Various Approaches to Easier Meal Planning, Part One: The Automatic Method

Frustrated when I suddenly realized I Spend A Whole Day Every Single Week planning menus and shopping for food -- to say nothing of preparing it -- I dreamed up this plan last night and tweaked it this morning -- though I'm sure it'll change -- especially because I've found that the majority of suppliers eventually go downhill -- though not all of them! Eventually I'll add to this "series," but for now I'm most excited about this idea because it incorporates very concrete ideas about food shopping. (There are updates in italics, interspersed and at the end about how this went...not brilliantly, I'm afraid! including a supplier who went waaaaay downhill. I'm thinking of ways to get around these problems, not to spend inordinate time shopping and preparing to shop...and will let you know when I get more specific.)

         Once you've experimented enough to know which suppliers have the best of the foods you like, and you know pretty much how much you need, set up as many of them as you can for automatic delivery -- like the Europeans I've read do! Here's the first version I'd like to try – though really I'd so love one shop I could walk to that had basically everything I needed! like we had in New York, other than the fishmonger's across the street, but alas there is no shop, let alone such a shop, near us now:
·      Dinner grocery delivery and recipes from (a now unnamed source that delivered beautiful produce -- from San Francisco, no less! -- in an amazing new-technology package that kept everything chilled during its 2nd-day-air shipping -- but boohoo, it took forever to make; one dinner was totally totally amazing, best meal we've had in this whole area in fact! but the rest weren't fabulous, so it was definitely not worth it) -- so now we're not doing this, though I'm certainly open to trying someone else someday, as long as it fits our budget.

(Update: I also experimented with a very local source of dinner ingredients and plans which was less $ than the exciting place I also tried -- but that experiment failed miserably. At least in my opinion, dinner should have at least protein, vegetables, and starch -- but 2 of their 3 did not have protein beyond TWO NUTS per person, miserably inadequate!, 2 of their 3 did not have starch, and 2 of their 3 did not have more than a little bit of vegetables and the one that did all of the vegetables were leafy greens -- fabulous for you, but you need variety. Well, now we know!)
·      Perishable delivery from a local organic place, for things like milk, cider in season, eggs, assorted seasonal fruits...Oh dear, this place as usual made errors during my experimenting with using them more, but yesterday was a deal breaker: everything arrived spoiled, including (warm) meat and milk. I'm planning on doing my own shopping as much as humanly possible in the future! and only turning to them if we're all too sick to pick up some groceries....Anyway, shopping ourselves surely is more budget-friendly.

·      All pet needs from delivered at appropriate intervals (so far amazing prices and good service)
·      A staple from Amazon delivered every few months: my favorite Italian coffee, , which I make in a small stainless steel Italian stovetop espresso maker which I also found at Amazon
·      Favorite staples and produce from Natural Grocers, whatever looks good in the produce section, plus things like nuts, chocolate, rice, oats, dried fruit...

·      Staples from a local decent supermarket which is the only place we've found that still carries our favorites of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some other staples, including their surprisingly perfect farro


 Natural foods from Whole Foods (love it but it's very far away, though a beautiful drive), including any produce that looks good, cheeses, any entrees that look good for a little break from cooking...
·       Sherry from local wine shop
·      Spices, dried herbs from Williams-Sonoma
·      Salts from the beautiful The Meadow shop:
(This plan is not doable at the moment because of the updated miserable sources, but I love the possibility so am leaving it here:) All this is pretty complicated but I hope would in the long run make my life a lot easier. Here's a proposed version of my resulting rhythm,  aside from opening the front door and seeing what's been delivered on the porch:
·      Actual excursions:
o  1st week of the month: Natural Grocers
o  3rd week of the month: nearby supermarket
o  2nd or 4th week in January, April, July, November: Whole Foods
o  Hopefully no more often than during their annual sale: wine shop
·      Checking what's required of non-automatic orders and ordering when necessary for the months ahead, skipping when we're in the 100s for months on end; e.g.:
o  March, September: Williams Sonoma (waiting for their coupons)
o  December: The Meadow