Self Reliance vs Self Sufficiency

Posted: 17th February 2013 by Joe Prepper in Uncategorized


There have been many discussions and even debates on this topic, but a conversation this week prompted me to explain, as I see it,  the difference between between self reliant and self sufficient.

Today anyone can search online and get more information on the subject than can be read in a day. If you have read my summary page, you know my main intent for this Blog, or at least the saved digital copy, is to provide an information source for my family, and anyone else interested, for generations to come. Not as a Guru of all things past, but to show the starting and running of a modern family homestead from my perspective. Often looking at things through the eyes and times of another can bring a clarity that written instruction alone cannot. So the following is form my perspective…as most of the other information on my Blog and podcast.


Self reliance can be achieved, usually temporarily, by having in reserve the things a system needs to function. It can be facilitated by an income to purchase things needed, or the ability to barter with others for what you personally want or need. So, and example could be storing purchased or grown food,water,batteries etc. for an emergency. Let’s use the probable situation created by a hurricane, and subsequent 3 week power outage. If you had at least 3 weeks of food stored, alternate power for anything necessary during the outage, reserve cash for purchases, and a  way to provide security for yourself and your property, then you could reasonably consider yourself self reliant during that crisis.

Your level of self reliance could be radically changed by the severity or duration of the situations. If your house flooded, do you have a place to go? Do you have adequate shelter for you and your family if the storms level of danger  suddenly increased? Are you prepared to handle medical emergencies that could arise? What if the power were out for 10 weeks or civil unrest caused an additional threat. As you can see self reliance can, and should, have many levels some of which may never be necessary or even realized until the situation arises. It should also  be noted that one persons self reliance scale might be different than an others.

If someone in your home requires a breathing aid , and you have a generator with fuel, or enough battery backup to temporarily provide this emergency requirement when the power grid is down then it is reasonable to say, in that area, you are self reliant. Another person might feel the need to be able to provide the same relative living standards during the “emergency” to be considered self reliant. So you would need enough energy to run your television, central a/c etc. Now, instead of a small gas powered generator, you would need a full house generator. In place of can goods and food for a few weeks, you might want  a fully stocked pantry with all the fixins’ for the three weeks post storm. If you have the ability to provide for what is required during a time of need by storing, bartering, or trading then you have achieved at least some level of self reliance. With each level  we move closer to self sufficiency, but without certain things in place to self sustain, it fails to meet the definition.


Self Sufficiency, in my opinion, literally has a life of it’s own. To be totally self sufficient you must have the ability to live without any outside assistance or inputs. So a self sufficient city, lets say, could totally sustain itself without any additional inputs from other cities, the state or even the federal government. This fictional city could, in effect, quarantine itself long term from the outside and provide for the needs of all it’s citizens internally. This would include water, food, electricity, sewage removal/treatment, fuel, medical supplies and care, and security along with all the sub-categories that support these basics.

It’s easy to say that this might be simple, but look at any recent natural disaster and can see many examples of external aid. I am not saying that is a bad thing, and in fact one benefit of preparedness is being in a position to help others in need.  In the absence of  that aid, some devastated areas may have eventually pulled through just fine. The argument could also be made that the mindset of many people, cities, governments and even countries is one of counting on outside help when things go bad and not one of self sufficiency. This can, and has, caused many to lose their willingness to consider the benefits of self sufficiency. Sometimes it helps to think of things in this scale then apply it to our own homestead, as the same would be true on a smaller scale. In our example of self reliance we had a generator or possibly a redundant or stand alone battery backup system to power a breathing machine. In a self sufficient system we would need a way to produce additional fuel for our generator, or solar cells to harness energy for our battery banks to make this viable for long/infinite term reliability.

I  do not feel it is possible, or even reasonable, for our family to be 100% self sufficient at this time. It’s difficult for anyone to be truly 100% self sufficient all of the time.  However, by making a list of what it might take ( like our example above), we can pick the areas we feel most important and start there. The average modern family has very little ability to provide for themselves in an emergency situation. Slowly increasing our percentage of self sufficiency as time,money and skills permit us to begin our path now and help to change the statistic, and become part of The Survival Revolution.


  1. Johnny MAX says:

    I agree that you cannot expect to ever really be Self-sufficient, but you really need to be prepared the be able to be self-sufficient for short periods of time. Small military units are prepared to be self-sufficient in case they are cut off from their supply line. Hopefully they can reconnect with supplies soon. We have had several bad hurricanes that required us to be self-sufficient for almost a week, until stores started getting back online. It would be great to be completely self-sufficient, but not practical. It is practical and wise to be prepared to be self-sufficient to live through the aftermath of a disaster.