A plan for not failing

After a number of posts about something I don’t usually talk about (politics and voting systems) I decided it was time to get the blog back on theme (although to be honest there are going to be more posts along those lines. The theme of this blog is, and will remain, whatever I happen to find interesting at the time of writing).

Err. By which I mean this is a post about cooking. Sorry if you were hoping for some programming goodness. There will be some eventually, I promise. Probably about Clay. Or maybe about why Ruby sucks and should be set on fire. We’ll see. But for the moment, on to the plan!

As some of you might know I live with my brother Jamie – I was looking for a flatmate, he was looking for a job, and decided that London would be a better place to find one, so he moved in with me. It’s worked out well.

We do a lot of cooking together, but we noticed that we were being quite rubbish – we were often falling back to really lame meals and a lot of food was getting thrown away. We felt bad about this, and enacted a plan to fix this. It’s extremely simple, and many of you probably already follow it, but has worked very well:

Before we do our weekly shop, we come up with a list of meals for the week. These don’t have to be haute cuisine – they’re stuff which we’re reasonably going to make. We usually try to make sure it contains something interesting (this week we’re experimenting with how to do a vegan pie. We’re not vegan, but occasionally need to feed them, and the recipe concept sounded tasty), but it also contains easy things like pizza or macaroni and cheese.

We don’t plan things out for specific days – it’s just a list. This means that we can pick something off the list appropriate to our energy levels.

We’re also not obligated to actually follow the list: If we can come up with something better on the night (with the ingredients we have to hand) we’re totally welcome to do that. This doesn’t mean we’re allowed to just go “I can’t be fucked to cook properly tonight. Let’s just do pasta”, but it does mean we’re allowed to go “You know, we have all sorts of vegetables that would go well in a stir fry. Let’s do that instead”.

So really the list only has two purposes: It guides us in our shopping, and it gives us a plan in advance so that if we’re lacking in inspiration we can just pick something off the list.

For all of that, it’s worked incredibly well. In particular:

  • Previously we were probably failing to do anything sensible and eating pasta, or bread and hummous or similar for dinner at least once a week if not more. We still do occasionally, but the frequency is probably down to under once a month
  • Previously we were throwing a lot of food away because we didn’t use it in time. This still occasionally happens, but it’s now a rare occurrence.
  • Our weekly shops have become much smaller. Previously we were spending probably somewhere slightly under £70 / week, and now we’re typically somewhere around £40 – £45. This isn’t through any conscious attempt to save money, it’s just something that’s emerged automatically from this plan.

Maybe this is all obvious and you’re all already doing it. It’s certainly not the most ground-breaking idea in the world, but I must admit to being regularly blown away by just how well it’s worked as a strategy.

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One thought on “A plan for not failing

  1. @ndy


    I used to do a similar thing when I was a student. The rationale was that space in the cupboards was tight and I could only manage to carry 2 bags back from the supermarket as I didn’t have a car.

    It worked reasonably well and I managed to shop for a week on about £20 or £30.
    These days I’m lucky if I can get in and out of a supermarket without spending £15 or £20 for just one meals worth of “stuff” and other “odds and ends”. That said, I tend to cook a much larger number of portions these days and take the leftovers for lunches or cook something else another night with them so I guess the money goes as far in the end: it just feels much more ad hoc and I don’t think I like it.

    Some of the best / most interesting things I’ve cooked have been when I’ve looked in the cupboard, decided I need to go to the shops and then discovered that they’re already closed. Then, looking back in the cupboards, I always seem to suddenly find *plenty* of inspiration.

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