This article was originally published by Jennifer Poindexter on www.morningchores.com
Have you lived in a rural setting your whole life?
I grew up in the city.
Many years later I married a young man from the country. He grew up poor, his mother taught him how to survive on very little, and he was a hard worker.
Needless to say, I hung on to him. When we got married, I was encouraged to grow a small vegetable garden in our backyard.
As the years went by, we hit some rough patches financially, and I was grateful for the skills his mother taught him. These skills are what brought me around to the homesteading mentality.
A few more years have gone by, and I’ve fully embraced raising as much as I can from scratch. I’m now heading in the direction of having an off-grid lifestyle. There’s something about being entirely self-sufficient which intrigues me.
But I’m learning it can get expensive. Through research, I’ve discovered there are a few ways you can head towards an off-grid lifestyle without spending a fortune.
Here are my ideas:
1. The Truth About Solar
We use a substantial amount of electricity in our current home. My original goal was to use solar power to get us off the grid.
But the issue came when I realized how much power we use and how much it would cost me to purchase a solar set-up.
The reality of solar is you must cut your usage down to where you use as little electricity as possible. To assume you can go off the grid doing what you’re doing now is unrealistic unless you have a large budget.
To power my home with the amount of electricity I use now would cost my family approximately $50,000.
If you can lower your electricity consumption, you can purchase small panels and DIY the system for a fraction of the cost.
2. Rain Water Collection
Instead of requiring a pump for all of your water needs, try collecting rainwater. With gravity, it can help you to water plants outside, and you could even collect it to purify it before drinking.
Collecting rainwater is taking advantage of a natural and free resource. You can set up barrels along the side of your home, chicken coop, or any other outbuilding.
Attach gutter systems to buildings to allow water to run into the barrels. Utilize the water in any way you see fit, and it shouldn’t cost you any more than the original set-up cost.
3. Durable Housing
When we purchased our new homestead, it had a smaller home but with quite a few acres. We’re adding buildings, a barn, and any other necessities our homestead might have.
Some people purchase raw land and choose to build it up because it can be less expensive up front.
However, when you choose what type of home you’d like to put on your homestead, it’s important to be realistic.
Though the purpose of this article is to share how you can do certain things off-grid for less money, you don’t want to skimp on your home.
Be sure to use as many natural resources your land already provides. If you have to choose a prefabricated option, ask yourself how long this home will last.
Is it worth the initial investment? Will it work year-round?
As important as it is to have a home on your off-grid property, it must be realistic and durable. Otherwise, it will be a waste of your time, efforts, and resources.
4. Hydro Powered Generator
If you’re fortunate enough to have a source of running water on your property, you may have an affordable way to have electricity without a huge investment upfront.
A hydro generator is a generator which is powered by water. You dam up the water source, pipe the water (using gravity) to where it feeds into the generator, plug the generator into an outlet, and you have power.
Be sure to do your research as this is only a general overview of how it works, but if you have flowing water on your property make it work for you.
5. Gravity Is Your Friend
Something you may not consider when going off-grid is how you’re going to pump water throughout your home if you choose to have running water.
Some people prefer to have a dry cabin, but some feel the prospect of living in a home without running water is too much for them.
If you’re one of these people, you should consider using gravity to your advantage. If you have a water source which is higher than your home, you should be able to use gravity to pipe it into your home.
Even if you don’t want water inside your home, you could use gravity to provide water to an outdoor shower set-up.
Gravity is useful in getting water to your home in more ways than one. Be creative and figure out how to use gravity to your advantage.
6. Old School is a Friend to Your Wallet
Going off-grid is more complicated than you might initially realize. We flip on a light switch when we’re on the grid and give no thought as to how this happens until we have a power outage.
The same goes for turning on a faucet. In reality, you can live off-grid extremely cheap by doing things the old-school way.
You can wash your clothes by hand outdoors instead of piping water into your home for a washing machine.
If you have a spring on your property, you can construct a spring house over it to have natural refrigeration which requires no power instead of needing more electricity to power a refrigerator.
You could also choose to fill coolers with ice. Keep in mind; you’d have to find a way to create ice or purchase ice regularly.
Canning is another simple way to preserve food without refrigeration. You can pressure can or water bath your jars outdoors by using propane burners.
Dehydrating is another old-school method which allows you to preserve food where they don’t require refrigeration.
Adding a root cellar to your off-grid homestead is another old-school method to be able to store food and keep it cool without requiring additional electricity.
Don’t forget about cooking over an open fire. Having an outdoor stove or a wood cookstove is a great way to prepare meals without needing electricity.
These are all methods which could cut down on the amount of electricity used and make off-grid electricity options more affordable.
7. Cheap Toilet Options
There are a few basics you must have when living the off-grid lifestyle. We’ve discussed electricity pretty heavily because you must be able to keep food cool, you may want to run a freezer, or you may need to power lights from time to time.
However, having a place to go to the bathroom is a necessity as well. You have two inexpensive off-grid options when creating a proper restroom.
You can have an indoor bathroom or an outdoor bathroom. If you choose an outdoor bathroom, be sure to construct an outhouse.
They can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like. This will be the designated spot for everyone living in your home.
If you choose to have an indoor restroom, there are two different options. You can keep a dry cabin by using a composting toilet.
It requires no water, and the waste will decompose and can be reused in other ways around your homestead.
If you have running water, you can set-up a septic system to take care of your bathroom needs. Obviously, some methods will be cheaper than others.
8. Water is a Must
A homestead cannot function without water. Be sure whatever you do to set up an off-grid lifestyle homestead, that it’s in an area with plenty of water.
If you have no water, it would be terrible to invest everything into a property which will eventually die.
However, if you don’t have water on your land, don’t be discouraged. There are alternativesto providing a water source.
Be creative before you throw in the towel on your property, but if you’re in the midst of buying property for an off-grid home, be sure to keep water at the forefront of your mind.
I’ve shared how you can collect rainwater if you live in an area which gets enough rain to sustain you throughout the year.
If you don’t, you may have to check into digging a well or hauling water onto your land. When hauling water is your only option, be sure to consider this carefully.
It can become inconvenient and costly to purchase water elsewhere. Consider putting a large tank beneath the ground where large amounts of water can be hauled in, kept for year-round use, and also gravity fed into your home.
Bottom line, there are many ways to skin a cat, but if you don’t have water for your off-grid dream to survive, this must be considered upfront and researched to make sure you choose the most cost-effective solution.
9. Do What You Can Where You Are
Where does this leave people like me? Well, a little discouraged if you aren’t careful.
I don’t have a running water source on my property. Therefore, this knocks out gravity feeding my house with water and cheaper off-grid electricity solutions.
We plan on installing an outhouse, though we have a septic system. When the power goes out, our well pump doesn’t work.
Hauling water to flush a toilet isn’t ideal, and I’m convinced an outhouse is a nice amenity to have on your property during those times.
Our water comes from a well which is pumped with an electric pump, and I’m in a place in my life where I can’t afford the $50,000 investment for solar panels to keep the water flowing and lights on during a power outage.
Plus, I can’t cut down any further on my electric bill because it interferes with my other homesteading efforts.
We have a large family which requires we raise a great deal of our meat, and this requires a decent amount of freezer space. We’re also fortunate enough to have a commercial ice machine to help with the butchering process too.
I also have multiple refrigerators to store food and also store produce during our harvest season because I don’t have the time somedays to harvest and can the foods before the produce goes soft.
The refrigerators help keep everything crisp until I can preserve the harvest.
However, my husband and I have decided to not give up on our off-grid lifestyle dream yet. When the kids have moved out, we can afford to invest in all the different areas to make us fully self-sufficient.
We’ll use less electricity when the day comes, and we need as many appliances.
But we still would like to be prepared to survive off-grid when needed, whether it be a power outage or something more significant.
We have a wood cookstove with which to cook off-grid, and also as a means to stay warm without electricity, and we’re installing a handpump to our well.
This will allow us to pump water out of the ground even when the electric pump won’t work. We also store rainwater to take care of our plants and animals without relying on our well.
Look at where you’re at currently and see how you can add ‘back-up’ off-grid lifestyle options if needed. This will help you be prepared even if your budget or current set-up doesn’t allow you to launch fully into the off-grid world.
Well, these are a few ideas on how you can utilize your land’s resources and set-up to work to your advantage and become more self-sufficient.
These ideas may not work for everyone because it will depend upon the layout of your land and what’s available.
However, you may find inspiration in these tips and find alternative methods to reach your goals with your current land.
Either way, everyone can do something to head a little more to an off-grid lifestyle, even if you can’t do it all at once. Good luck in becoming more self-sufficient and remember to enjoy every step of the journey.
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