Living Off the Grid: What Does It Mean?

Living off the grid seems to be something that I hear a lot about these days.  Apparently it is gaining momentum. The number of people living off the grid is increasing. Additionally, the number of people that want to be living off the grid seems to be growing as well.  

But everyone seems to have their own impression of what that is and what it means.  This is even noticeable in threads of conversation in social media groups.  It is obvious that everyone interested in living off the grid has their own opinion. 

So, what does it mean to live off the grid.  Let’s start by defining, in the context of our modern culture, what is meant by “the grid”. 


What is “the grid”? 

Start by thinking in general terms about the definition of a grid. Now I realize that can mean many different thing in relation  to science, mathematics, utilities, or social structure.  But, what I am referring to in particular is our social structure. 

In the context of our social structure, think of a grid as an interconnected infrastructure for producing, managing, accessing and distributing resources. Following this thought process, a “grid” can be almost anything. For example,  the electric company, city water and sewage, the banking system, supermarkets, chain stores, large farming organizations, gas stations, etc. The internet is of course a massive, world-wide grid.

Thus the conclusion is that “the grid” includes the whole complicated infrastructure that enables us to function the way we do.  

There was a time when nearly everyone in the world lived very independently. Their only “grid” was their local social structure. People sourced goods and services locally. They knew exactly where and how things were produced. To a great degree, they had some measure of control over their resources. 

In today’s modern society we have a huge infrastructure, or a grid,  that supplies us with all our needs. Consequently, most of us are completely disconnected from the source of our basic necessities. Furthermore, we have no control over our resources. 

In my humble opinion, therein lies the problem.  


What does it mean to be “living off the grid”?

My first question would be “To which grid do you refer?” 

If you are referring to being 100% off the grid, this means you do not utilize any part of the infrastructure that supports modern society.  You produce your own food and make your own clothes. Perhaps you provide your own transportation and do not engage in any sort of banking services.  In many respects, this is a lifestyle similar to the pioneers. 

But, as we all know, the pioneers took great risks. Most of them had a short, difficult life, fraught with a lot of dangerous situations.  When you think of it like this, few people in our modern culture would be willing to go completely off the grid.  

Therefore, I would contend that in modern terms,  “living off the grid” simply refers to deciding which grid you want to live without.  What it also means is living a simpler life.  It means making attempts to not be so much of a slave to the modern world. The big advantage to living off the grid today is that you have the ability to take advantage of modern technology. This can make your off-grid life much easier.   

For example, I’ve had an off-grid cabin for over 20 years. I am 100% independent for electricity, water, sewage, and produce about 50% of my own food.  Yet I still purchase gas, commute to work, visit the local supermarket, buy propane for the cook stove, have satellite internet, and use my debit card regularly.  

Therefore, I am not 100% off-grid. But, ask my friends and they will say that I live like a pioneer. Not hardly. 

For more thoughts on the mindset of living off the grid, read this post on The Off Grid Mindset


Living Off the Grid in Modern Times

When I first started living off the grid, I actually lived in a tent from August through January at 10,000 feet while building my first cabin. Even after I moved into the cabin, I only had a wood stove for heat. I used kerosene lanterns for light and a three burner propane stove for cooking. There was also a simply gravity fed shower. Life was very basic. 

The end result is that I accomplished my goal of living off the grid. But I also had a difficult lifestyle that no one envied. After a few years of this, and paying off some debt, I knew I had to make massive improvements if I was going to stay with it. 

Over time, the lesson that I learned was that I could take advantage of specific goods and services, take advantage of modern technology, and greatly enhance my “off-grid” lifestyle. The end result was I created a self reliant lifestyle with a great deal of comfort and security. 

A certain percentage of my life is 100% self sufficient.  A solar electric system produces 100% of my electricity. I haul water from a local stream and chlorinate it to be used for showers and washing dishes. Two water filtration systems enable me to purify water for drinking at a cost of about 3 cents/gallon.  I also use a composting toilet.  

Unfortunately, I am not 100% self sufficient with food production. I raise chickens and turkeys for meat and eggs. I hunt occasionally. I am presently building a 400 square foot earth-sheltered greenhouse for gardening. I home can goods which are placed in a root cellar. I keep a freezer full of meat. For things that I do not produce at home, I simply stock pile extra dry goods, canned vegetable, and other basic supplies.

Since I heat with wood, I have at least two years of wood cut, split and stored in a large shed. Since I cook with propane a lot, I have at least 2 years of propane stored. Extra gasoline is kept in the wood shed to run the ATV, which is the work horse of the homestead.  

Piece this all together and I have managed to produce a comfortable, off-grid lifestyle far better than that of the pioneers. Some people insist that I am “off the grid”. In reality, I am off certain parts of the grid. But this is my choosing.  I have a great deal of comfort and security and do not worry much about what goes on in the world. And I can confidently say that my lifestyle has a “carbon footprint” FAR less than any other person I know. 

Unlike the pioneers, today we have many options available to produce any sort of “off-grid” lifestyle you choose. Take advantage of it and………..

Additional Posts of Interest

The People Who Live Off the Grid

The Off Grid Mindset

The Best Reasons to Live Off the Grid

Go off grid and live well,


Stay connected with us to receive regular updates.

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team. We always respect your privacy. Your information will never be shared.


50% Complete

Sign up to get regular updates

If you want to know more about sustainable living, being off the grid and having more control over your own resources.....