off grid or semi off grid living

Nancy Carter
Nancy Carter Posts: 199 ✭✭✭
edited May 2021 in DIY Tutorials

How do you start to gear your life towards a minimal lifestyle? What are tips or ideas for living a semi or off grid lifestyle? How do I become frugal? I try to grow food and limit spending at large stores, How do I limit electricity use? Water consumption ? It seems that we just have so much stuff and the more I get rid of the more comes back in!!! Its making me anxious! I want simple!


  • Nancy Carter
    Nancy Carter Posts: 199 ✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning thank you for all of this information! Its a lot to think about , I will take it one day at a time. We plan meals according to what we already have on hand so buying is limited in that way. The menu is posted for the week on a board in the kitchen. We try to make a lot from scratch. We have 3 children living at home and my mother in law stays here too. I am not familiar with the flylady technique, I will look into it. Are there other threads on here that discuss it? Thank you again!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 6,009 admin

    I assumed that you were cooking/baking from scratch already. Finding "substitutes" recipes (like for soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, dressings, chicken coating, seasoning mixes, etc.) can also be beneficial.

    It doesn't take a whole lot to figure out your favorite recipes (and leftovers ideas) and make them into a monthly plan. I liked to add a "try a new dish" day, that of course, was a planned-for-ingredients wise meal. Monthly works better with a monthly budget.

    As for FlyLady, here is the baby steps page:

    The home page is here:

  • torey
    torey Moderator Posts: 4,403 admin

    I am trying to downsize right now but it is a difficult process. However, an off grid lifestyle might not mean downsizing. There are many more things you might need for an off grid lifestyle, depending on your individual needs. Will you be providing most of your own food through livestock and gardening? This might mean adding to your list of appliances instead of getting rid of some. You may be adding a grain grinder or a butter churn or a spinning wheel or an incubator to your list of needed off grid equipment. Purging those items you don't need to give you cash for the new ones you will need is a good way to do it.

    I have seen suggestions in a preparedness article (maybe more than one) about having an off-grid weekend in your current home. Turn off the power and see what are the things that you would miss the most and are they available as off grid items. TGN's blog has an article for emergency preparedness about having an off grid weekend for emergency practice but it could also be done to prepare for an off grid lifestyle.

    Make a list of all the things in your house that use power. How much power does each one take? Most appliances today have power consumption guides. Could they be used on an alternative power set-up? How big would your generator or battery bank have to be to accommodate all of the appliance you deem essential? You might still be able to have all your appliances on an alternative system but just might not be able to use them at the same time. Knowing the consumption usage will help you figure those things out. Talk to someone in alternative power sales to figure out the best system(s) for your needs. Solar might be an option but you may live in an area where there is a lot of wind. There are other systems that do not require electricity. Propane fridges & freezers, propane stoves, propane lights, propane furnaces & hot water heaters, wood furnaces, wood fired hot water heaters, wood cook stoves, wood fired hot tubs, geothermal heat & cooling. The first two will depend on availability and price of those fossil fuels in your area. Wood is abundant and free in my area and propane isn't too expensive. Geothermal is geology dependent.

    Water consumption is a bit trickier and depends on your water supply. Being off grid doesn't necessarily mean a lack of water with a need to conserve. There are lots of properties with creeks, springs and high producing water wells; some of them may be gravity fed or artesian. But if you do have to limit water there are ways of cutting back. Only do full loads in washing machines or dishwashers. Don't flush for each little piddle. Use a cup of water for brushing your teeth instead of letting the tap run. Save lightly used wash water for watering gardens. A little soapy water might help with insects.

    @LaurieLovesLearning's suggestion for monthly shopping is a good one. There are people who live in this part of my province who have to drive a couple of hours just to get to a store and several hours to get to a community large enough for a department store or major grocery chain. So depending on your location, you may be shopping less than once a month.

    This last bit is advice I usually add to everything. Get a good first aid kit (preferably one made by you to fit your family's needs) and know how to use it. Take a first aid course. If you are off grid, be prepared to wait, possibly quite awhile, for medical assistance to arrive.

    Advance research and preparation will make the transition a lot easier.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl North Coast OhioPosts: 1,404 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I agree that one day at a time is the best way. If you can't get rid of an item now, figure a future way of not replacing it. @torey's suggestion of an off grid practice weekend is great. I go on a semi-primitive/off grid camping trip once a year. Not working in business setting or they've transitioned to business casual, get rid of the clothes that are no longer needed. I pretty much live in one section of the house; my wheelchair bound mother and my father live in the rest of it. So, I'm relearning apartment sized living.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl North Coast OhioPosts: 1,404 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Nancy Carter here is an interesting article to prompt a bit of thought.

    I'm doing a lot of pre-planning to relocate after I retire. The area that I have tentatively chosen is a majority of off grid. I'm saving stuff that I know will be useful and dumping stuff that won't. One item that I kept is a vintage caboose wood burner that my Dad used for attempting to heat his pole barn. Poor little thing had no chance of heating a 1,400+ sq ft building; works fine in a caboose.

  • OhiohillsLouise
    OhiohillsLouise Posts: 121 ✭✭✭

    You have already received a lot of great information so I will just add a little. I don’t live off-grid and don’t plan to. But I choose to live in a simple and conservative way.

    I want electricity from “the grid” but I know I can live without it if necessary. I have a wood stove and gas generator. Water from a well. I have a garden, fruit & nut trees, berry bushes, chickens (for eggs and meat). Can’t forget the outhouse and rain barrel. Too many things to list.

    What about your skills? Can you butcher a chicken, know how to tap a tree for syrup, keep bees, do you know how to preserve food, wash clothes without detergent, etc. Think about how to improve in this area.

    Conservation can take many forms. We think we need so many things but what is really necessary?Plastic trash bags or paper towels as an example. Then there is recycling, composing, and reusing.

    So this is turning out to be more than a little so I better stop. All this doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and hard work to make a transition. Find what is comfortable for you and your family. Have fun and be proud of your accomplishments along the way.

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 978 admin

    I applaud you for working toward your dreams! One thing I would be looking into if I were going to be living off-grid is one of those rocket mass heaters -- from what I understand, they work really well and they're super efficient. One guy even supposedly heated his house with just junk mail one winter!

    Marjory has done some posts about these. Here's one with a video where she talks with Paul Wheaton about them:

    Lynn Gillespie actually uses one of these in her training room on her farm. I was there in January, and it seemed to work really well. I just love the idea of having something so efficient that also works so well!

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 888 ✭✭✭✭

    @Nancy Carter Make sure you know how to sew by hand. I started making masks by hand when my sewing machine wasn't working. I have also been recycling material I have had for years by using it for something else. My granddaughter recently went through some of my material and began making her own clothes. I really think it is interesting that with the help of the internet you can learn so many new things.

    Or use a book from the library or start your own library.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Moderator Mid North Coast AustraliaPosts: 1,328 admin

    @Nancy Carter I guess living simply is an individual thing and much easier said than done! I've had some time to dream, think and implement the sorts of things I want to achieve, sometimes successful, sometimes not so much. I live off grid and for the kilowatts needed to run what I have it was expensive to set up but I'm extremely happy with the end result and won't have a power bill again. I grow over 1/2 of my food. I cook/can/preserve more of what I have on a seasonal basis. What I can't produce myself, I try to buy local and organic. I am self sufficient with water supply. I hardly buy new clothes, I visit thrift stores( love looking for a bargain) I look at garage sales, clearing sales and recycling centres to purchase things that may be useful in the future. My neighbours were throwing out a blender and food processor and I happened to be visiting, I came home with 2 very handy appliances. I don't go to town all that often, so the temptation is limited. With technology these days streaming entertainment (music, movies etc) there is no need to buy DVDs, CDs and the like. BUT I do have a book fetish, real books, not a kindle or whatever. So books are my weakness and I will live with that.

  • Nancy Carter
    Nancy Carter Posts: 199 ✭✭✭

    I want to clarify...I didn't mean to imply simple as being easy, I want a less stressful life, less bills less stuff and less chaos! I mean well by that. I'm trying to make a difference in the world. I'm stressed and want to be more self sufficient. Thank you all for the great advice!

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 803 ✭✭✭✭

    These are great ideas. I'm moving towards off grid living as well. I'd love to be off grid for power, water, basically everything. I think my ideal would be finding a little off grid community so I don't have to learn everything myself. In the meantime I keep trying to take steps in the direction I want to go.

  • Annie Kate
    Annie Kate Eastern Ontario, CanadaPosts: 680 ✭✭✭✭

    Those are amazing goals. I don't have that goal--it sounds too intimidating for me, but I try to do what I can with gardening, having paper books and resources, herbs, and being prepared for long power outages.

    Reading about pioneers and how they coped is also very inspiring.

  • HearthForYou
    HearthForYou Southern CaliforniaPosts: 52 ✭✭✭

    There are a lot of great suggestions here. I'd like to add that Y2K got me started on figuring out how to care for my basic needs if everything shut down. Look at your basic needs for water, food, shelter, warmth/cooling, waste management, Love & Connection, and interests.

    Water: You need a gallon/day/person for drinking. Find ways of utilizing water more than once. Earthship design use water for 3-4 uses before it get recycled. Laundry water can go into garden. Set up an outdoor shower - grey water can also be used in garden. Wash dishes in tub, use grey water friendly soap, and use water to flush toilet (if used right away) or water garden (no oily water). I found it the easiest to conserve water when my sewer line broke. Maybe you can turn yours off or whatever you need to do to get into the mindset of water can't go down the drain. Here's a friend's website on all things [grey] water:

    Food: buy bulk amounts of foods that you already eat and that can be sprouted if cooking is not available. It's great for emergency stash whether disaster or unexpected loss of income. Figure out how to grow own food at home, within community, or by supporting local farmers. Gaia Garden seems to be an easy guide for people to instill permaculture applications that makes it easy and less time consuming. Have ways of cooking that don't require electricity or gas: solar oven, rocket stove.

    Warmth/Cooling: Don't use your a/c if you have one; plant decidious trees, shade cloths, etc. for cooling. There are a lot of YouTube video on passive solar heating made from soda cans, gutter, or ducts. They work in snow country as well.

    Waste Management: clear out all cleaning products. you only need baking soda and vinegar. I do like having bleach available and use it minimally. Cut down on buying packaged products (buying bulk items and growing food will help). Compost food & human waste separately. Divert water from roof/hardscape into landscape and water tanks (larger than 100 gal if you can). You'll triple your rainfall by 2-3 times when the water is sunk into the ground rather than allowed to run off into the road. Don't buy paper towels or kleenex, use cloth and hankerchiefs. Toilet paper can be replaced with a wash cloth or [diy] bidet. Here's a video on zero waste living:

    Good luck. Please post any details or goals that may be helpful for us to address more specifically.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 6,009 admin

    @HearthForYou For cleaning, I use cleaning strength vinegar (not the food type) & mule team borax, but mainly vinegar. We have no bleach in the house.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 4,690 admin

    Start small. Start with cooking all your own food (except for the occasional treat). Learn to store food. Learn to grow food and raise livestock... learn to hunt and fish. Take a long time to find the right property. Either by an old house, cheap and renovate it.... learn carpentry, plumbing etc. Or learn to build. One little step at a time. Above and beyond all, get out of debt and learn to live within your means.

  • rbusby01
    rbusby01 Posts: 115 ✭✭✭

    Great information. I'm working toward living a simpler more sustainable lifestyle too. I'm not sure if I'll get completely off grid, but definitely close to it. It is daunting. One step at a time. You're not alone :)

  • DurwardPless
    DurwardPless Posts: 162 ✭✭✭

    Are off grid and survival preparation the same thing, related to each other, or completely different from each other?


  • torey
    torey Moderator Posts: 4,403 admin
    edited September 2020

    Survival preparation is a bit more about learning to do without if there are no services (electricity, cell phones, landlines, internet, hospitals, etc.) following a natural disaster such as a wildfire, earthquake or weather related event or following an economic or other type of societal collapse. So it does involve off grid. During a disaster you may have to do without power or other services for days, weeks or in some cases even months. You have to be prepared to provide for yourself without any other supports. But you may not be off grid during normal daily living.

    Off grid living on the other hand is being off the electrical and other city services grid. Many people who consider themselves to be living off grid, still have electricity provided by solar, wind or a fossil fuel generator. They have satellite internet service and can have a Satellite phone or in some cases, cell phones may work. You can find DC appliances that will replace almost all AC appliances. Lots of low voltage AC appliances now, too. Off grid also usually means providing your own water via a well or pumping out of a stream or other water source. And then there is the waste to deal with so you will have your own sewage disposal of some sort.

    I know quite a few people who live off grid and they all use a variety of options. One family has geo-thermal heat with solar panels for electricity and propane for hot water and the kitchen stove. Another family has a wind generator that operates everything except the kitchen fridge and stove which are propane and they have a small wood furnace that also heats their water in winter. I know people who have septic tanks & fields or lagoons. I also know people who have composting toilets and grey water systems.

    Then there are those who are hooked up to the electrical grid but have some sort of off grid electrical generation system such as a wind tower that generates enough power that they are able to provide all their own use and sell the excess to the electrical company.

    You may meet some off gridders who have chosen to live an off grid lifestyle because they are preparing for a possible disaster or economic crash or general upheaval so they are both off gridders and preppers.

    So they are separate things but do cross over. Hope that answers your question @DurwardPless.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 6,009 admin
    edited September 2020

    I will add to @torey's great explanation.

    Off grid is merely not being connected to the public utilities...the grid. It doesn't have to encompass other practices, as Torey already stated. It can be but one aspect of any lifestyle.

    I feel that I need to address the term, "prepper". You can do preparation for survival without being a prepper. Many rural folks (especially those who live remotely) prepare in advance for survival in many possible situations but are not preppers. This last term itself, as used in today's society, usually includes or can be driven by fear that has an element of panic. Sometimes, but not always, it can include hoarding.

    Those who were raised rurally are not usually the ones who subscribe to the trend of prepping. They just prepare as they've always done with possibly a bit more for an emergency. They usually have their own set of "safety catches."

    You can do survival preparation calmly and without going overboard over sensational armageddon-like fears. Many city preppers think that they will "escape to the bush" to hunt & live. What many don't realize is that that bush is most likely someone else's land that they would be trespassing on & they would most likely get shot first by the owner (questions later type of thing) in that type of scenario. Protection of the owner's property (land & animals) would certainly happen. This is just one of quite a few misguided ideas of some preppers.

    Anytime I see the term "prepper" used, it is for the more extreme scenarios, not frequent & common situations like situations like fires, floods, hurricanes & tornadoes.

    As for me, I am not a prepper. I prepare for the future, yes, but not because of fear of a future event that I don't know will happen or not. To live in the moment and not do anything is foolish, but to prepare for something because of a fear of the unknown is no different. There needs to be a balance.

  • frogvalley
    frogvalley Posts: 676 ✭✭✭✭

    @Nancy Carter Many of us are in the same boat from the responses I see here.

    Have you looked to see what is coming in? Ask why it is coming. What need/purpose does it fulfill? As pointed out earlier, some of us live a good bit from town and might need it. Is it necessary or a redundancy that fear is driving? Can I or should I just say "no" to the item? What would happen if I didn't accept it?

    Looking at the incoming items in a different way may slow/stop the flood in. Of course you may/will still need to empty/reduce the accumulated overflow.

  • torey
    torey Moderator Posts: 4,403 admin

    Very well said @LaurieLovesLearning. Much better than my explanation.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 888 ✭✭✭✭

    @Nancy Carter I wanted you to know I am working on pictures of the pillowcases for you. They are currently turned sideways. I would like them to be right side up. Any ideas? I also don't want to post pictures that are too large. Not quite sure how to make them smaller. Ideas would be helpful.

  • brownjoelle
    brownjoelle Posts: 23 ✭✭✭

    One year I had a few friends who celebrated Lent and they gave up eating meat and whatever else that goes along with that. I'm not Catholic but decided to do my own version of self-denial. I gave up frivolous spending for one month. Usually, I would just go ahead and buy that cute little two dollar book that I didn't intend to buy, but it was so cheap and I knew I would read it. I would buy that outfit on the mannequin, which I would wear, but my reason for shopping was actually to get a specific item... not clothes. I would sometimes enter a store, prepared to spend 20 dollars, but leave spending 200 dollars. It was a good exercise for me. I had a time frame to work with. I could be disciplined for one month. I only went to the store for what I needed. I only allowed myself to purchase what I went to the store for. I sometimes would send my son to buy the items, armed with a list and my credit card. He needed practice adulting, and wouldn't get extra items. The result was a savings that month over 400 dollars. It was an eye opener, and a good strategy for me to save money, not clutter my home, and help my son learn life skills.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 6,009 admin

    @brownjoelle What a great discovery you made. Self discipline is a big deal and not many people care to learn it. It is very helpful to have your point made (with your story) in this thread. 👍

  • Cherlynn
    Cherlynn Posts: 169 ✭✭✭

    Discover what you are using electricity for. Our big one was the refrigerator. It was always packed and cleaning it out we discovered over 90% of it was condiments. Really! I make most of our condiments now and I can them up into jelly jars so there is much less in our fridge. TV stations and computers are on power strips so they stay off when not in use.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 1,409 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My husband and I live off grid. Not hooked to power. We have a propane stove, a wood stove for heat, and are planning to build a rocket stove when we build our home instead of the little rough cabin we are in now. One thing which comes to mind if you are off grid is hidden power usage. Many of the propane appliances nowadays have built in electrical lighters for the stovetop and oven. While the burners on the stove top could be lit with a match of any type the oven would not function without the power source turned on. Since the oven heating element even on propane shuts off and relights as needed to maintain the temperature. If you are going this route try to find one without the electronic lighters or be prepared to lose the oven anytime the power is not available. If you have a tv, computer, monitor, etc. All those little lights that how when things are on or doing whatever they do all draw power and must be factored in when estimating your power requirements.

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