Why I Never Make Grocery Lists (and Other Ways I Outsource Kitchen Mental Labor)

published May 14, 2023
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A young boy having fun on a shopping cart while out buying groceries with his family.
Credit: Tom Werner/Getty Images

My decision fatigue is real. I have three part-time jobs, two children, and a dog, which means my whole day is a series of tiny decisions and constant task-switching. As lovely as it would be to have an assistant handle all the minutiae of my life, there’s no universe in which my part-time jobs could pay for that. But that’s OK, because I have found five tried-and-true ways to outsource kitchen mental labor (aka the invisible workload that inevitably falls on me), so I can focus on what I actually love to do in the kitchen: eat

1. A farmer makes my grocery list. 

I signed up for a farm box delivery service because I wanted to eat local, seasonal food. A huge unexpected bonus of this is that I don’t have to decide what produce to buy every week. The box shows up at my door, and I build meals around what’s inside. Meal planning is simplified, because I’m no longer overwhelmed by unlimited options in the grocery store. Plus, I didn’t even have to go. 

2. No one says, “Mom, we’re out of cereal.” 

Instead, my children say, “Alexa, add cereal to my shopping list.” This one feature alone is worth the cost of an Amazon Echo. When my husband or I do make a trip to the store, we just pull up the Alexa app and see everything we need to buy, organized by grocery aisle. There’s no list-making, no inventory, and no blame. (The kids do add a lot of ice cream to the list, so consider this a fair warning.)

3. We embrace Taco Tuesday. 

Having meal traditions built into our week means we can enjoy making and eating a meal without spending a half hour scrolling recipes before we begin. And there’s still plenty of variety! We may eat shrimp tacos this week, and black bean tacos next week. On “Scone Sunday,” we utilize whatever fruit we happen to have on hand. It’s not boring, I promise. 

4. I subscribe and save time.

I was a reluctant participant in Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program, despite the cost benefits. I was sure I’d end up with towers of dish soap or a backlog of vitamins we forgot to take. In reality, Amazon sends a brief reminder to ask if I want to skip anything, and it only takes a simple tap to delete an item from a delivery. But honestly, I rarely skip anything. With all the data Amazon has collected through the years, its suggestions for delivery periods have been spookily spot-on. Maybe that should make me nervous, but I’m too tired to feel anything but grateful. 

If you prefer to support smaller businesses, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they offer subscriptions. I’m a big fan of our bi-weekly coffee delivery from a local roaster. 

5. I give myself a pass. 

Sometimes the kitchen just doesn’t get mopped. And that’s OK. I’ll outsource that job to future me. (Or perhaps someday, if I’m lucky, this robot.)

What kitchen tasks do you automate in your home?