One thing I constantly battle with is money and affording to be more self-sufficient. Don't get me wrong – I earn good money, I have managed finances and a few debts but this post isn't really about money management.

My family and I are on the path of being more self-sufficient and have been on this path for a few years now. We're being proud tenants of 3 allotment plots, own a reasonably large polytunnel, we borrow a little land where we share the husbandry of a few pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys.

But we would like to do more. Possibly looking to go more off-grid with wind, solar, rain harvesting, etc. But a constant barrier we come up against is the cost of doing all this. £600 for a Polytunnel to help us grow veg throughout the winter months for example will pay for itself in 5 years time but it's a chunk of change to get started and seems like to others a waste of time as for that we can get a lot of vegetables from the market.

We've started to realise that being more self-sufficient actually costs a significant sum to do and can feel like it's against the whole point.

So I was wondering if anyone knew of cost-effective ways of moving in this direction? Are there any other small steps we can make frugally to push forward with the lifestyle choice we've been working towards for the last 10 years?

  • 3
    You're further ahead than I am, but I have found that becoming more sustainable (not always the same as more self-sufficient) often means sharing. The people I know who are closest to a fully sustainable lifestyle live in communities with several families. Spread the cost and resources for this kind of infrastructure over more people.
    – aucuparia
    Aug 11, 2015 at 10:46
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    Thanks both, I may of got my terms mixed up. My mind is mush at the minute due to having a poorly newborn keeping me up but appreciate the help anyway! We've been sharing the costs of various things through the family. The Livestock for example is shared through my neighbours which reduced costs and labour which works well. I think community has a lot to play in it. Maybe I should set up a club of some sorts?
    – tea2sugars
    Aug 12, 2015 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


I'll give you an answer based on my previous readings and some years of researches/talks and practices about this subject. But I think that you can only reduce costs if you know and take into consideration:

  • Your living situation: land owner, family situation (kids, pets, ...), etc.
  • Your objectives: eat organic food, reduce carbon emissions, religious thoughts, etc.
  • Your goal(s): live with less money, better quality of life, accept less comfort?, etc.

Being more self-sufficient doesn't mean to make big expenses and there are lots of way to reduce the costs of this way of life. (Actually, there is a market trying to benefit from it, but we don't want to get caught by bad marketing arguments: we do not always need to have things that are new, we do not always need the best, ...).

Here are some tips that are adaptable according to our desires and way of life, to reduce costs:

  • Sharing: if you do all by yourself, it'll cost money for sure. Tools are not always cheap, having different seeds could be expensive too and mistakes can cost money... Sharing with near by communities (or even with your neighbors) will for sure reduce the final costs.
  • Recycle: if you search over internet, local newspapers or talk to people, you'll find people who get rid of things that you can re-use, adapt or repair to serve you well. Don't forget to check the waste collection site/dump site.
  • DIY: you can really lower the costs by doing things by yourself, but takes some time.
  • Make growing choices: some vegetables produces more than others, and some flowers could be sell at higher prices than others. If I take, for example, your polytunnel at £600, you say that it will pay for itself in 5 years time, but it depend of what you do with it. Sure you'll grow some vegetables in there, but what about some flowers that can be sell near-by? Or more productive crops to sell to a local shop? The possibilities and profitability of these facilities may be more or less profitable according to our lifestyle choices and our desires.
  • Ask for help: More and more people are moving towards self-sufficiency in our day, and they are generally willing to help you or to exchange (even give away) some things that are not useful to them.
  • Lower your comfort: quality of life can be better even if you have less comfort. Less comfort mean lower expenses too. Depend of what is your final goal and what are your objectives (reduce carbon emission, eat organic food, etc.).

I hope that some of the information above will be useful to you...

  • Thanks so much for your insightful answer! A lot of what you're suggesting we have in place or have started networking enough to share experiences and help with like-minded people. I love the idea for the Polytunnel. I am a bit of a BBQ nut and love nothing more than smoking meat for 18 hours and my local community love it to as I am often asked to help at fete's and events. One thing that came from this is a BBQ sauce recipe my wife does that is loved by everyone so far and we've had requests to buy it already. Maybe bottling it with produce from the tunnel will help pay for other produce.
    – tea2sugars
    Aug 12, 2015 at 12:15
  • This is a good idea!
    – nrvx
    Aug 12, 2015 at 20:44
  • I also forgot to mention two things above: educational and political commitments. I really think that local commitments into politic may also change the financial aspect of this lifestyle (don't know about your country, but in mine for example, state give money back when you're investing into sustainable or ecological goods). The involvement in education can also be profitable ( courses, information days , etc.). As you also have some animals, activities with children can also be interesting to develop...
    – nrvx
    Aug 12, 2015 at 20:56
  • That's a good point, we do have funding available for solar to be fitted to houses but only if you're the house owners. Doubt they'll put one on my outbuilding though.
    – tea2sugars
    Aug 14, 2015 at 9:10

This is a huge question, with huge implications.

In rural Colombia, where we are working, if a project is not productive, very few will implement it, and those that do will think you tricked them. If sustainability cannot combat poverty, then we are all lost.

Luckily, it can.

With each investment, have a ROI plan

Your polytunnel is a great first example. Pays for itself in 5 years, isn't that wonderful? And I assume that is just passively, for vegetables not purchased. But what if we supercharged that? How can your Polytunnel pay for solar pannel installation, or whatever your next step is?

Look to your local market, but selling starts, flowers, seedling trees, aromatics or cuttings is a good place to start. Get your children involved, even better, depending on their ages, support them starting their own family business.

Each investment should be productive, and should work with previous investments in creating both passive (money not spent) and active (incoming money) income streams.

You are in a special situation, presumably being in a rich, developed nation/community. This has its cons, as often small productive projects will not pay off at the hourly wage we are accostomed to. If 10 dollars a day is a good wage for a Colombian rural resident, there are a litany of productive projects that could reward their labor. If we value our time at ten dollars an hour, many projects look less appealing.

For this reason it is recommended to get our families involved. Time spent with family is immensely valuable, and as such will pay additional wages to your time.

A big benefit in living in a developed region is in the quality of garbage. Its amazing what people will throw out, and if you source consciously and correctly, through sites like craigslist and your local waste points (could be the sides of the road!), you can find wonderful materials/objects for use in your productive projects.

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