Modern day homesteaders have many tools and modern conveniences available, to allow more time for employment outside the home. As a full time nurse with a 100 mile daily commute, kids in tons of extra curricular activities, and a small hobby farm, I understand the struggles of time management while living the good life. I would like to share with you the tools that I have found that saves me valuable time, and makes living this lifestyle easier. Nothing compares to the health benefits, and educational opportunities that come with the homesteading lifestyle. I am about the cheapest, or most frugal homesteader you will ever meet, so I definitely would not recommend these tools if they weren’t worth their weight in gold. There are some Amazon affiliate links, however I am not an affiliate for all of these products. Our first year on the farm taught us that we would need to start investing into some tools in order to fix up one of our new favorite places to live, and to prevent our homesteading dreams from turning into a nightmare.
First and foremost, I could not function without my Cozi app. Cozi is a calendar app, store online recipes, schedule recipes and reminders, create meal plan and shopping lists, and automatically add ingredients from your meal plan. I have used the free version for a long time (since I learned about it in nursing school in 2013), but there are added features in the paid version. I primarily use the calendar feature with WidgetCal (for my home screen weekly calendar), and love to store my favorite online recipes. The app allows members of the family to receive reminders about their schedule, but allows access to see everyone else’s calendar. I use the lists to compose my meal plans, mainly so I don’t forget what groceries I bought for which meals for the week. I also love the reminders feature, which is separate from iOS reminders. I am not an affiliate, just a believer in the product.
I use my Instant Pot (Amazon affiliate link) at least 1-3 times per week. I love the delay start, and have learned the hack of using ice as my water (double the amount of ice per water ratio) for refrigerated meats to make sure they are safe sitting on the counter for 7 hours before being cooked. My favorite part of owning an electric pressure cooker is coming home after a long day at work to home cooked meals (prepped the night before). Our biggest downfall in our budget is eating out, there are days where I just don’t feel like cooking, and the Instant Pot is the most useful tool for our frugal living. Even if I forget to set it up in the morning, my family’s meal can be cooked within 30-45 minutes (which is quicker than going out to eat). There are endless uses for the Instant Pot, and there is also talk about applying for FDA approval as a pressure canner. If you are looking for the easiest way to cook your own food, feel free to check out my favorite Instant Pot recipes!
Smart Outlet Plug
Smart plugs (Amazon affiliate link) are probably my most favorite parenting hack around. My television, game console, and kids TVs are connected to smart plugs. They shut off automatically at night for bedtime routines, it also shuts off in the morning in time for the bus (since the kids have to be up and ready a while before the bus arrives). I also have one in the chicken coop for a light (to keep our automatic door open a bit longer for the lollygagging backyard chicken), but it could also be used to turn on a heater for specific outdoor temperatures (a nice feature of the smart home app). In addition to scheduling automation, one of the best things the app offers is smart settings for temperature, sunrise or sunset, home or away, or device status changes like unusual activity. On another note, my WiFi connectivity in the chicken coop is less than ideal, but once set up it has worked surprisingly well.
Automatic Chicken Coop Door
This great tool has saved the lives of my chickens for sure, and is probably one of the best ways to keep them safe. One night I came home shortly after dusk, to find a blood trail from my chicken coop door to the timber and beyond. I immediately purchased this automated door, (Amazon affiliate link) and have never had a problem with predators getting in my coop since. My only issue is that the sensor is mounted inside, and the door shuts a bit before all my free range chickens get home to roost. So to fix the issue, I plugged in a cheap light to a smart switch that comes on 30 minutes before sunset and stays on until 30 minutes after. The door runs off of 3 AA battery power, and I usually replace them when we go on or off daylight savings time (when they recommend changing your smoke detector batteries). The manufacturer specs say that the batteries should last for 6 months, and since I already change my smoke detector batteries when the clocks change, I simply change the chicken coop door batteries too. (Check out our DIY Chicken Coop)
Basic Tool Kit
Having this basic tools (Amazon affiliate link) kit in the house is a huge timesaver! The last thing I want to do in the middle of my diy projects, is scrounge for a tool somewhere between the garage and outbuildings for wherever they MIGHT be. Having a small tool set in the house has become handy! Our home tool set is purple, so they don’t accidentally get left in the garage. This set of hand tools comes with the basic necessities like a hammer, tape measure, screwdriver with multiple bits, level, pliers, wire cutters, etc. It also has a handy case to keep everything together. I have used it many times for my small and affordable DIY innovations, a large part of my old fixer upper homestead life.
Dyson Stick Vacuum
To splurge in a stick vacuum was a difficult choice for me, but is well worth the price. I chose Dyson because it is not a disposable brand, and I can still buy parts for my 2006 model (which we bought used). Dyson has a great reputation for its good quality, and I love the fact that it is fixable and not disposable. I have a livestock guardian dog, who sheds A LOT! This has been the best animal vacuum I have ever owned. My Dyson V8 Animal stick vacuum has held up to numerous room remodels (most vacuums do not like drywall dust), and the maintenance is a breeze (no need to use an air compressor on the filter). You can often find used ones (or other brands) online or check your local thrift store, for a fraction of the new price.
Battery Powered Weed Wacker
This weed wacker (Amazon affiliate link) is one of my favorite garden tool gifts. I had a corded weed eater, but HATED dragging the extension cord out and putting it away (it was always covered in metal shavings from welding/grinding projects in the garage). I love how light weight it is, and the convenience of the battery. I splurged on a second battery as I would get a bit carried away with using it (especially around my garden beds). It is probably my favorite way to clean up the weeds around my garden beds. For intense wacking needs, I use my Stihl gas powered trimmer with a blade, and keep the string trimmer for around young trees, near buildings, and around the propane tank.
Air Fryer, Toaster Oven, Dehydrator Combo Unit
Honestly, I wasn’t sure an air fryer (Amazon affiliate link) would be any better than the toaster oven I already had. But it cooks my fries WONDERFULLY, they are nice and crispy, unlike the results from an oven. This combination toaster oven air fryer also has the ability to dehydrate, making it an awesome tool for cooking and preserving foods. Dehydrating is a great way to store food items like herbs, tomatoes, etc. My favorite things to dehydrate are garlic and onion from my herb garden, which I grind into powder for seasoning.
2020 brought the United States many food delivery options and grocery pickup. While we live too far from town for delivery, I regularly use the grocery pickup option. I even requested that my water softener salt be added as an option, and a couple of months later they accommodated! Grocery pickup is a better way to grocery shop, and saves me about a lot of time (about an hour) every week. The added benefit is that I don’t impulse buy (one of my frugal tips), and I can add things to my list throughout the week. It is easy to purchase only things for my weekly meal plans, which helps keep us on track with our budget. Even our farm supply store is offering curbside with no additional cost!
Our upright freezer is on its last leg, and with deer season approaching having a working deep freezer is non-negotiable. Our last deep freezer stood up to the abuse of being in a hot Phoenix garage for most of its life, so we can’t complain about needing a new one after 14 years. The problem we are having is that the door seal is going bad (after over-loading the door), and it is icing over significantly. In fact, my car’s ice scraper is sitting next to it to combat the problem. A couple of features that are non-negotiable is being frost-free, and a temperature alarm. The temperature alarm has notified us about a tripped breaker a few times over the years. While this may not be a problem for most, it can be a problem when drawing high amps on a 15 amp breaker with multiple outlets. Most deep freezers are garage ready, meaning they are designed to operate in extreme temperatures. (We’ve moved ours to our newly built mudroom breezeway)
One of our last investments that is for a sense of security is our backup generator. We were able to purchase ours used, once a large number pf people were tired of storing theirs after derecho hit Iowa in August of 2020. Derecho is basically an inland hurricane, to which we had no warning of. Derecho took out the power lines throughout eastern Iowa, and many people went without power for weeks. Luckily, this occurred during the summer so Iowans weren’t freezing to death, however it was a nice reminder that having a backup generator available is not a bad idea. Winters in Iowa are harsh, and even though we have a wood stove to keep us warm if snowed in, we would have no way to pump water out of our well without a backup generator. Also, the thought of losing a freezer full of meat was motivating to us to be prepared. Solar panels can be another form of backup power, however it is much more affordable (and reliable) to buy a backup generator.
I hope I have shared some useful information that I have learned on my homestead journey. To learn more, please sign up for email updates!