Skip to main content

Self-Sufficient Living in a Small Apartment

Bridget is a life-long writer, runner, researcher, cat-lover, yogi and traveler. She is also a social worker and voracious reader.

What Is Self-Sufficiency?

To be self-sufficient is to be able to rely on oneself to get your needs met. Or, according to the New Oxford Dictionary, self-sufficient means "needing no outside help in satisfying one's basic needs, especially with regard to the production of food."

Is it possible to be 100% self-sufficient in a small apartment in this day in age? Probably not. But it is of anyone's benefit to increase their own ability to rely on themselves. This is because, as we all have experienced, life can change quickly. Supply chains can be shut down, natural disasters may occur, and access to supplies may take much longer than we are used to. Without being prepared, we could find ourselves without the items we need (especially food) and therefore vulnerable.

In a small apartment we obviously aren't able to grow large gardens, or raise livestock! But there are many things that we can do in order to be prepared for the next emergency or shortage situation!

Apartment Gardening- Start With Compost

A nice way to reduce waste while also fertilizing your indoor garden is composting. This can be done in containers in one's apartment with lids, or even in freezers! Composting itself is a large topic, but begin by researching whether you would like to compost with or without worms, with a food digester, or with a private collection service where you can exchange your waste for finished compost.


Indoor Gardening in a Small Apartment

Windows that face south are the best for any plants you will grow in an indoor container.

Most fruits and vegetables can be grown in pots indoors, including tomatoes (which do best with a support cage behind them,) lettuce (which need to be watered frequently and the soil kept moist,) peppers, radishes and potatoes (which need deep pots- potatoes in particular do well in 5 gallon buckets.) Squash grow well in containers, too!

Spinach can be grown in small pots, as can peas and many herbs, if you are very limited in terms of space.

Food Storage for What You Cannot Grow

Another aspect of preparation in a small apartment is storage of food. Because one cannot grow large grain crops, or many other needed food items, it is best to have a backup supply which is sufficient, without taking up a lot of space.

The first step is to decide what is most important for you in terms of nutrition. Many people prefer to keep bags of dried beans, because they are cheap, easy to prepare, and a great source of protein. Rice is also a dry ingredient that keeps well for years, and is easy to prepare. Sugar, salt and flour are also staples that can be used in a number of recipes and provide needed calories and nutrients. Canned goods, protein bars and pasta also keep well and could be vital in situations where food is difficult to obtain for some time.

Be sure to rotate your stock and check expiration dates as needed.

Scroll to Continue

Water Storage and Safety

While it is very unlikely that water itself will become completely unavailable, water advisories do happen. Further, there is always the chance that clean water will become unavailable and it is best to have water stored for these occasions.

First, you will want to look for containers that are BPA free. BPA has been known to leech into water over time, so it's best not to take the chance. Avoid glass, which breaks easily, as well as containers that have previously been used for toxic chemicals. According to the CDC, any water that is not commercially bottled is good for about six months, so you'll want to mark your calendar to remind you to refresh your supply about that often.

Another option is to order water on a recurring schedule. For instance, you may want to order one or two five gallon containers of water to be delivered monthly. This would allow you to always have a supply on hand, and you can use it steadily throughout the month so as not to waste, with the knowledge that you have consistently clean water at your home. Otherwise, a single order of a few five gallon containers of water would suffice.

There is also the option of sanitizing your water, if the water is somehow contaminated. Boiling water is typically the first go-to, and is often recommended during water advisories in different localities. There are also products such as the Lifestraw or other personal filtering devices which are portable and great for sanitizing water so that it becomes safe to drink.

Compost Bin

Other Things to Consider

  • Friends and family who are nearby are an excellent resource. Consider giving a trusted person a copy of your keys in case you are locked out or need them in an emergency.
  • Learn to cook from scratch! There are so many meals that can be made with few ingredients. This could save time and be invaluable in periods where you may not be able to order food in or leave your home for your favorite frozen entrees.
  • Consider joining a CSA
  • Reduce debt. An important part of self-sufficiency is financial preparation and the knowledge that you are not in debt and can save needed money is extremely important.
  • Keep extra medication in case of illness and maintain your prescription supplies too!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Bridget F


Bridget F (author) from USA on September 30, 2020:

Very true!

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 29, 2020:

Especially if a person has a balcony growing vegetables and herbs should not be that challenging.

Related Articles