Six o’clock train out of Grump-ville

Rage. I have it. I have it over rain when it is coming at me sideways, over the fact that in the first three hours of 2012 CEO’s made the annual wage of the average worker, over commercials that come on WAY LOUDER than the rest of the show, and over Reddit for making my husband chortle out in laughter for hours while I’m trying to write a post.

Also on this list is making dinner (yeah it doesn’t take much). Or rather, figuring out what to make for dinner because we can’t seem to be able to plan ahead. And because I always get home from work before John I am faced with the consequences of our laziness.

The ‘meal planning’ starts once I head out with Cassie for her walk. Step one: mentally tally up the contents of the fridge. Usually it is some combination of the following: wilting chard, a few peppers, olives, a questionable bag of mushrooms, a few sweet potatoes and onions, plain yogurt, pasta sauce, and a block of cheddar. Oh and a pile of tofu blocks. No easy meal idea jumps out at me, at least not one that we didn’t already make yesterday and the day before.

Step two: phone John to ask for ideas, not because I think he’ll actually have any (he doesn’t possess the ability to keep a mental tally of the contents of the fridge*) but rather to make clear how burdened I am by having to think about this to the only person who might give a crap. And I should point out that by this time I am usually headachy and one dumb suggestion away from complete grumpiness. Invariably John suggests a stir-fry. And that my friends, is the one-way ticket to Grump-ville, decorated today with shit-coloured balloons! (i.e. Cassie eating goose-poop at the park while I run and scream at her to stop.)

We have tried to meal plan. We’ve tried doing it very casually by scribbling a few ideas down just when we’re about to head out shopping, but sooner or later it falls apart. We’ve tried the hyper-organized spreadsheet approach. That truly was an honest effort, including compiling a list of our favourite dinners so we could just pick a bunch for the week and have a plan ready to go. It really seemed like it was going to work.

We managed it ONCE.

Then this December I heard about the Six O’Clock Scramble on the Unclutterer blog.

It’s a very simple idea really: a service that tells you what to eat for dinner. Seems TOO simple really but somehow we can’t manage this ourselves.

For a small subscription fee, they send you five recipes each week (usually 30 minutes or less to prepare), including a shopping list categorized by grocery store section. If the chosen recipes don’t suit you – for example, we want only vegetarian and fish options – you just swap them out for something else from their searchable recipe database and update the shopping list. Luckily the recipes are pretty healthy and vegetarian-friendly already, though I wish you could also add your own (maybe you can, haven’t played with it too much yet).

After some recent, extra potent rage on my part, we decided to splurge the $21 to give this service a try for a few months (cheaper than marriage counselling!). To complete the food-planning make-over, we also cancelled our subscription to the organic produce delivery service we were using** and vowed to grocery shop like normal people.

Tonight we made our first shopping run – to nearby Granville Island Market for fish and produce and the grocery store for the rest – with great success. Having a list in our hands that we knew was complete was wonderful for my clouded-by-the-day brain. The meal we made – fish with butternut squash and couscous – was a bit more involved than our usual weekday fare but still pretty quick (about 40 mins total – but 15 of that was waiting for the oven to pre-heat) and leaps more creative. And from this single recipe we already got some good cooking ideas for future meals.

I’m hopeful this meal-planning trial might actually work. And at the very least, it’s nice to be excited about food again.

*The gene that enables a person to do this is believed to reside on the X-chromosome, next to the skill that enables one to keep their farts in until they are somewhere private. Due to the presence of two X-chromosomes, women are far more likely to possess these skills. [Disclaimer: the author is not responsible for the scientific accuracy of statements presented.]

**This is a service for getting local and organic produce delivered to your door year-round. We have been getting a portion of our produce from them for the past 3 years. Some of the items understandably cost more than at the grocery store, but every time I started doubting if this was a good use of money I reminded myself of the importance of voting with my dollar. And paying fair prices for quality food is something I STRONGLY believe in. But we’ve started to realize that other local produce options are available to us and we don’t need this particular service to make our money count in the right places. Instead, we are going to buy produce from the nearby market in winter and at farmer’s markets in the summer, and hopefully waste less food (and money) in the process.

Images from we heart it.

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Posted on January 3, 2012, in Health, Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. This sounds incredible. I know it’s new to you but when you look at the recipes do they strike you as being do-able? And are there separate categories for cooking skills i.e. beginners, intermediate and advanced?

    • From looking over the ones we got this week, definitely doable. They are really meant to be fairly simple family dinners and actually the recipe has a section for “jobs to delegate” so you could get your kids to help (you know, if you’re into that procreating thing). The recipe we made felt a bit more involved because it contained a few different parts you had to juggle, but each thing was super simple. For example, we would normally bake squash in the oven and it would take forever. But they tell you just steam it in the microwave – way easier!

  2. It has often boggled my mind that my partner lacks the ability to do either of the things mentioned in your postscript#1, but now it makes perfect sense to me :)

  3. that sounds genius! I hate grocery shopping sooo much, it would be nice if someone just told me what to buy. I’ve noticed I alternate between “things that go in the freezer” purchases and produce. Should probably focus more on the produce, since you know, the freezer things are burritos.

  4. That sounds like a good service. I enjoy cooking, it calms me down after I come home tired, and I do manage to try different things every now and then, though of course more often than not I repeat stuff. We usually get a bunch of vegetables (eggplant, squash, tomates, paprika, broccoli, leek, some cheese, and biologicalchicken or meat (no fish at all) for only 1 day per week. May I suggest Jamie Oliver’s “Ministry of Food” , it is all about making easy, versatile , quick dishes, and his books are always so pretty and full of ideas…

    • I actually enjoy cooking too, and I’m hoping to enjoy it more once I take the effort of thinking about it out. I spend all day thinking, when I get home I need to do.

  5. Looks like an interesting site! I used to be really bad and shop pretty much every night when I got home for what I was going to make for dinner – baaaaaad- and so much waste. When Nic and I started living together, in order to make shopping once a week a doable thing, we began to write ‘weekly menus’ on the fridge. It’s at the point now where we take into account leftovers and how to re-use them, when we need to use fish by if we buy it on saturday (can’t wait till friday cos it’ll be gross), and what the weather is planned to be (let’s not have the oven on for an hour if it’s going to be 38 degrees like it was last week). It seems to work for us, particularly since everything we plan to have is so -visible-. Makes sure we’ve got a variety, and reminds us if we need to try something new because we’re doing the same things over and over. We’re always in need of new, easy, healthy ideas, though!

    • THIS. This is what we should be able to do! Just be smart and practical and get into a good groove of knowing what you need to buy to keep you going, with the flexibility to add in some new meals when you crave them. Alas, we are failures in this simple task. Don’t take this brilliance you possess for granted – I demand that you toast yourself tonight with some wine in congratulations!

  6. Maybe you should try drawing and writing on your fridge? Maybe it’ll be a bit more visible then? Unless you have one of those fancy chrome fridges (or, y’know, not a free hand-me-down fridge like ours that doesn’t really mind getting green dry-erase stains all over the freezer door).
    I won’t turn down the wine, though!!!

  7. We do fairly well with dinner — and actually beau is the one who drives the planning and does 90% of the cooking, which means perhaps he has a particularly potent single X chromosome? — but we also fall into a pattern of making the same meals every week. Which is why this meal-planning service is fascinating me. I love how you can customize it for certain diet types. I don’t know, Nina, you may have just talked me into this….

    • I think you got yourself a keeper there! And does he also not whine about it incessantly? Cause I’m pretty sure that’s the secret ingredient in my cooking. Other people swear by love but I’m sticking with whining.

      I’ll let you know how it goes after a few weeks – so far so good but it’s been, umm, 3 days.

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