Published April 11, 2022

Ten Skills for Self-Reliance

Written by
Charlene Nelson
| The Dakotan

The Internet is full of articles with titles like “Top Ten Skills Every Survivalist Should Know.” I know a lot of people are prepping for some end-of-the-world-doomsday-apocalypse  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 here is my list of Ten Skills that I think will help one to live more self-reliantly, more in sync with the cycles of nature, or just be able to survive these crazy economic times.

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, it is becoming a dying art.

Baking from scratch will save you hundreds of dollars every month. 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.

Gardening 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.

Canning Your great-grandmother spent most of her summer “putting up”—canning the food from the garden to eat all winter long. Nowadays most canning is just jams and salsa. It is more a crafty hobby than a serious project to preserve food for year-round eating. 

Canning is not only a huge money saver, but home-canned food is tastier and more nutritious than commercially canned. When you can the food from your garden you know that it is chemical-free and picked at peak flavor.

[Photo: Charlene Nelson]

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.

Like canning, there's almost nothing that can't be dried: fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, eggs, yogurt and meat are all good candidates for the dehydrator.

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. Instead of using up the scraps from other sewing projects, we now cut up perfectly good fabric just to resew it into quilts.

Knowing how to sew also means that you can mend what you have. 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.

Knitting and/or crocheting These are also dying arts that can come in awfully handy and help lower the family budget. Look for yarns at thrift stores and rummage sales and make slippers, hats, mittens and scarves for pennies. Knitted and crocheted washcloths and hot pads are always handy and very durable.

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.

Engine maintenance Today's cars are 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, checking and changing transmission fluid, radiator fluid, etc. Routinely changing the oil and the gas, oil and air filters will extend the life of your car dramatically.

Every year my husband changes the oil and filters in all our small engines (snowblowers, lawnmowers, rototillers and generators, etc..) and puts fresh gas in them before putting them away for the season. As a result, our lawn equipment has given us years of faithful service.

Cutting hair Early in our marriage my husband declared that 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 three sons and my husband, I figure I've saved several thousands by cutting everyone's hair.

There are hundreds of videos online showing how to give professional-looking haircuts. Go buy a good hair clipper and sharp scissors and start learning. This skill will save you lots of money.

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 economical. But it is a pretty good deal if you learn to butcher your own meat.

There are health advantages to eating venison. Don’t listen to those who tell you venison has a gamy 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 wonderfully yummy!

If you fish your limit, you can freeze, dry or can plenty of fish to last you the year and you'll avoid all the heavy metals and toxins that are often found in commercially-caught fish.

How often will you need to use these skills? Maybe not very often, but with skills like these are always an advantage. If you are always working to expand your skills you'll be more self-reliant and save money in the process.

More self-reliant skills: https://www.providenthomecompanion.com/blog-2/self-reliance/ 
Canning FAQs: https://www.providenthomecompanion.com/canning-faqs/
Nine reasons to dehydrate: https://www.providenthomecompanion.com/nine-reasons/
Sustainable sewing: https://www.providenthomecompanion.com/product/sustainable-clothing/
Prairie Road Organics: https://www.prairieroadorganic.co/

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