Creating A Minimal Browsing Experiencing in Safari

Years ago, back when theming a Mac was possible, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend hours tweaking the way the menu bar looked or changing the stock icons of my favorite apps. These days I’m pretty content with the way OS X looks though, which is good since Apple’s greatly reduced the ability to customize it. In any event, I’ve always done my best to hide things that didn’t need to be seen. Case in point, this screenshot from 2008 where I meticulously picked out every icon to match the wallpaper.

I’m no where near as into customizing as I used to be, but I still try to keep things as minimal as possible. Bartender’s a great example of an app that does that by keeping my menu bar tidy. I rely heavily on Bartender’s ability to only show an item in the menu bar if it detects a change. In fact thanks to that feature, on a regular basis, I only have 3 things in my menu bar: Healthier only when I’m at my desk, Fantastical, and the time (and of course the dots are Bartender itself).

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Somehow Safari ended up being the next app to be caught in my minimizing grasps and the results are a Safari interface that’s as minimal as I’ve ever had it. The minimalism isn’t just for looks though. It’s actually changed my behavior, making me more mindful of my browsing and more efficient too.

Hide Unnecessary Extensions and Buttons in the Toolbar

The first thing I did to simplify Safari was to hide any uncessary extensions and buttons on the toolbar. Only the things I truly use regularly need to be in the toolbar for quick access. For me this meant things like the Pinterest button didn’t make the cut. Pinterest unfortunately doesn’t have Share extension support where I’d prefer it to be located, but I’ll share my solution in a second. 1Password, the Share extension, and downloads are the only thing occupying the right side of my toolbar these days.

Remove the Favorites Bar

The next thing I removed was the favorites bar. This was a pretty big step for me. I’ve always had the favorites bar shown in my browsers for as long as I’ve been using a computer. I was worried I’d miss it, and I did for about 20 minutes. After those 20 minutes, my muscle memory had completely switched to using Alfred to launch my most visited sites.

Configure Alfred to Launch Bookmarklets

One thing Alfred couldn’t replicate out of the box was the bookmarklets that lived in my favorites bar. Paprika, my recipe manager of choice, allows you to import recipes from websites, but it does so using a bookmarklet rather than an extension. (Maybe one day that will change.) Without access to my favorites bar, saving a recipe became a lot more complicated than a single click. Thankfully, I found a wonderful Alfred workflow that let’s you trigger a bookmarklet with a keyword. I used “paprika” as the keyword to launch Paprika’s bookmarklet purely so I didn’t need to remember something else. Now when I’m on a site, I just need to launch Alfred and start typing paprika to get the bookmarklet.

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With the bookmarklet solution figured out for Paprika, I used the same workflow to make one for Pinterest. Remember I removed the button from the toolbar, so I needed a way to pin things. Pinterest’s bookmarklet, available originally for the iPhone before it got it’s own dedicated share extension, is available here.

New Windows Open Blank

Rather than launch a particular page or display my favorites, I opted to have new windows launch with a blank page. Minimal yes, but it has greatly reduced the mindless visiting of certain sites that I found myself opening purely because of habit. So here you have it folks, my Safari experience.

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The Mindful Browsing Extension

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My last Safari tweak is actually the addition of an extension called Mindful Browsing. If I find myself visiting a distracting site, I can click a button on the toolbar to block the site. Next time I visit it, I’ll be met with a timer (set to a time of your choosing) and a message asking me to reconsider my decision. Another handy addition is the inclusion of when you last visited the site, which serves as a great reminder for how often you actually visit distracting sites.

Creating a Smart Grocery List in Omnifocus

Last week, I added an Amazon Echo to my slowly-growing collection of home automation devices. The recently added Spotify integration is what sold me, but within a few days, Alexa, unexpectedly, made herself known as the missing link in how I collect my grocery shopping routine. I’ve written about my set up before, but it’s evolved since then especially with the addition of Alexa in my kitchen.

**Disclaimer: References to products on this page may contain affiliate links.**

To start, it’s probably best to share a few basic tidbits of my routine:

  1. I tend to make 1 weekly trip to the grocery store (typically Aldi).
  2. Paprika is my recipe manager of choice. Two years ago, I was keeping a messy collection of recipes on Pinterest, which I later found out consisted of mostly dead links. Now all of my recipes get saved to Paprika for safe keeping and are meticulously organized based on meal type and whether or not I’ve made them before. I also only save things I’d truly want to make, so no more 30 unprounceable-ingredient, 25+-step recipes.

    Paprika OS X

    Paprika for Mac

  3. Omnifocus is where my grocery list lives along with all of my other tasks. I’ve tried keeping a separate list, but I really prefer having my lists in as few places as possible.
  4. Both Paprika and Omnifocus are available on Mac and iOS meaning the majority of my workflow can be used anywhere.

Getting Things on to the Grocery List

  • Things I buy regularly on a predictable schedule – These are set up as recurring tasks in Omnifocus based on how often I buy them – the”defer another” option, if you’re curious.
  • Things I need for a particular recipe – One of Paprika‘s best features is it’s ability to make grocery lists. It even combines quantities if multiple recipes call for the same item. While you can use the Paprika app to manage your list entirely, I prefer Omnifocus. Thankfully, Paprika also has the ability to export their grocery list to Reminders. I know I said I prefer Omnifocus, but stay with me here. Omnifocus can capture tasks sent to Reminders. With that you can essentially export from Paprika to Omnifocus.
  • Things I want or don’t necessarily buy on a predicable schedule. Not everything in my kitchen is part of a recipe or something I buy regularly – sale items, less used staples, etc. I could just manually add these things to Omnifocus, and when I’m out of the house that’s what I do, but when I’m at home the Amazon Echo makes things crazy easy. I set up an IFTTT recipe so that any time something is added to my Echo shopping list, it gets added to Reminders. Again, Omnifocus is set to capture anything sent to Reminders. The result, whenever I run out of something that’s not a regular buy or I think of something I’d like to buy and I happen to be home, I simply say “Alexa, add <item> to my shopping list.”

Items added either via Paprika or the Echo are added to the inbox in Omnifocus where I process them with the rest of my tasks. Once processed, they get added to my Shopping List single actions list. Anything I need to buy gets added to this list with the “Shopping” context. If they happen to be grocery-related, they get added to a special “Shopping: Grocery” sub-context. That used to be where the filtering stopped, but the lack of organization left me scrambling around the store. (If any of you are familiar with Aldi, you’ll know it’s set up much like an IKEA where you’re supposed to go in one direction.) To account for this, I recently added sub-sub-contexts to further sort my list. Since I always shop at the same store, my Grocery sub-contexts are set up to match the layout of the store. Aldi happens to be a small store so this ends up being about 6 sub-contexts.

Getting to the Grocery Store

When I arrive at the store, Launch Center Pro prompts me to open my Grocery Store perspective. Any items with a Grocery or Grocery sub-context appear sorted by context. The result: A grocery list sorted by aisle.

 

Grocery List Perspective on iPhone

Grocery Perspective in Omnifocus for iOS

 

*Other people have suggested using recurring projects to sort your grocery list. I decided to go with contexts because it allows me to add one-off items along with my recurring items each week. If using recurring projects, those one-off items would also end up as recurring items which required an extra step of removing them from the next week.

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{March Topic: Meal Planning} My Routine

Since moving out on my own, I’m pretty surprised to admit that the most challenging thing I’ve had to deal with has been shopping for food. I finally feel like I’m about 80% there in terms of figuring things out, but some weeks are inevitably better than others. I thought I’d share my “fun” journey as it might help some others that live alone.

When I moved out, I was offered the opportunity to “shop” the shelves at my mom’s house before I bought anything. {Another perk of having family members with hoarding tendencies} I didn’t really have any sort of plan though. Long story short, after a trip to her house and the grocery store and many trips from my car to the kitchen, I realized I’d ended up with a whole lot of condiments, coffee, snacks, and things for lunch, but not much for any other meal. It was pretty comical. A friend even stopped by and asked “Wait, you already went shopping? Where’s the food?!”

The next week, I planned to rectify my lack of any actual food, so I picked out two recipes to make for dinner that week figuring that each one typically lasted my mom and I a couple days. Again, I came back with bags of food, but I had a plan so I was set. It wasn’t until I started cooking that I realized one recipe called for a 1/2 can of soup. I ended up doubling the recipe to use the whole can which ended making it enough food for the week. I never did end up making the other recipe, and a lot of the ingredients went bad. Fail on my part for not checking the recipe in the first place.

One way or another this went on for weeks. Buying too much food, spending too much money, forgetting to cook something before it went bad, and then having a fridge full of food I was stuck with until trash day. A lot of it has been learning what doesn’t make sense to buy, e.g. an entire gallon of milk for 1 recipe and I don’t drink milk. I’d like to think those days are past me, but having a plan has made a big difference in both having a kitchen with actual food and my wallet.

At some point during the weekend, I open up my recipe manager, Paprika, to find a recipe for the next week. As a creature of habit, I’ve grown used to eating one thing for a few days, so one recipe actually works. Another perk to this is I typically only have to really cook once during the week. Lately, I’ve been picking a lot of casseroles because they’re easy enough to make and reheat well. If for some reason I can’t find something I want to make in Paprika, I turn to Pinterest.

Once I’ve picked out a recipe, I add it to Paprika’s Meal Planner just so I can keep track of what I’m making each week, and add any ingredients I’m missing to my Shopping List project in Omnifocus. Paprika actually has it’s own grocery list feature, but I’ve found I prefer Omnifocus because I can set the items I buy frequently to recur every week or every other week. I also like having my lists in one place. I have a “Grocery List” perspective in Omnifocus to show any items with the “Shopping: Grocery Store” context. It’s also a “starred” perspective on my phone, so it’s 1 tap away once I open up Omnifocus when I’m out shopping.

I try to do my grocery shopping on Monday after work partly to save some gas, but mainly because I found myself putting off weekend trips in favor of lounging around the house in pajamas. I try to do most of my shopping at Aldi, but if for some reason, they don’t have somthing, I can save it for a trip to another grocery store or add it onto an order from Amazon. I generally try to keep to my list, but truthfully, Aldi’s prices are low enough on most things that if I throw in a few extra things, I’ll still stay under budget for the month. Another perk of Aldi is that you bring your own bags. One week of groceries fits in 1-2 bags for me, so I’ve eliminated the back and forth trips from car to kitchen.

Monday night is also typically my cooking day. Once I get home, I grab my iPad or computer and open up Paprika to the recipe I’m making. I like to listen to podcasts while cooking too, and while I’m in the kitchen, waiting for my food to cook, I’ll prep my lunches for the week. Doing all the cooking and prep {and cleaning} on one day means the rest of the week is fairly simple. Whatever I made typically lasts me most of the week, which means after work, I just have to pop some left overs in the microwave. By the time the week starts wrapping up and I’ve likely run out of the meal I made, I tend to make something simple from the freezer like a pizza or order carryout from my local Chinese restaurant as a treat for the weekend.

The last step in my meal planning routine takes me back to Paprika. Before I start the process over again for the next week, I use Paprika’s built-in rating system to rate the recipe I picked. My hope is that eventually I’ll be able to use them to simply the recipe picking process down to 10-20 favorites so that I’m not constantly buying new items.

Andrea