Unbelievably gorgeous photo courtesy of Rachel Tayse Baillieul
Our guest mensch today is Rachel Tayse Baillieul, urban homesteader extraordinaire. Read more about Rachel at the end of the post.
My family calls ourselves urban homesteaders. What we mean is that
we try to grow and make all that we can in our home on a tiny lot in
We grind sausage, brew beer, grow an organic garden, mix cleaning
supplies, raise backyard chickens, and make jam by hand because we
enjoy the pastime. We like knowing and trusting the sources of our
food. Our stocked garden and pantry make us feel secure.
However, only some of these activities save us money. When the
tools and raw materials are accounted for, making sausage at home is
just not worth it though we do it anyway because it is fun. Growing
root vegetables and keeping chickens for eggs only break even with
what we might pay for similar quality goods.
Which Homesteading Activities Are Mensch-Worthy?
1) Creating cleaning supplies - We make our own window, sink,
floor, and counter spray from bulk white vinegar, water, and tea tree
essential oil. A 16 ounce bottle costs $0.50 in a reused spray
bottle. Beat that, Windex!
2) Making jam - High quality jam made from local fruit costs $5
for an 8 ounce jar at the farmers' market. I can make
jam from fruit seconds for as low as $2 per jar, including the
cost of the jar.
3) Growing tomatoes - Organic tomatoes at the farmers' market can
cost up to $3 per pound for fancy heirloom varieties whereas a single
$3 seedling can produce up to ten pounds of fruit. True penny
pinchers can plant open pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties, save the
seeds, and grow next year's seedlings for the cost of some seed
4) Canning pickles - Pickled
beets, cucumbers, onions, and more are a cinch to make. When you
compare to store products of a similar artisnal quality, home-made
pickles save 50% or more.
5) Brewing beer - We brew beer from $35 of grain in five gallon
batches. It's not the finest beer in the world but certainly matches
standard microbrew quality. Generously accounting for the equipment,
our beer clocks in at $1.10 a pint or $6.60/six pack. Homebrewing
seems to come with an increased consumption of rare and unusual (also
expensive!) beers from around the world which might drink up
potential savings. Obviously, not drinking beer at all would save
tons of cash but a cold one is necessary after chasing chickens,
children, and dogs around my 'stead most days!
6) Home hair cuts – Myself and my daughter trim our long hair
with stylist scissors while my husband shaves his bald head and trims
his beard with razor electric beard trimmer. We haven't paid to go to
a salon in over a year.
7) Raising herbs - Fresh herbs at the farmers' market and grocery
store are wickedly expensive. Growing them at home takes very little
space (most are happy in a container) and only the cost of some seeds
or a seedling. Some herbs like oregano, mint, thyme, parsley, and
rosemary are perennial, meaning after you plant them once they will
come back year after year. When you can step outside and harvest
fresh herbs, you enjoy better meals and a fatter wallet.
The list can go on, of course. What do you make at home
that saves you money?