Thursday, January 09, 2014

Making It: Outsourcing Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning

Growing up we'd gather around our dining room or occasionally set up folding trays to watch a favorite TV show. Most meals were prepared by mom. How she found time to grocery shop, menu plan, chauffeur us, help with homework, develop and teach lessons to support our education, cook, clean, and more is a mystery to me. When I got married and had Gates, I wanted to gather our family nightly like my mom. I can, but, I need help.
Garlic Shrimp Dinner from Plated
Enter Plated. Plated's pitch is gourmet recipes, made with the freshest, ready-to-cook ingredients delivered to your door. And, unlike other similar services, Plated accommodates allergies. But, Plated feels a little like cheating. Sure we pick out the two meals we're going to make together (I have a family goal of 52 weeks of one home cooked meal a week), and cubes and I cook the meal together. But, it's not the same as getting a seasonal CSA and flipping through cookbooks for inspiration on what to do with the bounty.
What tasks have you delegated?
Plated: Ingredients for Garlic Shrimp Dinner
So, why is the ability to cook meals from scratch that I can eat important to me? Because it's a degree of normalcy in an uncertain world. There's something about carrying on traditions that my parents had. And that cubes and I had before we became parents. Parenting is scary; lives as you know them change, are gone, the minute you have a child. There's nothing wrong with that but when you add an unplanned medical emergency as well, a little normalcy gives you confidence that you'll make it through your current setback.
Dining In: Homemade Chicken and Vegetable Ramen
Plated's recipes do turn out like the provided recipe cards--consistently. They encourage subscribers to share and tag their dinners #platedpics (link to #platedpics Statigram gallery). Their estimated prep and cooking times though could use work. Our first four plates estimated we'd have dinner on our table within 30 to 40 minutes. With both cubes and I prepping vegetables and making the meal we saw prep and cook times averaging just over an hour.
In terms of delivery, for us, Plated is and isn't convenient. FedEx, rather than local messengers, deliver your boxes, which means you're stuck in the house all day until FedEx arrives. (We don't live in a managed apartment building and we don't have a safe place where FedEx can leave our delivery.)
Plated does meet two of my reasons for setting a goal of at least one home cooked meal a week: time spent with cubes and a somewhat healthier alternative to take out or delivery (the ramen bricks in this week's plate don't seem all that healthy with the amount of sodium).

A New Series for 2014

This is the first in an ongoing series, Making It. Making It is a new series for 2014 borne from a discussion cubes and I had about a commonly heard mantra, "Fake it til you make it" (link to Instagram photo). (The #MondayMaxim was my motivation for how I was going to get through having cubes in the hospital and Gates away at my parents house for an indeterminate period of time.) cubes argued there is no such thing as faking it.
"[Th]ere were parts of the ride I missed,
because I was too worried about things going wrong,
about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on.
That was the hardest lesson for me, I think:
to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride
takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places." - Neil Gaimon

Thinking about how Neil Gaiman and Mike McCue of Flipboard had both talked about enjoying the ride (Neil Gaiman's Keynote Address at The University of Arts (Philadelphia) Commencement) and the journey being the reward (Closing Keynote at Alt Summit SF), I had to agree with cubes. So, I decided to share tips for making it; tips that I'd previously categorized as what I'm doing to fake it until I make it.
Now realize that these tips are more than a front I put on to face the world. They're a peek into how I think; how, when it feels like forward progress is beyond my reach, I keep going. I hope you like these behind the scenes tidbits. (A little confession because we're friends: these posts scare me to death to publish. I hate being vulnerable, but I think as a blogger I have a responsibility to tell a story I don't see others telling that would benefit others. Please be gentle.)
Bon Appetit!
P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
Disclosure: Using a Facebook coupon, I received my first two meals (four plates) from Plated for free; I just paid for shipping and handling. I liked our first two meals and signed up for the service. We've been participating now as paid subscribers for three weeks. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by Plated.