Are you living in a small space? Try your hand at apartment homesteading! Reduce your waste and become more self-sufficient in no time.
Although many of us aspire to live on land with our own little homesteads, that’s just not possible for everyone. Don’t let that hold you back, though! There are so many ways to increase your self-sufficiency wherever you live.
In this post, I want to share strategies to reduce your waste, grow your own food, and preserve the harvest whether you live in an apartment, suburban neighborhood, or anywhere in between.
17 Ways to Start Apartment Homesteading Today
There are so many ways to improve your self-sufficiency wherever you live. The tips below work for people everywhere, not just apartment dwellers.
Because cities are so densely populated and reliant on modern systems, I recommend taking extra precautions to ensure you have access to safe shelter, food, and water.
It doesn’t have to be big or scary; build a little survival stash in case of power outages or natural disasters.
1. Get to know your community
I’m adding this to the top of the list on purpose. Although many of us get into homesteading to increase our self-sufficiency, we take that label too literally.
Self-sufficiency is much easier in community. You must find people to share the workload and teach you vital skills.
They make the homesteading journey and life in general, infinitely more meaningful and enjoyable.
- Meet local farmers and offer to volunteer or help them harvest.
- Research different organizations and causes in your area working for positive change.
- Hunt down a local community garden where you can learn how to garden, keep bees, etc.
Everything else below is so helpful, but real success starts when you cultivate community with like-minded people.
2. Grow as much as possible
You don’t need a ton of land to grow your own vegetables. Try planting an herb garden or regrow veggie scraps in small containers if you have sunny windows.
If you have any outdoor space, container gardens can help you grow a lot of food in a small space. We use vertical garden towers from Greenstalk, which can hold dozens of plants each.
Even if you don’t have a balcony, try a hydroponic system to grow herbs and veggies indoors.
Microgreens can be grown on a kitchen counter and are packed with tons of nutrition.
3. Shop locally
Many homesteaders get into the lifestyle because they reject mass-market consumerism that glorifies excess and debt.
They’re tired of companies hurting the land and people to make a profit and would rather support real people and small businesses.
- Start shopping for fresh produce, meat, and dairy at your local farmers market.
- Check to see if there is a co-op in your area.
- Hunt down locally-owned restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, and more.
It might be outside your budget to live a 100% local life right away but start with baby steps.
Skip the grocery store once or twice a month and stock up on fresh produce from local farms.
After managing a local farmers market for years, I’ve collected my favorite tips for eating local produce on a budget to help you get started.
4. Buy whole foods
When you purchase whole foods, you’re going to pay less, and avoid excessive packaging.
You’ll also be able to control the quality of ingredients, removing unnecessary preservatives, additives, salt, and sugar.
Take a good look at your grocery list. If you’ve been relying on processed foods, try removing 1-2. Challenge yourself to prepare those items yourself or do without them.
One easy area to reassess is snacks. They add up so quickly, and most are totally devoid of any nutritional benefit.
- Try making your own crackers or popcorn.
- Cut a block of cheese into wedges instead of buying cheese sticks.
- Enjoy fresh fruit or sliced veggies with homemade hummus instead.
5. Cook from scratch
Cooking from scratch is one of the most powerful ways to take control of your budget, waste, and health.
I’ve written dozens of articles and created many recipes to help you switch to a real food lifestyle, which is a true passion for me.
Especially if you try to eat organic food or shop locally, you’ll need to know how to turn your simple ingredients into healthy, nourishing meals.
Home cooking is a vital skill to make the most of your garden harvest and any excess food. Plus, you’ll stop sending money to corporations that care more about profits than people.
Unprocessed foods you can make at home
- Yogurt and kefir
- Bake your own bread or tortillas
- Scones, cookies, and muffins
- Crisps and crumbles
- Stocks and broth
- Non-dairy milk
- Jams and jellies
- Fruit butters and spreads
- Homemade extracts (vanilla, lavender, coffee, cinnamon)
- DIY vanilla bean paste
- Canned vegetables
- Canned dried beans
Set up a regular meal planning routine to make cooking from scratch every day easy. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Zero Waste Meal Planning
- 13 Clever Ways to Simplify Meal Planning
- Do This If You Feel Overwhelmed Meal Planning
6. Eat seasonally
If you’re already shopping at local farmer’s markets, you’re likely already doing this. So many people have lost their relationship with where food comes from.
They don’t understand seasonality, so they buy plastic-wrapped produce shipped across the globe.
Eating seasonally will help you reduce your budget, reduce your waste, and reduce your food miles.
It’s also a wonderful way to get to know a place. I look forward to the waves of produce from my garden and local farms all summer.
It can be grounding to tap into a seasonal way of eating, and it’s easy to start. Download my seasonal produce calendar or visit your local farmers market.
Remember when things are available and ask your farmer which harvests they’re anticipating the most.
Get my free seasonal produce calendar
Learn which crops are ready to eat during each of the seasons. Print this & stick it on your fridge for easy meal planning!
7. Preserve the harvest
This is my favorite part of homesteading: preserving fresh vegetables and fruits to enjoy later in the year.
I love to dry herbs, make herb salts, can jams, jellies and pickles, ferment sauerkraut, freeze raspberries, and more.
You don’t need a ton of fancy skills or equipment to start. Invest in a simple water bath canner and a few dozen mason jars.
I began by looking for small-batch canning recipes, which I could make in my stock pot with half-pint jars.
These gave me the confidence to try larger batch recipes, and now I can case after case of food every summer.
Dealing with limited space
If you’re an apartment dweller, you might feel limited by space. Prioritize shelf-stable food preservation projects that don’t require a big chest freezer.
Store your preserved food in creative ways, like storing boxes of canned food under your bed or other furniture. Tuck them into an empty cupboard in the laundry room or bathroom.
8. Rethink food waste
If you’re investing in high-quality local food, make the most of every scrap to make the most of your money and reduce your carbon footprint.
- Save your veggie peels and stems in a freezer bag to turn into vegetable stock.
- Turn leftover bones into stock.
- Shred your broccoli stems to make slaw or stir fry.
- Use citrus peels for cleaning or to make infused vinegars.
- Eat your leftovers.
Food waste challenge
Try keeping a log of what you throw away for a week. It sounds intense, but it’s a fantastic way to help you understand the waste you are producing.
At the end of the week, take a look at your list. Brainstorm ways to turn those vegetable scraps into something else before they hit the trash can or compost.
9. Reduce your waste
There’s a reason why the zero waste movement is so popular. Did you know only 9% of plastics are ever recycled?
Recycling isn’t enough anymore; we really need to work to stop producing so much trash.
Plus, if something happened and the trash companies stopped coming to collect your garbage, what would happen?
It would quickly become a massive problem and public health concern in a city.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make your own cleaning supplies or switch to a low waste concentrate
- Purchase reusable products to avoid disposables
- Replace your paper towels with cloth rags
- Buy loose produce instead of pre-packaged
- Prioritize glass and paper packaging over plastic
- Look for a local bulk store to refill your containers
- Buy your most commonly used products in bulk (if space allows)
Switch to an easy zero-waste lifestyle
10. Start composting
Yes, you can compost even in a tiny apartment! Divert those tea bags, eggshells, and coffee grounds to the compost instead of adding them to the landfills.
There are many ways to compost, depending on the space you have available.
Learn how to use a kitchen compost bin here and then decide how you want to dispose of your scraps.
- Hire a curbside compost service to collect your scraps
- Give your scraps to a local garden
- Set up a bokashi system or worm bin to compost in your own apartment
- Invest in an electric composter
Each system has pros and cons, and the options will differ depending on where you live. Take some time to understand your options and choose one to start.
11. Get a water filter
Homesteaders think ahead about their survival. We need safe, clean water every day.
Especially in urban areas, your water undergoes significant processing to make it drinkable.
A high-quality water filter is a great way to remove leftover fluoride, forever chemicals, chlorine, and a wide range of other things from your drinking water.
We use this under-sink filter to remove PFAS and chlorine specifically from our water. It’s relatively affordable and lasts up to 5 years.
Simply screw it into your existing cold water supply for purified water in every glass.
Especially in a city, it’s essential to have a safe source of drinking water beyond the tap in the case of natural disasters.
Consider investing in a gravity-fed water filter like a Berkey water filter and storing at least a few gallons of water in your apartment.
You can even can water to avoid plastic and practice those canning skills.
12. Use it up
We’ve got to change our relationship with consumer culture. We’re consuming items faster than the earth can replace the resources used to make them.
Even worse, they aren’t being made responsibly in the first place.
Shift your perspective and try thinking like your great-great-grandparents.
They used their items as long as possible and often cleaned and repaired their belongings to extend their life span.
Unless something is unsafe to use, try fixing it yourself or use it as it is.
If it still does the job and doesn’t hurt you, it’s okay if your items are dinged up, chipped, or slightly damaged.
13. Shop secondhand first
This is the best way to slow down your shopping impulses, save money, and reduce your waste.
When you need new furniture, clothes, or household items, exhaust your secondhand options first.
- thrift stores
- neighborhood groups
- Facebook Marketplace
- your local Buy Nothing Group
If you can’t find what you need secondhand, invest in the best quality you can afford. Buy made-to-last products whenever possible and dedicate time to maintain them.
I love decorating with vintage finds too. Learn my favorite places to buy vintage home decor on a budget.
14. DIY & Upcycle
Humans are astoundingly creative and can imagine infinite ways of reusing everyday items.
The next time you have a problem around the house, try creating a solution yourself instead of ordering a gadget on Amazon.
Check your recycling bin for supplies, and give yourself a chance to try to build something yourself. It might not work, but there’s also a good chance it will.
We’re giving ourselves fewer and fewer chances to flex our creative muscles these days and instead look for everything we need at the store.
Creative thinking is a survival skill that will serve you well and strengthen it over time.
15. Learn to simplify & slow down
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “the years are passing by?” Many of us are just going through the motions. We do the same thing every day for years at a time.
I find that most people who want to be apartment homesteaders (or homesteaders of any scale) are craving a different type of life.
They don’t want to spend their lives glued to their phones or televisions.
Instead, they want to craft intentional routines to feel grounded and present every day.
These quotes about simple living will help you clear the clutter and noise from your life.
Try these slow living hobbies to get your hands dirty and flex your creativity.
16. Pay off debt & save
Here’s the thing: debt limits the range of options in your life. Debt can be powerful and help you do things you couldn’t do otherwise, like buying a home.
However, there’s a steep price to pay (and I’m not talking about interest).
Debt requires us to keep following the status quo.
How many people dream of something else yet keep heading to a draining job every day because they “need the paycheck?”
Sure, we all have bills; that’s a part of life. But many of us carry significant consumer debt and live beyond our means.
If that debt is holding you back from your dream of moving to the country or whatever else you imagine, it needs to go.
Get your finances in line. Set up a zero based budget: reduce your spending, learn how to live within your means, and pay off your debt.
Start saving for the life you want to live today.
17. Lobby for change
Use your knowledge and passion to push for the change you want to see.
Try to make your apartment building as sustainable as possible. Ask your landlord about adding solar panels or starting a rooftop garden.
How cool would it be to set up a rainwater harvesting system to collect water for a garden or fruit trees?
Sure, it might not work. The building owners might say it’s too expensive or risky, but you can address those concerns.
Find examples of other apartments that do something similar and figure out how they made it work.
Look into grant funding or tax credits that would make your initiatives more affordable.
You can also become a source of knowledge for others in your community.
- Create posters with information about local composting services
- Set up a drop site for your local farm’s CSAs or Azure Standard
- Invite your neighbors over for a canning party
There’s power in numbers, and it helps to have people you can rely on.
Read: How to Be Sustainable in Everyday Life
Apartment homesteading can be challenging, but it’s worth it.
But be warned; these shifts may change your life. These strategies will get you of the house, meeting your local farmers and business owners and connecting with passionate people.
You’re going to get your hands dirty and fail at a few things while you learn new skills.
I suspect you’ll love it just as much as I do. This is how people are supposed to live: deeply entrenched in their community, connecting over food and working to create positive change.
Are these apartment homesteading tips helpful? Do you have any ideas you want to add? Share your thoughts in the comments below.