From growing your own produce to cutting down on fast interiors, Hayley Baddiley from Denby Pottery shares her tips for becoming more self-sufficient at home.
Currently, the UK is only 18 per cent self-sufficient in fruit and 55 per cent in fresh vegetables, according to data from the National Farmers Union.
For the rest of our food, we rely on imports to make up the shortfall, which means much of what's available on our supermarket shelves depends on what's happening in the world as a whole.
As a result, many people are looking into ways to be more self-sufficient at home.
Becoming self-sufficient means reducing what you buy in supermarkets and producing more of your food and necessities for yourself. The great thing about self-sustainability is that parts of it are very easy and rewarding to do.
By taking inspiration from sustainable lifestyles, and applying conscious thinking tips to your everyday life, you could enjoy fewer trips to the supermarket, experience the excitement of growing your own fruit and vegetables, and maybe save a bit of money too.
Here, I'll be sharing some self-sufficient techniques you can incorporate into your lifestyle.
Start from scratch
One of the key aspects of living self-sufficiently is reducing your reliance on supermarkets for your food by making your own from scratch.
This can be as straightforward as baking your own bread each weekend, or making your own stocks, soups, and sauces to use during the week. Choosing cupboard staples and family favourites like this can have the biggest impact, as you're no doubt going to use them almost every day.
Producing food from scratch doesn't have to stop with your everyday essentials, either. Why not try your hand at a bit of gardening? Growing your own vegetables can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby, and you don't necessarily need to have lots of garden space.
Small root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and beetroot can grow well in containers, as well as vine plants such as tomatoes and runner beans. Again, start by picking one or two of your family's favourite fruit or vegetables. As you gain more confidence, you can expand your collection to include new seasonal produce.
There are so many gardening options out there that you're bound to find one that fits with your lifestyle. You may not even need any outdoor space to get started, because you can start a small herb garden on your kitchen windowsill. Alternatively, you could apply for an allotment near you on the government website.
In some areas, there is a waiting list for allotment sites. While you're waiting to be granted a space, it might be worth seeing if there are any community garden projects in your local area that you could join. This way, you'll be much better prepared to take on a larger scale gardening project once you get your allotment site. You can find your nearest community garden by searching your location with the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK.
If you'd like to go one step further, you can consider keeping chickens, provided you have the space and time. While this can be a bigger commitment compared to gardening, you'll be rewarded with plenty of fresh eggs for your family breakfast. All you need is a few chickens (four to six is usually enough) plus a chicken coop and run to protect them from the elements and predators.
Alternatively, you could try beekeeping. Although this can be a little more difficult to set up and manage, beekeeping can be an incredibly rewarding hobby. Not only can your bees provide fresh honey, but they'll also help to pollinate your garden and keep your vegetable patch blooming and bountiful.
The easiest way to start keeping bees is to join a local British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) group near you. There are numerous groups all across the UK which can offer support and training opportunities to help you develop your hobby. Some even offer try-before-you-buy schemes, which let you borrow a hive or work on a local apiary under the supervision of an experienced beekeeper, so you can decide if the hobby is right for you before you dive in fully.
Save what you can
While the tips above will help you produce your own essentials from scratch, you should also consider saving as much as you can. This includes finding ways to reuse your leftover food. For example, you may already save leftover vegetables to make soups and stocks, or preserve fruits by making jam.
This thought process can be applied to almost any area of your home, so have a think about what kinds of things you could save and reuse. One option could be to collect rainwater in a water butt and use it for your plants. Or, instead of getting rid of your old clothes, you could cut them up and use them as homemade cleaning cloths.
Any cardboard packaging and inedible food, such as eggshells, can be turned into compost for your garden. While traditional composting is a great option to get rid of your leftovers, it can require some maintenance, and you'll need to stir it at least once a week to facilitate the process. If you're searching for an easier option, vermicomposting might be the perfect solution.
This involves disposing of your compostable materials in a worm bin, and letting the worms do the rest of the work. Then, once it looks like soil, you can harvest your compost and use it to feed your plants.
Try some crafting
Self-sufficiency doesn't just have to be about food. Anywhere you can try your hand at a little DIY is the perfect opportunity to be more self-sufficient, as you won't have to visit a shop as often. For example, you could consider making your own teabags from loose leaf tea and muslin squares. Or, practice your sewing or knitting skills so you can repair or refresh some of your old clothing.
If someone you know has a birthday coming up, why not make them a homemade gift, such as a candle made by melting down leftover beeswax, or a jar of jam made from their favourite fruit?
Doing this can add an extra personal touch that they're sure to appreciate.
Cut down on fast interiors
Another way to become more self-sufficient is to reduce your reliance on fast interiors. It's worth investing in well-made homewares that are designed to be durable, as they're much more likely to last you a long time compared to those of a poor quality.
When shopping for homewares, look for those that have been crafted by hand, rather than those made by a machine, as more care and attention to detail usually denotes quality.
The key to self-sufficiency is making the most out of everything you can, so try to pick versatile pieces that can be reused for another purpose. For example, you can use freezer- and microwave-safe ceramic bowls and beeswax wraps to store your leftovers in instead of flimsy containers.
Another great option is to use ceramic jugs as vases.
Once they reach the end of their lifespan, you can often recycle high-quality ceramics and give them a new lease of life rather than throwing them away. For example, old teapots, mugs, and bowls work great as planters or homemade birdfeeders for your garden.
Becoming more self-sufficient can be incredibly rewarding. By taking some of these tips on board, you can incorporate elements of self-sufficiency into your lifestyle.