Living off the grid to become closer with nature and to escape the city’s daily hustle is a dreamy idea. However, it is not something that you would want to do rashly. You need to have a concrete plan and accomplish everything on the “off-grid living” checklist first.
The key to getting ready to live off the grid is a systematic plan. Check your finances, skills, and the ideal locations where you can move to. Plan the house you’re going to build and secure a sufficient and sustainable source of food, water, and energy.
This article will provide a step-by-step guide on preparing yourself to live off the grid.
Off the Grid Living
Living off the grid doesn’t have an exact definition. Neither is it governed by a strict set of criteria. It is a lifestyle choice.
Generally, living off the grid means being less dependent on commercial products and government-provided services. It is being self-reliant and producing the majority of your own food, water supply, and electricity.
To some, it can also mean escaping the city life, living in the countryside, reducing resource consumption, and participating in environmental preservation.
Where to Start
At first, the idea of living off the grid may be overwhelming. There are a lot of things you need to consider and prepare. But, with a systematic and comprehensive plan, you can become well-equipped to start living a more self-reliant lifestyle off the grid.
STEP 1: Prepare Financially
Before proceeding with your plan of moving off the grid, pay off all your debts first. These include your student loans, credit loans, or any other debts that you might have. You would not want to forget these and later discover that interest has caused them to grow exponentially.
Source of Finance and Expenses
Audit your monthly income and expenses. It will help you monitor the money that comes and goes. With this, you’ll be able to accurately determine the amount you spend on particular items, such as food, transportation, housing, utilities, and leisure.
Listing your source of income will also help you realize your financial stability. If you are an average earner, you might want to invest a portion of your monthly salary to increase your savings.
The average initial cost to start living off the grid is $100,000. It includes the expenses for purchasing land, building a house, and buying all appliances and other essential items. It can cost more depending on several factors, such as the location of the land and the size of the house.
With that in mind, you need to start saving. Cut your expenses and set a goal. Take the list of your monthly expenses and determine which ones are unnecessary. For instance, instead of eating in restaurants every day, you should prepare your own meals. It is cheaper and even healthier to do so.
Avoid spending too much on leisure activities and focus on simple pleasures, such as reading books or watching Netflix at home instead of paying to watch in cinemas. Downsizing your lifestyle will not only help you save money, but it will also prepare you to live a simpler life off the grid.
Set a monthly goal for your savings. For example, limit yourself to just spending a smaller portion of your monthly salary. Also, think of other possible sources of money. You can invest your savings in a credible platform to further increase your income.
STEP 2: Learn Vital Skills
If you plan to live off-grid, you must know how to cook your own food since food establishments will become less accessible and convenience stores will no longer be one block away from your house.
You can start slow and learn the basics first. Watch tutorials, and imitate simple dishes from cookbooks. The important thing is to make steady progress and practice whenever you can. Over time, you’ll become an expert at it.
Further, remember that your equipment and ingredients will be limited. So, you must know how to use the most out of what you have. Invent dishes and stray from conventional methods of cooking if you need to.
Cooking is one skill you must learn; food preservation is another. There will be times when your food supply will become scarce. For instance, during winter, it will be difficult to grow fruit and vegetables. Hunting for rabbits or butchering a cow will also be hard, even impossible.
Therefore, you must know how to preserve food for later consumption. Fruit and vegetables can be preserved by canning, pickling, and dehydrating. Meat can also be preserved by drying or dehydrating, smoking, and canning.
Salt is an excellent food preservative. You can add it to meat products before further processing them to prolong their shelf lives.
Some of your things will eventually wear out or break down, so you must learn how to repair and maintain them. Know the basics of carpentry and how to use common tools. It is a skill that will make your off-grid living more sustainable.
Learn how to cut a tree, build a fence, furniture, and a barn. Be familiar with basic plumbing skills, such as unclogging a toilet or drain, and fixing a faucet or a damaged water line. If you do not know how to do these, you can always refer to books or have a quick search on the internet.
First Aid Skills
Living off-grid also means that medical facilities are less accessible. Therefore, you must learn how to administer a first aid response to save yourself or someone else. For starters, you must learn the basics of sterilizing, bandaging and stitching a wound.
You must also know how to stabilize injured parts of the body to avoid further complications. Other useful first aid skills you should learn to perform are the Heimlich maneuver for choking incidents, and the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
You can attend seminars and training sessions to develop first aid skills. Most of them are cheap, and some are even free. This skillset is useful to learn not only for living off the grid but also for emergencies you may encounter anywhere, anytime.
Gardening and Farming Skills
If you want to make your off-grid living sustainable, you must become self-reliant, especially in terms of food. Gardening and growing livestock animals will secure your food stability. It will also provide you with a guaranteed fresh and organic food supply.
STEP 3: Find an Ideal Location
Determine preferred off-grid lifestyle
Living off the grid is not a black and white option. It does not automatically mean cutting everything off or living alone in the wild (although you may also choose to do this). Most of the time, it just means downsizing your active city lifestyle, living a simpler life in the countryside, and becoming more self-reliant.
Hence, you should determine what type of off-grid living would you want. This decision will influence the ideal location for you to build your new home.
If you just want to live off the grid partially, choose a location where you can still access government-provided utilities, like water, plumbing, and electricity.
You can also decide to live a “modern off-grid” lifestyle, which is the most common type today. This type still gives you access to modern luxuries, like technology and the internet, but you are self-reliant in terms of water and electricity. An ideal location for this type is relatively farther from urban areas compared with the partial off-grid type of living.
Lastly, for the extreme type of off-grid living, you would want to choose an isolated location. Your house is basically a cabin in the wild that is completely detached from the modern lifestyle. It is the cheapest type, but also the hardest to live in.
Know existing off-grid living laws
When finding a location to start your new lifestyle, you should also consider the existing laws. Some states are more strict regarding off-grid living, while some are more lenient about it and legally permit it.
The top five states of the USA that allow off-grid living are Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas.
Consider your budget
There are a lot of factors that affect the cost of land. One of them is the state where the land is located. For instance, it is cheaper to buy land in Maine or Texas than in Pennsylvania or California. Here’s a comprehensive summary of the land values in each state from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Prioritize looking into less expensive lands; however, also check the surroundings of your options. Natural resources are vital for off-grid living, so ensure that resources, especially water, are easily accessible in the land you plan to buy.
You also need to look into the quality of the land. Since you will be living off-grid, you’ll need to become self-reliant in terms of food. Research what type of soil is present in the area you’re planning to buy, and determine if it is suitable for farming.
By knowing the type of soil present, you’ll also be able to estimate how much money you’ll need to cultivate it. If it’s too expensive, consider looking into different options with better soil quality.
STEP 4: Secure Water Sources
Water is vital for survival. It is also necessary for other everyday activities, like bathing, brushing, washing, and sanitary needs. Hence, a good source of it is the first thing that you should consider.
The most common natural water sources are rivers and rainwater. In addition, you may want to install a well to supplement them. You should also estimate your family’s water consumption. It will help you determine the ideal amount of water to keep in store for emergencies.
You should buy tanks with big capacities to store your water supply, and buy two sets of them. One set is for general purposes such as doing your laundry and flushing the toilet. Set up another tank intended for water to be used for drinking and cooking. This way, you will always have enough supply of drinking water.
Make sure to purify water first before consuming it or using it for cooking. You can do so by adding chlorine or bleach to it. You can also rid the water of harmful bacteria by boiling it. Just boil the water, let it cool, then transfer it to a gallon or a jug.
Water Transport System
The next thing you need to consider is building an efficient piping system that will allow you to transport the water from the storage tanks to different parts of your house.
Modern piping systems utilize pumps to bring water where you need it to go. However, this system uses electricity. A less energy-dependent system, and more suitable for off-grid living, is the elevation-based system. It works by taking advantage of gravity to induce water flow. This system requires you to place your water tanks at an elevated surface – at least higher than all water outlets in your house.
STEP 5: Develop a Sanitation Plan
You must have a sufficient and well-built septic tank to accommodate human solid and liquid wastes. The standard size is 1,000 gallons for a family of four, and an additional 50 gallons for every one person added to the household.
Be sure to properly seal the septic tank to prevent insects from living in it. Also, place a vent in the tank’s cover and connect it to an elevated tube. It will prevent pressure from building up inside the tank due to the gases emitted by the wastes. The elevation of the exhaust tube’s end is also essential to keep the odor from spreading through your house.
Disposing of Garbage
Plan on how you will dispose of your garbage. Practice proper segregation so you can manage your wastes easier. You can dig a compost pit for biodegradable wastes. As for your plastic and non-biodegradable trash, you can bring it to a nearby garbage facility. Alternatively, you can burn them if it is only a small amount.
STEP 6: Build a Sturdy Shelter
Get Essential Permits
Before you start building anything on the land you bought, make sure to get the appropriate permits first. Secure the essential documents you need to build a house legally. The list of requirements may vary for every state, so contact your local government office for details.
Cost of Materials
Aside from the land, building your actual house will also take a large portion of your budget. If your money is limited, make sure to include only the necessary number of rooms and important common areas in the design of your house.
Don’t aim to make your house unnecessarily big and spacious. Decide on its size according to your budget, and prioritize buying essential items for your house.
Building Your House
Seek a professional to build your house or do it on your own. If you are physically fit and have sufficient knowledge of building a house, then do the latter option. Otherwise, you should pick the former one.
Consult the advice and help of professionals to build and design your house. It may cost more, but it guarantees the quality of the house you will have.
You can reduce the construction cost by helping in the process. For instance, instead of hiring four people for the job, you can just hire three and work with them. Other capable family members can also replace a worker or two to cut the labor expenses further.
If you don’t have the budget and time for the option mentioned above, you can just build DIY homes. They are relatively cheaper to build and require less planning, but they are not as sturdy and as great as personalized home designs.
STEP 7: Cultivate a Garden
Growing your own garden will help you become more self-reliant in terms of food. It can provide you with fresh fruit and vegetables that can supplement the supplies you have.
Your garden should be situated in an ideal location to boost its productivity. It must have a decent exposure to sunlight, and it must be near a water supply. Avoid placing it in shady areas since plants need sunlight to grow. Also, a location far from a water source is not ideal since it will require additional effort to transport the water. However, you can make an irrigation system to resolve water transport problems.
Before you start planting, you should prepare the soil first. Till and cultivate the land to make it softer and more suitable for plants. Then, add compost and fertilizer to enrich the soil to supply it with sufficient nutrients necessary for plant growth.
One of the most critical factors to consider when starting a garden is the kind of weather you have in your area. Determine the annual weather pattern in your place, and from there, research the plants you can grow.
Determine which plants are suitable for each season you have. For example, you can grow carrots, beets, and cabbages during the winter. During the summer season, you can grow potatoes, squash, green beans, and eggplants.
Evaluate your gardening skills as well. If you are a beginner, stick to plants that are easy to grow, such as radish, peas, and carrots. Research and read books to improve. As you get a better grasp of gardening, you can try growing plants that require more skills.
STEP 8: Grow Livestock Animals
To build a holistic nutrient profile, you will also need vitamins and minerals from animal products. Depending on your resources and skills, you can try growing the following livestock animals:
Chickens are relatively easy to grow. They are low maintenance, and the capital you need to buy them is smaller than other livestock animals. They produce meat and eggs, and they eat bugs and kitchen scraps.
Pigs require more food to grow and are more expensive than chickens. They are high maintenance and their living quarters need frequent cleaning. They produce meat, and they eat kitchen scraps.
Goats are very easy to grow. They don’t need much attention and maintenance; all you need to do is feed them and give them water. They produce meat and milk, and they eat grass.
Cows are the most expensive livestock to buy, but they give the most meat. Just like goats, they are not high-maintenance. They produce meat and milk, and they eat grass.
Aside from growing the livestock animals, you should also plan how you will harvest their meats. Assess if you have enough skills to do so. If you don’t, determine whether you will hire a butcher to come to your place, or you will bring your animals to a slaughterhouse.
Plan the harvest ahead of time. Ideally, harvest before the winter season to ensure the availability of transportation and of the service of a butcher or the slaughterhouse.
STEP 9: Install an Energy System
Buying and installing an energy system is not cheap. However, for off-grid living, having your own energy source will help you save money in the long run. You have a few options to choose from, so it is critical to get the most suitable one for your area.
If there’s a river or flowing water on a slope nearby, you should consider hydroelectric power.
On the other hand, if your area experiences consistent strong winds, consider wind energy. Another option is solar energy, which is appropriate if your area receives a decent to an excessive amount of sunlight all-year-round.
If you have a sufficient budget and the appropriate conditions are present, you may install two or even three different energy sources.
STEP 10: Create a Safety and Security Plan
Protection and Self-Defense
Living off the grid has both advantages and disadvantages in terms of security. Your house will be far from the urban areas, which means fewer people will be roaming nearby, and the chances of a perpetrator attacking your house will be smaller.
However, at the same time, a fewer neighbor also means that a lesser number of people will hear your call for help if some ill-minded criminal intrudes your house. Hence, you must learn how to defend yourself during these situations.
Learn the basics of hand-to-hand combat and acquire a firearm legally. Remember to be a responsible gun owner when keeping and using your gun. Attend seminars and training sessions on proper shooting, gun storage, and maintenance.
Install surveillance cameras around your house to monitor anyone who roams nearby during the night. Having this information will help you anticipate an intruder attack and will give you some time to increase your security.
You can also get a guard dog that will bark and instantly alarm you if someone suspicious comes near your house.
Sustainability is the key to having a better and more stable life off the grid. Therefore, after accomplishing everything in the checklist provided above, your next goal is to improve. You should aim to make your off-grid living more sustainable by upgrading your house, energy systems, food sources, water system, and skills.
Living off the grid is a more peaceful lifestyle than living in a busy city. It is fulfilling and great, especially if you’re well prepared. There are no strict guidelines to follow when getting ready, but the steps provided in this article will definitely equip you with all the essential knowledge you need. Move at your own pace and create a plan that suits your resources. One-by-one, cross out the steps in this checklist. Eventually, you’ll be able to live off the grid – more independently and closer to nature.