“The ultimate value in Agile development is that it enables teams to deliver value faster, with greater quality and predictability, and greater aptitude to respond to change.” — Cprime (opens new window)
# What is Agile Cooking?
If you’ve worked in the startup ecosystem in the last decade, you might have heard or even used “agile development” methodologies. It’s a way of iterating over your production process to focus on creation without being dragged down by the idea of perfect, or even complete, product releases. If none of this sounds familiar, or if it even sounds like a cliché, don’t run away! I’m here to show you that a few simple principles can not only change a company, but it can make your busy life a bit more manageable as well.
In my opinion, nowhere is in need of a little optimization more than the classic “I don’t have time for that” daily cooking routine. Not only is cooking a natural thing for men and women to do since the utilization of fire in human culture, but it can be a saving skill for those with increasingly tight budgets or restrictive diets (as a vegetarian entrepreneur, I fit quite snugly into both categories).
# How Does This Work?
The “Meal Prep” Method
Many people will go ahead and prepare all their food for the week on a single day. While this may work for some, there are some inherent problems with this process:
- This is a large production and usually requires more resources than readily available in most living spaces (oven space, refrigerator space, containers, etc.)
- Taking on a huge project all at once is difficult for morale, and is a hard practice to sustain every week
- The quality of your food will reduce over time in storage
- You’re limited to what you can cook by what you can store
In agile development, larger projects are separated into “sprints”, which are defined by their clearly outlined goal. Instead of completing the entire process in a single day, let’s just plan out our week in meals. Personally, I will plan one cooking session each evening and cook a batch for dinner and lunch the next day for me and my girlfriend. You can also plan multiple cooking sessions per day for more variety, or you can cook multiple separate meals at once, but I find one session per day suitable to my schedule. Here’s what a typical weekly meal sprint might look like:
Let’s break this down… Each week is broken down into five (or more) days. Each day I’ve defined around 3 dishes to cook with recipes attached. I find three dishes a convenient number for my protein, starch, and veggie pattern, but of course you can do more or less according to your own preferences. Here there’s an opportunity to reflect on your own diet goals and habits and get creative with your choices. The more clearly you define your recipes and meals now, the more you will thank yourself when it comes time to pick up your knives and get to work.
Now it’s the day to put your plans in action. Viewing Agile through a more metaphorical lens, our “Scrum” will be a replaceable working process that we can use like a template over each meal. This can be any process that includes prep, work, and cleanup. Here’s where we can start to optimize the cooking process itself to really reduce the daily overhead involved in unnecessary components. I believe cooking should be fun, creative, and utilitarian by design, so my goal is to abstract away anything that doesn’t contribute to that end. The process:
- Buy the ingredients (I’ll grab them on my way home from work)
- Work from your recipes (editing as you need)
- Clean as you cook (this is a habit you will not regret getting into)
- Package your leftovers according to your meal plan (I’ll set aside some containers for lunch)
- Enjoy the crap out of your food
You’ve had some good and bad experiences from your Scrum and you’re proud of yourself for the meal you’ve made, but you’re not quite done. Here’s the part where you modify the iterative process. Save your experiences in the form of your recipes. Had to substitute an ingredient and it turned out pretty well? Add it as a note so you don’t worry the next time you can’t find it in the grocery store. Something take longer than expected to cook? Record it, or put it in a cook-time range so you can know what to expect next time. The important thing is that you have a written record of your experience in a way that you can learn from (or write your own blog post about). This will not only improve the quality of your food and your cooking experience, but it will make these recipes yours in a way that you can really appreciate and share.
Having a process doesn’t have to be for nerds or entrepreneurs alone. Breaking something down into a set of methods and practices can improve your life in the most overlooked areas. I hope that some of you reading this who may find cooking all your meals to be too time consuming, or who may think of themselves as “not a good cook”, can instead find an on-ramp to cooking that might suit your own lifestyle. It’s not important that your process looks like my process or vise-versa, but not having one at all is missing an opportunity to make things better in a simple and manageable way.
After some time you might find yourself making quite a unique collection of recipes, in which case I would love to hear about them in the comments below. Or if you liked this article and want to hear more from a guy who writes about things like this, subscribe to get updates on all my latest articles!