Once a Month Cooking – Lean or Not?

A few posts ago I went on about my Sensei wife. I told you how she was teaching my kids about lean concepts, etc. Well, I must be fair and balanced with my blogging and need to confess something to you all.

Tonight, my beautiful wife is with two of her friends doing “once a month” cooking. For those not familiar with the concept once a month cooking is when a few people get together and cook for 2~3 hours and then divide up all the food into meals.

My wife does this with two other ladies so they will, for example, prepare enough Teriyaki Chicken to feed 3 families.

It’s so mass production, right?

So I was thinking about how “mass production” this is. I mean they make all this food and then we store it in the freezer and pull it out as needed. Then, I thought that maybe this is not as bad as I originally thought. Perhaps, my Sensei wife has properly sized our finished goods supermarket and tonight has taken all the “kanban” and is simply replenishing the supermarket with her other, Sensei wannabe, friends.

They cook about every 4 weeks and we never waste any of the food so one could argue this really isn’t overproduction in the truest sense. The quality of the meals are fantastic and we always have a variety each month which is nice.  Best of all, all my wife has to do to get dinner ready is pull something from the freezer, chuck it in the oven, throw together a salad and some bread and bam – she is done.

So what do you think? Is once a month cooking lean or mass production?

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14 Comments

  1. Matt

    February 23, 2007 - 10:26 pm

    Its not a bad idea, but sheesh, among other things you’ll have to calculate the cost to carry (freeze) the inventory, the rework (reheating) cost, and other waste (packaging).

    I’ve found that mixing lean six sigma with home life is a disaster. The economics are all wrong, I don’t actually pay the workers (kids), and, well, the push has to come from the top, and I’m just middle management 😀

  2. Grahamc

    February 24, 2007 - 3:47 am

    It’s mass production. She’s produced things into finished goods that you might not want.
    If you ask for spaghetti on tuesday and she tells you it’s cottage pie from drawer 16 you’re eating. Are you a satisfied customer or is the manufacturer just trying to sell you what they’ve already made?

  3. Ron Pereira

    February 24, 2007 - 6:31 am

    I hear you about being middle management Matt!

  4. Mark Graban

    February 24, 2007 - 7:34 am

    Even if you’re not wasting food, it’s “overproduction” in the sense that you’re making it BEFORE the meal is needed. It’s probably not “lean” but to some extent, who cares?

    If your overall objective is to reduce total food cost, then this might be the best way to do it. If you think the freezing takes up too much space (or energy cost to keep freezers going) or if freezing the food harms the taste then you might prefer “just in time” cooking (which often requires “just in time” shopping).

    Sometimes, even in a factory, building inventory is the right solution, depends on the circumstances. If that monthly cooking works for you and your family, I won’t criticize it.

  5. Ron Pereira

    February 24, 2007 - 7:37 am

    Hey Mark, isn’t it fun how a silly post like this generates all this discussion. This proves the point that as educators of Lean and Six Sigma we must keep it real and even make fun our wives a little! Ha!

  6. K T Cat

    February 24, 2007 - 12:35 pm

    Cool idea. I prefer to make something with the whole family participating. Check out the book “Cooking Time is Family Time.” We typically make something from Paul Prudhomme or Terry Thompson.

    Efficiency ruins the whole point of Southern Cooking. Southern Cooking is meant to be an experience in and of itself, accompanied by Zydeco music or some Louis Prima.

    In fact, the best cooking of all is an experience that leads up to the eating. Yes, you could pull food from Nutrient Bin 43 and place in the rehydrator prior to consumption (thus saving 12.8% of your production costs), but I gaurantee you, you won’t find a Louis Prima song about it.

    Dig this and apply LSS to it.

    http://www.danacountryman.com/Prima/prima.html

  7. Ron Pereira

    February 24, 2007 - 1:40 pm

    Hi kt cat,

    Ahhhh… I look forward to the day when my wife and I can enjoy some nice meal preparation together. Our current reality is the kids hit their witching hour around this time and my wife is not interested in “enjoying” the moment if you know what I mean. But one day… yes one day… I promise we will follow your great advice!

  8. K T Cat

    February 24, 2007 - 1:57 pm

    Yeah, I can appreciate that. Mine are at the age when they need to be learning the art.

    By the way, are you going to be at BlogWorld Expo? Check out the link on my left hand column at the top.

  9. JWDT

    February 24, 2007 - 9:10 pm

    I have a friend of mine who does this type of cooking, which I never really saw the value in.

    As for me & my crew, a lot of times my wife is JIT on the thinking, preparing & delivering of the food. Most weekends I have to remind her in gentle ways, like on the way to Mass, ask her what is for dinner (in case I invite guests), typical is I knew I forgot to do something this morning. Now to make it visual.

  10. GrahamC

    February 25, 2007 - 6:18 am

    JWDT said…

    Is that you outsourcing a key competancy to the wife? Or just a case of not enough cross training for multi-skilled workers.

  11. Linda Fayerweather, Editor

    February 25, 2007 - 8:41 am

    Hey Guys – you‘re missing one key ingredient – spending two hours cooking and talking with your girlfriends is building culture and corporate culture keeps workers happy. Happy workers (especially wives) like to have a girlfriend culture! So, it my not be lean in the strict sense, but think about it – guys:

    When was the last time you spent 2 hours with your buds that had an edible outcome?

    Ah – a new concept – when guys want to spend time with their buddies, they must bring home the dinner, too! Oh, this has potential.

    I’m a great cook but during the week, I believe in the JIT cooking. I have a wonderful grocery store that has great food and also some ready to eat. I can slide into the driveway before my hubby and get the food out of its wrappers, stir fry a veggie and I’m happy, we’re all fed, and we always spend less $ and more time talking than going out to dinner. Hmm – may be one of the reasons were still married after all these years.

    New thought – getting kids to cook. I bribed my kids to each cook a meal in exchange for not having to go to after care when they turned 10. I now have a daughter with a master’s in culinary education and a son that can cook exceptionally well. I must say that the 6 sigma black belt husband is still mystified by the large metal boxes that reside in our home. He has mastered the frig but the stove, washer, dryer are scary.

    Lean in the family – c’est la vie!

  12. Ron Pereira

    February 26, 2007 - 1:18 am

    Ah Linda you nailed it! One thing I forgot to mention was how happy my wife is when she comes home from her once a month cooking. She goes on about all the stories and fun she shared with her friends. This, I guess, trumps any potential overproduction! Thanks for all the comments all. I hope to see more of this. Funny how “once a month cooking” struck chord with so many men. Hmmm… what does this say about us men? Just joking. Cheers!

  13. Dave Bilger

    August 8, 2007 - 2:30 pm

    One more very late observation as my wife does this too. We’re also leveling the work too, and maybe responding to TAKT time. With two kids the work to be done preparing a meal can’t always be acomplished JIT. The goal for us is to make satisfying meals within our budget. A little planning and two trips to the market a month and some preassembly and the “company” goals are met and all of the workers are happy.

  14. Ron Pereira

    August 8, 2007 - 3:00 pm

    Hi Dave, thanks for the comment. I joked with my wife that the recent “Transportation Muda” post overtook this Once a Month cooking post on the most popular list. She was bummed… but perhaps this post will find life again and spark some more conversation. Thanks for stopping by.