Cottage Craft Works, LLC

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Self-Sufficient Living- Living self-sufficient 2011- Living off the Grid

Living self-sufficient 2011:
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If you are thinking or planning on moving toward a simpler lifestyle, living self-sufficient doesn't mean you have to escape to the hills to homestead in a log cabin without electricity or indoor plumbing.  Even city dwellers can move to a more back to basics self-sufficient life style. If you have a yard or even a small patch of acreage, beating the game of commercialized economics can actually be fun.  Those that do move toward a self-sustaining lifestyle often keep professional skills to work from home of develop products or services they can still supplement an income on.  Many form home based cottage businesses, or simply sell excess items they grow or produce from the homestead.

Work towards becoming debt free.  Realize every ad is targeted at yourself satisfaction envy, and or to guilt you into buying something, therefore not buying the most expensive item when it is not truly needed or the latest gadget is the simplest way to work towards becoming debt free.    Most advertising tries to make you feel buying on terms with no money down is really a good deal.  There is plenty of information on reducing debt and credit card purchases, so I will not spend a great amount of time on how to become debt free.  Just keep in mind before you make a large purchase on credit what would happen if you should lose your job or become disabled?  Driving a 5- 10 year old low mileage car that is paid off and having the principal paid down on your mortgage, with no credit card debt may not look like high society, but it is a comfortable landing pad.  Besides with this economy keeping a low profile is not bad either.  All those fancy homes, expensive cars, and jewelry just says come on and rob me, I have money.   Sure you may have to put a $1,000 repair in the old car, but that is just 3 car payments out of 60 you would have paid on a new car.  Most cars today if taken care of, will last well over 100K miles, with little repairs needed.

Take care of your health; there is not a better investment towards retirement than keeping good health.  You can save and prepare well for retirement but a major medical occurrence even with the best insurance over time can drain life savings, just through co-pays and out of pocket expenses.  The lack of physical activity can severely hamper anyone who is trying to become self-sufficient.  A spouse going into long term care can expect to pay $50,000 per year until the savings are depleted to around $2500, before they can qualify for Medicaid.  Medicare will only pay up to 100 days, but with the focus on saving Medicare dollars most only stay 30 days in a rehab center before going home, or switching to private pay in long term care.  Medicare is likely to be even less of a benefit in the coming years.  Going back to basics and living a more self-sufficient, self-sustaining lifestyle can actually force you to exercise.  Going in and out of hospitals can bring on new infections that are obtained from what are called the new “Super Bugs”.  Running to the doctor for antibiotics every time you have a sore throat or sniffle only creates more resistant “Super Bugs”.  Some of these bugs just don’t go away even after multiple doses of antibiotics.  There are commercialized spending traps in organics and other supplement businesses as well, but sometimes just the old time remedies work when nothing else will.  Just study the benefits on organic apple cider vinegar.  It is the only thing I have found to treat a chronic bladder infection.  It is rather inexpensive compared to all the doctor visits and doses of antibiotics; it has many other health benefits as well.  Going back to basics and living a more self-sufficient, self-sustaining lifestyle can actually force you to exercise, and that is really a good thing. The best part is you don’t have to invest in an expensive health club membership.

Shop the thrift stores, yes they carry the trendy clothing as well, occasionally it will even still have the price tags on it.  The best thrift stores to shop are in the upscale neighborhoods, where high society, most living beyond their means doesn’t think anything of having to stock up the closet with new items, and donate the little worn items to a thrift store like Good Will.  If you have growing kids, the thrift stores can save you a lot of money, just on the few months of clothing before they need the next size. If not a thrift store then look to the discount stores and closeout sales.

Shop wisely for groceries carry a small calculator and compare package and unit size.  Bigger and bulk may not always be a good deal, but try and look for items on sale.  There are a lot of smoke and mirrors in the grocery business. Bulk box stores may not always be the best savings.  Planning menus ahead with a focused shopping list and coupons in hand can save you big dollars.  Try to leave the kids out of the shopping trips, and don’t let the spouse come if they like the impulse buying traps at the end of the isles.  Invest in a freezer and think long range in your menu planning, look for sales on meat purchases.   A large pork loin or large shoulder cut will be priced per pound lower than individual cuts, especially when it is on sale; generally the store will custom cut it into the sections you want for free.  Look at purchasing bulk hamburger and having it packaged as you will use it.  This will save you in wasted left over’s, that generally get thrown out after a few days.  Look at steaks for those to cut in half making two of the recommended 3oz-4oz servings instead of buying two steaks for two people.   It is healthier and saves money in the long run.  Look at the family size packs of pork chops on sale, many times they can be brought home and repackaged into smaller packs before freezing.  Don’t fill the freezer up with processed microwaveable foods, instead think on how many ways you can process and work with one item to make multiple meals and then freeze those items.  For example purchase two whole chickens, at a fraction of the cost of individual cuts.  Cook them both at the same time, then use for meal one, slice and freeze the left over white meat for lunch meat portions, use the dark white meat to make a chicken noodle casserole, then add some vegetables to the left over bones in a pot and stew chicken noodle soup.

You will find the health benefits of the lower sodium, and not having the preservatives in processed foods to be as important as the savings.  Some of the portioned frozen products are loaded in sodium.  Just take a look at the frozen uncooked chicken breast next time you go shopping for the sodium content.  If you do need to purchase convenience foods ask yourself if this is really going to save me time.  Case in point: instant microwave oatmeal, it gets expensive buying the prepackaged envelopes, not to mention the loaded calories and additives put in those mixes.  Now compare to a box of uncooked oatmeal, once the water is boiling, the time to dump in and stir the uncooked oatmeal and let it sit for a few minutes is not much more than cooking it in the microwave,  the same goes for rice, and so forth.

Raise your own vegetables, yes it is nice to have a garden plot, but container and patio gardening can provide a good source of fresh vegetables, and save you considerable dollars over store purchased items, plus you know they won’t be subject to the risk of contamination by organisms’ in recent vegetable recalls.  If you have an over abundance, freezing and canning vegetables is really easy.

You can pick up a book on home preserving at any book store. We also carry several books in our cookbook section at   A water bath is what we use to process canned vegetables, and or parboil if we freeze corn or tomatoes.  Invest in quality tools, they make the work easier, and will last a lifetime.  At we carry several garden tools made and used in the USA Amish communities.

Work as a family or join with some friends and or neighbors to grow, or bulk purchase and process food items.  Many who survived the Great Depression formed co-operative partnerships or brought together large families to raise large gardens, purchase or raise livestock, and then process and share items as a group.  These types of gatherings are as practical today as they were back then.  It just takes planning and a group of people wanting to save money.  If you have a family or group of hunters and or fisherman, wild game and fish can save substantial dollars over store purchased items.   Hunting and Game Calls is where our roots began.  We started with Amish handcrafted hunting and game calls and have since grown into a full line General Store at  We still carry the calls on the store or for the dedicated hunter who doesn’t want to look through all that stuff, you can find them at our subsidiary company at

Form a buying Co-Op, this is where a group of people join together and bulk purchase items by the truck load then split it up equally between them.  This does require some storage space, but everyone needs toilet paper, paper towels, and plastic bags just as an example.  Going directly to the supplier can cut out the middle man, and create substantial savings.  This can become tricky as you will need to check on sales tax requirements. Unless you setup a fully authorized business and collect sales tax, you are probably best to just pay sales tax on the products you purchase from the vendor.

Bartter or swap, if you have a talent, and or business service or product that others need and you need a service or job done, instead of paying for it, look for those who you can swap with.  For example if you are a professional, let’s say a dentist, and you need your house painted.  Go out and find the reputable painter you would choose to pay anyway.  Then when you negotiate the price, ask the contractor about his or her family, and ask them about their dental care.  Chances are pretty good that they need or will need your services, and you can agree on an exchange in services, without either one paying for it.  Instead of having a neighborhood garage sale where everyone piles cloths on a table, then sit all day waiting to make a quarter, arrange a neighborhood swap meet where people can trade for the sizes they need.  This works especially well with back to school times when parents need to purchase new coats and blue jeans.  It also works well in businesses with a large number of employees.

Raise some of your own livestock, if you do have the space chickens are very easy to raise, and really do not take up much space.  We carry plans and a hardware kit to build a Free Range Chicken Coop; it is on wheels at  so it can be rolled to a new location for the chickens to graze on a new feeding spot each day.  Free Range Chickens means the chickens are allowed to wonder freely around the yard or pasture to find insects and other natural food sources for them.  In turn the eggs and meat produced from the chickens is much healthier than raising them in a small fixed space.  Free Range Eggs command a higher price if you have excess and want to sell some of the eggs.

Grind your own flour and make your own cereal, we carry both the Family Grain Mill™ and the GrainMaker ™ grain mills.  By grinding your own flours you will always know you are getting the freshest products without additives.  The Grain Flaker mill is terrific for all your rolling and flaking needs. Great for making granola, hot and cold cereals, cookies, desserts, bread and meat extenders, and the store purchased cereals has become very costly.  The GrainMaker™ comes in two sizes both are compatible with a small milling business or bakery.
Build your own furniture, purchase custom made, purchase unfinished furniture, or go antique.  The furniture carried in most national chains, is just not of high quality, unless you purchase from a custom or high end dealer, solid wood means anything made of wood including particle board products, which most furniture is made of today and then covered with only thin to paper veneers. Even then much of the fancy trim is made of painted plaster that chips easily on the corners.  Simple moving it on a carpeted floor is likely to chip off the particle board at the base and leave an ugly hole in the side.  Any moister on the top or sides and the practical board swells, this furniture is not something that can be refinished.  If you have basic carpentry skills, you can build a future family heirloom that will last for years.  Unfinished, is easy to detect particle board material, the best unfinished furniture will use plywood covered with veneers, and solid wood trim.  We carry Amish made furniture that can be custom built, the Amish quality includes dovetailed jointed drawers, and old time  mortise and tenon joinery craftsmanship passed down from generations, these are true solid wood construction.  The Amish furniture will be tomorrow’s antiques lasting well over 100 years, while particle board furniture will be tomorrow’s landfill dilemma.  If you enjoy antiques and haven’t shopped lately you just might want to take a second look before spending $300 on a piece with particle board in it.  You might be surprised on what $300 will buy for a solid oak item in an antique store fully restored.  Custom made furniture is a well sought after product, many cottage based business make good incomes of manufacturing custom made furniture and cabinets.  Restoring and refinishing antique furniture is also a good home based business.

Produce your own honey, at Cottage Craft Works we carry the Homestead Beehive, it resembles a hollow log to the bees, and is one of the simplest hives to work with to remove honey without disturbing or robbing the bees.  Honeybees are quickly becoming scarce due to large amounts of the bees dying off each year, meaning the cost of honey will continue to rise.  Honey is another item that can be sold or used to barter with for other goods and services.

Grow your own fruit, small dwarf fruit trees take up very little space yet if they are properly cared for can produce bushels of fruit each year.  Some that we have planted as saplings started to produce after just five years.  You can preserve the fruit by canning, drying, or juicing.  We carry a full line of fruit and wine presses, as well as other gear to use in the orchard.

Save on Cleaning and pest control products, large companies want to lure you into purchasing their cleaning and pest control products.  Fancy bottles and fancy commercials leave you the impression you better buy a certain product.  The fact is good old cheap household ammonia cleans dirt and grease as good as or better than the commercial products, vinegar also has amazing cleaning and disinfecting properties.  Our Horse and Buggy Cookbooks also have several recipes for home made cleaning products and garden pest solutions.  If you have a mosquito problem, then you might want to work on attracting a Purple Martin Colony.  One single purple martin can eat up to 1000 mosquitos per day.  This is the only bird family that is totally dependent on manmade housing.  At Cottage Craft Works, we carry several purple martin housing products including a build your own plan book.  Purple Martins are a big part of the Amish Communities and back to basics people because of their ability to eradicate mosquitoes and other pest.  A flourishing colony is something these people envy and cherish more than some of their other possessions.

Personal Protection and Emergency Preparedness, Depending on your personal believes carrying or keeping a firearm for personal protection is something that should be considered carefully.  The economy is causing wide spread budget cuts across all state, county, and local jurisdictions.  Law enforcement and emergency workers are being cut to bare minimums.  Crime was already a growing problem before the budget crisis; one can only assume it will worsen, as more are out of jobs becoming more desperate, with even less oversight protection by law enforcement.  Cottage Craft Works carries a full line of custom leather holsters for home security as well as concealed and carry permit holders.

Whether you believe in Armageddon, or just think the world is cycling in chaos, one thing for sure is that natural disasters are increasing and the number of medical personnel is decreasing.  A good homestead should carry a comprehensive medical emergency box including a comprehensive book on first aid. Consideration should be given to severe cuts, wounds, snake and spider bites as well as other medical emergencies that may take some time for medical personnel to reach you.

Entertainment and eating out, can be very expensive, it is not uncommon for many families to eat out in restaurants during the week more than they eat at home.  If you do eat out often, consider just ordering ice water instead of tea or a soft drink, most restaurants now charge $2.00 plus for these drinks.  Also look for coupons and discount memberships, such as AAA, AARP, and or some of the local credit unions and other organizations that provide discounts of 10%-20%.  Look for promotional coupons or coupon books sold by schools for fund raising projects. Consider sharing a meal with your spouse, US restaurants just oversize well beyond the recommended portion sizes, and generally half the entrée will easy meet those recommended portion sizes.  Order extra sides, or salads.  Most restaurants respect people who want to eat smaller portions and eat healthier; it is no longer viewed as being a tightwad.  Tipping a little heavier to the waiters will help compensate them for going the extra effort, and not make them feel you are not cutting into their tip potential. On return visits they are likely to ask if you want to do half portions, again catering to your wishes.  Your best bet and savings is to cook at home, and or use precooked frozen meals that were made in the above discussion.

Home entertainment doesn’t mean all movies and computer entertainment, some of the old fashioned outdoor games can bring the family and neighbors back together having fun and good exercise.  Cottage Craft Works carries, croquet, volley ball, bean bag toss outdoor games, as well as the popular indoor board games.
Having a good outdoor and comfortable patio area will make entertaining and being outdoors more comfortable, we carry a full line of poly outdoor furniture.  The furniture is Amish crafted from recycled plastics.  It is durable, color fast, and very good for the environment and the “Green Movement”.  Cottage Craft Works also carries old fashioned ice cream makers, and outdoor fire pits and cooking grates.  Save the gas this summer and make your outdoor space an entertainment center.

Park the Car and take the bicycle, if you can use a bicycle to commute to the store, or to work, you can save a tremendous amount of gas, and gain valuable exercise.  Cottage Craft Works carries several aluminum bicycle trailers that will hook easily onto any bicycle allowing you to carry groceries and other supplies.  These trailers are heavy duty commercial type, and are not just some aluminum tubing with canvas.  Many people think the Amish just travel by horse and buggy to town, the fact is many use bicycles and these trailers as part of their weekly shopping routines.  These trailers are also ideal for areas where normal automobile traffic is prohibited such as living on small islands, or other automobile restricted communities.
Sew your own clothing, having a good sewing machine and cabinet makes home sewing chores a breeze, Cottage Craft Works carries custom Amish made sewing machine cabinets to fit any electric or treadle machine.  Many homesteaders supplement their income by custom sewing, alterations and repairs.
Living off the Grid, the ultimate desire for many self-sufficient homestead seekers is to live totally off the grid, well we live in Texas and while the idea gets enticing around November to May after that we soon decide the old A/C would be just hard to give up.  Cottage Craft Works does carry battery operated lamps, and gas lamps to supplement the grid, and or for emergency power outages.

Totally Self-sufficient, if you do want to become totally self- sufficient and live off the grid Cottage Craft Works at  is you’re back to basics non-electric source.   We carry a full line of home and garden, kitchen and food processing items, furniture, home goods, outdoor sports and hunting, and even a composting toilet for the real necessities in life.

Self-Sufficient Living-  Living self-sufficient 2011- Living off the Grid


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