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Take Care of Your Own Family First?


In the nearly 3 1/2 years that we’ve run The Frugal Farmer, I’ve had a handful of people say, in the nicest way, that the idea of self-sufficiency seems to them, well, a bit selfish. I get that. I can see how it would be easy to gather the opinion from the self-sufficient lifestyle that it is a selfish concept.

However, in my nearly 48 years on this earth, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it’s best not to form opinions about things and people until you’ve looked/thought/researched big picture. What does it mean to look “big picture”? Looking and thinking big picture means to discover the whys behind the action, and to think outside of your first opinion to what the benefits might be of the opposing opinion. Choosing to analyze things in this way may or may not change your opinion about something, but it will give you ammo for why your opinion is the way it is. And that’s important, not just for the purpose of defending your opinion, but for the purpose of ensuring you know why you hold your opinion about something so dearly. With debt repayment or anything else, if you don’t know the “why” behind the plan, the action or the belief, it’ll likely fizzle out quite quickly.

Now, back to self sufficiency and why it’s not selfish to take care of your own family first. Here are four reasons why self-sufficiency is not only not selfish, but in fact, a very generous and giving way of life.

  • It teaches your family to be strong and independent, thereby teaching them to be better equipped to help others.  Strong and independent children usually grow up to be strong and independent adults. Strong and independent adults are often our dreamers, our risk-takers and often make major contributions to society.

Consider Henry Ford. When he first introduced the automobile – a Model T – in 1908 – most everyone said it would be a “passing fad for the wealthy”.  Ford, however, was able to think “big picture”.  If Mr. Ford would’ve listened to the majority, the dream of the automobile would’ve been picked up by someone else, but maybe not until years later. Ford himself, when asked why he didn’t ask to “the people” when considering the construction of the automobile, answered, “If I’d have asked the people, they would’ve said they wanted faster horses.”  The people were thinking small. Ford was thinking big.  He was thinking how the automobile would’ve affected the generations, not just himself and his friends. Consider the Wright Brothers. Flying seemed unfeasible to most people in those days, but the Wright Brothers had a vision of the future – they were thinking big picture and long-term.

And so it is with self-sufficiency. When your goal is to produce your own food, heat your own home, or whatever, it causes you to be forced to think big picture. In our second year of learning to be self sufficient, we thought we were smooth sailing. Then we lost our power in the middle of the cold season for several hours, and we realized that we weren’t nearly as prepared as we needed to be for a power outage. We weren’t self sufficient at all! We hadn’t considered that our electric waterer for the horses would be useless. We hadn’t considered that our electric well pump would also be useless. We hadn’t considered that the propane gas tank – even though it was full – needed the electric ignitions on the stove and hot water heater to product heat. The experience taught us to think “big picture” and re-analyze what we needed to do to be independent and prepared in case a longer power outage came about.  These are the benefits of learning to be self sufficient.

  • It eliminates the need for others to have to worry about taking care of you. When disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy devastate our country, they often leave millions of people without access to clean water, food and power.  The majority of the people affected by these types of disasters are then left to wait for a government that is ill-equipped to care for its some 300 million citizens properly.

What happens next? Panic ensues as people wonder where they’ll get their food, water and shelter from. Riots and violence start, making matters even worse. We learned well about the panic factor when we lost our power as mentioned above. Our survival was dependent on one thing: the energy company fixing the problem. Real life problems, however, aren’t usually fixed as quickly as we want them or need them to be. When we lost our power in cold weather, we wanted the energy company to fix the area-wide problem NOW. But this isn’t I Dream of Jeanie. The energy company  (or the government) can’t just cross its arms and blink everything okay again. Problem resolution of these types of magnitude takes time and resources. Sometimes those resources are readily available. More often, they’re not.

So, you see, learning to be self-sufficient gives the government and other responsible parties, such as power companies, one less family to worry about, thereby expanding their time and resources to help the remaining families who aren’t self sufficient.

  • It provides for valuable skills that are necessary to providing basic needs for yourselves. There’s nothing quite as gratifying as going to the garden and pulling out veggies for dinner or getting freshly laid eggs from the chicken coop. No Walmart necessary. Just the willingness to plant some seeds, care for your garden, and do the work of harvesting and preserving your food or caring for your chickens.

But beyond gratification, those who know how to be self sufficient have learned valuable skills that will help provide for basic necessities such as food, water and heat even if mainstream resources are unavailable.

  • It’s simply smart planning.  Just like an emergency fund, a retirement fund or a career plan, having a plan for self sufficiency is simply smart planning. There’s really no other way to say it. The more I take care of “me and mine”, the less everyone else has to worry about taking care of us, and the more prepared we are to weather whatever storms may come our way.

And self sufficiency doesn’t have to be done in the country. Lance talks here about how his suburb thrived during times of peril because the families that live there had learned to be self sufficient and prepared.  Anyone, wherever they live, can take steps to become self sufficient.

Homesteading: Urban Homesteading: A Beginner’s Guide to Self Sufficiency and Sustainable Living in Urban Homes (Gardening for Beginners, Urban Gardening, Homesteading Ideas)

So, if you’ve been one who is of the opinion that self-sufficiency is a self-serving concept, I urge you to think big and consider how becoming self sufficient can be a path to helping others.

Have you learned any steps to self sufficiency? What area of dependency on others worries you most?


  1. The dependence on eating processed food is what gets me. My brother for example, can’t eat anything homemade. It’s just weird or taste different. He desires to eat processed food instead. It’s just not him, others too! Depending on grocery stores, electricity to keep our food going. What if we have a disaster? Are you going to starve because you have to eat healthy food? Girl, I can go on about this subject. This is a good post, Laurie.

    • Laurie says:

      Processed foods contain additives such as MSG that are HIGHLY addictive! Those additives are what make you crave a soda when you start eating chips. It’s an evil game that most people don’t even realize they’re being coerced into playing. I would say that it’s MOST Americans who are like your brother and prefer the processed foods. Most are addicted to them, sad to say. Even with my clean diet, I still find myself lured big time to certain processed foods.

  2. Selfish? I never thought of that and don’t agree with that assessment. When you take flight, the attendants always teach you during an emergency to put your oxygen mask first before assisting others like your loved ones. The reason is because if you can’t take care of yourself first, you definitely can’t help others. It is not about being selfish.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Andrew! But too many people are so busy wanting Robin Hood to come and rescue them that they don’t see the value in self sufficiency. 🙁

  3. I have been trying to be more self-sustaining, but it can be difficult to spend the money on it right now as it would delay some of my debt progress and that’s not something I want to do. I do see your point about it though and I do try to be as prepared as possible for things like power outages, etc.

    • Laurie says:

      I always recommend for people to take little steps. Start a “little” garden. Start picking up 2 or 3 things for your food stockpile each time you hit the grocery store. Then the monetary cost isn’t so heavy. You got this, Kayla. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, you’re a hoot, Laura! Thank you for the compliment, though. I’m SO glad you’re enjoying the blog. Your blog also is an amazing inspiration to many, my friend!

    • Laurie says:

      I think people are so trained to expect help that they misunderstand the value in helping themselves, and I think that’s where the argument against self sufficiency comes in. They think, “It’s not fair if you have all of the supplies to take care of yourself and I don’t.” But as Abe Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

  4. I can’t imagine why people would think that you were being selfish by practicing self-sufficiency, in my mind it’s the most unselfish thing you can do. You are not only providing for your own family, but you are teaching them the importance of taking care of themselves. After losing power for 10 days following Hurricane Sandy, I realized that we are more sufficient than we thought. We had a few holes that came to light during the process, but for the most part I feel as though we could provide for ourselves if we needed to.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s terrific, Shannon! Our power outage brought the opposite to light, but I”m SO glad, b/c it gave us the info we needed to do better!

  5. Lizzy says:

    Also, many thingS one can do towards self-sufficiency has a positive environmental impact…the opposite of selfish.

  6. This is really interesting, Laurie. I had honestly never thought of self-sufficiency as being selfish, but I certainly agree with the points you made about it.

    I’m not aiming for the same level of self-sufficiency you are, but I’m definitely working on growing more food for our family’s consumption. While I’m not growing my own berries (yet!!), one small goal I have is to learn to make and can jam this year. Both my husband and daughter take PB&J sandwiches with them to school/work almost every day, so we go through A LOT of jam. It would be great to be able to (1) control the ingredients, and (2) save some money!

    • Laurie says:

      Amy, small steps is the best way to go, IMHO. Trying to learn/do too much at once can lead to feeling overwhelmed and giving up. Those small steps you take each year will eventually add up to a whole lot of knowledge, my friend!

  7. Kathy says:

    Being self-sufficient is the exact opposite of being selfish. It is the ones who don’t prepare for emergencies, retirement etc., in my opinion, that are selfish, expecting the government or even people in their community to take care of them. I have mentioned our generator so often you are probably tired of hearing about it but it did get us through two weather related power outages that lasted for nearly a week each time. I actually read an article after Super Storm Sandy that complained about the people who had generators being better off than those who didn’t. “Why should they have generators when others don’t?”
    was the crux of the article, implying that somehow those who had prepared did something wrong. I’m sort of paranoid, but I do feel that if there is a major catastrophe that impacts the entire nation, the government will institute rationing as in WWII, so having a stockpile might get us through the emergency.

    At any rate, Lauri, keep doing what your doing and don’t listen to the naysayers.

    • Laurie says:

      That is SO typical of much of today’s thinking, Kathy!!! The people who had generators had them because they chose to save up and buy them instead of spending their money on stupid sh*t! This is what I’m talking about. It’s such bassackwards thinking. I’m with you on the paranoid stuff about rationing food. You just never know what might happen. The question each one of us asks is, are we, or are we not, going to take steps to protect and prepare our own?

  8. SavvyJames says:

    Being self-sufficient is anything but selfish. Moreover, being in control of your own fiscal, physical, mental and spiritual well-being puts you in a better position to offer counsel, guidance and assistance to those that may need/desire it.

    • Laurie says:

      I would hope not, but I can’t think of any other reason why they would think that way. Sad stuff. 🙁 There’s SO much power in taking responsibility for one’s own life.

  9. Laurie, don’t mind those people jealous of you. As long as you take care of your family and don’t harm people, it’s fine even cooler to be self-sufficient. I just don’t know why they get jealous. Me? I admire those people like you who do the right things for family.

  10. One of the big goals of self-sufficiency that I hope to achieve is to be in a position to fund my needs in old age. I know several people who are trying to figure out what to do as their parents age. There are so many emotions – sadness, guilt, anger – that come into play as one sibling takes it all on or else the parents stay in stubborn denial. I am SO lucky in this regard. My parents never burdened us with a sense of guilty obligation. And they made sure to save up a nest egg for their old age. All five children are eager to help out when there is a need – but that need is never a burden. By taking care of our finances now, we are setting ourselves up not to overburden our children in the future. Although this type of self-sufficiency is different from what you are pursuing, the same pattern applies. If we strengthen ourselves, we’re in a position to take care of ourselves, not to burden others, and to help others. Win-win-win.

    • Laurie says:

      Prudence you are SO right. This is one of our main reasons for paying off our debt as well. We want to be in a position to bless our children financially as we age instead of needing them and their money to survive. Caring for aged parents is hard enough without having to add a financial burden into the mix.

  11. Wow. I´m still not sure I understand how it could be considered selfish… If anything, it´s selfless, because if you´re able to sustain yourself and your family, now there´s more for everyone else to share.

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