Hello and Welcome!
In the first day of our Waste-Free Kitchen course, we talk about food planning. But before you dismiss this email as another tedious read on the subject, allow us just a minute to explain that food planning is not what you have come to think it is.
Food planning is not the boring and incongruous act of planning 3 meals per day for 7 days for n members of your household, who may or may not have special dietary needs or food preferences. Surely, you’ve seen those print-out tables (like the one on the right) ready for you to fill out every Sunday evening, ideally with your whole family involved, so everybody has a say. We wonder what you think of them, but to us, they are a recipe for failure and family frustration.
We’ve been told over and over again that food planning is the vital first step to a waste-free kitchen. But planning food in this traditional way is not only unsubstantial but has become a key driver of food waste in many modern households.
This way was perfect when life was slow and predictable, and the family member had no other choice or obligations other than to eat their meals together at home.
But this is just not something that happens anymore. Due to the busy and unpredictable schedules that take a huge time and energy toll on us, we end up buying more than we can prepare, preparing more than we are able to eat, and throwing away way more than we have anticipated throughout the whole process.
So what we need to do is to rethink our approach to food planning. We need an approach that actually works for us and fits into our busy schedules, unpredictable change of plans and our fluctuation in cooking energy and enthusiasm.
We would go as far as give a different name to this process. How about daily Food Updating or daily Food Adjustments?
How does it work?
By making a realistic assessment of how our typical week looks like.
Answer the following questions in your mind as you read along:
- Can we predict the number of family dinners we will be able to have at home this week?
- Are we positively sure either we or our partner will not have to attend an ad hoc dinner event over the next 5 days?
- Is there an upcoming family or friends gathering that has currently slipped our minds?
- Are we certain that we will have the energy to cook on Wednesday when the next meal preparation is planned?
- Can we be sure one of the kids won’t get sick and have no appetite?
If you’ve given more than 2 honest “NO” answers, it is not a cause for self-flagellation, but for a mature admission that planning ahead is not a good fit for your family lifestyle. It is not a cause for despair but an invitation to try a different approach.
Imagine it is Monday afternoon and you at the office. Nobody has called to notify about other plans, so by now, you are pretty sure you will all be eating dinner at home tonight. What to do next? Go through the food you already have at home to see what’s available in terms of ingredients, cooked meals and leftovers. Ah, but you are not at home; you are in the office.
No worry, our CozZo app gives you a precise, real-time snapshot of your home fridge and pantry. Let’s say you have some eggs, some tomatoes, some parmesan and enough pasta for 4 servings. You also have some chicken breasts that are approaching their expiry date, for which you got a strict reminder and a red flag from the CozZo app, that they need your attention today.
Poultry meat is a highly perishable food. You bought the breasts last Friday with the idea to make chicken curry over the weekend, but you forgot about this family gathering at your in-laws, which cancelled your Indian fiesta plans.
Now you almost forgot about the breasts. You are thinking about a simple pasta, but now you may quickly google a pasta and chicken breast recipe. It says broccoli and sour cream. You just add those two items to your CozZo app to buy list, and head for the store after work to catch up on just those two items. Fast, easy and efficient.
You’ve made use of what you have and did not buy any excess food for tonight. Even though your initial plan for chicken curry was offset, you can adequately adjust it by making a smart inventory update and buying only what you need.
Now imagine it is Tuesday. Your partner is attending a business event and won’t be home for dinner, so it is just you and the kids. You have some leftover chicken pasta from last night, but it won’t spread to 3 serves to feed you all. But checking the CozZo app, you are reminded that you have 6 eggs and still some parmesan. You get a gentle green reminder that the tomatoes are starting to lose their flavour but are save to eat.
If you use the chicken pasta as a base for a delicious tomato frittata, you will not need to make a trip to the grocery tonight. With this knowledge at your hands, you head straight home after work, for a quick fix for dinner.
So that is our take on food planning – simple, straightforward, and most of all, accommodating your lifestyle and schedule not fighting with or against it.
Don’t worry about big weekly plans, just keep in mind the small daily adjustments.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Start Keeping an Inventory of Your Pantry