Cooking experiments

I mentioned in a previous post that I was taking steps to improve my health, and one of those steps is to eat a more varied diet based on home cooked meals made from scratch rather than relying on preprepared convenience food.

I have always had trouble with deciding what to make for dinner, and have a tendency to stick to a small selection of very similar meals using a small range of ingredients that I feel comfortable cooking. Although I really like the meals, it’s not very balanced and it gets a bit repetitive. I have a couple of recipe books and some recipes I have collected from the internet to try out, but there never seemed to be a convenient time to dig them out and try something new. We were in a routine of getting the usual ingredients from the grocery store and trying something new would require a lot of effort and a change to the routine.

So I made a change to our routine.

I have collected the all my recipes together into a recipe management tool on my computer (krecipes). This allows me to store my recipes in one easy place, select the ones I wish to use and generate a shopping list, excluding items I already have in my cupboard. I also set up a spreadsheet linking each meal to its ingredients, and giving each ingredient a score based on the length of time since it was last used. This gives me a score for each meal in my list, the higher the score, the more ingredients that meal contains that I haven’t used in a while. Each day I check my spreadsheet and use my recipe manager to generate a grocery list for the meals (lunch and dinner) with the highest score, mark which ingredients I’ll be using for those recipes, and send a grocery list to my other half who happens to pass a grocery store on his way home from work.

This shakeup to our routine has been very beneficial in many ways. We have broken away from our standard meals and stopped buying so much convenience food. We are eating a variety of meals using a wide range of fresh ingredients. We are trying new foods that we would never have considered buying before, including asparagus, avocado, tabbouleh and barley. I am really enjoying cooking different things each day rather than the same old thing day in day out. We are saving fuel making extra trips to the store that he passes every day anyway. My children are learning about new and different foods that they may not have come across otherwise. Food has become interesting again.

The recipe manager and spreadsheet combination is a little bit clunky and time consuming to use, but the concept of the system is working well for us. Those who know me know how much I love having complex systems for managing day to day things. I hope at some point to create a more simple way of doing the same thing, possibly as a website based application, but my web guy is already overworked, especially now he has to pick up groceries on his way home from work every day, so that may be a long way in the future.

Today I am having rice noodles with chili vegetable sauce for lunch, and I will be making mushroom barley soup with whole grain bread for dinner. If anyone has any tasty vegan recipes, please pass them along!

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