Welcome to Guildbrook Farm

We live off the grid in the foothills of Appalachia and share with you all we know (and don’t know) about canning, cooking, critters, gardening, solar, building stuff, living debt free, and the journey to be self-sustainable. Click on a topic and get started!

The EASIEST Way To Meal Plan

The EASIEST Way To Meal Plan

I don’t consider myself a meal planner. Well, at least not in the traditional sense.

I have a 1 year prepper pantry and a kick *#$ deep freezer that allows me to whip up pretty much any meal conceivable without having to go to the store. So rather than coming up with a weekly list of meals and going shopping every week, I usually just flick through Pinterest images or my favorite recipe books while drinking a cup of coffee and see what sounds good each morning. I can then estimate how much time I need to cook and if I need to thaw anything or maybe put something in the Sun Oven, like a tomato sauce. Of course, I get input from the rest of the family as well to make sure we are all on the same page; otherwise I get a lot of “I’m not hungry’s” followed by late night potato chip and ice cream sneaking.

But lately….things have been a bit off.

We have been trying to get our off-grid house build started for what seems like an eternity now (22 months = eternity when you are living in a temporary situation). We started off with a timber-frame plan with SIP walls. But that fell through after realizing no one was willing to deliver or install SIPs in this area. Seems no one knows anything about SIP building in the mountains which translates to no one to do the build. Plus there were complications with attaching porches. Not for us.

Then we decided we would just stick build the house. Seems simple enough, right? It is one of the most common ways to build. Surely we could find someone to frame the house. So we designed house plans for a stick built house, got an engineer to approve our plans (this taking about 7 months on top of the 8 months trying to figure out timber frame) and we started calling around for bids. The response?

*crickets chirping*


No responses.

No one was interested in the build.

Something must be wrong with the plans right? Nope. Turns out everyone is just so backed up building houses right now that they have no interest in taking on another project. They weren’t even interested in putting us on a waiting list. Try calling us again in another year or two.

Not acceptable.

How about a modular? Not ideal because the styles aren’t what we like and on top of that the local installers are poorly rated.

Not how we want to invest our life savings.

How about just getting a turn-key house builder? (because no house builder will put up just a shell…permits and insurance issues and all that).

We priced it.

Then we had a drink…or ten.

Building off grid and trying to do it debt-free is HARD!

When we hit a wall, we are the type of people to figure out a way around it. So back to the drawing board with another house design and we think…

…we THINK…


This is a building style that we initially overlooked due to the fact that it is fairly new (and so we thought it would be hard to get supplies and contractors); but we think we have it worked out. Over the last couple of weeks we have been pricing and lining up contractors and waiting for our plans to be approved by an engineer. So that has been keeping us on our toes.

On top of of the house build, my art business has been steady. Every day I wake up and have a project I am working on.

Then there is chicken chores. And bunny chores. And laundry. And cleaning. And somewhere in there kids need attention also. Oh and the trees need trimmed. And the grass needs mowed. And we built a website.

Plus we are in the dog days of summer and the heat index is well over 100F. Who can think about food in that kind of heat?

Fun times.

Needless to say, I haven’t been inspired to cook. If I had it my way, my idea of summer cooking would be a greek yogurt with granola and fresh fruit.

But unfortunately, the rest of the family finds this unacceptable.

So my idea?


I taped a piece of paper to the fridge with a pen and told everyone to write down the meals they want me to cook:

*Makapu is our nickname for mahi mahi. My 13-yo  hates  it. She gets yogurt.

*Makapu is our nickname for mahi mahi. My 13-yo hates it. She gets yogurt.

So what happens if no one writes down a meal suggestion?

No meal? No cook. Yogurt and no dishes works for me!

I tried this for 2 weeks and so far it has worked brilliantly! Everyone started writing down what they wanted for dinner. I make them in order. Everyone gets a voice and if they don’t like what is up next, they can simply write that they are not going to eat that meal. Like my 13-yo that will eat smoked salmon and tuna sandwiches and yet insists she doesn’t like fish.

No waste.

Everyone is happy.

Win-win for everyone!

Once we get the plans approved from the engineer and we know our house is a “go”…we will let you know what we are building. We are super excited!

Maybe once a couple things settle, then I will get back to my own meal planning. Look for those recipes to come out some time soon.

Frugally Feed a Family with a Half Pound of Grass Fed Beef

Frugally Feed a Family with a Half Pound of Grass Fed Beef