I have lived off-grid for almost 3 years now. The entire time, my focus has been on creating frugal sustainability. Today I'm going to briefly explain 10, cheap and easy off-grid DIY projects you can do to get your budget-friendly homestead up and running.
1. Stick frame shed
One of the first things I did was build a shed to store tools, food, and other items. Stick framing can make the job a bit easier for the average person who is not a carpenter. In order to save on lumber I built my shed on two-foot centers. This works out well because OSB or Plywood sheets are 4x8'. You could easily build a 12x8x12 shed without having to make many cuts. Building walls with two-foot centers will make it easy to put up sheets when you're done. I didn't even build a rake wall for the pitch on my shed. I simply built one side of the shed 16" taller than the other side to create a pitch and framed in the piggyback wall to fill in the gap.
2. Rain harvesting system
Rain harvesting does not have to be complicated. You need a surface to harvest rainwater, a gutter to catch the water and direct it to a storage tank, some screens to keep pests out, and a sock over the inlet to your storage tank to keep out finer debris like sand. If you add about 1/4 cup of chlorine to a 330-gallon container you will prevent bacteria and viruses and with proper water filtration, you'll prevent everything else and remove the chlorine before drinking.
3. Start a garden
I didn't know much about gardening when I moved off-grid. Luckily the native soil worked to some extent. I have improved my soil over time by adding compost I have made from hay, straw, and manure. The main issue I had with gardening was mice in the beginning. The solution is cats. If you can't get cats right away, corn flour and baking soda will wipe them out. Building a garden with wire mesh to keep animals out can help as well.
4. Water cistern
IBC totes work fine for water storage. But if you want to be sustainable you'll need more storage. IBC totes go for $100-$200 and for less than $200 I built about 11,000 gallons of storage. I purchased the largest billboard vinyl could find. 16x20 is capable of lining a 16x6x5 hole. Once enclosed you can store 3,600 gallons in one cistern. I was able to make three.
5. Water filtration
Water filtration is easy. Two food-grade buckets, a spout, and a bulkhead will do the trick. Connect the top buckets to the bottom bucket by drilling a hole in the bottom of the top bucket and in the lid of the bottom bucket. Fasten the bulkhead and insert the spout an inch above the bottom of the bottom bucket. Wash a few pounds of sand to remove silt and clay, and do the same with some pea gravel and activated charcoal. (Plain charcoal will work in a pinch) and you have a filter large enough for a small family for a year.
Moving water around your property can prevent flooding and erosion and create a place to grow as well as a way to harvest more rainwater. I have swales around my entire property, designed to capture rainwater and direct it to my pond. I simply used a shovel, went as deep as the spade, and moved along until it was complete piling the dirt on the back side to grow in. In the future, I can go back and make the swale larger but you might be blown away by how much water you can move with such a small swale.
7. Van Build
Starting a homestead on a budget, and shelter can be difficult. My solution was to build out a simple camper van. For about $1600 I lined the inside of my van with "cedar pickets" from the hardware store. I built a simple countertop and a closet. I made a queen size bed in the back that folds up into two couches. My counter has a sink and a dual cooktop in it. I've very comfortable in this living space and it was cheap.
8. Start a website
If you need a source of income, you can start off with a website. Start blogging about your homestead or your passion. Create an online presence. Create products of work with sponsors and before you know it you should have some kind of income coming in that's created right there from your homestead.
9. Solar power
Solar power is great! It's such a better option than running a gas generator all the time. A budget system can be bought all in one like my Zendure power station or you can build a system with solar panels, a battery bank, a charge controller, and an inverter. I would stick with a 12v system at first if you want to save money because you will be able to build a larger battery bank for the least investment.
10. Root cellar
Once most of my systems were in place I decided a simple root cellar would really help store food for the long haul. My root cellar is pretty similar to my water cisterns but I built sandbag walls inside. Most of these projects are cheap and easy they just require time and energy.
If you want more details on these projects, watch my video below. You can also search my blog or YouTube because I have made specific videos for each project.
If you want to find and buy land like mine you can finance land for as little as $200 mo with no credit, I even got you 10% off just use code DLFRUGAL10 at check out.