Mortgage rates are through the roof, rents are worse and even the price of eggs has shot up 60 percent in one year.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that more and more Americans are opting out of mainstream life and going off the grid.
A ‘self-sufficiency’ movement is skyrocketing in popularity across the continent, with fed-up families leaving their homes and moving into the wild, where they generate their own power and even, in some cases, get all their own food.
The trend has been accelerated not only by the rising cost of living, but also by the pandemic, which has caused many to reflect on their own resilience in the face of disaster.
“We’re not crazy preppers or anything like that,” says Maylin Luke, 36, who moved off the grid to a Texas ranch with her partner Blakely, 37, last year.
Maylin Luke, 36, and her partner Blakely, 37, sold their three-story home in Dallas, Texas, to move ‘off the grid’ onto a 60-acre piece of land.
The couple invested in their own $113,000 “tiny house,” built their own water infiltration unit, and installed a utility pole nearby.
The couple had their ‘little house’ custom made by a company and often share photos of it on social media.
“But the confinement made us reflect more on what we wanted from life. And how we could be more independent.
The couple lived in a three-story home in Dallas, Texas, when they decided to invest in a 60-acre piece of land last year.
Then they had a little cabin, or “tiny house” as they call it, that cost them about $113,000.
They’re not completely ‘off the grid’ yet, as they use a utility pole and still get groceries in their nearby town.
But soon they plan to start growing their own fruits and vegetables in an attempt to become more self-sufficient.
And they’ve already reduced their property tax bill from about $10,000 a year to $130, since Texas law means they get an exemption for agriculture and wildlife, subject to several conditions.
The couple say it was the confinement that made them reflect on the way they lived.
Maylin said: “We just wanted to get out of town, get rid of our stuff and really slow down to minimize our carbon footprint.”
Maylin, who quit her job in marketing to set up her own business Resting Plant Face, says: ‘We used to fill ourselves with so much stuff.
“We just wanted to get out of town, get rid of our stuff, and really slow down to minimize our carbon footprint.”
About 180,000 US citizens were living without a grid connection in 2020, claims Home Power magazine, although some estimates put this figure at 250,000.
And this number is only growing.
Consulting firm Accenture forecasts that 12 percent of American homes will rely on off-grid power, including solar power, by 2035.
The trend is being accelerated by global energy insecurity caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Additionally, the threat of climate change and more extreme weather have led to more power outages.
Analysis by the nonprofit research group Climate Central last year found that outages had increased by 64 percent between 2000 and 2021.
That revelation has spooked not only consumers, but also businesses that are going offline in droves as well.
“Off-grid is getting huge in America,” says Nick Rosen, founder of Off-grid.net.
“But a lot of that growth is coming from big business and the military.”
Californian fresh food producer Taylor Farms, manufacturer Bimbo Bakeries and refrigerated cold storage developer Almond World are among several large companies that have already announced plans to create their own independent power supplies, or “microgrids.”
The ‘micro-grid’ system has been implemented for years in the US military, where camps need to minimize power losses.
But the transition is more difficult for the common individual.
Danyelle Ellis, 31, and her husband Doug moved to a ranch in Arizona about 18 months ago.
The couple is completely self-sufficient thanks to their solar energy system and even homeschools their children.
Danyelle and Doug live in their trailer home while they build their forever home on land they own in Arizona.
Danyelle Ellis, a mother of two, moved off the network about 18 months ago and says the transition hasn’t been without its challenges.
But overall he describes the experience as ‘liberating’.
“Everything had become so expensive and the world was so chaotic with the pandemic. We wanted a change,” says Danyelle, 31.
She and her husband, Doug, 32, left their five-bedroom home in New Mexico and moved to land they already owned in Arizona.
Now they homeschool their children, who are 13 and nine, generate all their own power using a self-built solar system, and collect water from the nearest town using their tanker truck.
Their nearest neighbors are two miles away, and while Doug continues to commute to work in the city as a heavy equipment operator, Danyelle spends the day tending horses at a nearby ranch.
The couple currently lives in their trailer home while they build their forever home on the land.
“We are saving at least $3,000 a month,” says Danyelle, 31.
‘The solar system cost $25,000, but once it’s installed there are no further costs.
And my kids love it. I didn’t want them to be like all the other kids in town glued to their mobile phones.’