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Monday, August 20, 2018

Bumps in the transition from one cook to many cooks

When there was just one person in the home procuring, managing, and cooking all of the food, staying on top of all of the supplies was fairly straightforward. I knew what I had prepared, what was leftover, and what needed using up. Now, we have multiple cooks in the house, but still one person doing the procuring and managing of supplies. It's not readily known by the rest of the crew what we have in abundance or what needs using ASAP. Asking me what they can use is a regular occurrence. Not that this is bad, but it does put me in the position of saying, "don't use that" or "I'm saving that." Those kinds of statements make me sound like an ogre, when in fact all I'm really doing is trying to manage our stock until the next month rolls around, so that we can all enjoy the foods in the house.

My solution has been to create a weekly list of what we have in abundance and should be used. It's a simple list, kept on the refrigerator. I preface the list with a statement reflecting that the first items in each category are ones that should be used first. I also indicate that not everything is in ready-to-use condition, and may need harvesting. This week, in produce we have apples that need using, and in protein sources, we have lots of eggs. I've also included items that are saved for specific recipes, so those won't be used indiscriminately. Hopefully, this makes me seem less like an ogre about food.

My list focuses on produce and protein sources, as those are the items most frequently asked about. The produce is significant because we have items that won't keep terribly long. And the protein is asked about because it is not self-evident. Meat/eggs may be stored in the freezer, the fridge, or even pantry (canned meat). To complicate matters more, we have 3 freezers, 2 refrigerators, and multiple cabinets in the kitchen, along with 2 pantries. Everyone seems to figure out the grains and dairy products on their own. The bonus to making this list is the act of reading the list, by the cook on duty, stimulates thoughts on what to make. Since sometimes food is just food, reading a list that says we need to use eggs, zucchini, and apples may make a cook whose feeling less-than-inspired to simply scramble some eggs, steam zucchini, chop apples, and serve with bread. Just food, but it gets the job done.

We're seeing the financial benefit, as well, and wasting less fresh produce, which is super important right now as the garden is in high production. Just thought I'd share what is working for us.


  1. Wow! That can really be a problem! There still really is one person who knows everything about all that produce/proteins and other food and that generally is the one who buys the food. Sounds like the system works for you.

    I still really am the only cook in the house. They eat what I make and no questions asked. We just have three most of the time and we all get home nearly the same time so I just get the meals together.

    But I'm making headway in my freezer. But it's filling with veggie goodness from dad's garden. I also was gifted with a lot of tomatoes from a neighbor.


    1. Congratulations on the produce blessings, Alice. It takes some planning and prioritizing to make use of that abundance, but it's sure a boon nutritionally, financially, and in variety. :)
      Our new neighbors just gave us some lovely yellow crookneck squash, with an open invitation to ask for more anytime (or even squash blossoms to cook, because she thought that I was the friend who said I did that.)
      Take care-- Sara

    2. Hi Alice,
      for many years, our household was just like yours in that everyone simply ate whatever I served. I think they were grateful they didn't have to forage for themselves, and that kept them satisfied with whatever I served.
      Good luck with the freezer!

  2. Lili--

    As Alice said, it's always tricky when someone besides the shopper is in charge of the household inventory (just like when the cook is not the shopper, as we have generally here these days), but this seems like a wonderful solution! It's like marking canned and bottled food with the date you bought it, or marking the date on things you freeze. But you can't take a Sharpie pen to your apples, so here you have a one-stop freshness and inventory reference. I'm glad it's helping!

    I used to put a listing of home-made convenience foods and bulk meat from hunting on the door of our inside freezer, with a pencil on a long string of yarn to mark off what we used to keep it current. It worked well to remind us what was available, and to remember to use up the last lonely package or two of things. If you couldn't see it, you at least knew to hunt for it. :)

    Hope your day-cation was wonderful! We like to do that, too. :) Hugs-- Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Oh, I can imagine the difficulties that would present, with your hubby picking up groceries, but you're doing the cooking. Good communication is key, I am sure.
      What a good idea for the list of homemade convenience foods. I need to do a thorough inventory of our freezers, so that I don't keep buying items that I have a good stock of. Great idea!

  3. That is a terrific solution to the problem, Lili. :)

    1. Thank you, Belinda. It seems to be working for everyone (myself included).

  4. It seems to be human nature to not read signs. At least that's what I've observed both at work and at home. Do you have to remind your family to study the list?

    We have two people cooking in this house and three people buying groceries and there can be a problem sometimes with food waste. That usually comes from my husband having big plans for something he buys (i.e. 5 lbs of broccoli at once) or my son trying to cook a lot on his days off and not getting it in the freezer on time. I am helping him with this and he's learning. Occasionally, I make lists like yours, but talking together usually works.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Oh, I know. It's kind of funny that we can walk right past signs and not notice them. This list seems to be working, perhaps because it's right there where we go to look for food. At the very least, if anyone were to skip reading the sign, and ask me what to use, I'd be able to tell them to just read the sign, and not have to think through what we have that needs using.
      Your system with your household seems to be working well. That's great!

  5. Love this idea! So far, with hubby and me cooking, we seem to do okay, but once the kids are cooking more regularly I can see where I will run into problems.

    I find it hard to keep up with garden/farm market produce that my husband grows/buys at this time of year. Right now we are drowning in zucchini and tomatoes. I'll make chocolate zucchini cake for my son's b-day party this week and plan on BLTs and cheeseburger pie (with tomatoes on top) which should use up a lot of the extras. Whew.

    1. Hi Kris,
      It is a lot simpler when there are just one or two cooks. It began to feel a little crazy here with four of us participating in the cooking.
      Oh, I love chocolate zucchini cake. That will be a most delicious birthday cake! Happy birthday to your son. How old will he be? I'm thinking he's getting near driving age. Yikes!

    2. 15, and yes, we've been practicing driving in parking lots. Probably will start driver's ed in October.


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