Make: Ordering chaos – project Hanover

My husband and I both work part time on different days. We have two young boys. My husband works the same days each week but different hours. We live 30 minutes from the nearest big shop, 10 minutes from our son’s school, 15 minutes from our other son’s nursery, 30 minutes from my work and 15 minutes from my husband’s work. We share everything from dropping off and picking up the kids, housework, getting up early with the boys, menu planning and food shopping.

We’ve learnt the hard way that with all of the above it’s very easy to fall into a world of chaos. If we don’t plan dinner we eat unhealthy dinner. If we don’t have a shopping list we buy expensive junk food. If we don’t arrange who’s picking up/dropping off the kids mornings are very stressful and shouty.

For an easy life we need to plan, plan, plan

The old system(s):

We had 5 chalkboards painted onto the kitchen wall: one for each working day of the week. Using chalk markers we would write who is picking up and dropping off which child where each day.

On the fridge was another chalk board – this was a shopping list and menu for the week.

The problems:

  • The chalk markers were rubbish on the wall! The texture of the wall and the markers just didn’t go well together and you spent forever trying to write on it. Therefore we never updated it
  • Outside of the house there was no way of knowing the shopping list/menu or who is picking up who

Some solutions:

  • We tried using apps like “Out of Milk” to create and share shopping lists. However a fatal flaw is that there’s no signal in a lot of big shops. Half way through the frozen aisle you lost your shopping list
  • We have seven yes SEVEN google Calendars to keep track of all our timetables: this works well. The apps let you add/remove calendars to help see everything you need to see.


Stage 1: Going online

Stage 1 is a digital online solution to the chalk boards.

I’ve created a PHP and mySQL website that both my husband and I have added as shortcut links to our phones. It contains:

  • A weekly menu you can add and remove meals to

A weekly menu

  • A shopping list

A shopping list


  • And all our Google calendars together in one spot

The menu and the shopping list are very easy to use on mobile phones. You click on an item to add or remove it. The website fits nicely on a mobile screen.

This way if I remember we need toothpaste while at work it will appear on my husband’s shopping list as he shops.

Stage 2: Back to the chalk board

Stage 2 involves painting over the chalk boards and adding a screen that we can navigate the menu/calendar and shopping lists with. But it’s not any normal screen!

It’s this 32×64 RGB LED grid from Adafruit:


The kitchen is our main planning area. The chalkboards, when they were up to date, where in a perfect location to discuss the upcoming week.

Having a monitor and keyboard/mouse in the kitchen would be bulky, impossible to keep away from sticky hands and expensive. An LED RGB screen is just more fun! Arcade buttons will help us navigate through a menu.

Right now I have the grid but no power source for it. Watch this space!

Stage 3: Printing

The final stage will to be to add a printer next to the screen. A small till printer, connected to a raspberry pi with a print button. Once you press the button it will print out the shopping list so you can take it with you, solving the no signal in ASDA problem 🙂


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