Monday, November 1, 2010

what do you get when you cross a stay-at-home mom with a spreadsheet freak?

Me!

With the end result of an Access database that generates 4x6 recipe cards and my weekly grocery lists with just a few clicks.

The inefficiencies of my meal planning system have been gnawing at me for a while now. Searching for recipes stuffed into recipe boxes, saved on my delicious.com account, scribbled on a napkin at the bottom of my purse. Or, spending 20 minutes writing my grocery list and getting home to discover I've forgotten the noodles for spaghetti. Or, eating the same foods week after week because it's too hard to look in various places mentioned above for recipes I haven't made in a while.

Over the last 2 weeks I have streamlined a solution. In my Access database, I can fill out a form to enter in a new recipe. The recipe automatically uploads into a report that prints onto a 4x6 card so I can add it to my "recipe ring". The recipe ring frees cards from the constraints of a box. Instead cards are clipped together with 2 rings that allows for faster flip-through. Plus the card won't ever leave the box and mysteriously disappear - the whole bunch stays together on the ring.

That's pretty handy. But the best part is that all of those recipes feed into a grocery list creator. Okay, it's really just a pivot table. The coolest pivot table ever.* It gives me a drop-down list of my recipes. I select which meals I want to make that week and it gives me a list of ingredients I need to buy. And quantities - summed across recipes. And it sorts it by store section (produce, bakery, meat, etc). One Ctrl+P later and I've got a complete, sorted grocery list to take with me to the store.

The only flaw in the system (which I've encountered twice now) is when I leave the grocery list sitting on the kitchen table. Operator error.

I know this all sounds a little crazy. But meal planning has always been a thing with me. Have I ever written about the time I was gearing up for a very busy school semester, so I planned out 16 weeks of dinners? I printed out 16 pages of grocery lists, one for each week, that had the week's dinners and necessary ingredients. I set the stack on my nightstand and didn't think about what to make for dinner for the next 4 months. Talk about efficient.

At this point, you may be feeling one of two ways. 1) Wow! Maybe Erin will send me a copy of her Access database so I can use it too (I'd be happy to). 2) Wow! This is the scariest Halloween post I've ever read.

*Credit for the pivot table goes to my friend Melissa, who first came up with this concept using the pivot tables in Excel.

10 comments:

Megan said...

You are making me wish I had paid more attention in my Access classes. I used Access at my old job, but I did not do any of the programming. Do you mind sending me the program? I would love to see it.

Spring said...

I was thinking #1, I want her to email it to me! Please! You have my email. I've never used access but I'm sure my hubby can help me it. :) Seriously, it's so nice that have have the time and ability to do that right now so that when baby number 2,3,4 comes you will have all your systems done and it will help so much then too! Go you for putting your time and talents to good use!

Matt said...

Awesome.

tpmotd said...

Yes, we'd like a copy of the database, too, please!

Weezie said...

Once you get over the scary, that's pretty great. Its like the technologically enhanced version of our childhood menu/grocery lists. As you don't "have a past" do you remember the FHE we learned about meal planning, then wrote weekly menus and their accompanying grocery lists? I remember each week mom just took the top one off the stack, picked up the groceries (also categorized by department), then tacked the menu to the fridge. Super efficient. Plus, it stopped us from asking what was for dinner, and since us kids wrote the menus, if we didn't like what was for dinner mom could just say,"I didn't pick the menu. Go complain to whoever did." Genius! (I fear what mom would have done with current database technology.)
I remind you of this story because it really begs the question: Is this genetic?

Margaret said...

Scary? Make that scary awesome. That is so cool, Erin - you're exactly what I've always dreamed I'd be :) So yes, I would LOVE to get that database! Sounds like so much fun!

Rachel said...

That's pretty awesome! I enjoy meal planning in spite of the fact that we never seem to stick to it.

Janssen said...

Someday I will be like you. Except i can NOT figure out pivot tables for the life of me (practically killed me when I took BYU's Excel class).

Dawn said...

I know I went to school with you for three semesters...but WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?! :)

Carolyn Trainor said...

I would like this file please