzing what we’re spending – and cutting out redundant fluff! That’s why we always keep our eyes peeled for deals and steals – near and afar. We visit antique stores, garage sales, thrift shops, and small mom and pops. We always look for deals on used farm equipment, garden tools, and other outdoor goodies. We never collect junk that we don’t need! But you never know when you’ll find a good deal that can save you money.

My wife and I always shop first at second-hand markets. And we are almost always surprised that they have the excellent values we find there. Plus, you can use social media networks like the Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and others, to find many second-hand stores, especially if you’re willing to travel a bit to get to them. You can find fantastic deals on clothing, tools, household items, and much more, all for so much less. Why pay the retail price for clean, usable items when you can buy them far cheaper?

15. Showing Love to Local Farmers

farmer harvesting fresh and delicious veggies for the market
Homesteaders support one another! It all starts in your local backyard farming community. We’re talking about buying local – and bartering with friends. If you have too many eggs, tomatoes, or apples – ask your neighbor if they need any. And if you need to buy some fresh veggies, check your local farm vendors first. That way, your local economy benefits and grows stronger. And you’ll likely find that locally-grown food tastes far superior to the major food chains! (And you will earn plenty of goodwill by supporting local farmers. That’s our experience, at least.)

Small local farmers can be an urban homesteader’s constant ally. These food providers for society are constantly battling the weather, keeping their farm machinery and equipment in proper working order, keeping up with the cost of diesel fuel, and competition from large grocery store outlets that can provide their goods at low prices.

Supporting your local farmers is a wise way to upscale your environmental conservation efforts while providing income for local farmers. So, pick up what you need in terms of produce each week at your local farm instead of the grocery store!

Homesteading for Beginners | Elise Baker

Homesteading for Beginners by Elise Baker is an excellent beginner-friendly homesteading reference. The book contains many hidden gems, including tips for homesteading on a tiny budget, maximizing garden space, avoiding common homesteading blunders, developing smart homesteading goals, and the best veggies and herbs to begin growing as a novice gardener.

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04/17/2024 03:20 pm GMT

Let’s Summarize!

There are dozens of ways for your family to increase self-sufficiency, stay healthier, save money, and positively impact environmental conservation. Work on one or two things at a time until you establish fluent habits and techniques. Then, scale up your operation to include more healthy and fun projects.

Every little thing you can do to become more self-reliant and thriftier will add to the value of your efforts. In the long run, these actions and habits will become ingrained in your lifestyle, and you, like my wife and I, most likely will not be able to think about living without them.

Thank you so much for reading along today, and I hope the information is helpful and thought-provoking for you.

Enjoy your urban homesteading lifestyles, my friends!

Urban Homestead Resources, Field Guides, and Works Cited:

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