Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I really enjoy cooking. I enjoy the creativity, the experimentation and trying new foods. I HATE the planning, list making & shopping.

Is there any service or "technique" for avoiding everything leading up to the work in the kitchen?

share|improve this question
1  
You could go to work as a line cook in a restaurant. Then you'd have minimal responsibility for ordering and lots for prepping and cooking. Depending on the place, there may or may not be room for the creativity aspect. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Aug 8 '11 at 17:25

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Depending on where you live, there is a pretty simple approach you can try. In the next few days, head out to places that specialize in particular kinds of foods and in making them appeal to you. A farmer's market, a butcher's, a cheese shop, a bakery, etc. Chat with the staff and buy whatever speaks to you in the store. When you come home, make whatever meals you feel inspired to make according to what you've bought. Be creative and impulsive and seasonal. Keep doing that until one day you notice there isn't any food, and either go out and shop or eat something canned and go to shop the next day.

In probably a week's time, one of two things will happen. Either you will be feeling free, creative, inspired etc and so happy you are doing things this new way, or you will have thrown out a lot of expensive food that spoiled before you could use it, and be feeling very stressed and unhappy at 4 or 5 pm each day because you have to figure out what to make. If it's the former, mission accomplished. If it's the latter, you now have your motivation for the planning and the list making, and should find it more pleasant since you know its purpose and what it is saving you from. Either way, the "I hate having to plan my meals" feeling should diminish drastically.

share|improve this answer
1  
Like Kate said, just go out and buy stuff. Just be careful of your budget and buy less then you feel tempted to. –  BaffledCook Aug 7 '11 at 16:19
1  
@BaffledCook: Of course, if you use store prices to help decide what to buy, you'll often spend less than you do when buying everything that's needed for pre-chosen recipes. –  Jefromi Aug 7 '11 at 20:18
    
In addition to shopping for stuff that's appealing, come up with a standard "order" that you shop for without thinking about. Restaurants do this with a standing order, for the staples that always make a kitchen better: canned tomatoes, pastas, rice, bases, spices, etc. –  Bruce Alderson Aug 10 '11 at 20:30

This might not be an option for you, but if it is then it could be brilliant for you: Join a local farmer's co-op... We have one close to us: http://www.localharvest.org/black-hog-farm-M41490

The genius of Black Hog is that they drop the freshest ingredients of the season on your door and then you get to just be creative with them!

share|improve this answer

I usually only "plan" for big parties, and even that planning is driven mostly by knowing what will be in season when I go shopping. For the average weeknight meal, I don't make shopping lists except to the extent that I know I'm missing something I want to have that evening. If you're an urban dweller, and a passable cook, you don't need to plan so much as you need to make frequent, smaller shopping trips and have enough of a foundation in technique to be able to adapt to what's good.

Here are things that can reduce the burden of planning and list-making:

  1. Have a well stocked pantry of staple foods and seasonings. Your staples may be different from mine, but I consider rice, flour, pasta, beans and lentils (dried and, for those times when I didn't have the foresight to soak, canned), canned tomatoes, oils, a few dried Japanese ingredients for making soup stocks, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and various spices essential. I'm not incapacitated without them, but I'll be able to improvise a lot more if my "usuals" are at the ready.
  2. Make use of what's already in your refrigerator. I usually have at least a few kinds of cheese, plenty of butter, and various pickled and marinated vegetables.
  3. Remember what you have when you do incremental shopping, and recognize opportunities for pairing anything you're buying today with things you still have a supply of.
  4. Stop taking every line of a cookbook recipe as gospel. Learn to recognize the purpose an ingredient in your recipe serves (adds acid/fat/protein/bitterness/aroma) and think of other alternatives that are compatible, even if the result isn't the exact same dish. You won't need to make as many lists if you're making your food instead of the cookbook's food.

I don't personally hate the "shopping" part, unless I end up shopping at peak hours with frantic customers and crazy lines, but if you just can't stomach the idea of frequent 15 minute shopping trips instead of a weekly binge buying session, consider joining a CSA. You'll certainly need to figure out how to deal with unexpected and unfamiliar ingredients, but you'll be able to reduce your shopping to just the pantry and refrigerator essentials. In my area, online shopping for groceries is available through Amazon, but as far as I'm concerned, it's far less tedious to just go on targeted missions to the supermarket than it is to search and click for everything I want.

share|improve this answer

I skip the planning, that usually turns the shopping into a quest for some ingredient that is not stocked in whatever shop you go to. Instead I start with the shopping and just go look see what's fresh or what's appetising. Buy that then the cooking becomes an adventure of how do I cook what I bought; Much more fun than how do I buy what I want to cook.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.