Independence challenge

learn-to-knit-for-independenceI’ve been excited about the prospect of an ‘independence challenge’ I’ve seen around the internet for a long time.

So I’ll start with an apology. I don’t know who to credit this idea to. If it’s you, then please leave me a message in the comments section! It would be great to spend some time with you, getting to know your motivation and inspiration behind the project.

Many of us love the idea of being more self sufficient, but it can be overwhelming too. The idea of the independence challenge is to pick some things to do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis that will help you achieve your goal of being self sufficient.

Avoiding overwhelm

Everyone’s idea of self sufficiency is different. For some it’s about growing their own food, for other’s it’s making clothes, for many it’s cooking food from scratch or keeping chickens. It doesn’t matter what your idea or dream is, it’s all about getting stuck in and having a go.

Independence challenge

The challenge is split into several areas and they are all really thought provoking. Each challenge will encourage you to gain a little more independence from ‘the system’ and will give you a taste of the good life. It’s divided up as follows:

Plant something[amazon-product align=”right” small=”1″]0751364428[/amazon-product]

The idea of this is not simply to grow food, but to make the world more beautiful and to plant something useful wherever you can.

So sure, go ahead and plant some seeds which will grow into plants you can eat, but remember that flowers are food for the soul and trees are needed for oxygen. How about some shittake mushrooms on a log if you don’t have much room?

You’ll find lots of ideas on our site, in the gardening section of our site.

Harvest something

[amazon-product small=”1″]190032217X[/amazon-product]Whether it’s a sprig of parsley from your windowsill, some sprouted seeds or a full yield of potatoes, there is nothing like preparing and eating your own food.

Try your hand at foraging too. There is plenty of food for free out there or why not join a CSA if you need some moral support?

Preserve something

Preserving food well was the difference between life and death not so long ago. [amazon-product align=”right” small=”1″]0007183038[/amazon-product]Last year I made chutney for the first time and we’re still enjoying it now! It was an amazing experience and I’m all geared up for doing the same this year.

I also have a dehydrator for making dried fruit and make full use of the freezer. I’m going to dry herbs this year and try my hand at making jam

Preserving a glut of food, or buying in bulk when food is in season will reduce your air miles and dependence on large corporations.

Store something

The idea behind this is to store the things you don’t grow or produce yourself and to support local or ethical retailers where possible. Choose things with as little impact on the planet as you can and instead of supporting supermarkets buy from a fair trade food co-operative or similar.

By gradually building up a store of staple foods such as lentils and grains you’ll always be able to knock up a hearty meal.

[amazon-product small=”1″]0906137276[/amazon-product]Manage reserves

This is one area I need to focus on. I’ll happily pick my apples for preserving, but life can get in the way and I end up with rotten fruit. Managing reserves is so important and takes weekly maintenance.

Part of the independence challenge is ensuring things don’t get wasted, so good rotation of stores, checking things are not going off and managing freezer food with clear labelling and dates is the key.

Cook something new[amazon-product align=”right” small=”1″]1843172658[/amazon-product]

Signing up for a vegetable box scheme or buying locally and seasonally is a sure way to get you experimenting in the kitchen!

It’s so easy to pop to the supermarket and buy strawberries in December or a swede in the middle of summer. Eating seasonally forces you to rethink the way you eat and cook food. It also gives you independence when you can create a meal from a handful of eclectic ingredients.

Some of my best meals have been created in this way! Why not cook one meal a week from seasonal, local or preserved ingredients and see what you can come up with?

[amazon-product small=”1″]184317264X[/amazon-product]Prep something

Candles, batteries, blankets, hand tools, natural remedies, rain barrels – a few things you might need in an emergency or during a prolonged power cut or drought. Teach yourself how to light a fire and cook on it, how to flush your toilet with rain water or how to knit by candlelight – you never know when you might need it!

Reduce waste

This is my forte! I’m the Queen of reduced waste, but there is always room for improvement. Each week I have a little food waste that could have been prevented, but most of us throw away around one third of the food we buy.

Being less wasteful saves resources, energy and money. Living sustainably means we keep waste to a minimum and being a good custodian of all that we have is a sure way to reduce waste.

Mend that chair, sew that button on, fix the leaking tap, insulate your loft and view today’s leftovers and tomorrow’s ingredients.

Learn a new skill

Let’s face it; most of us have it pretty easy and spend our time trying to find new[amazon-product align=”right” small=”1″]1847865313[/amazon-product] ways to ‘entertain’ ourselves. How about learning a new skill – one that will empower you and lead you to a more sustainable life?

Cooking, sewing, DIY, gardening, preserving, chicken keeping, plumbing, paint, sing and dance. Story tellers are needed around the campfire too and maybe your ‘hobby’ might one day provide an income or be the difference between surviving and thriving.

Work on community food security

Many of us do not know our neighbour. Why not take the time to get to know yours – you never know when you might need to pull together to make resources work for you. The simple act of taking time to show you care will help to rebuild our sadly lacking communities.

If you don’t have neighbours, then get out into your community and donate food, volunteer for a homeless shelter or start a community garden or composting project. It’s a great opportunity to make new friends and work towards a common goal.

This year our neighbour has given us lettuce and broad bean plants and eggs. In exchange we’ve given them tomato and courgette plants along with some home baking.

Do unto others and all that …

OK, it might seem daunting when you read through it all, but I hope parts of the independence challenge leave you feeling inspired and excited. And you’ll recognise that you’re already doing some things on the list too.

What about you – what have you done for your independence challenge this week?


  1. Vin | on May 14, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Nice article! I’m very big on the idea of self sufficiency and look forward to growing my own food when the time is right. I imagine it’s quite fulfilling!

    Based on your interest in reducing waste, you might be interested in this eye opening video I came across yesterday called The Story of Stuff. It’s pretty shocking how many resources are required to produce a lot of the products we end up not using and throwing away.

    Beth from Smart Family Tips posted it on her blog which is where I found it. You may enjoy her blog as well.

  2. Mrs Green on May 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks Vin, glad you liked the article. Growing your own food is amazing; you wouldn’t believe how exciting it gets to see your first seedling pop its head through the soil. And as for harvest time, well that’s the time when you forget all about the weeding you have been doing daily for the past 3 months!

    I LOVE the story of stuff video; it’s truly amazing and the woman behind it is an inspiration. Apparently, some schools are showing it, which is awesome.

    Thanks for the heads up for Beth’s site; I’ll take a look at it – it’s always good to get a recommendation 🙂