Things you can do to become Self-Sufficient even when living in Urban Areas

An Urban City From the Sky

Going off the Grid and living a self-reliant lifestyle is something that many of the people who frequent this site dream about, and while a lot of our readers have already taken the plunge into self-sufficiency, some even going completely Off the Grid, a vast majority of our readers still live in an urban environment and don’t want to completely give up their big city lifestyle.

While you might not be able to go completely off the grid when living in the city, there are still a number of things you can do to start living a self-reliant lifestyle that will benefit yourself and your family. Not only is the lifestyle healthier and more rewarding, but during times of crisis the skills that you obtain by living this lifestyle can help see you through problems that otherwise may have threatened your very existence.

Because so many people now live in either an Urban environment or a suburb that shares many of the same challenges, we are going to look at some ways that you can start moving towards a more self-reliant lifestyle, even if you live in the big city.

So why would you even want to become Self-Sufficient? Doesn’t the city have it all?

  • To start with, it’s cheaper and in the long run it will help you build up quite a large stockpile of emergency cash or long-term savings.
  • It feels good to do things yourself, and if you have kids it sets them up to live a happier and more successful life.
  • Do you really want to depend on the government during times of crisis? Just look at how these people respond to disasters, time and time again they completely screw things up. It’s up to you, but I think you will be much better off being able to depend on yourself when things go bad!

Self-Sufficient Food Production in the Big City

Urban Fishing

Let’s start with Food; we all eat it and we all need it to live. But when you live in a big city, growing your own food is not the easiest thing to do, and chances are, you’re probably close to 100% dependent on your cities infrastructure to obtain the food you need to survive. While in today’s modern world that system seems to work, during times of crisis that reliance on the system is going to be one of the biggest downfalls for those living in most areas of the country.

To move towards self-reliance, and to ensure your ability to feed yourself and your family should things go bad, you need to start thinking about ways to become more self-reliant when it comes to the food you eat.

Learn how to Fish in the City!

Most people in the city have never even considered learning how fish, believing it’s something you can only do in remote areas of the country. Believe it or not, even in the big city there are often opportunities to do just that. Most big cities were built in areas near rivers and lakes; when these cities were first built they depending on these resources to thrive. While City Rivers may not be the cleanest bodies of water, they still give you a chance to get out there and at the very least learn a new skill.

If you aren’t near a river or a lake, there’s still a good chance you have a small urban pond around your home. These small ponds are often stocked by the city or the state’s wildlife gaming department, giving Urban Anglers the opportunity to sharpen their skills and bring home a semi-wild meal.

Learn to Hunt

Ok, so you’re not going to be able to pull out that 30-06 on the streets of Manhattan, this isn’t “I am Legend” – at least not yet.

While traditional hunting probably isn’t going to be an option in your immediate area, chances are you probably live within a two-hour drive to somewhere where you can hunt.

This might sound gross for some of our urban readers, and to be honest, I don’t know if I would eat anything that’s running around in a big city, but during a long-term survival situation, knowing how to hunt and trap game is a skill that could save your life. Even in the city, it is possible to find things like pigeons, rabbits, and other small game that are more than edible during an emergency. Again, this is meant for an emergency situation, as I can almost guarantee hunting activities are probably frowned upon in most urban areas.

Start a Small Garden

I know space is limited in the city, but it is possible to start a small garden. In fact, urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular and there are several techniques and growing systems that will allow you to produce food in small spaces.

Whether it’s a small rooftop or balcony garden, or an indoor container garden, you do have options. Container Gardens are a great way to move towards self-sufficiency and they allow you to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in a small space. Check out my article on Survival Container Gardens for more information.

Learning how to Cook your Own Food

I can’t talk about self-sufficiency and food, without mentioning cooking. Learning how to cook from scratch is a skill that most people have forgotten, or never learned. Even in the era of 24/7 cooking T.V. shows, the fact is, most people cannot cook a meal from scratch and most modern recipes rely heavily on pre-packaged and pre-portioned ingredients.

OFFGRID Resources for learning how to cook:

Top cookbooks for learning how to cook:

Changing the Way you Think: Developing a Self-Reliant Mindset

Dali Painting

Much of becoming self-reliant is simply changing the way you think. We live in a world that has become dependent on other people, the government, technology, and a million other crutches to do things for them. Gone are the days when people would fix something when it broke; now, they toss it away and go throw another round of good money at a bunch of crappy Chinese products from Walmart.

But most of these problems come from the way we think; we have been conditioned to become a throwaway society, a consumer driven country where self-reliance in something that hurts the corporate controllers, so they do everything they can to stomp it out.

It’s time to take back your life; it’s time to take back your power! Listen, you don’t have to become some peace-loving hippie, chanting Yoga meditations on a hill, but you should be able to fix a flat tire or sew a button back on your shirt. Yes, it’s really that simple. Start small, and then work your way up to the bigger things!

Instead of spending money on so-called experts — experts that received a couple hours training and a uniform:

  • Learn how to perform basic maintenance tasks on your home and vehicle. You should be able to plunge a drain, change a battery in your vehicle, and fix a flat on the side of the road; these are all basic tasks that people now spend millions of dollars on every year because they never learned how to do it themselves.
  • YOUTUBE! We live in the age of technology, yet it seems people are dumber than ever. Take advantage of the technology that is out there, there are millions of DIY videos that can teach you everything from fishing techniques to how to repair just about anything in your home or on your car.
  • Learn how to Sew! Americans spend billions of dollars every year on new clothes, but for under $100 you can purchase a sewing machine that will help you stretch the life out of those old garments. Seriously, you really don’t have to go out and buy new clothes every time your kid rips his pants, they can be fixed — a couple cents worth of thread, or $40 on a new pair of jeans; it really is your choice! Are you starting to see how this lifestyle can save you some big time money?

Get Out of Debt NOW!

ATM Machine

What the heck does getting out of debt have to do with becoming self-sufficient? EVERYTHING! When you’re in debt, you become a slave to that debtor, having to live your life on their terms. The faster you can get out of debt, the faster you can start living your life on your terms.

Some Good Resources for Getting Out of Debt:

Invest in Some Sort of Alternative or Backup Energy

Emergency Solar Panels

If you plan on staying in the city, you might need to adjust your expectations about going off the grid. That being said, there are things you can do to cut down on your energy dependence.

  • Convert your lightbulbs to LED: Not only will they save you money in the long run, but during an emergency, they require very little power to run. Most of them can be powered by a small solar setup that isn’t much larger than an iPad.
  • Invest in a small portable solar system: These small units are great for emergencies and can be used to power cell phones, small electronics, and emergency communication gear. You can even use then to regularly charge your cell phones and tablets, which could cut down on your power bills over time.
  • Invest in a wood burning stove or grill, even if you don’t use it on a regular basis you’ll at least have a way to cook during blackouts and long-term power outages.
  • Plug your electronics into a power Strip and turn it off at night. Most modern appliances and electronics are constantly sucking juice from the outlet, even when you think they are “turned off”. The only way to guarantee they are not pulling power is to unplug them or use a power stip so you can cut the power right at the source.

Your Journey to Self-Reliance Starts with One Small Step…

It’s the not the Destination, It’s the journey.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Starting the journey into self-reliance can be a bit overwhelming, but if you start slow and start with your basic needs — water, shelter, food, and energy – the journey doesn’t have to feel like  a walk through the Sahara desert without a bottle of water.

Shirts of Liberty

OFFGRID Survival book



  1. I’ve lived in urban, suburban, and Country locations. All have advantages and disadvantages.
    As an urban dweller, hunting would not get my vote for places to start.

    First thing I would do to begin my journey is to make sure I had water. If water is no longer flowing from your faucet, you have a serious problem. It takes three days to die from dehydration, more or less. Buy a water container(s). Five gallon, three gallon, one or two with a water spicket. Two gallon that fit nicely in your refrigerator. You can use this type in a cupboard. You can also fill them with food like lentiles, beans, rice, sugar, and flour. All important foods to always keep well stocked. Purchase salt and honey. Sugar and honey attract ants so be very careful once you open. Honey can be kept in the refrigerator but it gets hard and crystallizes. Just gently warm in warm water. Do not put glass jar in hot water. It could break and heat kills healthy enzymes. Otherwise honey is an excellent food. It never, ever goes bad. You can buy sugar, salt, and honey and keep them indefinitely. Make sure to stock several types of salt. Sea salt is a healthy choice, but you also need canning and pickling salt. You may not know how to can (actually jar) food but stock it anyway.

    If you live in a rented apartment, your landlord might get very upset if you don’t get permission, but ask if he would mind if you put up shelves and secured them to the wall. If you have a large empty bedroom or space of some kind, not only could you put shelves on each wall from floor to ceiling, but you can put shelves throughout the room. This is probably more than most people will want, but keep as an option. I started by putting one full wall from ceiling to floor in each bedroom for my children’s toys. Of course shelves can hold books. They can also be a very large pantry of food, water, and supplies.

    Starting out, you will want to have several bags which you can grab and go. First is your everyday bag. In it always have water. You need to drink throughout the day or you become dehydrated. This is very serious. Most people walk around in a mild state of dehydration. This is very unhealthy. Depends were designed for young people who are too busy or too preoccupied to take care of their bodies most primal need; air and water. Waiting until you are thirsty and then buying a diet soda is signing your own death certificate. So first and foremost carry your own clean filtered water. Get a filter that removes chemicals, bacteria, and flouride. Once water is Distilled or totally filtered, you’ll need to take a mineral supplement or drink mineral water. Otherwise this thirsty water will pull minerals from your body. Not good.
    Keep a bag or briefcase or some type of mobile backpack with photographs of loved ones, yourself, and close friends. Also copies of important papers such as birth certificate, marriage license, divorce and death certificates, etc. so you can pick up and go in a moments time. You may want to keep cash with your papers. Small, medium and large bills in something that doesn’t scream money. You need some utility bills to prove you live where you do live, if you have them. Have a resume and printed copies of character witnesses. All ready to grab and go. Have a bag with overnight clothes. Remember to have extra socks, and a skullcap. A sweater and windbreaker jacket. Toothbrush and dental floss are essential. A hair comb, scissors, disinfectant wipes and maybe deodorant. Feminine care products for their main purpose or to use as a bandage. Pen, paper, postcard, stamps (forever stamps). Something to use as a catch for rainwater such as a tarp and something to start fire. Flint, matches, lighter are all important. Some petroleum jelly and cotton. String, rope, insect repellent, snare to catch small game such as squirrel. A good knife. A small pocket knife. If you’re heading for the woods, a hatchet and tent and the best sleeping bag money can buy. If you have a car, keep a cot and wool army blankets with your tent. If you have room for a cooler, I would bring one or two. There are soft types that travel light and can double as storage for blankets, a pillow (luxury), additional outerwear. Nail file, nail clippers, and tweezers have multiple uses. Flashlights, lanterns, batteries. Books, maps, compass, sky chart. Directions to predetermined safe house or alternative residence, Mom’s house. Keep an address book with phone numbers addresses and directions. Keep something on your person that gives your blood type, allergies, medical conditions in the event of injury. Also, name and phone number of Relative to contact in the event of your injury or death.

    Keep your car in tip top shape if you have one. Keep the tank filled, insurance, registration tags, oil changed, check that there is no reason a cop would want to pull you over. If you have to leave the area quickly, you have extra water and nuts or some kind of food so you don’t have to stop. Time may be of utmost importance. You want to get ahead of the crowds. There may not be anywhere to stop for food. Keep enough for a couple of days trip. Check to be sure it’s fresh. Change it out every so often. Eat it before it goes stale.

    Keep diatomaceous earth to kill little bugs. Eat yourself to kill some parasites. Grow garlic and onions. Raw garlic kills some parasites in humans. Grow dandelions, weeds, in pots on your porch. Also grow mint. It grows like a weed so keep in pots. Good for digestion. Get an organic avocado or ten of them peel the brown papery skin off the seed, put three or four toothpicks in it avoiding the line. Put in glass of water with the narrow part up. Change water every day. Let it sit by a window probably near your kitchen sink. When it starts to grow roots and sprouts a tree, put it in a pot and keep watering. After a while transplant to a larger pot. You can grow trees on your porch. When they start bearing fruit, eat the fruit. You can then plant them on your property when you purchase a home, give them to family who have a home, or use them to barter for other things. Since trees that are seven or eight years old sell for $25 to $35 dollars, you would make very little for your effort. But that is not the point. You learn how to grow and care for a plant. It costs almost nothing, but ultimately it will provide you with healthy fats your body needs. Survival takes many forms. Appreciating Natures wealth of edible plants is, in my opinion one of the most important skills any human can hope to acquire while on this very short journey we call life.


  2. Some excellent suggestions, re: your ideas about eating available city food. A well known restaurant in L.A. served dog on their menu for years without telling many of their patrons. I can tell you first-hand that it was both popular and delicious, just sayin’.

  3. First of all I would like to thank you for writing this post I love both writing and reading new posts and I was just looking at new posts to see me something new, only then I saw your post and the rest of the post is praiseworthy.

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