There are 3 basic kitchen lessons I learned from my mother; plan, variety, and moderation. While we were celebrating her 95th birthday last week it occurred to me that her kitchen lessons are something I have integrated into the connected meal system for TimeChop, our new mobile app.
What is TimeChop?
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you know that we have been busy creating a solution for solo/duo cooks to eat healthy meals. It all started over a family dinner conversation six months ago with our two college-age boys (young men). It occurred to us that there is a need for an app that can help the solo cook plan, shop for and prepare healthy meals (using real ingredients). With overweight and obesity rates at epidemic levels in the US, we were excited in the possibility that we could help so many people to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Back to Mom and Her Kitchen Lessons
Over the past 6 months while my husband worked on the business end of developing the app and the boys helped us with user experience ideas, research, and surveys, I put these 3 kitchen lessons into practice as I created 6 Connected Meal Options built from 84 recipes.
1. Make a Plan
Mom always knew what was for dinner. She shopped once a week and used everything she bought. Letting food spoil in the fridge and then having to throw it out was not a consideration. As a child of the great depression, there are some things that you just don’t forget. As she grew older and married, she ran her household like a wise business person, getting the most out of every dollar spent.
I’m not new to menu planning. In a post on Vitality in Focus, 6 Reasons Why I Create a Weekly Dinner Menu, I explain why planning a week’s worth of dinners is important.
2. Build In Variety
Secondly, Mom’s frugal nature didn’t mean we ate the same thing, over and over again. She was always trying new recipes and wanting to make our meals special. We ate a variety of foods and didn’t have the same weekly rotation of meat and potato standards.
Following her example, I’ve learned to experiment with new ingredients, reinvent leftovers and incorporate variety through flavor, texture and color. For optimal health, eating a variety of whole foods within each food group will ensure that you get all the nutrients your body needs.
3. Use Moderation
Thirdly, “everything in moderation” has been a motto for my mother. It has served her well over 95 years without any major health concerns.
So, with the exception of allergens and intolerances and eliminating as much processed and artificial “food-like substances” (Michael Pollan) we should be able to eat everything else in moderation.
I don’t adhere to a specific diet; I include meat in some meals, but not all. There’s gluten in some of the whole grains and non-gluten options as well. I use real ingredients in my recipes which makes customizing to personal tastes and requirements easy. There are no hidden ingredients. I wrote a post in March about my passion and experience with cooking and eating real foods.
Using real foods has other benefits as well. I don’t need to examine labels, saving me time in the store. Additionally, real foods let me tailor my cooking. It’s easy to remove onions, garlic, or mushrooms if a guest has a sensitivity. This isn’t so easy when a recipe relies on something that comes in a box with a long list of confusing ingredients.
When we looked at the obstacles confronting solo/duo cooks to eating healthy meals, three issues emerged; time, money and cooking knowledge. We designed the connected meal system to conquer all three. My mom would spend hours planning the week and going through recipes. Today, with thousands of individual dish recipes at our fingertips, it can still take hours, especially when you are trying to put complete meals together.
So, to save time, I focused on simplifying. I created recipes for complete meals, not just an individual dish. This eliminates the time required by our users, to wade through and combine recipes. Secondly, since we are focused on helping people eat healthy meals, I focused solely on building recipes based on a variety of real, unprocessed ingredients, much like my Mother did.
The result: TimeChop enables the user to create a weekly meal plan in 5 minutes. It also creates an automated shopping list to speed your way through the grocery store.
In addition to saving time in the planning stage, our research showed there were time saving opportunities in the prepping and cooking stages too. But solving this puzzle required thinking very differently.
There are currently a few techniques that people use to reduce time in the prepping and cooking stages, but each has their drawbacks.
One method is to simplify your meals or use processed ingredients. This is the current model for many 30 minute meals. Unfortunately these lack the variety of ingredients or you may not know what you are eating.
Another popular method is to set aside three or more hours on a weekend to cook and package your meals for the week. This system saves time and money, but doesn’t provide a daily level of freshness and variety that makes the food enjoyable.
Our Innovative Connected Meal System
TimeChop’s Connected Meal system is a patent pending method for selecting lunches and dinners that are woven together, sharing ingredients, preparation and cooking time. It provides variety and freshness and has proven to save time and money. Our users are spending less money as they aren’t buying the expensive, processed ingredients. Solo/duo cooks are saving hours each week, and are finding less food waste at the end of the week as well. Furthermore, our detailed prepping and cooking instructions help the most novice cook prepare healthy meals.
These may not be the typical kitchen lessons you expect to learn from your mother. So, while Mom did teach me how to properly measure flour and make my own salad dressings, I think her teaching by example, on planning, variety and moderation have had a greater impact on shaping who I am as a cook and recipe author.
You can download TimeChop and try out the connected meal system for free on the App Store. My mom and I hope it will provide you with a healthy approach, using a variety of real ingredients, reducing waste and saving money.