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I'm looking for some advice on prioritizing my homestead development. Right now I stay at home with my almost one year old daughter and my husband works long hours and makes enough money for us to live comfortably. He'll be leaving his job to go to an apprenticeship/fellowship type thing next summer and our household income will be cut to 1/3 of what it is now for two years. Then, who knows!? Because money will be tight and we have almost a year to prepare - I'm trying to figure out the best way to invest money into our homestead in order to bring a good yield for when times get thin.

We currently have 2 adult muscovies and 9 adolescent muscovies from which we hope to get meat and some eggs (they free range during the day and eat a gamebird mix at night). We live on 2.3 agricultural acres in southeastern Michigan that we just bought last year. It has 1 lightly productive pear tree (OLD!), a handful of wild raspberries, a mulberry tree, a small patch of wild asparagus, a black walnut tree, and a few maples. What would give me the biggest bang for my buck for food production? Thanks so much for your consideration.
 

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Plant a garden, buy a good milk goat...get you some chickens...Feed the goat...extra from garden...a little patch of something for green feed..........raise your chicks and ducklings on extra milk, and garden stuff the goats don't eat....eat your extra chicks and ducks you raise....and put you goat and poultry refuse on your garden.....that way everything is feeding something else, and you get a harvest from all sides if things go well, and maximum use of the feed and hay you purchase..you won't have enopugh milk and scraps to raise your poultry, or feed your goat without a little extra....but you can supplement a great deal with milk and extra/bad garden stuff
 

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Plant a garden, buy a good milk goat...get you some chickens...Feed the goat...extra from garden...a little patch of something for green feed..........raise your chicks and ducklings on extra milk, and garden stuff the goats don't eat....eat your extra chicks and ducks you raise....and put you goat and poultry refuse on your garden.....that way everything is feeding something else, and you get a harvest from all sides if things go well, and maximum use of the feed and hay you purchase..you won't have enopugh milk and scraps to raise your poultry, or feed your goat without a little extra....but you can supplement a great deal with milk and extra/bad garden stuff
Why did the elusive perpetual-ism machine just flash through my mind after reading this?

If life were only so grand....
 

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My first thought is to get as debt free during this year as possible. If not possible..reduce as much as possible. Re-evaluate cable tv, second car, fast foods, wood heat and even cloth diapers..:hrm: Learn to use what you have and re-use it again. Teach yourself how to make from scratch good meals for your family. Plant a small garden and make it produce for you and can and freeze and dry herbs. Goats, rabbits for meat..and yes goats for meat too..so learn to butcher yourself. Read, learn and teach yourselves as much as possible and learn from others as much as you can. Good Luck !!
 

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Thank you! I'd love to keep hearing suggestions. We are debt free other than our new mortgage but the payments are low. We cloth diaper and I used to cook from scratch though I must admit I've lost some of that while juggling the baby (figuratively ;) ). We have an emergency savings and are taking care of major home repairs this year to try and eliminate any big problems down the road. We plan to keep our internet (not cheap out here but really useful for utility and leisure) but cancel our satellite.

I should definitely get more scratch meals in my repertoire and am trying to learn more vegetarian meals (beans!) to keep meat costs down. I'm also working on lessening food waste and if we can get a good system going we could cancel our trash pick up.
 

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We went through this several years ago and it was tough, but the three th:ings that helped us the most were: stock up the pantry as much as possible, plant a garden and have seeds put up for next garden season, get chickens. I had all my staples really well stocked up. Everytime I went to the grocery I bought extra so during that time that we had little income we also had a very small grocery bill. We could even eliminate it if needed. I worked hard on a garden space and went ahead and put seeds in the freezer for the next garden year. That way there was no garden expense when we didn't have any extra money. Chickens have been a life saver at times for us. They mostly fend for themselves, but they also get kitchen and garden scraps. I never buy chicken feed and we have an abundance of eggs for the cost of the chickens. I would not really recommend animals that you have to buy feed for when you have lean times around the homestead and there are those times...just my 2 cents. I also agree with buying a freezer and stocking up on meat by purchasing it in wholesale cuts. This of course means that you have to cut it yourself, but it isn't that hard. I have saved probably thousands doing this. I would stock the pantry hard, then the freezer. Also, the mention of paying off any debt that you can during this year is a good one. It will help you to not have so many financial obligations when you don't have much income. Blessings, Kat
 

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. What would give me the biggest bang for my buck for food production? Thanks so much for your consideration.
A garden would give the biggest bang for your buck, and then start also socking away cash!

It is not too early st start the garden, as there are probably perennial grasses and weeds to be killed. If you prepare the soil now you should be able to plant in the early spring. Also start a compost pile.

I get many of my garden seeds at The Dollar store for 25 cents a packet. They do not have the hottest hybrids on the market but once the vegetables have been cooked and on the plate it does not matter very much, in my opinion! OK an ear of corn might be 6 inches long instead of 8 inches long, but when I pay 25 cents for the seed instead of $2.25 and I buy 10 packets of assorted kinds of seeds it does add up! And if a packet of the dollar store fails I just go down to a nursery or hardware store and buy one of theirs. Usually no more than one packet fails.

As for plant selection, do not try to grow everything you eat just grow what you like and what is suited to your area. It will save you hours of fiddling and spending time in the kitchen is more valuable that spending hours over lettuce *IF* lettuce is a tricky plant in your area. Lettuce is finicky where I live while green beans do great. So I buy my lettuce and grow green beans, kale, watermelons, and other plants that like my climate *AND* that we like to eat!

I spent the time I saved on not hovering over lettuce in making a better pizza sauce, etc. I LIKE veggie pizza! Favorite vegetables for my pizza include kale and onions, both of which I grow. I make the crust and the sauce right now is Best Choice spagetti sauce with the addition of a lot of fennel. Fennel makes the sauce taste like pizza joint pizzas.

Do not make too large of a garden: life happens and you get more food from a smaller well tended garden than you do from a larger less tended one!

And sock away money. Start now! Because edibles are a small part of your budget! (On the good side when you have a lot of favorite foods waiting to be eaten you can feast and feel like life is good. )

In a nutshell, work the soil for next springs garden, start a compost pile, also expect to fertilize because the first year garden is often short some nutrients, buy inexpensive seeds and promptly re-seed any that fail, sock away $ now and try out some less-expensive recipes. For our family pizza went over well but eggplant parmissan was a dud. Both are economical if you have most of the ingredients in the back yard!

OH! Edited to add: when something your family likes goes on sale buy extra. My own kids loved mac n cheese and so when it went on sale I bought extra to set aside. After a while I did not bother to buy any ma n cheese unless it WAS on sale and so I no longer paid full price for it, and also I no longer paid full price for cake mix, spagetti sauce, peanut butter, etc etc. If it was not on sale I pulled from my shelves and when it was on sale I would buy enough to fill the holes on the shelves. My grocery bill dropped by $20 a week.
 

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My honest advice is not to expand your homestead at all given that you know your income is going to drop. I do things the cheapest way possible around my homestead and I still end up spending way more than it would cost to just buy things at the store. If your income is going to drop as much as you're suggesting, I would put away cash, put away cheap canned/frozen food, and don't purchase any animals that you will need to buy food for during that year. I'm not sure how much money you're talking about having, but if my wife and I lost 2/3rds of our income we would have to stop homesteading. It's only something we can do because we have the financial security necessary to take risks.
 

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I also recommend taking advantage of sales as the previous poster mentioned. We produce our own chicken, but I recently found boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale for $2/lb which is way less than what my chickens end up costing me. I bought a couple hundred pounds and put them away in the chest freezer for the next couple years. Start preparing like that.
 

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BEFORE jumping into large livestock you absolutely have to make sure your area is zoned for it. If you aren't, the fight to keep the animals will be a huge financial burden and you still might not be able to keep them.

Otherwise, hard structure projects; fences, buildings, equipment, major home repairs/renovations, reliable vehicle are IMO first priority.

Buy long lasting food supplies, soaps/detergent, toilet paper, etc when it goes on sale. And buy extra so you will have a stockpile to last until the items go on sale again. But with this, proper storage is essential. You don't want to have a year supply of oatmeal and find it's infested with bugs.

Lay back a fuel reserve fund. You don't want to have to buy gas when the price was just raised 50 cents per gallon because of an upcoming long weekend or holiday. Then try to fill your tank/cans when the price is down, even if you're putting $20 in the tank.

Clothing, shop the last few yard sales of the season and learn where your local thrift stores are located. You'll find other useful items there too.

Learn to can and dehydrate food. You can buy fresh produce on sale or from a farmers market and can or dehydrate the food. Using your own food would be even better but you'll still save by buying stuff in season or on sale and preserving it. Besides, home canned food can be a real time saver. You just open a few jars, prepare them as you like, and dinner is ready.

Plant a garden or learn to garden in containers. Gardening supplies are or will be going on clearance soon. Stock up while the prices are down.

If you have the room in your yard and your local fire codes allow it, make a fire pit. If you have access to free wood you can have a nice cooking fire and a really fun evening by cooking outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of sunset and twilight.

I wish you all the best and hope you get it figured out. I know we wouldn't be able to make it on 1/3 of our current income. We still have too many bills to pay.
 

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Don't travel around from store to store buying sales you will burn up more in gas and wear & tear than you will ever save.

The secret is, when you do find a sale wherever your shopping, and it's something the family likes, buy a large quantity. One can't really do this well with meat unless one has a large freezer, and keeps track of the age so nothing goes bad. If you eat a lot of green beans, for instance, and don't grow them yourselves (we don't because it is cheaper for us to buy them), then if you see a really great sale buy several flats.

We always try to keep a goodly supply of canned goods, pasta, beans, and rice around. Most stuff will last well over a year, And though we rotate stuff so nothing gets too old we have accidently kept most of the above for two or three years without any degredation in quality. We store pasta, beans, and rice in 5 gallon buckets, with lids, leaving them in their original packages. Navy beans will take much longer to cook if kept over a year, but we like great northerns and have no trouble with them.

When I say buy sales, be very careful buying in "bulk" often times a 25 lb bag of beans or rice will cost more than the same amount in one or two pound packages purchased during a sale. Sometimes they will cost more than the smaller packages even when they are not on sale. It's a gimmick some stores use, because most people assume something bought in bulk is automatically less expensive.

Most dried fruit, like raisins, do not keep well for long pereiods. We had some raisins we purchased (Y2K :) ) that we "lost" for about 2 years, they were pretty much no good except for the chickens. If you don't have 5 gallon buckets with lids, you may find some old popcorn/potato chip/etc. cans like one sees at Christmas. They work OK to.

If you have a basement, store this stuff off the floor in a cool corner; that will help it keep also. We buy most of our canned vegetables in flats, and write the purchase date on the flat, then we make sure we rotate them out when we buy more. It helps to have some shelves that are open on both sides.. put them in on one side and take them out on the other.

Still, people will save a ton of money if they stop running around to different sales, and buy stuff they like when it's on sale at whichever store they visit. It doesn't have to be the same store...If a store has a big sale on (let's say) chuck roast, then do your shopping at that store this week, and if they have anything you like on a real good sale, stock up big.

We learned this raising three kids, who ate like an army. There are just the two of us now, but with some modifications we still shop the same. Even if you have plenty of money, you will save enough to go out to eat more often, buy that new **** you wanted, etc.
 

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I would first look at your biggest expenses. I imagine utilities would be one. You have a wood stove if you do, develop sources of low cost wood. If not, then are you allowed to have one? If food a biggie, develop a garden now because garden set up can be expensive. It gets cheaper in later years. Lear
Then, after school sales are over and stuff is discounted, buy some clothes for next years sizes. Set up a vehicle repair fund now because you know that a break down will happen when you can least afford it.

Fruit trees can give you lots of produce but that is a longer time frame than 2 years. Berries are a fast and prolific source. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc. They can be propagated from what you are growing, so expanding can be cheap. You can also buy different varieties that have different ripening times. My blueberries start in June and end in September. My strawberries start in May and run til frost with a big flush in June bearing and the rest being everbearing. Some raspberries are know for producing two harvests.


Otherwise grow had you eat the most that costs the most. If you love tomatoes, grow them as they cost a lot in the stores. If you love carrots, commercial grown are pretty cheap. Most herbs are easy to grow yet cost a fortune in the stores-grow and dry your own.
 

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My advice would be to keep adding to your savings and start reducing expenses NOW.
A garden is going to be your biggest money saver. (Buy seeds now when they are on sale.) Do you know where you would put your garden? If so, spread a couple inches of manure, leaves, etc and then cover it with black plastic. In the spring, you can cut holes in the plastic to plant your plants (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) and won't have to mess with weeding and will save on watering.
If you find a good sale on things you use - stock up NOW. Whether it be canned food, paper products, toilet paper, cleaners, etc.
While raising animals gives you food (and you know what they ate and how they lived), it doesn't always save you money. You have to have housing for it, you have to buy the animal, you have to feed it. And sometimes, you end up buying food to feed it which ends up making the animal (once you do eat it) cost a whole lot more than if you would have just bought it at the store.
 

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As for plant selection, do not try to grow everything you eat just grow what you like and what is suited to your area. It will save you hours of fiddling and spending time in the kitchen is more valuable that spending hours over lettuce *IF* lettuce is a tricky plant in your area. Lettuce is finicky where I live while green beans do great. So I buy my lettuce and grow green beans, kale, watermelons, and other plants that like my climate *AND* that we like to eat!
This is good advice for the garden. For my house I grow tomatos, potatos, green beans and squash, plus a few herbs. When I mean grow I mean like 150 tomato plants, etc. This allows plenty of excess which can be made in sauce, canned or frozen. All of which last until the next years harvest. Also this is all grown on what is less then 1/4 of an acre.

Anything other then these couple of items I grow I buy at the farmers market or trade for with neighbors .

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1 Garden.
2 Bush fruit, inside garden fence.
3 Don't keep any livestock you don't get anything from, costs a lot to feed.
4 Save money don't spend.
5 Buy what you use, use what you buy. We don't like beans, well they don't like us, we don't buy them.
6 Like was said, buy when on sale to stock up, don't run around trying to save.
7 Find a discount store that has the most of what you like. Learn what you do like, try the "cheap or off brands" to save money.

8 Use what comes to you, don't waste a blessing....James
 

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My honest advice is not to expand your homestead at all given that you know your income is going to drop. I do things the cheapest way possible around my homestead and I still end up spending way more than it would cost to just buy things at the store. If your income is going to drop as much as you're suggesting, I would put away cash, put away cheap canned/frozen food, and don't purchase any animals that you will need to buy food for during that year. I'm not sure how much money you're talking about having, but if my wife and I lost 2/3rds of our income we would have to stop homesteading. It's only something we can do because we have the financial security necessary to take risks.
I have to agree with this one big time.
Heating costs can be very high, electric bills, car insurance, home insurance. I would be socking that money away now.
 
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