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The Ultimate Checklist for Living Off the Grid [+ 20 Self-Reliance Tips!]

Ask anyone living off the grid – the path to self-reliance is about skills development, perseverance, and savvy planning. Moving away from the conveniences of urban living is both challenging and risky! A checklist for off-grid living is essential to help steer your transition from big-city constraints to rural abundance. 

So, once you’ve committed (if only mentally) to moving to an off-grid lifestyle, you’ll need a detailed mind map integrating the primary areas of off-grid living that ensure survival, sustainability, and quality of life.

Checklist for Living Off the Grid! 20 Essential Self-Reliance Tips

Our checklist for off-grid living is an action plan and roadmap for a self-sufficient homestead. The checklist details how to optimize natural and human resources to sustainably provide a dwelling with food, water, income, energy, animals, tools, transport, sanitation, and security.

After all, setting out on your journey to self-reliance and off-grid liberation begins in your imagination. Dream big but make prudence and practicality weighty counterpoints to flights of fancy.

The three primary considerations before buying land for an off-grid life are the following.

  • Money
  • Time
  • Skills

Your checklist for off-grid living will be defined by how many of those three vital resources you have available. In short, you have to work within your means.

The secret to getting your off-grid journey underway is learning how to optimize your money, time, and skills

Valuable strategies to synergize your resources include the following.

  • Budgeting wisely and economizing to build capital.
  • Outsourcing off-grid professionals to mitigate risk and save time.
  • Learning as much as possible about off-grid living.

Planning to move off-grid can be intimidating, with uncertainty always lurking. Self-doubt stands ready to dissuade you from busting free of your city shackles, which is why we compiled this checklist. To help you realize your off-grid dream in a way that doesn’t overstretch your resources.

Let’s get into it!

summer vegetable garden plot with leafy greens
If you want to start living off-grid, growing nutritious and healthy food is one of your top priorities. We love growing potatoes, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, herbs, and kale for tons of produce! We also found an epic small garden guide from the University of Maine Extension. The guide teaches how to prepare the soil, plant, and maintain your veggies. From scratch!

1. Create an Off-Grid Budget

Financial liquidity is crucial to your making a successful move to off-grid life. Work on eliminating all your debt. Having plenty of cash available for essential off-grid products and services like vehicles, tools, and legal advice will empower your off-grid migration and help unburden you from further debt.

How Much Do You Need to Live Off the Grid?

Living off-grid needn’t be expensive. You can rent land and live in a tent for less than $500 per month. Or, you can purchase cheap land and build a cabin with free and salvaged materials for less than $20,000.

However, a self-sustainable family homestead on purchased land will cost at least $50,000. But – the more cash in your coffers, the better.

  • Your off-grid budget should focus on where you can lower your current living expenses to save for your off-grid essentials.
  • Additionally, each off-grid essential should get itemized with estimated once-off and recurring costs for land, machinery, building materials, labor, fuel, food, livestock, taxes, etc. 
The Doable Off-Grid Homestead | Shannon Stonger
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After reading our off-grid checklist, we recommend this follow-up reading. It's The Doable Off-Grid Homestead by Shannon Stonger. The book teaches how to erect affordable infrastructure, manage your off-grid home, grow plenty of yummy veggies, harness natural energy, and raise livestock. Plus tons more! Most of the reviews are excellent. However - some reviewers cite that the book wasn't advanced enough for them. Nevertheless, we think it's an excellent source for new off-grid homesteaders.

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2. Develop an Off-Grid Revenue Plan

Undoubtedly, no matter how self-reliant an off-grid dwelling is, some form of monetary income is essential to pay for products and services that can’t come from the land. Consider must-haves like tools, fuel, and internet fees. Revenue can get generated by selling farm produce, livestock, and rural hospitality services.

  • Off-grid homesteaders are renowned for their artisanal flair, making a wide range of products from clothing to foods and beverages to ornaments and cosmetics
  • Many off-grid enthusiasts conduct online remote work, including professional consultation and education services, web and graphic design, and copywriting.

Checklist for Living off the Grid – How Can I Make Money?

Your off-grid revenue plan should focus on your skills and your passions. Combine your talents with the natural resources of your off-grid environment to create products and services that offer a unique experience to a defined market. Market your enterprise via niche social media platforms. 

Important! Create diversified off-grid income streams for revenue security.

farmers market with fresh garden vegetables for sale
If you’re a cash-strapped farmer or homesteader, then selling your produce at a farmer’s market may be a saving grace. We also found a helpful guide from the University of New Hampshire teaching excellent tips for successfully selling at farmer’s markets. (Make sure to download the farmer’s market fact sheet! It’s beautifully illustrated – and has tons of helpful tips for selling produce. It’s in PDF format – and easily printable.)

3. Audit and Build Your Off-Grid Skills 

At the heart of off-grid living is DIY work. Your skills in building, gardening, animal care, woodwork, electrical wiring, plumbing, painting, fencing, and pouring concrete will be essential in an off-grid environment. Audit your current off-grid skills and learn new skills where necessary. 

  • Use Internet tutorials and videos to educate and guide you while you learn and practice off-grid skills in your urban home.
  • Additionally, learn as much as you can about building an off-grid cabin or a yurt.

Is It Hard Living Off the Grid?

Living off-grid isn’t easy, with the supply of sustainable shelter, power, heating, cooling, water, and sanitation entirely your responsibility. The risks and hardships of off-grid living are mitigated by on-the-job skills development, using quality tools, and outsourcing expertise where necessary.

Read More – How to Start a Homestead With No Money!

4. Go Boondocking

The next item on our checklist for living off the grid – acclimatize yourself!

The easiest way to start your journey towards off-grid living is to spend extended periods boondocking with only a tent or RV as shelter. Without much food, fuel, energy, water, wood, and sanitation, a campsite with zero-grid amenities will acclimatize you to the rigors of a future off-grid life. 

Equipping yourself with camping equipment fit for boondocking will serve you well into the future when established at your off-grid homestead (more on that to follow).

Invest in these essential camping items.

Checklist for Living off the Grid – How Do You Shower?

The cheapest off-grid shower is a hosepipe with a showerhead attached to a faucet with running water. For hot off-grid showers, expose a PVC solar shower bag suspended from a tree to direct sunlight, or invest in a cost-effective dedicated solar or propane water heater. 

outdoor off grid garden shower made from bamboo
When you spend all day in the field, pulling weeds, milking goats, and working hard – you need a clean shower! Luckily – we put together an epic list of inspirational off-grid shower ideas. They can help launch a refreshing outdoor shower – even if you’re way off the grid. And even if you lack indoor plumbing!

5. Work on an Off-Grid Farm

To learn about the day-to-day running of an off-grid homestead, volunteer to work on an off-grid farm. You will gain valuable direct experience working with the soil and with crops, livestock, building materials, renewable energy, and water resources, all with a team of like-minded people.

What Are the First Steps to Living Off-Grid?

The first steps to off-grid living are all about learning. Working on an off-grid farm will provide you with several self-reliance skills. Volunteer farm work is available internationally. Free food, lodging, and training in regenerative farming (could) get offered in exchange for labor. 

  • A short stint as a farmhand on an off-grid homestead will enable you to fine-tune your off-grid vision by exposing you to the workings of a worthy self-sustaining operation and all the elements that make it viable. 

Read More – Five Homestead Crops That Save You the Most Money! Cash Saving Crops!

6. Buy Resource-Rich Land 

Land with abundant above or belowground water and fertile soil is ideal for an off-grid home. Properties with forests and plenty of loose rock provide free building materials. And rich grassland allows livestock and game to graze. Land in temperate climates reduces the need for home insulation. 

While land boasting lots of water, healthy soil, woodlands, sunny skies, and sweeping vistas will sell at a premium, cheaper land can get bought in areas that were once home to successful homesteaders but have since gotten abandoned.

What Is the Best Place to Live Off the Grid?

The best locations for off-grid living include states and counties with non-restrictive legislation on how private property is used, particularly regarding water usage, crop cultivation, animal husbandry, and building design. States with low land tax rates are popular off-grid havens. 

hand writing in notebook on wooden table
Choosing a reliable off-grid career is vital to your success! Some Outdoor Happens team members love to work as writers, farmers, animal ranchers, freelancers, and gardeners. We also think starting a worm farm business or raising pigs for profit are genius side hustle ideas for farmers and homesteaders.

7. Design an Energy-Efficient Off-Grid Homestead

A well-designed off-grid homestead will make full use of the land it occupies. A sustainable dwelling and farm harmonize with the environment and optimally use the available natural resources, including soil, grass, clay, timber, stone, gradients, water, wildlife, and sunshine.

  • Consult with an architect to draft plans for an energy-efficient dwelling.
  • Consult with the local authorities to comply with building codes.
  • Compile a renewable energy strategy. Solar, hydro, and wind power augment propane, wood, and biogas to supply the necessary energy for a homestead. 
  • Draft a livestock plan, including feed allocation, fencing, shelters, and water troughs.
  • Plan a horticultural strategy and irrigation scheme.

Read More – How to Make Money Farming Five Acres or Less!

8. Invest in Serviceable Vehicles and Implements 

Essential to running a fruitful off-grid homestead is a collection of vehicles and tools you can service yourself using readily available aftermarket spare parts. Avoid machinery with proprietary components. Second-hand farm machinery can be sourced cheaply, both online and at auctions.

Start with these essential off-grid machines.

  • A 4×4 truck with a large load-bed
  • A tractor (preferably with a mower, front-end loader, and backhoe, aka a TLB)
  • A large trailer that can get towed by your truck and tractor
  • A chainsaw
  • A gas generator
  • A welding machine
  • A brushcutter
  • Water pumps

You’ll also need a shed for the following must-have implements and tools.

  • A set of carpentry tools (with a rechargeable drill or driver and circular saw)
  • Masonry and metalwork tools (an angle grinder is essential)
  • Electrical wiring tools
  • A plow or tiller for your tractor
  • Gardening tools
  • Plumbing tools
  • A fence post driver
  • Ladders
lovely homestead garden with flowers and leafy greens
If you live off-grid, we can’t recommend growing pollinator-friendly plants enough! The more beesbutterflies, and hummingbirds – the better. If you don’t have enough pollinators, your vegetable and fruit crops will likely disappoint you! We read another epic guide from the University of Maine Extension that gives plenty of pollinator plant tips. Our favorite part is how they specify to choose native plants without pesticide treatment. Check out their pollinator guide for more garden pollination tips!

9. Create a Construction Base Camp

Establish a construction site office with storage facilities on your land! That way, you can spend time on-site building your new home. Without worrying about a commute! A wall tent or travel trailer will provide a temporary home, while carports and sheds protect tools and vehicles. 

Once you’ve erected the necessary shelters for the building team and equipment, complete the following.

  • A road for easy access to the site from the main road.
  • Clear the off-grid zone of vegetation and rocks to prepare for a house foundation. 
  • Fill a large tank with water at a height that allows gravity to pressurize the water flow. 
  • Pipe the water to the construction site.
  • Erect a temporary outdoor kitchen with a propane stove for cooking and heating water.
  • Build an outhouse with a shower and composting toilet.
  • Hook up a power supply using a portable solar system and a gas generator.
rural farm shed with garden trimmer hoe and lawn mower - essentials for  the checklist for living off the grid!
All homesteaders need a place to store their stuff! You have rakes, lawnmowers, hoes, snow blowers, wood splitters, and other goodies that require safe storage. You can always buy a small shed from your local Home Depot or Tractor Supply. If you want to build your own – we found an epic list of free farm building blueprints on the Iowa State University website. They freely share plans for sheds, milk houses, lamb feeding barns, pig nurseries, pump houses, and tons more!

10. Harvest Natural and Salvaged Building Materials

An essential item for our checklist for living off the grid – save on building costs by using natural resources on the land, including timber, stone, bamboo, grass, clay, and dirt!

Salvage materials from old buildings you’re allowed to use. And, also consider salvage yards and demolition sites. Browse Craigslist for bargains on sheet metal, piping, windows, and insulation.

Is Building Off-Grid Expensive?

It is possible to build a solid dwelling that offers year-round comfort for under $2,000! Start by using free and low-cost building materials. Items like bathroom and kitchen fittings, doors and windows, roofing, and lumber can get purchased at well below cost at demolition sites and yard sales. 

Your DIY skills and tools will allow you to fashion structural items from the harvested timber, stone, and other natural elements on your land.

  • You can invest in a portable chainsaw mill to create planks from felled trees. 
  • You can offer your milling services to your neighbors in the future and mill lumber for sale. 

Read more!

11. Establish a Perennial Water Supply

If your land doesn’t have a stream or creek running through it, you should sink a well, build a dam or pond, harvest rainwater from all roofs on your land, and store the water you gather in large water tanks. Ideally, stored water should get elevated above the homestead to be gravity-fed.

How Much Water Does a Person Need for Living Off the Grid?

A single person will need at least a gallon of water daily to drink, cook, and bathe. You also need more water for pets, livestock, and crops. Off-grid drinking water should get filtered to remove harmful contaminants.  

12. Build the House and Outbuildings

Next on our checklist for living off the grid – building a house!

Commence building your off-grid homestead in the dry season. Concrete foundations need to get set before the superstructure of the building is erected. Use tarps to keep foundations and other materials dry during construction. Employ a team of volunteers or paid hands to assist in the building work.

  • Position the buildings to make the most of natural light and protect them from the wind.
  • Flat, sloped roofs will capture rainwater and allow for the easy removal of snow.

13. Install a Renewable Energy System

Your homestead will rely on renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Solar power is the most efficient means of creating electricity for an off-grid home. Miniature wind and hydroelectric systems serve as helpful backup forms of power delivery.

  • To set up a solar power system, calculate how much power your appliances and machines require by adding up their current draw (measured in Watts) over 24 hours.  
  • Your solar panels should generate a more substantial number of Watts per day than the calculated combined draw. And it should get wired to a battery bank capable of storing surplus solar energy.
  • An MPPT charge controller and a pure sine-wave inverter are necessary to manage the solar system.
  • Call a solar professional for assistance if necessary.

Installing wind and hydro energy systems will depend on your land’s wind and water resources.

  • If wind and water flow are reliant and consistent year-round, consider experimenting with small systems to supplement your solar power.
off grid homestead with solar panel
Solar panels are one of the best ways to help homesteaders lower their electric bills. And they can also help you get off-grid outright! If you’re curious to learn more about solar panels, read this helpful solar electric for homeowners guide from the Oklahoma State Extension. It illustrates how solar works. And it also shares lots of insightful solar power tips.

14. Implement a Waste Management System

Your off-grid home, garden, animals, and family will generate waste that can get converted into energy and fertilizer. Composting and water recycling will provide nutrients for plants and trees, while biogas can get used to cook and heat your house. Solid waste should get recycled as much as possible.

  • Follow a Zero Waste philosophy and work towards eliminating plastics and non-recyclable packaging.
  • Used vegetable oil can get made into biodiesel for farm vehicles and heaters.
  • Composting toilets are hygienic, non-smelly, and waterless. Plus, they’re another source of biomass for compost heaps and biogas generators.

15. Stockpile Firewood

Wood is the most common form of fuel to heat off-grid homes. By harvesting as much deadfall timber as possible before winter, you can create cords of firewood to use in wood stoves and fire pits all year round. The cordwood should stay in a covered shed to keep the timber dry. 

16. Erect Fences and a Security System

Number 16 on our checklist for living off the grid: fencing and security!

To protect your homestead, crops, and animals from predators, erect suitable fences using barbed wire, chicken wire, or electrical fencing where necessary. A night-vision game camera will help you identify nocturnal predators, allowing you to take remedial action.

  • It may be necessary to acquire a rifle to protect against dangerous wild animals such as bears and coyotes. 
  • A domestic burglar alarm system with CCTV cameras will give you extra deterrence and peace of mind.

17. Plant a Market Garden

Our checklist for living off the grid isn’t complete without vegetable gardening. Growing food is an integral part of an off-grid homestead.

Create planting beds and greenhouses to cultivate native and exotic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and nuts for personal use and sale at farmer’s markets. Regenerative farming methodologies ensure crop sustainability.

homemade jam and jellies for sale at farmers market - a must for our checklist for living off the grid!
If you decide to sell your fruits and veggies, it may be wise to sell canned goods too! Some of our favorites are canned jelly, jams, and preserves. If that sounds fun – check out this excellent guide for making homemade jelly from Clemson Coop Extension. And homemade jellies aren’t your only option! We also found a collection of canning guides showing how to preserve asparagus, beans, corn, carrots, peppers, and okra. Plus tons more. It’s from the National Center for Food Preservation – and the guides look neatly organized. And they’re easy to read! (Print them out, make a binder, and save them for later!)

18. Invest In Livestock

By raising livestock like chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, fish, cows, and horses, your homestead will have a sustainable supply of eggs, meat, and dairy products for your pantry. Animals not only fertilize the soil and keep the grass short, but they also produce biomass for compost bins and biogas generators. 

  • Horses make excellent off-grid transporters (buy a wagon, too). 

19. Implement Food Preservation Methodologies

Home canning, smoking, fermenting, and freeze-drying are excellent methods of preserving foods for personal use and sale. Invest in the best tools for these food preservation methods! And hopefully, your pantry will survive the harshest drought.

20. Join the Community Communications Infrastructure

Knowing your neighbors and becoming part of the community will benefit you tremendously! Including knowledge-sharing, tool-sharing, emergency assistance, barter partners, and healthy social interaction. 

  • With ham radios, cell phones, and the Internet, you can build a valuable network of homesteading friends, near and far.

In a Holistic Nutshell

The road to successful off-grid living is about building your skill sets, pacing yourself, and not biting off more than you can chew. Plan every move carefully to ensure all your resources get exposed to as little risk as possible. 

Be patient. Don’t rush things. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Research relentlessly. 

Life in nature is about freedom through conservation, creating closed ecosystems, optimizing resources, and devising a cradle-to-grave program for sustainable off-grid living.

There’s no time like now. Use this checklist to start your adventure living off the grid!

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Author

  • Paul writes for a living, about trucks mostly. He lives away from the city and off the road, nurturing his love for all things outdoors –- like tiny house construction, country cooking, bushcraft, woodwork and power tools, alternative energy, and minimalist living. If there’s a way to Do It Yourself, Paul wants to hear about it, and try it out. Then he’ll write about it, and share his story with blog readers around the world. Paul was raised on a South African homestead where he tended two horses, a Jersey cow, and half a mile of split pole fencing. At age 16, he bought a dirt bike, pirated a punk rock compilation, and commenced a blind-rise adventure that continues to this day where words, Wabi-Sabi, cooking, all-terrain tires, and all things to do with canvas and wood are his fodder. His overarching existential question is – “What more does a man need than a cast iron pot and a pair of loose-fitting trousers?”