Revisiting My Food Priorities in 2014

Champagne ToastAs I come down from a fast, furious, and enormously rewarding season of cooking and eating I’m particularly focused this new year on my priorities around food and nourishment. Starting a non-profit for food bloggers, working in the food business, and moving into the fast-paced world of a parent of a very active teenager have all, unexpectedly, lead me away from some priorities that have been the center-point of my life for so long now. With the turning of the new year I’m revisiting priorities and setting intentions to realign with those priorities.

Note the excessive use of “re” in the previous sentence doesn’t include the word “resolution” because resolutions come with too much baggage and expectation for my taste. Intentions offer a kinder, gentler approach to priorities and the associated life tweaks that come with them.

Cook More

You’d think that between my day job at Whole Foods Market and my hobby as a food blogger I’d cook all of the time. However, with my newfound role as mom’s Taxi service, with drop-offs as soon as after school and pickups as late as 8:30 or 9:00 at night, cooking has become a real challenge. I’ll admit sometimes I’m just plain tired and unmotivated. Fast food and restaurant fare have become the preponderance of our meals and that’s not okay with me. This directly contrary to all of the work I’ve done to loose unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight, not to mention it doesn’t really support eating food I know is of high quality and well-sourced. WSome of the tactics I’m considering bringing to bear to help me cook more are:

  • Freezer meals. While I don’t think right now that I want to do an entire month’s cooking in one weekend (although the cooking marathon could be loads of fun), I need to use my freezer as more of a resource. I’ve even started a Pinterest board to collect freezer-recipes to get me started.
  • Cook once, eat twice. Sunday’s slow roasted pork shoulder can become pulled pork sandwiches on a busy Tuesday night. With a little extra prep work I can make meatloaf at the same time as I make burgers. And the possibilities of a second roasted chicken are endless.
  • Revisit my expectations. I find myself falling into a trap of wanting every meal I make to be a new experience and an adventure for me in the kitchen. Sometimes a simple dinner of pan-seared chicken with a steamed vegetable and herb-spiked rice is the best possible experience over fast food and I need to remember that more often.

Waste Less

As I was cleaning out my fridges and freezers after Christmas I was simply appalled at how much food I was throwing away. Cutting myself some slack for the overages in food that come with entertaining, I realized that I still throw away much too much food. Several years ago we committed to recycling more and generating less trash and we’ve done a great job – reducing our trash by almost 1/2 and getting smarter about what we can recycle, upcycle, or reuse. I think we can tackle this issue too if we:

  • Buy less. Bulk bins, small packages, and loose produce are one of the first places to start. And when I have to buy a package bigger than I’d like, plan ways to use it twice. Tostada shells can become chips for nachos over the weekend with just a few quick snaps. Slider buns can become breadcrumb topping for a mac and cheese or even a crust on a rack of lamb for a special Sunday dinner.
  • Inventory the fridge and pantry before meal planning each week. Really, those two cans of black beans and enchilada sauce are just waiting to be chili or enciladas if I just remember they are there. Those leftover carrots can go into a stew or a roasting pan. The greek yogurt into a chicken salad or even a smoothie.
  • Freeze more. I’ve read a lot about how to save fresh herbs, stock, and other ingredients we tend to buy in packages bigger than we need. Now it’s time to try some of those techniques.
  • Keep a freezer inventory. The freezer might as well be a black hole for me. I forget what’s there, great labels and organization not withstanding. I’m keeping an updated list of what’s actually in the freezer where it’s easy to see so I can remember I already have a package of chicken thighs before I buy a new one.
  • Grow my own herbs. I’ve tried this before and, well, I always kill every plant I bring into my life. While I’d like to attribute this to a genetic black thumb, I know in reality it’s a priorities issue (funny how things keep coming back to that). I have to make it a priority to water and check in on my plants every day. Just like I check social media or my email. Or maybe instead of one of those digital checkins.
  • Compost. Given that I’m only taking baby steps back to growing things with herbs I am far from having enough confidence (or hubris) to attempt to plant a garden. I do know though that I throw away many scraps that should be compost even if I’m not going to use the compost. Our local farmers market takes kitchen compost so with an extra 15 minutes every other Saturday (another priority to set) for a quick trip to the farmers market compost bin.

Tell More Food Stories

A quick gander at the home page of this blog shows that I more or less stopped blogging in April of 2013. It wasn’t intentional but I prioritized my job, our non-profit, fitness, and other things over blogging. I’m not beating myself up for this – it’s part of the natural cycle of an effort-intense passion – but I do miss it so. As I’ve been thinking about what I miss most about blogging it’s the storytelling. There are so many great food experience in Austin and beyond that I’d love to share. Some ideas I’m currently mulling include:

  • Challenge myself. I’ve been thinking about a post-a-day strategy where I challenge myself to tell a great food story in ~100 characters or less. Maybe I’d focus on a favorite dish/drink/experience at spots around Austin. And the photography would be in the moment (i.e. from my iPhone) to compliment the idea. This is a big undertaking through and frankly a little scary.
  • Reconsider what storytelling means. Should I focus more on a different format? More Instagram or Twitter? A new approach to Pinterest? Consider RebelMouse or Storify and focus on curation? Hyper-focus on food events? One of my favorite things about Austin is food events. What if I make that my true mission for a while?
  • Change platforms. This would be a huge step but I have considered moving away from WordPress to Tumblr for an easier-to-manage and more quick-hit format that might be easier to maintain.

Clearly I don’t have a clear path here so who knows what this storytelling journey will look like. I hope you’ll come along with me though – it will be much more fun.

There’s a saying about best laid plans and another one about the path to hell and good intentions. What really matters of course is action, which brings me back to where I began: priorities. In the coming weeks and months, before life’s next checkpoint the true question will be: did these priorities hold up for me. And if not, why not? And that conversation is just as valuable as all of the rest.

Do you have ideas, recipes, lessons learned, or tips and tricks to help me with my priorities? Please share them in the comments!

2 Comments

  1. On the waste less front, I like using two months of the year to “eat out of the pantry” (usually January and August). That way it takes care of anything lurking in the freezer or forgotten-about packages (right now we have a pack of rice noodles and I don’t remember why I bought them) and the next month you can start fresh and only buy as needed. It works pretty well for us.

    Also, I don’t know where you put your meal plan, but I find posting ours on the fridge helps keep us in line.

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