Everything to Know About Homesteading (and Why It’s All Over TikTok)

Group of chickens walking around a green lawned garden on a free range urban farm, with gentle sunlight
Credit: mavo / Shutterstock Credit: mavo / Shutterstock

You may have learned about homesteading after seeing people show off their large garden plots or adorable chicken coops as they talk up the benefits of “living off the land” on TikTok or Instagram. And while this practice was once something that was reserved for people living in more rural areas, or people who didn’t have the resources to run to the store to pick up necessities, several factors — including the rising price of food — have made it more popular.

If you think homesteading is something you might want to check out, Mary Woita, homesteader and blogger at Boots & Hooves Homestead, has good news for you: Unlike the homesteaders of yore, modern growers don’t need acres of land or livestock to get started. In fact, beginning your homesteading adventure can be as simple as adding a few tomato plants in the garden. 

Check out what Woita has to say about this lifestyle below.

What Is Homesteading?

Homesteading is the practice of becoming self-sufficient when it comes to you and your family’s needs, including food and basic care items. That can look different from homestead to homestead, depending on what you’re capable of doing on your own.

Some examples include growing your own food, raising chickens for eggs and/or meat, canning fruits and veggies so that you can continue to have fresh produce over the winter, making your own soaps, processing livestock (rabbits are a popular “meat animal” for smaller plots of land), and so much more.

How to Start Homesteading

Woita knows firsthand how hard it can be to start your homesteading adventure from scratch, as she learned everything she knows after leaving the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for Nebraska for work. It was there that she says she met her “cowboy” husband, who taught her all about living off the land. Because of this, she says it’s important to know your limits when you’re first getting started.

“I always encourage beginner homesteaders to build skills slowly over time,” she says. “Start with small changes and processes like raising a few chickens and starting a small garden.” From there, Woita says you can begin to add more things to your homestead, growing your self-sufficiency as your knowledge base grows. “Each year, learn a new skill or two and continue to build upon each of these skills.”

In short, you don’t want to start with a field of produce and a coop full of chickens, but instead with a few key crops and a hen or two. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed while you learn about homesteading, allowing you to increase the size of your homestead at a manageable pace.

Does Homesteading Save Money?

Once your homestead is established, Woita says it really can help keep your finances in check. “It can save money if you plan properly, learn to barter, live frugally, repurpose, reuse, etc.”

Learning to start your garden from seed can save you even more money, she says, as you don’t need to pay extra to purchase those pre-established plants. If you learn how to harvest and store those seeds, you can avoid having to head to the store at all.

Foraging is another way Woita says you can save money. Foraging — which involves scouring natural areas for wild food like dandelion leaves, mushrooms, and more — can be done just about anywhere. In fact, there’s a whole urban foraging movement, wherein people living in cities and larger developments turn to the small stretches of natural land around them to try and rustle up those foraging favorites. You can forage on your own land, or talk to neighbors about checking out their property (that’s part of the bartering Woita mentioned earlier). 

Just make sure you’re knowledgeable or have a foraging guide that can help you discern healthy plants and veggies from poisonous ones. No beginner should forage on their own. Even foraging with limited knowledge can be dangerous, so be aware.

Is Homesteading Worth It?

Just like with anything else, there are a few pros and cons to the process. Woita says that sometimes people get discouraged with homesteading because they take on too much too soon, making them feel overwhelmed. Additionally, thanks to the popularity of homesteading on social media, Woita says there’s a lot of risk of feeling like you’re failing when you compare yourself to other more established homesteaders — especially those larger accounts where they seem to be able to do it all while also holding down a full-time job and raising kids.

“Don’t allow overwhelm or comparison to creep in,” Woita says. “While it is really wise to learn from others with experience, it is also important to learn from mistakes made.”

And she says that there will be plenty of learning opportunities for beginners. “Humility, resilience, and adaptability are super important traits to learn to develop as a homesteader.” 

That being said, she believes that the pros outweigh the cons, as homesteading can offer you financial freedom, the ability to live a healthier lifestyle — not only by getting more active while you’re working your garden, but also because you’ll be eating more fresh and non-processed foods — and reap some of the benefits of living a more simplistic life.