Kitchen kaizen

Wednesday turns out to be the perfect day for catching up and practicing relentless improvement. It breaks up the work week into manageable chunks. You have the experience from the first two days, and you have the energy to improve the next two days. I think I’ll make Wednesdays my catch-up-and-kaizen day.

Last Wednesday, I decided to invest time in figuring out how I can get closer to saving time and money through cooking once a month. We’ve comfortably settled into a routine of cooking once a week, which saves us a lot of time and lets us focus during weekdays. What would it take to cook for two weeks, freeing up a weekend? What would it take to prepare for longer?

I emptied our chest freezer and the freezer drawers of our fridge. Then I inventoried the contents, discovering useful things along the way. (It turns out we have three packages of frozen okra, and three and a half packages of frozen shrimp.) I measured the internal dimensions of the different spaces and drew diagrams.

After I put the frozen items back, I reorganized them on paper, and then moved things around to match our new organizational scheme. Packed lunches and large containers go into the chest freezer to take advantage of its regular shape. Breakfasts, desserts (lots of frozen home-made tarts!), bones for stock, and small packages of ingredients go into the freezer drawers because that freezer is easier to search.

I picked up 16 Rubbermaid Take-away containers (in addition to the eight we already had). Standardizing on one storage system is important because it means not having to look for the correct lid. We still have a lot of different storage systems, but I plan to simplify that soon. I also picked up Ziploc zipper freezer bags, which I can use to freeze large portions of soups, sauces, and other things.

I estimate that I can fill the chest freezer to capacity with up to 52 of the Take-away containers, which can be used for individual lunch portions. If I want to further conserve space, I can also freeze larger portions (without rice, for example), cook fresh rice as needed, and assemble the lunches or dinners during the week.

I’m also planning to make cheesecake tarts, lemon tarts, and other varieties, so that I can throw them into our new frozen-desserts drawer and we can enjoy them any time. I may also pick up a bunch of different kinds of apples and make this Saturday an apple-tart-tasting party, as many people have not likely thought about the differences between the apple varieties. It’s hard to compare when you eat them on separate occasions, but I can give people the opportunity to sample many different kinds of apples. <laugh>

Next steps:

  • Clear freezer by using up the bulk ingredients
  • Collect bulk cooking recipes
  • Make meal plan and shopping list
  • Experiment with online grocery delivery
  • Try cooking for two weeks

I think about relentless improvement, even for the little things in life. Figuring out the little things in life frees me up to work on the big things.