DIY, Gardening, Self Suffiency

Berry Picking a Path to Self-Sufficiency

May 26, 2015
Berry picking a path to self-sufficiency

In five years, my husband and I hope to have the money for a down payment on a piece of property where we can start a small, self-sustaining, completely off the grid, homestead. It feels a bit like a pipe dream, but it is our dream nonetheless. We have a long way to go to reach our goal of living a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. We are learning now, though, that self-sustainability doesn’t have to mean solar panels and well water. It starts with the ability to figure out how to do most things completely on your own.

Canning and freezing seasonal fruits and vegetables, both from local farms and our own garden, is one thing that we taught ourselves to do in order to become more self-sufficient. We believe in trying to eat as seasonally as possible and storing what we can for the rest of the year. Not only do we support our community’s farmers by eating locally grown food, but we also save a lot of money by preserving food when it is at it cheapest.

My kids eating them as fast as I could pick them

Strawberries happen to be cheapest in May. We like to go strawberry picking every year to save a little bit of money. We always try to preserve as many as possible to eat throughout the rest of the year. Some go into the freezer for smoothies and pies, and the rest gets turned into jam, marmalade, or conserves. We enjoy the time spent together at the farm, picking the berries. We also enjoy the time spent together as a couple, preserving the berries after our kids are in bed. It has become an annual date night for us, and we are even a little bit competitive about it now. My husband likes to think that his strawberry lemon marmalade is better than mine. I beg to differ.

Just 33 lbs of our strawberries

Just 33 lbs of our strawberries

The “pick your own” strawberries from the farm down the road from us cost us $1.57 per pound. Grocery store strawberries cost $3.99 a pound. It took us roughly 1.5 hours to pick 50 pounds of strawberries. So, in 1.5 hours we saved ourselves $121 dollars. It’s just a small amount compared to the rest of our food budget, but we enjoy going, and we would rather support our local farmers than pay for the over-priced grocery store strawberries shipped from California.

first batch of jam and freezer berries

first batch of jam and freezer berries

If eating local is important to you too, but you don’t have access to local farms because you live in the city or don’t have a car, look into local CSA (community supported agriculture) programs. Many of them deliver or have local pick-up points.  Try looking for a CSA local to you at http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

There are a million ways to become a little bit more self-sufficient. You could plant a container garden on your deck or have a full-sized garden in your yard. Even having a pot of herbs on your kitchen window sill is a small way to grow your own food. Don’t let the home you live in decide the kind of life you want to live or the kind of food you want to eat.

Do you try to eat locally grown food?

What steps do you take towards self-sufficiency?

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10 Comments

  • Reply howtostuffyourpig May 26, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I live in New England and we are surrounding by farms. I should really learn the art of canning to help stretch my dollars!

    • Reply ModerateMuse May 26, 2015 at 11:42 am

      Canning seems really daunting at first, but it can actually be really fun! We bought the book “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving” when we first started out. It has a lot of great recipes. Just make sure you have all of the right equipment before you get started. My husband learned the hard way when we suddenly had to remove 8 jars from a boiling pot of water without a jar grabber!

      • Reply howtostuffyourpig May 26, 2015 at 11:56 am

        I will have to figure out how to do this before berry season!

  • Reply Jennifer @ WanderlustWallet May 27, 2015 at 10:13 am

    I’d like to learn how to can; it’s something I’ve never tried. For a couple of years, I had a community garden plot and found growing some of your own food to be very satisfying. I’m a tomato fanatic, and home grown tomatoes are also so much tastier than what’s generally sold in stores. Later when we owned a home, I grew some tomatoes, but my yard was shady, so I never had a big garden. Now I’ve considered growing a few potted plants on our patio here, but the logistics involved with getting the items (particularly the dirt) without a car have made me a little hesitant. However, there is a local farmer’s market that I’ve been meaning to check out!

  • Reply ModerateMuse May 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    I too LOVE fresh tomatoes. I could live on caprese salad during the summer. One of the things I loved most about Europe was the fantastic farmers’ markets. Even the corner stalls on street corners carry fantastically fresh produce. Do they have community gardens in your city? If you can’t get the dirt for a tomato plant, look into getting an already potted smaller herb, like rosemary or basil. Those would be easier to carry on public transport.

  • Reply birminghamtomb May 28, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Great photos – in the UK we preserve a lot but canning isn’t as common as it is on the USA. There are certain chefs, gardeners and food writers that offer advice and processes but it’s not as common as a jar of chutney is with home preserving. Pick your owns are a dieing service in the UK now – it’s rubbish !

    • Reply ModerateMuse May 28, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      I love a good chutney! It’s a shame to hear that more farmers don’t allow pick your own in the UK. I’m sure they would give in to the demand if you let your voice be heard. Perhaps have like-minded friends join you in pestering the local farms until they give in? It’s definitely worth a shot!

  • Reply 10 Frugal Activities to Beat the Heat - Shoeaholic No MoreShoeaholic No More July 13, 2015 at 7:01 am

    […] Virgin daiquiris are a great, inexpensive way to beat the heat, especially if you have your own local strawberries stashed away in the […]

  • Reply Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore July 15, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    That sounds super fun! I wish we had things like that here. We only have corn, soybean, and wheat farmers. (Not the kind of corn you eat.) I keep hoping to start my own backyard garden to help with my grocery bill and self-sufficiency too.
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…2014 Final Tax NumbersMy Profile

    • Reply moderatemuseblog July 15, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      If you are seriously thinking about starting a garden, I suggest reading “Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre” by Brett Markham. Most of what I know about gardening came from his book =]

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