Make vs Buy: dish washing

Between commuting and working at an offsite office, entertaining spouse and kid, home projects, misc errands, bathing, putting the kid to bed, working on potential ventures,…, as well as sleep, the time spent on activities becomes scrutinized.  In this case, how much time does all that dish washing take up?  Can I “buy” out of at least some of the dish washing?  Is it worthwhile to do do?

On most days in our nest, the dishes accumulate throughout breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, as well as from snack activities.  Usually on weeknights, the kitchen sink has a standard clearing at the end of the day which is sufficient for the 0-1 cooking sessions.  Weekends introduce 1 or more clearing sessions as there are 1-3 cooking sessions.

Like most families, we employ reusable durable dining ware for our serving and eating needs.  Our Value Stream Map should look somewhat familiar to our gentle reader:

A dish is pulled from the cupboard for serving food. Upon completion of meal, dish is washed and placed in drying facility. Next morning, dish is retrieved and returned to cupboard.

An option that dawned on me for consideration is to procure disposable (err…recyclable) dining implements to replace our durable dish use.  A proposed alternate flow:

Procure a supply of single-use dish to replenish storage. Pull dish from storage for serving food. After meal is completed, place dish in Trash receptacle. Follow routine daily procedure to empty collected trash to Municipal Waste Management facility. Repeat procurement to replenish storage.

A viable workflow?  The objective is to determine feasibility and value.  To continue, we have to establish a few key metrics:

  • Typical NUMBER AND TYPE OF DISH ITEMS accumulated to end of day.
  • COST of single-use alternatives available.
  • TIME spent on dish washing.

With those measures collected, we will be able to determine cost of integrating disposable dining ware vs potential time saved and therefore evaluate a resultant cost/time value.

For the next few days, I’ll categorize and itemize dish items that have collected for washing, and stopwatch the time it takes to wash “dining items” (e.g. plates, bowls, utentils) and the time to wash “service items” (pots, pans, food containers).

The next time we’re at Costco, I’ll look and price disposable plates, bowls, cups, utensil products. While they are not always the cheapest option, Costco is the preferred vendor for this analysis since their prices are generally fixed over time so our conclusions won’t be dependent on random store promotions or extreme couponing.  (plus, recall that I’m trying to save time, and determining value of doing so).  And products are sold in higher volume compared to other retailers.

This proposed study should cost us $0 in extra expense to execute, with potentially a couple minutes extra overhead for bookkeeping.



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