For the last 10 years, I dream daily about running away to the woods. I want to live off the land. I want to be surrounded by nature. I want to escape. We moved to the country last year and I still want to I live in the woods and dream about running further away. It might be a standard “grass is always greener” situation but maybe not. My dreams are fueled by a desire for subsistence living and that can be hard to do in a city when you don’t always have room to grow food and where there seem to be more expectations about how to live as well as amenities that influence your decisions.

I think it’s a fairly standard dream: escaping the city to live off the land. And I think it’s also easy to tell ourselves that we can’t “escape” the city lifestyle while we live in urban areas. But I think there is plenty we can do in urban environments. Before we moved, my family lived in a very urban area. Looking back, I see that there were these “in-between” steps that helped us get ready for homesteading before we actually got to start our homestead. We pulled our kids out of school. I learned to cook and bake food from scratch. We started our own home business(es). I shared a plot at a community garden to learn. All of these steps helped us start our “opting out” lifestyle and I realize now that the dream to escape doesn’t actually require acreage or a homestead. There are lots of those little in-between steps that can carry you to a subsistence lifestyle while still living in an urban area.

One basic example that comes to mind as an in-between step is about beans. Way back when, I never really cooked with dried beans. They’re kind of a pain. You need to soak them for a few hours before you can even boil them. Canned beans are usually easier. This summer is the first year that I actually grew enough climbing beans to dry for storage. Knowing that this kind of food preservation was a goal, I spent the last few years buying dried beans in bulk to try and get used to cooking with them. Now that I’ve got my own beans, it’s not as much of a hurdle. That in-between step helped make the task easier and more manageable.

Some other in-between steps that I’ve found helpful:

  • buying local backyard or free range eggs
  • switching to a credit union instead of a major bank
  • growing herbs if you don’t have room for a garden (I love lemon balm and mint for tea!)
  • practicing egalitarian parenting even when your kids are still in school
  • buying second hand (on the way to buying less)
  • preserving food from the grocery store
  • getting a plot in a community garden (this is also a great way to connect with community if you’re introverted like me)
  • baking your own bread
  • cooking with food that can only be sourced locally

What other in-between steps can you think of that you already practice? What new in-between steps would be easy to adopt?