Sustainable Living on a Budget…A Lil’ Suburban Homestead Thing

Suburban Homestead, what is that?

Why the chickens? Why the garden? Why the bees? Why the survival preparations?

I would love to have what you have but we don’t want to deal with the hassle…..

We will come to your place when things really get bad because you guys are prepared….

We hear this a lot!

Hi I’m Karen Lynn and my husband “The Viking in my life” is Eric we are really the team behind Lil’ Suburban Homestead our kids do help out when asked to be involved but you have to understand we aren’t off grid we are leading normal lives. Eric and I both work full-time, we still go to football games, we are in clubs, we go fishing, we love going to the mountains and behind all the scenes we raise bees, chickens, raise a nice supplemental portion of food in the garden, and we prep for the future.

I am a Techie I love HBO and my Droid Razr so some might say well that’s not very frugal and I say even frugal people can be entertainment addicts and actually I negotiated my cable bill down quite low. We do eat at home, we do make our own laundry detergent, we do a lot of our own homemade furniture projects, we do not frequent Starbucks, we do can our own food, we do freeze a lot of our own food, we do mend our clothing, we do frequent thrift shops. Everyone has their passions we are not going to all give up the same things.

Why it works for us?

Our kids know……my daughter recently had a friend who was having a baby shower and I gave her two chicks from my recent flock of chickens and she of course loved it because she wants to be a backyard chicken Momma like me!
Comments my kids often will make….

“Oh no everyone we will have to go back home Mom forgot her coupon!”
“Mom won’t go out to eat there, … it’s not frugal enough!”

One of my son’s friends told us he could never live with us because all we eat is eggs, tomatoes, and peppers in the summer….that’s not completely true but we do eat a lot of omelettes. For us there is joy in being self-sufficient or at least more self-sufficient than the average person. I actually have felt guilty this year because I have not been hanging my clothes on the line as often but I still hang them all over the house!

It All Started Because……

Well it really started way before 2009 we always loved to garden and we had kept a few flocks of chickens but when I got thyroid cancer in 2009 we thought something has to give. We are going to have to eat healthier and the food industry is not going to protect us so the more we can eat and buy local we figured the healthier we will be.

We do not eat a completely organic diet because we can’t afford it but we strive to be as healthy as we can. So once we made up our minds the very first thing we did was build a greenhouse, then we put in raised beds and then of course added more raised garden beds. We also decided to keep chickens, then later added bees, then added more chickens and we have a huge composting system all on 1/3 of an acre.

For us it’s the adventure of challenging ourselves, learning new to us skills(old-fashioned), engaging in new challenges however I have completely quit trying to knit forget about it. I just can’t figure it out. Some of our favorite projects we have done in the past couple of years…. My husband has made humane animal box traps from wood, he fashioned some trellises in our garden from our Bradford pear tree, he made our headboard for our bedroom from historic scrap lumber.

My favorite project was the rotating upcycle strawberry planter he made from an old water tank. One of the most exciting things about gardening is you never know when you are going to have a bumper crop or unfortunately a horrible crop. This year we had a bumper crop of tomatoes, last year we had a bumper crop of peppers and the year before we had a bumper crop of huge fat tomatillos. For those that are sitting on the fence about gardening and don’t want to invest much work the pay off is huge and over time like my husband and myself you will come to know what is worth investing seed wise in your area.

This past year we concentrated on lettuce, spinach, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, egg-plant, tomatillos, potatoes, and trombocino squash which incidentally seems to be immune to squash borers which is a huge problem for us.

Mistakes we have made along the way….

We put in underground rain water storage tanks without a way to aerate the water and the water after a particularly pollen rich spring fouled and dwarfed most of our seedlings. This past year in my over zealousness I ordered too many chickens and thought I could sell them and well lets just say I still have 16 new chicks, 9 of which I am still trying to find homes for.

The first chicken coop we had enabled our chickens to completely free range our property which was great for them however one night we forgot to lock the coop and lost one of our chickens to a raccoon. I believe these mistakes have taught us to be more attentive to details on our lil’ suburban homestead and there is no better teacher than first hand experience.

Our Successes!

This past year we harvested approximately 100lbs of honey from our bees and we have noticed increased yields in our vegetable garden production.
We have added another chicken coop, a chicken yurt really and this will house our quail next year which we plan to sell.

We eat our eggs our gals produce year round and now and then we even have enough to sell. By eating local honey and more produce I have become healthier and even lost 27lbs this past year. This year my husband has had a huge bounty of Habanero peppers which he plans to make a pepper spray to protect our other plants from aphids and other such garden pests. Lastly we had lots of eggs, produce and honey to share with our close friends and neighbours.

The Financial Part…
I have to be completely truthful my husband and I have not always been the most financially savvy. We are both impulsive people and I guess you have to laugh because it takes an impulsive person to order 25 chickens but the homestead lifestyle has been so good for us in so many ways.
  • When you become a gardener you start living by seasons so you see the ebb and flow of things and truthfully over time you become so much more patient. You begin talking differently for instance next year I want to replace that tree with a peach tree so let’s keep an eye out for a sale on peach trees.
  • You do not have as much time to shop lets face it taking care of the garden, chickens, and bees take time. By the time you get done you might not even feel like going shopping and slowly over time you become truly satisfied with the little wonders in your garden.
  • We used a budget to track all of our incoming and outgoing monies.  We establish a budget every year for our trips and the money we make from our honey and plant business goes straight back into growing our hobby business.
  • We used to have a grocery bill every month of about $1200 for the four of us every month. We finally got that down as low at one point to about $260.00 a month and that includes paper products, pet products, and cleaning products but NOT personal hygiene products.  Right now our average grocery budget for 4 adult sized people is about $600.00 a month.  It has gone up this past two years while we have concentrated on our hobby business. The truth is you have to zero in on where you are going to invest your time.
  • We do not use a lot of highly processed foods in our house…chicken nuggets or frozen pizza is a big treat.  The routine staples we stock are oatmeal and other grains like barley and quinoa. We grow our potatoes then purchase more as needed, fish we catch in the ocean, chicken breasts, non fat Greek yogurt, fruit, and lots of produce from our garden!
  •  We do purchase those out of date produce and meat sales at our local grocery store and they always taste great. We also buy clearance items at our grocery store and close-outs.  I hardly ever buy pre-made meals at the grocery store we take great efforts to avoid MSG, sodium, and the like.
  • We made sure when we purchased our house that we followed the guidelines the financial gurus recommended  – meaning if we had listened to the realtor and the loan officer we could have gotten a lot more house than our 1500 square foot rancher but I wanted to live a life style that is comfortable.
  • Financial Splurges- I would say our cable and cell phone bill- I’m a techie and an entertainment addict and my husband supports my passions! I am not one to buy a new outfit or purse every week. He likes his tools and his bees and I like my gadgets and my movies.
  •  Cooking from scratch has made the hugest change to our budget – such as if we get invited to a party I will make our brownies from scratch or bring my homemade salsa and some chips…have you seen the price of salsa lately in the grocery store?

A typical menu plan on any day in our house during the week would entail:

  • Breakfast- oatmeal with berries made with fat-free milk and a tsp. of our very own honey
  • Snack- mozzarella cheese stick and a peach
  • Lunch- Omelette and toast (If I’m at work) that would look like a leftover salad and a few pieces of meat on top
  • Snack- A handful of nuts and an apple
  • Dinner- 4 oz. chicken breast, 1 cup of peas, a baked potato
  • Dessert- Homemade Fruit Ice Pops made with fruit on clearance!
Accept your non-negotiables and then say “Where can I trim the fat?”….I am currently shopping around for lower prices on my weekly trash service.  I never stop searching for ways to save money!

Thank you so much for letting us share our journey with you we hope most of all to inspire you a yearning for connecting with other like-minded folks and you know my motto “If you have a home you’re a homesteader!”….stop on it at our lil’ suburban homestead anytime you are always welcome.

Guest Post By: Karen at Lil Suburban Homestead

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  1. Very appreciate you re-sharing this post! I enjoy reading it too it reminds me of the journey we have been on and new goals! I have already told Mr. CBB that he and the Mrs. can come take a tour I just need some notice to clean up a little ha ha 🙂

  2. Tara Knott says:

    This was a great read!! Very inspiring. Makes me want to look into local bylaws for chickens. I lived on a dairy farm for 3 months when i was younger and was reminded of those times. Thanks!

  3. This was a really great post. It’s so helpful to see more of the little details about how people get their homesteads up and running—whether it’s in the country, suburbs, or cities. Thanks! Oh, you made mention of your “plant business”. Were you referring to your garden or an actual business that you’re running? I’m curious, as for a few years now I’ve been seriously thinking about starting a native seedling/plant business. Not big, just on the side for now.

  4. Reblogged this on Lil' Suburban Homestead and commented:
    I was so excited to be featured on Canadian Budget Binder a blog about “A Canadian Married Couple on a Financial Journey Using A Budget!” I have been following Mr. CBB’s blog for a while as the financial arena is not my strength and have been learning so much from his posts so when he approached me about being a guest blogger on his blog my husband and I were so excited about this opportunity and grateful to be featured on such a meaningful blog that is Canadian Budget Binder!

  5. So inspiring! Makes me want me very own chicken coop with dozens of chicks 😉

    • Friends of ours did the chicken thing and they love it. If you are allowed to have them even 1 or 2 will suffice for fresh eggs. Cheers darlin, Thanks for stopping in! Mr.CBB

    • Nurse Frugal chickens are very low maintenance compared to the bees in my opinion. I met a lady the other day who bought three chicks from me she has one of those omelette coops online that can hold three chickens and well she said it was just the right amount of eggs for her now me on the other hand since eggs are one of my favorite foods and I eat an egg for breakfast almost every single morning except for my oatmeal days….well I just can’t have enough eggs around 🙂

  6. Allison my husband and I have been living this way since 1989 when we first got married….the only thing is we didn’t have the know how….now thankfully due to the information age we can all figure out how to do this stuff even if we were not taught by our parents. I was not taught how to can etc…..I am self taught via the ball book before the information age really came on the scene but now its all so much easier thanks to blogs and you tube! 🙂

  7. Jenny Stewart says:

    Great read! Thanks for posting! I wish we lived in a house with a yard because we would have a huge veggie garden! But unfortunatly we are in an apartment, but still grow a small amount of veggies and herbs!

  8. Allison Rehel says:

    There’s nothing like fresh fruits and vegetables grown by your own hand. All the thing that use to be a way of life, is now coming back.

    • Thanks Allison, you know it should come back. We have gotten so lazy with convenience, fast food, drive thrus etc that we need to get back to basics. It’s not an easy fix but one we can all work towards. Cheers Mr.CBB

  9. Barb I love rhubarb do you use it to cook? Jeffrey we actually have a blog post up at Lil’ Suburban Homestead about Vertical Gardening I agree! Thank you so much Jen! It does take courage in dealing with the neighbors sometimes…ha ha LOL! Luckily where we live we have no covenants and for now not a lot of restrictions about chickens. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts and comments! This is such a great opportunity to connect with Mr. CBB’s blog readers!

  10. Barb Foster says:

    What a fabulous read and very inspiring! I don’t have the ability to have a garden at this time, but would love to one day. We used to have a variety of fruit trees (at my parents), along with black currant bushes and rhubarb, but now only the rhubarb is left.

  11. I wish i could garden but hey if you cant go out you can go up i hear eavestrough attached to a fence/balcony/ wall. is a good substitute for a garden just deep enough for the roots n the water is contained nicely..

  12. love the idea for the old water tank that’s a great idea to keep them to one area and they wont take over the garden….. I love having fresh strawberries from the garden but quiet a few yrs back they kinda took over the whole garden I have had to take them out because of that but I will looking for something like that now to do for next year 🙂

  13. Angelene Ashawasega says:

    That is alot to think about. I live in a condo…wish I could move back to the country. Love the garden! My bro has his own little garden, even lives in the city:) Need to think more about this and make some changes! Great ideas here!

  14. First of all Mr. CBB – Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am so honored and excited to be featured at your fabulous and very well known blog 🙂
    On a side note……
    Mr. CBB if you come visit with the Mrs… guys have to come in May or June when everything still looks beautiful…right now the heat has made everything just look wretched!

    Mary absolutely that is exactly why I started my blog was to let people know we are not alone and that we can do this …trust me we have good days and we have bad days but we keep the faith in having a more sustainable life most days! Thanks for the like by the way 😉

  15. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story! I am now looking forward even more to starting my fruit/vegetable garden next year 🙂 It takes courage to do what you have done so good for you!

  16. Mary F Campbell says:

    WOW! That certainly gives a person lots to chew on!!

    I am planning to start my first garden next summer when hopefully I will be healthy enough to take on a new but exciting challenge. I am using this year to educate myself so that I have a plan to implement when I get there. I can only grow my project a little bit each year, due to financial constraints imposed by the fact that we are now a one income family, but I have long term plans for some fruit trees & berry bushes, lots of vegetables and potted herbs. This was so inspiring for me!! There is life after a major health set-back & for me you are a living example.

    This year is all about recovery for me, but stepping out of the rat race and giving myself time to heal is my first step in a series of life’s little adjustments that move me away from all that was toxic to me and closer to a long and healthy life.

    I had never considered chickens…I will have to check my local bylaws to see if they are even an option on my current piece of property. I grew up spending summers in a vegetarian, agrarian community every year until I was twelve… so a large garden, a few chickens and a cow are normal to me. Unfortunately I simply haven’t the land necessary to handle a cow at this point. We separated our own cream & churned our own butter – making both labor intensive goods a true luxury in the home.

    Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring journey with us! I know if you can do it, so can I.

    • Hi Mary!
      You are so funny… ‘lots to chew on”. I knew you would like this post and this blog. I wish we had more property than we do as we would be doing so much more. We do as much as we can right now and it saves us alot of money and it’s all organic. I think you are right that planning is very important when gearing up for a garden. I always enjoy reading how others live their lives and what they do so I can learn from them. Maybe one day Mrs.CBB and I can take a trip to the Lil Suburban Homestead for a tour!


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