I love a good "system," especially if it means I can delegate something, forget about it and it still gets done (bill paying, housekeeping, retirement investments, estimated taxes, yard care). Oh, the privileged life I live.
Yet when it's come to my all-time nemesis - meal planning and grocery shopping - a palatable system has eluded me. No amount of list making, cooking classes, overspending at gourmet markets or dragging my husband along for company has gotten me to commit, really commit, to ensuring that a reasonable amount of food stays in our house so that we can eat decently. Not even Nigella could seduce me into a habit that would stick.
Earlier this year, I discovered Tim Ferris' super-organized-outsource-everything-so-you-can-have-a-life philosophy in Four Hour Work Week...and thought, yeah right. Then the fantasy of outsourcing this task floated into my mind and I immediately had to try it. Enter Triveni, my gal in India.
We're in our second week of the experiment. So far, so good - with several good laughs and a few surprises. Here's what I did to get us going:
- Created a sample 1-week meal plan
- Created a blank 1-week meal planning chart
- Created a sample grocery shopping list
- Scanned 20+ of our favorite recipes, plus various links to sites I like for ideas (e.g., easy, quick, good stuff)
- Re-activated our Peapod account
- Emailed all of this to Triveni with instructions on how to proceed
Turns out I'm not as specific as I think I am, when it comes to giving direction. I also hold a lot of assumptions. My favorite little twist so far was the lovely menu she sent back, jam-packed with enough meals and food (and a shopping list) to feed our household of two, plus all of our neighbors. I also smiled at the mac and cheese with a side salad for breakfast.
With an accumulated hour's worth of back and forth, we got the first order done. This week, it's taking us minutes. Last Saturday, I happily met the delivery at our door and have been enjoying the results:
Virtual Assistant: $10/hour, Online grocery order + tip: $130, Not eating PB&J or cereal for dinner again: priceless
A curious turn of events...my gal in India seems to have fired me. After a mysterious attempt to charge my credit card for $214, her "team leader" emailed me to suggest I upgrade to their $200/month level of service. I'd used more hours last month, but haven't used her services for most of October. Today, I got an email that my account has been closed.
Is this their upsell strategy? We'll see what response I get to my reaction, emailed to them this morning: no, you are not authorized to charge me for a new level of service...and yes, I'd like to continue your services at a hourly rate.
But I'm still checking you guys out...a couple of months does not make a relationship.