38 Principles of Self-Sufficiency Every Prepper Can Embrace Today

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Garden? Check. Water source? Check. Alternate power source? Check. You’re on your way to self sufficiency, the Holy Grail of preppers. But what if there’s more to being self-sufficient than you thought?

image: adult hands holding a seedling in dirt with a child's hands support it, self sufficiency

What is Self-Sufficiency?

Depends on who you ask. Does that sound like a cop-out?

Well, die-hard doomsday day preppers would likely say that self-sufficiency is providing for all of one’s needs without any outside help or resources; there is no need to buy food, clothing, water, power, sanitation, medicine, etc. This would be the most literal interpretation of “off-grid.” That’s at one end of the spectrum.

Others take a more balanced approach to the idea of being self-sufficient. For them, self-sufficiency is about how well you can provide for the needs of yourself and your loved ones for the long haul. For example, you grow a percentage of what you eat, or you have a backup power source for outage situations. Perhaps it’s about having a bartering agreement with someone wherein you exchange eggs for honey, bringing community in as an element of independence and control in taking care of yourself.

However, let’s take a broader view of what it means to be self-sufficient. Let’s think about it as a mindset. In that vein, I offer these principles of self-sufficiency from Don McIlvaney.

McIlvaney’s Principles of Self-Sufficiency

  1. Change the way you look at everything. Rethink your entire lifestyle.
  2. Develop discernment about people.
  3. When you invest, invest first in the right people.
  4. Look at yourself honestly. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  5. Seek the counsel of others you trust.
  6. Find like-minded people who can be part of a mutual support group and who you can cooperate with.
  7. Find alternate methods for doing everything.
  8. Develop an instinct for what doesn’t feel right. No matter how good something looks or sounds on the surface, go with your gut feeling, your instinct, and your intuition.
  9. Eliminate non-essentials from your life. Eliminate all time wasters and money wasters, and things you don’t need, i.e., clothes, furniture, junk, etc. Eliminate television from your life.
  10. Simplify your lifestyle. Learn to say no to things and activities that don’t make you self-sufficient.
  11. Develop physical, mental, and spiritual discipline.
  12. Learn to treat everything as if it were irreplaceable.
  13. Buy things that will last, even if they cost more.
  14. Acquire tools that do not depend on electric power.
  15. Learn to spend time alone with yourself in total silence. Think, reflect, reminisce, and plan (or strategize) in silence.
  16. Learn to spend time with your family without any superficial entertainment and distractions.
  17. Make sure your trust is in the Lord and not your own preparedness. Pattern your preparedness according to the guidance of the Lord. Listen to what He puts in your heart. Don’t use only your reasoning power.
  18. Learn something from every situation you are in. Everything you hear, see, touch or feel has a lesson in it. Learn a principle from every mistake you make and from everyday life situations.
  19. Store up memories for times of isolation or separation from your loved ones.
  20. Learn to enjoy simple pleasures from the smallest things. Have a measure of joy and happiness that doesn’t come from creature comforts or entertainment.
  21. Establish priorities for all areas of your life, including relationships and current and future needs. Set goals for areas to become proficient or self-sufficient. Set a schedule or a timeline to reach those goals based on the money and available time.
  22. Examine the concept of civil disobedience from Bible times throughout history. At what point should the people of Egypt have said No to killing the male babies in Moses’ day? At what point should the people of colonial America have said No to King George? At what point should the people of Germany have said No to Hitler? At what point do we say No to the despots of our day when they take over our money, property, guns, our children, and our freedom? Decide what is your choke point. When do you move toward civil disobedience? For many throughout history, it was when evil leaders handed down edicts that were directly contrary to God’s Word or commands. Don’t set your choke point too early or too quickly, too late or never. Think through and calculate a strategy. Then never look back.
  23. Learn to ask the right questions in every situation.
  24. Bring orderliness into your life. If you live in disorder, it will pull you down and break your focus. Think focus vs. distraction.  Eliminate the distractions from your life.
  25. Self-sufficiency or survival principles are learned on a day-to-day basis and must be practical.
  26. Always have more than one way to escape, more than one way to do something. Have a plan B and a plan C.
  27. Everyday life, and especially life during a crisis, requires up-front systems and backup systems if the first line of defense, or the up-front system, fails.
  28. Real education only takes place when change occurs in our attitudes, actions, and way of life.
  29. Wisdom is making practical applications of what you know. It is not enough to know everything you need to know. It will only serve you and others if practical application is made of that knowledge.
  30. Fix in your own mind the truth about your capabilities. In a crisis situation, this will keep you from being too cocky and will provide you with confidence.
  31. Decide ahead of time, before a crisis arrives, how you will react in a given situation so that you are not swayed by the circumstances, the situation, or your emotions.
  32. Beware of being spread too thin in your life. Decide on the few things in life that you must do and then do them well. Think focus versus distraction. Make sure that unimportant, non-essential distractions don’t keep you from achieving your important objectives.
  33. Learn to quit wasting things. Be a good steward of all that God provides.
  34. Buy an extra of everything you use regularly and set that extra one aside for the time when such items may be difficult or impossible to obtain.
  35. In every situation, train yourself to look for what doesn’t fit, what’s out of place, and what doesn’t look right.
  36. Teach your children, and learn this yourself, that you are not obligated to give information to strangers. You don’t have to answer questions that are none of their business, not even to government officials.
  37. Sell or give away things you don’t use or need. Consider giving away or selling half of your stuff, the non-essentials. Simplify and streamline your life, lifestyle, and possessions.
  38. Find someone who lived through the Great Depression and learn from them. Find out how they became self-sufficient, how they made do with very little, and how they found joy and contentment amid hard times.

Now that you know the principles, learn about the 12 beliefs that can hinder you in your journey toward self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

What does being self sufficient mean to you?

This list originally appeared on Don McIlvaney’s website, McIlvaney Intelligence Advisor.

Originally published February 25, 2015; updated by The Survival Mom editors.

6 thoughts on “38 Principles of Self-Sufficiency Every Prepper Can Embrace Today”

  1. This is great stuff! I used it to do a 4 part series on mindset in my blog and also credited Mr. McAlvany. He's pretty good.

    Bob Mayne
    Today's Survival Show

  2. I haven't read anything else by McAlvany but will definitely Google him to find out more. By the way, I caught your podcast yesterday and was very impressed! It's compelling without being terrifying, and I give it TheSurvivalMom's two thumbs up!


  3. Just discovered your website yesterday. Thank you, LOVE it. This is the first site I have found that incorporates the need to be prepared while living with a minimalist attitude. Yours is also the first I’ve read in a long while that is giving me great new ideas. I will be sharing your site with everyone I know. Thanks again.

  4. This is one of the best list I have ever read! thank you for it. I'm going to save this link and send it to all the people in my life. THANKS AGAIN

  5. Just found your site, and look forward to reading through your past posts! This was a good, well-thought out list. #22 about civil disobedience hit a sensitive place for me; I have two sons and I am a pacifist. I am also living in the Middle East and getting a first-hand look at the unrest all around me. It's not quite what American media and politicians make it out to be, and certainly something to consider. I appreciate that the author of the list did not pass judgment or take a view of right vs. wrong. Many of these ideas are deeply personal, and it is possible for people from differing viewpoints to support one another. Again, thanks for the blog–I look forward to reading more of your work.

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