An off-grid life is a goal for many of us and being self-sufficient is what prepping is all about. However, the adjustments to an off-grid life may be difficult for some people. If they don’t get used to the routine, they will bounce back on the grid. In this two-part article, you will see how I handle the off-grid life and how I manage to save money here and there.
“Hey, don’t forget to throw those towels in the dryer! Bye love you!”
Got, it. Towels. Dryer. Twist the knob, clean the lint trap, toss in a dryer sheet, mmm that smells delicious. Push the button. *Twenty minutes later: CLUNK, CLUNK, CLUNK, zzzzipttt, bang-boom-pow…An electrical buzz hums about the hot, stale air of the laundry room. What was that? What is this? These clothes are still sopping wet! Stupid, unreliable piece of junk machine!
Yes, surely many of us have gone through this very struggle or possibly a stream of other struggles that come along with all those so-called luxuries we keep up within our homes. It could be the refrigerator shooting an irreparable leak or all your electricity going out during an already terrifying natural disaster. It is always something! and forever more will be.
This week, though we are already major fans of hanging clothes out in the breeze to dry naturally, that something was our dryer. It just went kerflooey (which is no good in the rainy spring season, such as the one we are in now). But it also got me to thinking of the simpler times and how much more convenient having no power really is, for us and nature! Our wallets and natural resources.
For most of us, the loss of power would potentially mean the total loss of normality. Our daily routines and lifestyles have become wholly subject to the “grids” support. So much so that we can hardly even function without it.
Questions to Keep in Mind
How can we cook ourselves a meal if we have no power?
How can we find our way through a pitch-black house in the wee hours of the morning?
How will we stay warm when we rely on a unit that runs off power?
What will we do with a freezer/refrigerator filled with expensive groceries?
How do we catch the news and the local happenings when the television has fallen silent?
What can we drink if our water is coming from a system that requires electrical pumps?
These are extremely important questions for us all to consider seriously. The Red Cross, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, believe that preparations for a minimum of three days of power outage are actions that all Americans should now take on.
Now that we understand the importance of preparedness let’s dive straight into some specifics. Luxuries you can learn to let go of:
Life Without Electricity:
Eventually, you are going to experience it when living off-grid. It will happen at the most inopportune moment. The power will go out. The worst part is that you may never know when, or even if, it will come back on. Believe it or not, this doesn’t even have to be the work of some evil-doers from a faraway land either; it could be a sudden ice storm or a heavy wind storm that comes tearing down power lines and blowing transformers.
Severe weather is just as apt to occur with just as much ease as it takes you to tune in to your favorite episodes. It could be caused by faulty power company apparatus. No matter the situation, the effect is the same, anything electrical in your home will stop working.
There are a handful of ‘primary’ areas that are dexterously interrupted when the power goes out. Each one (especially this day in age) is crucial to day-to-day survival. It is important to keep these in mind when preparing yourself for emergency situations.
“How can we find our way through a pitch-black house in the wee hours of the morning?”
Believe it or not, living without electric lights may be a much more pleasurable experience than you may have originally had in mind. There is a certain light (a blue light) that most all electronic screens and some led lighting put off that is quite harmful to the eyes and the mind. This blue light is comparable to the blue-type light that makes the difference between day and night.
Once that daylight begins to set, our bodies begin to naturally release melatonin, which is the hormone that puts us into our sleep-mode, preparing us for a restful night. When the body recognizes the blue light, it instantly stops producing melatonin, causing us to sleep issues that we may have never known existed.
There are numerous outlets for secondary lighting. Therefore this list is not intended to be exhaustive.
- The Classic Flashlight – Do you have one stowed away? Maybe in the drawer of long-lost particulars? Or, if you are the prepper you had ought to be, by your bedside? If so, welcome to the club of very small percentage. Surprising as it may seem, many Americans do not have a flashlight handy for emergency scenarios. Fresh batteries and a few extra sets will put you even further ahead in the game. The flashlight should be kept where you can swiftly reach it.
- Hurricane/Aladdin Kerosene Lanterns – Aladdin lamps are kerosene lamps that use a mantle but are not pressurized. This clean-burning fuel also can prevent rust, plus you can use it as a lubricant or as a solvent to remove oil, grease, tar! Granted, these will cost you a bit in the kerosene it takes to fire them up, but the lighting will do wonders for your darling dwelling. Its soothing yellow glow will put you right in the mood for an evening read, yes, enchanting (did I mention tying dry flies for tomorrow’s fishing under these magnificent shades of soft yellow?). Another wonderful aspect to these is that you will not have to deal with the pricing whims of the local power companies.
Suggested reading: How to Handle Every Day Tasks When There Is No Electricity
- Propane Tank Lamps – Thse are ideal for an off-grid living experience
- 100-Hour Candles – Survival candles are a major necessity for any prepper. Any candles will do, but the 100-hour candle’s name explains it’s importance.
- Natural Sun Lighting – During the day, having many windows and perhaps a skylight of sorts in the roof will provide you with plenty of light. If you have the opportunity to build your own dwelling, you should be sure to place the foundation in a way that you can fully utilize all the windows you put in it. (This can also help with your heating/cooling, mentioned later).
- Solar Lighting – The last, but most reliable (for the most part), if monies are available, are solar lighting apparatus. There are several available options for solar lighting/power. From cheap to expensive, you can be hooked up with some stellar solar options. The only catch: You must have full and direct sunlight in most cases.
No Running Water
Water, the source of life. It is well known that water that is liberated of bacteria and contamination is crucial to our survival. Therefore, it should be one of your main concerns in preparation. The typical American currently uses around 70 gallons a day, taking a nice long hot shower, flushing the toilet several times, washing a load of laundry, letting the water run while brushing teeth, and for cooking and drinking. In a short-term emergency, only drinking and cooking water is crucial, but if that short-term incident drags out to weeks or months, daily consumption will rise to include bathing and clothes washing.
- If you happen to live in town or in the city, the loss of electricity will affect your water system by possibly causing a reverse seepage to come back up the pipework. If your water comes from an electric pump, your water will stop its flow the second the power does. With the loss of power, in most homes, comes the loss of water.
- The most efficient way of guaranteeing quality water is to store it now. In your emergency stash, and out should have a minimum of one gallon per person (this means bathing is totally out of the equation). You can get several gallons of distilled water from any local supermarket for next to nothing. In reality, you should change out the water collection once a month or so to ensure its freshness.
Related article: Collecting Rainwater – Storage Options For Your Prepping Plans
- A drilled well with an electric pump can be retrofitted with a plastic hand-pump for about $400 – $600. These systems sit side-by-side with your electric pump down the same well-shaft and can be used any time the power is off. Typical delivery is about 2 gallons per minute, and pumping strength varies from 11 to 20 pounds, a good but not exhausting workout.
- Farm stores often sell water tanks made of heavy grade plastic. These can be partially buried underground to keep water cooler and less susceptible to mold and bacteria. These run about $1 per gallon of holding capacity, so a 350-gallon tank new will cost $350. Plan to filter and purify the water before use.
- Collecting water can be done by hand with 5-gallon plastic buckets if you live near a river or stream (it must be filtered and purified before use). You can also divert rainwater off your roof, through the rain gutters and downspouts into plastic trash cans. Be sure, of course, to check your local laws, as some areas do not allow “rain catching”.
- Water can be purified inexpensively when living off-grid. Fifteen drops of bleach (plain unscented) per gallon of water costs less than 1 penny, Bleach is effective against both cholera and typhoid and has kept American water supplies safe for decades. ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide (3%) per gallon will also destroy bacteria. Twenty minutes of a hard, rolling boil will, too (this is the most effective way to “clean” water).
Sure, the human body can make it quite a spell without any real substantive food, but it would be far from an enjoyable experience. A good warm meal, when the shit hits the fan, can really encourage the spirit, even though the struggle is alive and thriving.
This is probably the simplest method when living off-grid. The Boy Scout technique is extremely straightforward: grab a few bricks or rocks and place them in or around a small fire (good for heating up a can of beans). However, it is hard to have any control over the results of the food. This fire, with a simple pan, can typically only be used to cook meats and a few vegetables, due to the open heat.
Provided you have the fuel (wood, charcoal, etc.), campfire cooking can fulfill most of your culinary needs. If you happen to own a cast iron Dutch Oven, you are in for a real treat, as this tool can be used for heaps of different things (slow cooker, oven for baking…). Using the hot coals and ashes from your fire, you can have a mean supper slow cooking all day long.
Propane/Butane Camp Stoves
These are easy as pie to use and are immensely reliable. The results are no different than what you will find in the ordinary home. Because the heat is so consistent, you can even do a bit of pressure canning on it (if it were the right time of season!). An 18-gallon tank will set you back around $30 new, and, on average, is around $6-10 to get re-filled. (Again, this is all good and well, provided you can still obtain the refills).
One full tank will last approximately a full month of daily use before running dry. The average butane stove lasts for about 8 hours. These stoves are perfect if you require something that needs to be portable. They are lightweight and easy to carry.
This method of cooking will require plenty of unimpeded sunlight and plenty of time. Someone in the group, or you yourself, will have to adjust the direction of the cooker ever thirty minutes or so (which really is no big deal, throughout the day, especially when some good eating is in store for the efforts!). Now, you could go out and get yourself a big nice solar cooker and spend a bit of money, or you could simply make your own for next to nothing. The choice is yours!
From saving money on water usage, to cheap and inexpensive cooking, off-grid or even “in-case-of-emergency” living can be as easy on the wallet as you allow it to be. As we preppers know full and well, staying on top of our game means being equipped and ready for any and all things.
In Part 2 of this article, we will cover three more “primary areas” of importance: refrigeration, heating and cooling, and laundry.
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.