This past year, our monthly budget decreased rather rapidly due to a job loss…
I also chose to stay home with my kids rather than find work outside the home, so it was fine time to fine-tune my skills in building a healthy stockpile through using coupons and gardening and then using my stockpile to plan meals for my family. I started out last November with a chest freezer FULL of food: 12-15 pork roasts, 4 whole chickens, 1/8 of a grass fed cow, stacks of frozen zucchini, garden corn, apple pie filling, peaches, elderberries, freezer jam, coffee, Steamfresh veggie packs, juice, and more. My pantry had a healthy supply of whole grain pasta and cereal, baking supplies, spaghetti sauce, canned green beans from my garden, homemade applesauce and apple butter, canned pinto beans, and snacks for the kids.
And now, this is what my freezer looks like:
My initial reaction when I see this is to panic. It’s nearly empty! But then, I realize that I did what any couponer should do with a stockpile: use it to feed my family. And for the most part, I was able to feed them for under $300 a month because of it.
Want to know one reason I was able to do this?
One of the tools that I like to use when planning meals from my pantry is a menu chalkboard. This has been instrumental in helping me plan ahead and use the items I already have on hand. Instead of asking myself, “What should I cook for dinner tonight?” and then going to the store, I was able to say, “We are having pork roast for dinner tonight. I’ll get the roast out to thaw.” And that roast, regularly priced at $10.99 at Albertsons cost me only $3.50 when I bought it on sale and used coupons about 5 months earlier. So, I wanted to show you how you could make this menu board for your family to help you plan ahead.
Step 1: Choose your wood
I chose to use plywood because I had it laying around the house. I cut it to the size I wanted with our table saw. If you aren’t into power tools, you can often times find a precut piece of wood at a local lumber store. You could also use something unique like an antique wooded ironing board or something…whatever you have on hand that you don’t mind painting and that will fit your weekly menu on.
Step 2: Prepare your surface
My plywood was great because we had it on hand and it was free, but plywood is not very smooth, which is exactly what I needed my menu board to be (in order to write on it with chalk). So, I slathered it with some wood putty, waited for it to dry and then sanded it down until the surface was smooth.
Step 3: Paint
I painted a double coat of chalkboard paint on the wood and let it dry.
Step 4: Plan the wording.
I wrote out what I wanted my menu board to say, which was “Eat at Mom’s” and the days of the week, using a ruler for spacing and straight lines and a piece of chalk.
Step 5: Paint the wording
Because I am a custom sign painter on the side, I simply used an artist’s paint brush and painted my words over the chalk. Then I waited for the paint to dry and wiped away the chalk with a wet washcloth. However, if paint isn’t your media of choice but you have nice handwriting, you can find paint pens at your local craft store. They are easy to use and have bright colors. Or, if freehand just isn’t your expertise, you could use cute alphabet stickers from the Dollar Tree or your local craft store.
Step 6: Build the border (optional)
We built a wooden border for our menu board using spare trim molding and our chop saw and pin nailer, but this is totally optional. If you were to do a menu board without the border (and in vertical fashion instead of horizontal), it might look a little like this:
Step 7: Plan your menu
Assess your pantry and freezer, and plan your meals around what you have on hand. Allow for some flexibility, especially if you have small kids who are picky eaters, but use your new menu board as a guide to helping you plan ahead, stick to the plan, and save money on your groceries. Happy planning!