I recently read an article on Ten Skills Every Survivalist Should Know. It got me to thinking…
I know a lot of people are prepping for some end-of-the-world-doomsday kind of event and in that case, these would be skills you’d want to know. But how likely is that? I think the more common skills one would need would fall into categories like:
-Living within one’s means
-Healthy food, healthy activities
-Surviving a temporary crisis: income or job loss, storms, power outages, natural disasters, etc.
So, thinking along those lines, here is my list of Ten Skills that I think will help one to livemore self-reliantly, more in sync with the cycles of nature, or just be able to survive these crazy economic times.
1-Baking from Scratch—Forty or fifty years ago this wasn’t considered a skill. It was a given; every homemaker knew how to make bread and cookies from scratch. In our world of ready-made and instant mixes, this is becoming a thing of the past.
Baking from scratch will save you hundreds of dollars every month off of your food bill. It is much easier to store the baking basics rather than baking mixes. In times of economic stress it can be essential to making ends meet.
2-Gardening—In case you couldn’t tell, I think gardening is one of the most important skills you can have. It’s one that takes years to develop and even more to master. So you will never be bored with it and it will always present new and interesting challenges.
Gardening ensures that you will always have healthy, flavorful and nutritious food for a fraction of the cost of store-bought. It also strengthens mind and body. Studies show that children who garden with their parents are more likely to eat and enjoy a wide variety of vegetables.
3-Canning—Your great-grandmother spent most of her summer “putting up”–canning the food from the garden to use all winter long. Nowadays it is more a crafty hobby than a serious project to preserve food for food storage. Most canning today is just jams and salsa. But there’s hardly a food that can’t be canned, making it an essential skill if you want to “put food by” (as your great grandmother would have said.)
About four or five years ago I kept detailed records of my canning—how much and what I canned and the cost of ingredients. I canned nearly 800 jars of food that summer. If I were to have bought those same things in the store would have cost me about $1400. It cost me $110 in ingredients. Canning is not only a huge money saver, but home-canned food is tastier and more nutritious than commercially canned. If the food is from your garden then you know that it is chemical-free and picked at peak flavor.
4-Dehydrating—Canning is the traditional way to preserve food, but I think drying is probably an even better method of food preservation. It’s something that anyone can do, in any climate, with any budget. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, eggs, yogurt and meat are all good candidates for the deydrator.
Even if drying didn’t save you a lot of money (it does!) you would still want to dry your foods. Dried foods are compact, taking just a fraction of the space of fresh, frozen or canned. And it is convenient. Dried foods give you a pantry-full of “instant” meals—soups, casseroles, tasty treats. It’s perfect for backpacking and camping.
There are other methods of preserving food: brining, curing, freezing, etc. But dehydrating and canning are the two that everyone who wants to be self-reliant should know.
The National Center for Home Food Production has all sorts of information on both canning and drying. I think you’ve already heard me mention this Stocking Up book. It’s my absolute all-time favorite book on all the ways you can preserve food. If you can only get one book on the topic, this is the one to get.
5-Sewing—Sewing is another dying art. When I was young, homemade clothes were the norm. Now sewing is mostly a crafty-hobby project, rarely used to make anything essential (like clothes.) Even quilting has lost its roots of frugal living (where your grandma used all the scraps from making clothes to make a quilt) and now we cut up perfectly good fabric just to resew it into quilts.
Yet home-sewn clothing is not only economical but the clothes last longer and fit better. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find pretty clothes for girls that are modest. So many clothes today are provocative and too revealing. If you want modest clothing for your daughters you may find you have to sew them.
Knowing sewing skills also means that you can mend what you have. I have rescued several winter coats that someone was going to toss because of a broken zipper. These were nice, almost brand-new name-brand coats that would have cost $100 in the store, but I got them for the cost of a zipper and an hour or so replacing it. Knowing how to replace zippers, buttons and mend simple tears will help you keep your clothing budget manageable, especially during the years your children are little and growing out of clothes overnight.
I’ve written a booklet–I hope you’ll check it out!–on how to sew for your family without breaking the budget or stressing your schedule. I call it Sustainable Sewing–sewing that fits neatly into your schedule and helps you economize.
6-Knitting and/or crocheting—OK, maybe this isn’t an essential skill. But it’s another one of those dying arts that can come in awfully handy and help lower the family budget. I buy yarns at thrift stores and rummage sales and make slippers, hats, mittens and scarves for pennies. I also knit and crochet some pretty durable washclothes and hotpads. It’s a nice skill to have because you can do it during what would otherwise be down-time: watching TV, traveling, waiting at the doctor’s office, etc. Here are links to hundreds of free knitting and crochet patterns.
7-Simple home repairs—It’d be great to know carpentry and be able to add a new room to the house or build your own kitchen cupboards. But that kind of skill takes years of study and practice to develop. But what is needed is the ability to do minor repairs around the house: fix the toilet mechanism, replace a plug outlet or light fixture, install a doorknob or a new water faucet. The New Fix-It-Yourself Manual by Reader’s Digest has been our most used book for fixing things around the home.
8-Engine maintenance—With cars being so computerized, backyard tune-ups are pretty much a thing of the past. Still, it’s important to know how to do routine engine maintenance: changing the oil and filters, cleaning or changing spark plugs, changing transmission fluid, radiator fluid, etc. Routinely changing the oil and gas, oil and air filters will extend the life of your car dramatically. For 16 years and over 300K miles our little Geo Metro ran like a top and never once needed a major repair. It got more then 50 highway miles per gallon. My husband attributes this good performance to the fact that he changed the oil and filters religiously.
Every fall Ross changes the oil and filters in all our small engines: lawnmowers, rototillers and generators, etc. He drains the gas and puts new gas in with Stabl. In the spring after running the small engine once, he drains and changes the gas (we add the old gas to a full tank of gas in one of the cars, so it doesn’t go to waste.) He does the opposite with the snowblowers: changing their oil and filters in the spring when the snow is all gone and putting in new stuff in the winter after using them once. As a result, our lawn equipment (most of which we bought used) has given us years of faithful service.
9-Cutting hair—Early in our marriage my husband declared he wanted me to cut his hair. I’m afraid my first few attempts weren’t all that professional looking, but he wasn’t too particular. (whew!) With practice (and watching the pros) I finally got the hang of it. These videos will help you get started. The key is good clippers and sharp scissors.
With four men in the family, hair cuts could be a pretty expensive monthly bill. I figure that for each child, I’ve saved over $3000 in hair cuts. Definitely worth the effort to learn.
10-Hunting and/or fishing—You’re already producing plenty of fruits and vegetables in your garden, right? Now you need some protein. By the time you pay for the hunting tag, the gas to get to your site and the butchering, hunting might not be that great of a deal. But it is a pretty good deal if you learn to butcher your own meat. If you fish your limit, you can freeze, dry or can plenty of fish to last you the year. Here’s an article on how to handle the fish you catch with more links on how to freeze.
There are health advantages to eating venison. Don’t listen to those who tell you venison has a gamey taste or is dry and tough. Home-canned venison is extraordinarily tender and if you add spices and flavorings before canning, you ensure a wonderful out-of-the jar flavor. Cured venison (like jerky, bacon and sausage) is divine-tasting treat.
I have a whole page of blog posts just for skills for self-reliance. How often will you need to use these skills? Maybe not very often, but if you do know how to do these things (or can follow instructions on the Internet or in a book. you will save a lot of money off of the household budget.The idea is to expand your skills and be more self-reliant, hopefully saving money in the process and always mindful of the bounties that God sends your way.