The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Homesteading (5 Steps!)

So, you want to start homesteading? I get it! There’s nothing more satisfying than growing your own food and living a more sustainable life. While it sounds great, the path to get there can be bumpy and it looks different for everyone. It can be overwhelming to know even where to begin!

We started on an urban homestead in 2008, then a 5-acre homestead in 2013, and now a 240 acre homestead since 2023, so I’m confident that I’ll be able to help you get started. Learn from my mistakes so that you don’t have to face (as much) heartache in the future. Homesteading isn’t an easy lifestyle, but it sure is rewarding!

The good news is that you don’t even have to have land to start homesteading, so if you live in the city and you’re reading this, I have lots of tips and ideas for you to start implementing today. Let’s dive in!

A large in-ground garden with a chicken coop in the background

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products (including Amazon). I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you! Regardless, I only link to products that I personally use on our homestead or believe in.

Step 1: Set Your Homesteading Goals

Before you do anything, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on what YOU want out of your homesteading journey and what you want it to look like. It’s easy to just start copying what others are doing, but you may end up disappointed (or broke) in the end. 


This is a HUGE one! Homesteading, in any form, takes time. If you’re still working full-time, have a long commute, and/or are busy with lots of kids’ activities, I’d recommend taking it slowwww. I know it’s easy to get excited and want to jump in to do “all the things,” but it’s a recipe for disaster. I did this while I was still working full-time at the hospital with a 2-hour commute daily and I eventually burned myself out.  

Start with 1 skill and once you’ve mastered it, move on to the next if you feel like you still have more time to give. If you’re short on time, here are some great homesteading skills to begin with:

Bottles of kombucha sitting next to a 1 gallon vessel of brewing kombucha

On the other hand, if you have more time available, then you can start dipping into more time-intensive skills like raising livestock, cheesemaking, expanding to a large garden, and engaging in food preservation. Go for it!


While most people immediately think of an acreage when the word homesteading comes up, urban homesteading is rapidly becoming a popular segment as well! Let’s chat about the options available to you that will impact your path forward.

Stay in the city

If you like the idea of being self-sufficient, but the part about moving into a remote area that’s far from friends, family, and activities is not appealing, you can stay where you are! You may also have limited finances, or have a great job that you can’t leave, so moving isn’t an option. 

If this is you, thankfully, there’s still so much you can do on just ¼ of an acre or even a city lot! When we started in the city in 2008, we had a small garden (see photo below), grape vines growing up our chainlink fence, fruit trees along the driveway, and herbs as landscaping. It was a great start!

A photo of my small in-ground garden at our first home in the city for an urban homestead

No, you probably can’t get a milk cow, but you can tap maple trees for maple syrup, get honeybees, bake sourdough bread, or start a small garden. Then, fill in the gaps by partnering with a local CSA and buying in bulk from Azure Standard.

Check out my article What is Homesteading? for more small-space homesteading ideas!

Small acreage

This is the most common option for homesteaders. An ideal size, in my opinion, is 5-10 acres. We started on 5 acres and it was perfect for us! It provided enough space for a large garden, egg chickens, meat chickens, and honeybees while still allowing for some “wild” areas for foraging.

While 80 acres may be appealing, that amount of land can be pretty overwhelming (and expensive) for anyone just starting out. You certainly can go for it, just be prepared for a lot of work ahead and some serious adjustments.

Remote off-grid property

If you desire to completely immerse yourself in nature and make conveniences simply unavailable, a remote, off-grid property may be a good goal to shoot for! It’s not for everyone, though, so this decision shouldn’t be made lightly.

It might sound fun on paper, but it’s HARD work and the lifestyle can get quite uncomfortable and isolating at times. There are no neighbors to watch your animals when you leave and there are no restaurants nearby if you’re too tired to cook. You may not be able to leave all winter because someone has to load the wood stove.

We moved to our 240 acre homestead in 2023 and it’s been a big adjustment, even after being homesteaders for 10 years prior. It’s been a good move for us overall, but oh man, some days I question what we’ve done!

A photo of a trail deep in the woods

Lots of land is often expensive as well, so be prepared to give up some things in order to make the switch. For example, we traded in our nice home and heated 6,000-square-foot shop for a 960-square-foot cabin, an outhouse, line-drying laundry, and a 2,000-unheated shop with a dirt floor. For us, it was worth it, but it likely wouldn’t be for many people.


This is a big category to consider and will impact how you set up your homestead, or what you’re looking for in a homestead if you plan to move. 

If you want one of everything, you’ll want to make sure that you have trustworthy neighbors or friends nearby who can step in to watch them if you go out of town. You’ll also want to have a vet nearby when things go south. Plus, lots of funds! Animals are expensive to buy, feed, and house.

A group of chickens eating fermented grain on the ground

Next, there are specific pasture considerations if you plan to raise grazing animals and of course water availability. Don’t forget to look into the county or township laws around animals as well!

We’ve personally decided not to keep as many animals as most homesteaders typically do because we have a lot of family in different states, so we end up traveling a fair amount. As much as I would LOVE goats and a milk cow, things would get a lot more complicated if we did.

Level of self-sufficiency

Homesteading and self-sufficiency go hand-in-hand, but there’s certainly a spectrum. You may simply enjoy working with your hands and learning the old-fashioned way of doing things, whereas someone else may be more on the “prepping” side of things and be focused on being truly self-sufficient in case the world crumbles.

Knowing where you are on this spectrum will help you identify where you should focus your efforts. 

  • If you simply enjoy learning the skills and like keeping your hands busy, then focus on what you are passionate about and enjoy doing. 
  • If you are more concerned about self-sufficiency, then focus on producing the items that you are most dependent on.

An ax stuck into a piece of firewood

Step 2: Learn, Learn, Learn

I can’t stress this step enough! Many people wait until they buy some land to start learning homesteading skills, but then they end up stressed and overwhelmed. NOW is the best time to get a handle on some basic homesteading skills so that when you buy that homestead, you can hit the ground running.

Where to learn

While I’m generally not a huge fan of lots of technology, it surely has opened up so many pathways for learning and sharing information. I’m personally a big fan of books and that’s where I’ve learned most of my homesteading skills. You can find my favorites in my article The 22 BEST Homesteading Books!

If you’re more of an interactive learner, check out different YouTube channels (check out mine!) to learn basic skills and get a feel for the lifestyle. For more in-depth skills, sign up for local classes or online courses. I have courses on How to Plan a Garden and Raising Pastured Meat Chickens – both are awesome!

Canva photo displaying information about the course

Learn from the locals

Lastly, I highly recommend following some local Facebook groups or homesteaders on social media to learn what they are doing in your area, the breeds they are raising, the varieties they are planting, and what kinds of pests they are having trouble with. This step is gold!

Step 3: How to Find the Perfect Homestead

If you’ve decided that your best step forward is to move out of the city and into an acreage, congratulations! It’s so amazing to have a chunk of land to call your own, but picking the right place can really be a make-or-break decision.

Buy ugly

Most of us have to stretch our budgets to be able to make the leap to a homestead. Land is expensive! With that, don’t be afraid of the ugly and rundown properties. 

The beauty of these overlooked properties is that you’ll get a better price, and then you’ll get the opportunity to really make it into what YOU want, rather than stepping into someone else’s previous dream.

A falling apart home on an old homestead

Many people have to downsize to a cabin or even an RV for a time, and that might take some getting used to. Keep your goals in mind and you can do this! You’ll be outside most of the time enjoying your land anyway, right?

Do your research

This is a very important step. I’ve heard so many horror stories of people moving into what seemed to be the perfect homestead from the outside, only to find that there are restrictive laws in their area and they can’t fulfill their dreams.

If you find a promising piece of land, spend time reading through the township or county laws. Are animals allowed? Can you live in an RV? Are outhouses allowed? Are AirBNBs allowed if you want to make some extra income?

Also, read through their monthly meeting minutes to get a feel for how the board operates. Do they seem relaxed, or are they constantly processing complaints and going after people? Local Facebook groups can be a great place to look, too!

Consider your priorities

This one is HUGE and something we had to do when we were hunting for a bigger homestead. We made a priority list of what was important to us so that we could stay on task and ultimately find the right place for us. 

A woman with her back to the camera, out facing an open field

Here are some things to consider:

  • Location – Do you need to stay close to work? Family? Friends? What about driving distance to a grocery store, or other amenities?
  • Weather – If you plan to raise animals or grow food, consider the weather in your area. Things can get pretty brutal in northern Minnesota, so Ryan and I had a line that we decided not to cross so that I could still reliably grow a garden.
  • Schools – Will you homeschool, or will you need to stay near a desirable school?
  • Water access – This is most important. Make sure you can drill a well or consider alternative water sources!
  • Usable land – We certainly had to pay attention to this in Minnesota since so much of it is wet lowlands that are unusable AND highly protected by the DNR. In other regions, you may need to consider elevation and steep grades that may not be usable.
  • Trees – While open prairies or cleared farmlands are useful, this type of land is much more expensive. We personally prefer the woods and wooded lots were more in our budget, so that’s what we went for. Plus, trees provide more habitat for diverse plant growth and wild animals if you plan on hunting and foraging.
  • Soil quality – We brought a shovel with us whenever we went property hunting so that we could pull up a soil sample and take a look. If you want to grow a garden, soil matters!
  • Surrounding areas – This was high on our list. I didn’t want to be surrounded by conventional farming where I’d have to worry about contaminated water or overspray. Gravel pits or other businesses that create a lot of traffic or noise might be worth avoiding as well.
  • Infrastructure – Do you want some buildings, barns, or a house already present? Or, do you prefer raw land that you can form and shape on your own from scratch?

Be patient

This is the hardest part, but the last thing you want to do is jump the gun and regret your decision 6 months after you move in. Ryan and I spent 1.5 years property hunting before we found our current homestead. It’s worth the wait!

Step 4: Start Now and Start SMALL

Now is the best time to learn these skills so that you can hit the ground running once you get your dream land. Make your mistakes now on a small scale, so they don’t completely bite you in the butt later.

A close up view of a frame of bees with capped brood

Now is also a great time to get a feel for what you enjoy doing and what you’re naturally good at. This is something I wish that I had done when it comes to honey bees. If I had taken some in-person classes on raising bees, I probably would have figured out pretty quickly that I don’t actually enjoy working with them all that much.

Instead, I dove straight into buying bees, a hive, and all of the supplies. Surprise, surprise, the bees did not thrive and I was $1,000 in the hole. Bummer!

Step 5: Embrace Hardship

Whew! Be ready to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is the part of homesteading that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for. I’m constantly being bitten by bugs, scratched up and sore from manual labor, sweaty and dirty from working in the garden, gagging from scooping stinky poop or gutting a deer, and the list goes on! 

If you live off-grid to where you don’t have running water or plumbing, then the hardship triples. Some people really enjoy this way of “simple” living, but it’s not for everyone. Be realistic with yourself and what you and your family are ready for. 

Ryan and Katie setting up their electric fence

Lastly, the shift away from convenience to self-sufficiency is lovely and beautiful in concept, but incredibly hard in reality.

  • You’ll spend hours on end standing in the kitchen, sweating over your canning jars.
  • You’ll experience loss when a predator or illness wipes out your flock.
  • You’ll have to carefully plan out your supply run because the store isn’t just down the road anymore. If you forget something, you’ll simply have to go without for a while.
  • You’ll get bored with your small circle of foods that you preserved. 
  • You’ll feel alone during emergencies – help is not just a few minutes away anymore
  • You’ll no longer have access to specialty stores and services and have to settle with mom-and-pop shops (honestly, I prefer them anyway!)
  • You’ll have to say no to events and activities because your cows are calving, the maple sap is running, or it’s harvest season.

I don’t want to scare you away from homesteading, and the magnitude of these things definitely depends on how remote and involved you go, but I think it’s important to be honest about the hardship as well. It’s easy to imagine homesteading as days filled with baby chicks and wildflowers, and while there is some of that, there are a lot of ugly and hard moments as well.

But, is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

Other Homesteading Articles You’ll Love:

Final Thoughts

Homesteading is anything but simple, but it is a wonderful way to live more sustainably and in the rhythms of nature. By taking the first steps toward homesteading, you’re not just transforming your lifestyle; you’re contributing to a larger movement of self-sufficiency and empowerment. It’s hard work, but it’s so rewarding. You can do this!

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