These DIY Magazines Can Help You Be Self-Reliant

Everyone’s looking to become less dependent on the traditional economy. As we wean ourselves from manufactured luxuries and discover ways to create for ourselves, it can be difficult finding where to start. This handful of print magazines offers timeless advice and step-by-step instructions for living on less. There’s something here for everyone!

Countryside – This black-and-white mag is a bi-monthly compilation of the best folksy advice from those who live the homesteading lifestyle. Completely reader-written, you won’t find any half-baked freelance studies here. Tips, tricks, and plenty of “what-not-to-do’s” give instructions on how to live rural for maximum freedom. (Of course, ideas can be adapted for those with little land or in an urban area.)

The magazine has been in production for over 90 years, and claims to be:

the truly original country magazine (established 1917) serving that branch of the Voluntary Simplicity movement seeking greater self-reliance (homesteading), with emphasis on home food production. This includes gardening, small-scale livestock, cooking, food preservation, resource conservation, recycling, frugality, money management, alternative energy, old-time skills, home business, and much more.”

Favorite articles (that can be previewed online) include:

The Joys and Challenges of growing herbs (July/Aug 2007)

Is Homegrown Wind Power Right For You? (Jan/Feb 2008)

Homestead Water Procurement (July/August 2006)

As a long-time subscriber of Countryside, I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoy reading and learning. Even the ads in the magazine have been useful and full of ideas. There are also quality classifieds, recipes, and real estate listings!

Mother Earth News – This “original guide to living wisely” has a more earth-friendly bent than some others. Packed with tips for getting the most from your garden and yard, this magazine also covers alternative fuel and natural health topics. Mother Earth also provides tons of free online content, including searchable articles, blogs, and Q & A discussions. You might also want to check out their store, with unique gifts (like hybrid car blueprints) and my favorite offering, the 4 disk collection of all issues from 1970 – 2007 (that’s over 6,000 articles of stuff that never gets old!)

You can sample some of my favorite articles:

A Homemade Solar Water Heater

Got Cabbage? Make Sauerkraut!

Here Comes the 100-MPG Car

There’s always way too much good stuff here to read it all!

Family Handyman – Not exactly as crunchy as the other mags, this DIY resource for any skill-level is also a favorite read at my house. With simple, doable tips for a variety of home and car issues, you can easily follow along to fix it yourself. Plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and mechanic work can be in your hands (eliminating the need for the expensive service call and $65+ hourly fee). Every step is outlined in detail with full color accompanying photos. (And for any who are concerned about the general term of handy-“man”, many of the photos feature savvy ladies in work goggles, too!)

Handy tips that I’ve personally benefited from include:

Add an Electrical Outlet (Nov 2001)

Build a Rain Garden in Your Yard (April 2007)

Car Paint Chip Repair Step-by-Step (February 2003)

Again, this is a magazine that I subscribe to, and I’ve realized savings beyond the subscription cost time and again. (It also made the perfect gift for my fix-it hubby!)

There are lots of other mags on the market that also offer great info, but not so much that I would pay for them. They are either very narrow in their scope or have too much advertising or promotional focus. Two that made my “honorable mention” list, however, are Ready Made and Farm Show. You could call these my “entertainment” magazines.

ReadyMade is relatively new. I have enjoyed flipping through the pages to get ideas, although several of the projects featured are way beyond my price range. Geared toward more urban lifestyles, the articles focus more on looking good than keeping things inexpensive. That being said, I’ve enjoyed short pieces on micro-housing and DIY yogurt. I can always take away one or two pieces of really useful info from this mag, however, I’m more likely to rip out a page or two for later than keep the entire thing.

For a sample of some of their best tips, check out A Flash in the Can: How to Rid Yourself of Stuff That Can’t Go in the Recycling Bin. Very, very clever!

Farm Show – Part Astronaut Farmer, part popular mechanics, this mag is a newspaper filled with the DIY projects of farmers and junk-yard dogs who leave little to waste. Want detailed plans for a homemade fuel vaporize that boosts gas mileage? How about stories of successful and unusual home businesses (including a farm-based software company, a rustic furniture business, and a profitable custom sawing operation)? All invention and success stories include contact info for the farmer-inventor so that readers can contact them directly for questions and followup. The “Made it Myself” Encyclopedia is a favorite at our house – it includes 482 pages of the craziest and most useful inventions from past issues of Farm Show. Self-propelled wood cart or Home-built Field Burner, anyone?

All of these magazines are great for inspiring creative and innovative lifestyle changes. If you’re not in a position to buy a year for yourself (most run more than typical magazines, due to their content value), why not see if your local library will carry them?

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Guest's picture

Make magazine is another to be included on this list.

Maggie Wells's picture

I think I found out about ReadyMade (have a subscription) and Make (husband's favorite) by virtue of Bust Magazine. which always has a good deal of DIY articles (the publisher also does the Stitch n Bitch books). Other thing I LOVE about Bust is that there are so many ads from DIY websites and various small time artists and artisans to check out.

Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Linsey Knerl's picture

How did I miss this?  Oh yeah... I'm kind of technologically lame.  But I'm adding this in to my list of subs to ask the library for.  Thanks so much for sharing!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

I'm happy to say that I haven't heard of a single one of these, despite the fact that they all sound very interesting. And I'm definitely going to try and track down my own copy of the "Made it Myself" Encyclopedia, that sounds too good to pass up!

Guest's picture

I love Ready Made. Many of their projects can translate over to different styles or as the basis for other projects. They also put a few articles online for free each month.

Instructables is a great website to find things similar to Ready Made magazine, I think they have some association with Make magazine. Craftster is another good source for ideas how to do things.

Guest's picture

My dad loves the handy man, DIY magazines and this is perfect for him. He saves load of money on maintaining the house just by buying and reading these magazines.
Me however, I don't really like DIY. I am a struggling entrepreneur and I prefer to spend my time on my business and website trying to make some money rather than trying to save some money :)

Linsey Knerl's picture

I agree that not everyone will find savings with DIY.  I live 60 minutes from the closest repair shop, however, so unless I'm willing to shell out $200+ just to have someone make a diagnosis, I better be figuring out a way to DIMyself.  (Plus hubby enjoys helping us be more independent -- you never know how difficult it may be in the future to get a decent contractor/repairman.)  We have actually had instances where local mechanics have told us they wouldn't fix our van (a manifold intake gasket replacement) because it wasn't worth the hassle -- sometimes you have to do for yourself, if no one else will (regardless of what you offer to pay them.) 

Guest's picture

I'll have to update my 'to read while standing in line at Barnes and Noble' list! I've never heard of the handyman one, I'm definately looking it up.


Guest's picture

Thank you for mentioning Mother Earth News on your Web site! We appreciate the attention.

Laura Evers
Mother Earth News

Guest's picture

I started reading Mother Earth News online, and their site was pretty informative, unless you want anything about Canada. After writing in a letter asking if there were any resources that could be suggested for Canadians, and being rudely brushed off, I turned my attention to Harrowsmith Country Life and read it cover to cover including the advertisements. For the States, Mother Earth, and Make and all of those are pretty good, but if you are Canadian and you don't want to transpose everything 5 growing areas down, Harrowsmith Country Life is wonderful.

Guest's picture

You should also check out "Extreme How-To", a great "Do It Yourself" publication as