Is Self-Sufficiency Too Time-Consuming?

Prepping and survival blogs, including this one, are replete with advice and commentary on all kinds of ways to be self-sufficient: grow your own food, raise chickens, install solar power, grind your own flour, and many other tasks. And self-sufficiency is certainly important to prepping. One or another disaster scenario might occur that would reduce our ability to obtain some of the necessities and/or comforts of life from commerce and society. But one of the problems with self-sufficiency is time; the more you move toward self-sufficiency, the more time you need to spend.

Now if you are aiming for a rural homesteading lifestyle, with as little dependence on others as possible, you might be happy with that trade-off: your time for self-sufficiency. But many preppers, myself included, don’t have that much time to spend. We have jobs and various obligations that prevent us from attaining full self-sufficiency or even a large measure of self-sufficiency. So what other options are there?

My solution is selective self-sufficiency, in which you manage the trade-off between your time and the resources you value the most. I would suggest that food and water are at the top of that list. So you might maintain a large backyard garden, but choose the crops and production methods that provide the most food with the least amount of work. Here is my post on Lazy Gardening, which minimizes the work needed to produce food, but requires more land than a labor-intensive approach.

Storing food is also essential, if you seek a good measure of self-sufficiency without spending too much time. To grow all the food that you and your family need is essentially a full-time job. So you should store a large amount of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates), and then grow some fruits and vegetables for additional nutrients in a “lazy garden”.

Water purification is tricky. Take a look at the LifeStraw products available from our advertiser, Earth Easy. See the banner ad to the right. They have water purification devices from the small and inexpensive LifeStraw Personal, the new LifeStraw GO bottle [see the coupon code in the ad to the right], and the top-of-the-line LifeStraw Family 1.0 [my pick]. I would also suggest storing some bottled water, to get you through any short-term disaster scenarios that might make town or well water unhealthy to drink.

On that subject, did you know that well water can become contaminated? This happened to my family quite a few years ago. A severe storm dumped a huge amount of rain on us, and surface water got into the well. The result was that our faucet water from the well was contaminated with bacteria.

Then the other possibility, which is much more common, is a “boil water alert” from your local town or city water department. In either case, you need water purification to make use of tap water for drinking, cooking, or even brushing your teeth.

Other aspects of self-sufficiency are also important. I don’t agree with the approach that suggests storing “fish antibiotics” and learning to suture your own wounds. My approach would be to store some health books and put together a good first aid kit. But I would always count on having some recourse to the health care system, limited though that may be. Self-sufficiency in this area is difficult, and even dangerous. You don’t want to be playing doctor on yourself and your family, unless you are a doctor.

Electrical power is also a major issue in prepping. Total self-sufficiency here is not so much time-consuming as money-consuming. But then your money is earned by the time you spend working. I can’t justify the expense of a solar or solar/wind system that would take me entirely off-grid. So I would suggest storing some batteries and flashlights, and perhaps a small solar charger for your cellphone.

But if the power goes out, you probably won’t have a source of heat. If you live in a cold-winter area of the country, as I do, that is a serious prepping problem. We wish we had a large fireplace and a large stack of dried wood. Instead, we will have to opt for warm sleeping bags and a bug-out option, if the power is out in the winter.

Well, the same approach of limited and selective self-sufficiency can be applied to other areas of living and prepping. I’m not an off-grid homesteading type of prepper, although I respect that approach.

– Thoreau

3 Responses to Is Self-Sufficiency Too Time-Consuming?

  1. There is really no such thing as self sufficiency because there are some supplies most of us simply cannot make: sugar, salt, spices, fabric, olive and coconut oils, plastics, etc. These items must come from elsewhere. But we can develop levels of self-reliance with what we can make and obtain. And good old common sense will always be in demand. Like choosing your battles, you must always direct your strengths and weaknesses. I too have a reasonably well stocked med kit, so that a trained nurse or doctor can use my supplies (if necessary) to mend my family. I can do simple patch ups but have no intention of ever playing surgeon.

  2. Thoreau,
    I agre with your approach — we all do what we can. However, I believe you are giving in a little too easily on the home heating issue — there is a middle way. The problem is that most natural gas and oil-fired heating systems depend on the electrical grid to run their circulating fan and sometimes the thermostat. A very small generator placed outside the house, plus an extension cord, can be used to allow your gas or oil heating system to continue to function in the event of a power outage. See my book, The One Minute Prepper, on Amazon, for a fuller discussion of this strategy.
    Regards, David Lee Todd

  3. Starving *is* much simpler. You really don’t have to do anything, except lie down & die.