just in time, NOT just in case

This is one of my favorite concepts from KCS (Knowledge-Centered Support).

It’s the difference between creating and maintaining a bit of knowledge, just in CASE someone might need to know it someday, and creating or updating the knowledge that folks are actually asking about RIGHT NOW… or “just in time.”

Think about an encyclopedia. Full of articles written by folks who thought that maybe, ONE day, someone will be looking up. So there it is, a Tanistry article in your Encyclopedia Brittannica, taking up room on your bookshelf. But, by God, it’s THERE … just in case, when all you REALLY wanted to know about was Taxidermy.

Anyway, I’ve expanded the KCS concept of “just in time, not just in case” to food.

I think of Grandma Irene, who lived through the Great Depression, and had her overflow of canned goods and breakfast cereal in the bathroom closet. Just in case.

I also know there are people who plan their entire months’ menu in advance and purchase everything they need in one fell swoop (hi, Major Mom!), but I can’t do that.

One, I don’t know what I’m going to feel like eating until the day of, and (2) sure as shooting, the grocery store will be out of several crucial ingredients, throwing my menu plans totally out of whack.

So I would go once a week, and in addition to the staples: coffee, tea, bread, milk, cheese, etc, just throw random crap in my cart that either looked good, is good FOR you, or just called out my name while I was passing…. tons of shit that we may or may not use before it goes bad. Just in case.

I buy tomatoes, in case I want a salad. I buy sweet potatoes, because they are good for you. I buy Double Stuff Oreos.


I buy cream, in case I need it for baking. I buy anchovies, just in case I need anchovies.

No, wait. I would NEVER buy anchovies. However, I think I have 3 cans of artichoke hearts in my pantry, waiting for that recipe that needs them.

Remember Mt. Beanmore?

All of it, just in case.

So I had an epiphany, while exploring my wonderful new Moosewood Restaurant Simple Supper Cookbooks.

I worked from home most of last week, and this is the plan I concocted.

I’ve tagged several promising recipes in the book. I decide on a menu for the evening, and then at lunchtime, I run out to the grocery store in town and pick up JUST what I need for that meal.

We had hot & sour stir fry, baked tofu, and brown rice the other night. At lunch, I ran out and purchased the cole slaw mix, tofu, and chili paste.

We had roasted vegetable curry last night … which required me to buy 2 sweet potatoes and a head of cauliflower.

I think I might be on to something here.

I’m eating more healthy food, and throwing less of it away. Why should I buy and store the food when the grocery store does it so well, as evidenced by the Mt. Beanmore debacle? I’m eating less cheese and cracker dinners, because I am THINKING about dinner, instead of winging it.

Now, granted, this plan works well for me NOW, because I live VERY close to the grocery store, and it’s summer, when I don’t mind leaving the house. Also Himself is very easy to cook for, as he will eat almost anything (except eggplant).

This plan will probably NOT work in the winter, when we’re in hibernation.

But I can BAKE in the winter. 🙂

(Tonight’s dinner: Summer Panzanella – with tomatoes, mozzarella and french bread bought fresh today, and home-grown basil. mmmmm.)

But no Double-Stuff Oreos. 😦


7 thoughts on “just in time, NOT just in case

  1. I love “just in time” shopping! And I appreciate your sharing this story — so much of life comes to me through the lens of KCS, and it’s good to know I’m not the only nutjob.

    The “just in case” vs. “just in time” knowledge idea was first articulated by fellow Bostonian Mike Lyons, VP WW TS, Novell. Mike’s been a brilliant contributor and long-term advocate for KCS, and this is one of my favorite Lyonisms. Another I love is how support tiers force “customers to ‘run the gauntlet’ for our mistakes.”

  2. toss the artichoke hearts with purchased Pesto, steamed broccoli and any pasta.
    and then call it ‘homemade’ 🙂
    besides isn’t just in time shopping the continental way?

  3. Chop up the artichoke hearts,mix with mayonnaise and parmesan cheese, throw in a few chopped up sun-dried tomatoes, heat until bubbly, and you have a wonderful dip for crackers or chips.
    You’re welcome.

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