[GUEST POST] 11 Savvy Tips for Sustainability

Sustainable living on a single income

This post features guest writer Amber Stephens from Live, Life, Homeschool: balancing life with a touch of farm. This article was originally shared on her website here, and used with her permission. Be sure to visit her site and check out more from Amber! 


I remember what I was doing when the coronavirus pandemic panic set in. I was on my couch, looking at Facebook. I saw friends posting about the toilet paper buying, posting pictures of lines, of people hoarding water and cleaning supplies. A small fear rose up from my stomach and I thought,

What do they know that I don’t?

Do I need to go to the store?

What if I can’t get toilet paper or some other needed supply anymore?

But then reason set in and I remembered what we had in the house and the peace that came over me in that moment was liberating.

We were fine.

I had done a good job of taking care of my family and we were going to be OK. We could have quarantined at that point for a month and we would have been fine. We may not have had every luxury we were used to, but we would not be starving.

Or out of toilet paper.



     I would like to share that with you today, to help you. The fear that can come from not being prepared for this coronavirus pandemic, or any major crisis, is not a place that is healthy or good for us to be in. Fear is a strong motivator and it causes us to do things that are irrational and potentially harmful. I want to show you what I was doing so you don’t have to be in that place of fear ever again, whether it’s another pandemic or something less serious. 

     This is a list of habits, skills and knowledge that I have spent my entire adult life building up. These are not just coronavirus tips, but are ideas you can use for any crisis. You will be able to implement all of these, but some of them will take time. It is a way of living, not a quick remedy. This is a list of ideas to get you thinking, to help you see in ways that maybe you haven’t before.

     I want to make a disclaimer here first: I am not a prepper. I have tried to be over the years, but I simply have not been able to manage a storehouse of supplies in case of a disaster. I am just a plain old mom and wife who makes choices every day, and some of those choices led to the freedom from fear when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

      I also want to say, that all of these things are things anyone can do, regardless of income level or lifestyle. Yes, we live on a homestead. Yes, we have animals. However, this list has nothing to do with our farm lifestyle and you can implement all of these even in the middle of a large city. 



1. We have a savings account with actual money in it. Saving is hard. I understand. It’s hard for us, too. But it was nice having that money when the markets fell and I wasn’t sure what tomorrow was going to bring. When everyone starts panicking, I get a little jumpy, too. So the peace of mind I had that we were going to be OK for a few weeks was priceless.

2. We budget every month. Again, this is hard. We have been doing a monthly budget for our entire adult lives, but really got serious about it after we went through the Dave Ramsey class. Using his budgeting tools has been helpful for us to stay on track and actually do it. We do it the old fashioned way, with paper and pencil, using his worksheets. I just keep making copies every month and we’ve been doing it this way for about 12 years now. However you choose to do a budget, having one really helped me to stay calm during this crazy time. I knew that for the rest of the month, my bills were paid. I did not have to worry about the immediate future and this bought me about 2 weeks before the beginning of the month came around again. Knowing that everything was going to get paid, including food and gas costs, was wonderful! I wasn’t worried about not having enough money or enough supplies, because it had already been taken care of in my budget.



3. I use Subscribe and Save through Amazon. I can’t tell you how much grief this saved me during this very uncertain time. It was such a blessing to be able to have what I needed because of this service. If you aren’t using Subscribe and Save, you need to sign up right now! It is very handy to have in your back pocket, just under normal circumstances. But when everything hit and I saw lines of people with toilet paper and cleaning supplies, I could sit back and relax because I had at least a month’s worth of these supplies already in my home! I didn’t need to worry or run out to get anything. It was such a feeling of freedom and independence!

4.  I don’t use a lot of products in my home. Not using many products means that I don’t need to worry about running out of them. I use coconut oil, vinegar and peroxide for cleaners and face/body needs. I use coconut oil as a face wash, body lotion and to cook with. I also make my own cleaner using water with a little bit of Dawn dish soap and hydrogen peroxide. I make my own floor cleaner with water and vinegar and a touch of Dawn dish soap. Because these are in abundant supply in my home and last forever, I wasn’t almost out of anything. Vinegar is a great laundry booster! It gets out tough smells and I use it with all my towels and sheets. It is the only thing that gets out pee smells from children having accidents, too!

5. We were already homeschooling. I know this isn’t a lifestyle that everyone can or wants to do. I understand. All I’m going to say about this, is that is was nice to have my children close to me and not be worried about them getting sick or being in harm’s way. It was also nice to not have to miss a beat with their school. Since my days are spent schooling my children already, there wasn’t a large disruption for them when all of this hit and everything closed down. 



6. I know how to cook from scratch. Over the years, this one skill has saved me large amounts of money. I spend about $800-$1,000 a month feeding my family. I am currently feeding 4 adults and 2 tweens: my husband and myself, my 4 children still at home, ages 20 to 10. I love being able to feed my family on such a small budget! If I round to the middle, that’s about $5/day/person, for all 3 meals. My husband takes his lunch to work and we are home all the time since we homeschool, meaning we eat all 3 meals at home.

     I am able to do this because I cook every meal from scratch. And no, that doesn’t mean slaving over a hot stove all day. It might mean sandwiches or wraps for lunch instead of prepackaged Lunchables or pot pies. It looks like spaghetti and homemade sauce for supper, instead of canned sauce or frozen pizza.

     Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to mean gourmet meals all the time. It just means that I choose food that is not from a box. Hamburger Helper, frozen pizza, and the like might seem inexpensive at first, but it does add up. Foods like this don’t have a lot of nutritional value and they seem to just burn up in my kids. When I give them nutrient dense foods that last longer in their bodies, they eat less. And my children have very big appetites! It would take at least 3 boxes of Hamburger Helper to feed my family, which wouldn’t be very cost effective.

     Consider some new recipes to replace your boxed or canned food. Maybe pick one or two meals and become an expert at them, like homemade macaroni and cheese instead of the boxed kind. You will never regret learning how to cook.

7. I buy food products that are in lower demand. We don’t eat chips, pop or packaged foods, which tend to be more popular. So when everyone was panic buying cases of pop, I was buying large cans of tomato sauce and ketchup and large quantities of vegetables. Eating in this “unpopular” way makes our food always available to us.

8. We garden and can our food. Yes, this is a big commitment and it’s taken me years to learn the art of gardening. But it has been worth every amount of time and energy I have put into it. We do the Square Foot Gardening method. In fact, I’ve never done row gardening and I’ve been doing this for about 18 years now! We love this method of planting and rotating our crops and we always have good success. Even if you live in a city, you can put in a square and grow an abundance of food! You can even make raised boxes and portable boxes. It’s worth checking into. Growing your own food in general is a worthy skill to have. You will not regret this one. When the virus hit, we had several jars of homemade spaghetti sauce, jars of jelly, pickled vegetables, frozen peaches and the like.

9. Knowing how to bake, cook, make cheese, pasta, grind wheat and other skills helped me to have the confidence that I could pull my family through a major crisis. For a few days, I didn’t know how things were going to end up. I was watching the stock market crash, people hoarding supplies, businesses shut down and an unknown, very contagious virus sweep through America. It was a lot to process all within a few days of each other. How much worse was it going to get? What if they did close down grocery stores?

      There were so many questions as the world around me was in a free fall, but having some of these skills in my back pocket helped me to fight the fear that was starting to grip me. I am not an expert pasta maker and haven’t done it for years, however I have done it and have a passing knowledge of how to make and cook pasta from scratch. I have also made cheese and have a mill and some wheat berries. I don’t usually do these things, but knowing that I could if I had to, helped more than you would think.

      Take some time to make some cheese, research mills and maybe buy one to tuck away. You will probably never need it, but if you do, you’ll be thankful you can. 

10. I have 3 months of meals planned at all times. This is something I do on a regular basis. I will explain more in another post, but having this one area of my life be this organized has helped me so much over the years. From being sick, to having crisis after crisis hit our family, to new babies, husbands that get deployed–I was still able to feed my family and not lose my mind because I have 3 months of meals planned all the time. When the shutdown hit us, I had enough food in my house for the week and a plan for all of it. It was such a help for my mind during a very stressful period.

11. Speaking of meal planning and groceries on hand, I also had a freezer full of beef and enough food to feed us for about a month, possibly longer. We had just bought a half cow in January. Yes, the timing was great, however, we usually try to buy local and keep large quantities of meat in our freezers. Sometimes it’s chicken or pork. This time we had invested in a cow. Even if per pound it’s a little more expensive, the peace of mind is worth it. I don’t intentionally stock up on food, as an official prepper would do, but we always have food on hand. If I couldn’t have made it to the grocery store, I did have enough food in my pantry and freezers to put together some meals for a month. We may not have been happy, but we would not have been hungry. My suggestion would be to buy in bulk when you can, or buy two items instead of one, such as pork chops or even frozen vegetables. You can build a small stock pile doing this without spending a lot of extra money. When I go to the store, I always buy tomato sauce, even if I have some at home. This way I always have it, even more than I need, but without going overboard.



     I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about anything that had to do with our homestead. But just in case someone does live on some acres and has the shelter, I would suggest buying a couple of goats or a dairy cow. My personal preference is goats, but do your research and see what works best for you. Goats are relatively easy to keep, they aren’t scary huge and they give you a lot of milk. Of course, not as much as a cow, but enough. Contrary to most people’s opinion, goat’s milk is delicious and tastes just like cow’s milk. If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with it. We have 4 LaMancha goats and they are giving us about 10 quarts per day right now. Once we sell the babies and get all the milk to ourselves, we’ll get around 15 quarts per day. I’m freezing about half of it and we’re drinking and cooking with the rest. I have no need to buy milk from the store and that feeling is a great one!

     I hope I helped you in some small way to be a little more independent. Not having to rely on the government, or even the grocery store, is such a liberating feeling! I want you to have peace in as many areas as you can, and when a major crisis hits us, this peace of having some ducks in a row will be such a blessing.


Are there any good routines or habits you have that have served you over the years?

Or when the coronavirus pandemic hit us?

Share your ideas below! We can all learn from each other.


Let me know which was your favourite tip in the comments! Thanks for sharing Amber!



Like Grandma Did

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