There are only a few easy guidelines to mixing and pouring concrete properly and with just a little patience and attention you can manage concrete work yourself for small building work around the house.
You have the liberty to chose any type of concrete either ready mixed concrete or one that you prepare yourself. The one that just requires you to add water is the simplest to use and it is best suited for small jobs, concrete work however it can add up to a costly mix for larger scale projects. For large scale projects you are better off having transit mix concrete delivered to your house or to the construction site. In this last case you can do a quick research as to see if there are any vendors that provide free shipment or free premixing. The most inexpensive solution for large project is purchasing all the dry ingredients and mixing them yourself at the work site, however this is quite a complicated time consuming task.
Mixing concrete is far from rocket science. Any concrete mix involves four main components: cement, a fine aggregate (sand), a coarse aggregate (gravel) and water. In regards to proportions, gravel and sand will fill about two thirds or three quarters of the concrete. For the best finished product all components should be clean and free of any organic matter. There are different mixes of concrete that you could try and you should pay special attention to the mix as the finish products to best service your concrete needs. As such, for foundations and retention walls the proper proportions are one and a half gallons of water for each sack of cement. For sidewalks and stepping stones one gallon suffices. Concrete mixes for sidewalks is made out of one part cement, concrete mixer two parts sand and three parts gravel. Usually a 12 by 12 by 12 inch wooden box is used for measuring one cubic foot of sand or concrete.
Most concrete jobs require the use of a concrete form, be it above the ground or dug into the ground. The keyword for a good concrete form is patience and this assures that you make the correct measurements as to obtain the concrete form you need. Pouring concrete is last step in concrete work and this implies the use of the mix and of the form you just created. The form where the concrete is to be poured needs to be watered down. The form is then filled with concrete and the concrete needs to be tamped as to be compact around the edges. When the concrete start to harden a plank can be used to guide a groover over the contraction joints.