A-Side Meal Prepping pt. 4

Guys, we’re on the downhill now.

Before we get going, it’s probably best if you get caught up:

Read Part 1 on determining an eating philosophy
Read Part 2 on figuring how how much you need to eat
Read Part 3 on finding good food to eat and making a meal plan

Part 4 is upon us and it’s going to be silly to some of you, I’m sure. This is all about making grocery lists and efficiently shopping them. I’m calling this post…

Making Grocery Lists and Efficiently Shopping Them

I’ll start out by saying that this may not be a necessary step for you. I’m just going to go through how I do it and hopefully it will make sense to someone. Grocery lists are imperative to your success in meal prepping and if you do it the right way, you can maximize your efficiency while reducing the amount of time you spend in the grocery store.

So why even make a list?
I remember watching a Porky Pig cartoon when I was little called The Film Fan where Porky was sent to the store by his mother to pick up a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk and was instructed to come home right away. After passing the cinema and noticing that kids were admitted free for the day, Porky loses all control and rushes inside to watch the news and coming attractions before being reminded of his mission.

Porky was easily distracted and he only needed to pick up two things. His mission was simple. To put it in hip internet terms – he had one job.

Not only did Porky not have self control and focus, he also didn’t have a list — a written agenda on what was expected of him. Something to remind him of what he’s there for. If you, like Porky Pig, don’t go into this mission with a list, you’re going to get distracted. Your mind is going to wander. You’re going to forget something — maybe why you even went to the store in the first place.

Having a list won’t necessarily prevent all distractions, per se; rather, it will help you get your focus back should it stray. Having that focus will help you get in and out of the store as quickly and efficiently as possible and it will help make sure you’re not putting things in your cart that don’t need to be there. If it ain’t on your meal plan, it doesn’t go on the grocery list; and if it isn’t on the grocery list, then it doesn’t go into the cart.

Personally, my grocery list starts out as a long convoluted list that gets modified, eroded, pruned and enhanced several times. I’m going to take you through the entire process with my real-world example.

Also, before we get started, I’ll say that at first, you may end up spending a few extra bucks on pantry staples like flour, stocks and spices. This will result in an expensive grocery bill but keep in mind you won’t be buying these every time. Buy them once and you’ll likely be able to use them for weeks — maybe even months if you store them properly. This will look different for everyone, but Budget Bytes has a great post on pantry staples and which ones you’ll benefit from adding to your initial list.

Alright — let’s get going.

For example’s sake, we’re going to use my menu from a couple of weeks ago. For lunch, I chose this meatball recipe to be included with spaghetti, pasta sauce and some roasted broccoli. A few notes on the recipe:

  • The first thing I noticed was the recipe says it makes 8 servings. This is good because I’m already making 8 servings so there’s no math to do. Thanks, Pinch of Yum!
  • The first ingredient is 1-1/3 lbs ground turkey. That’s silly because my Publix sells it in 16oz (or 1 pound) containers. I mentally decided to use 2 full pounds of ground turkey in this recipe so I’m not wasting or having to store anything. Also because protein.
  • She doesn’t specify what brand noodles or sauce to use so just use your best judgement. Personally, I’m a fan of Mario Batali’s brand of both because his sauce uses nothing but real food ingredients and his spaghetti’s macros are almost identical to the rice I use.

With that in mind, I start the first version of my grocery list. Using a text editor, I write down this ingredient list with my mental notes and include a link to the recipe. This is important later. So far, we look like this:

2 pounds ground turkey
2 red bell peppers (each bell = 1 cup)
2 large eggs
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¾ cup italian breadcrumbs
½ tsp salt
35 ounces spaghetti sauce
16 ounces uncooked spaghetti
8 servings of broccoli


Way too easy so far.

Next we do the exact same thing with my dinner choice — this slow cooker salsa chicken and quinoa with a side of roasted brussels sprouts. The only note I made here is that the recipe says it makes 4 servings so I know I need to double everything. Here we go:

4-½ cups water
2 cups quinoa
8oz cream cheese, reduced fat
4 red bell peppers
2lb chicken breasts
2 16oz jars salsa
8 servings of brussels sprouts


Thus concludes the first rendition of my grocery list. It gets much better, though! In the next phase, we’ll copy/paste this list into a new doc — DO NOT use the same one, this will make sense later on, I swear. Now, on our new list, we’re going to delete the links and combine like items (if one recipe calls for 2 eggs, another calls for 3, they both go away and become 5 eggs). Fortunately for the above example, the only things we need to combine are the bell peppers. This is phase 2.

Now’s a good time to go ahead and add anything extra like pantry staples you may be short on, tools like aluminium foil and parchment paper, and the items you’ll need for healthy snacks. This week my list included “something carby” (to meet macro requirements), Greek yogurt for Erin and cottage cheese and ice cream. This is phase 3.

Phase 4 is super important — this is when we get organized! I like to make the following headings just above my list: Produce, Meat/Dairy, Spices, Boxed/Canned, Frozen and Other Shit. This will go exactly how you think it will. Here’s what my list now looks like:

6 red bell peppers*
8 servings of broccoli*
8 servings of brussels sprouts*

2 pounds ground turkey*
2lb chicken breasts*
2 large eggs
¼ cup parmesan cheese
8oz cream cheese, reduced fat
Greek yogurt
Cottage cheese

¾ cup italian breadcrumbs
½ tsp salt*

35 ounces spaghetti sauce
16 ounces uncooked spaghetti
2 cups quinoa
2 16oz jars salsa

Ice cream

Other Shit
Aluminum Foil *
Parchment Paper*
Something carby

At this point, I’ll go ahead and mark off what store I need to buy these at. I shop at two different groceries and prioritize accordingly. I start off at Costco buying up items that I need a lot of, are easily storable and I know I’ll use more of later assuming it’s non-perishable or freezable. My favorite items to get here are salmon, chicken, agave nectar, protein bars, broccoli, green beans, bananas, apples, oranges and brussels sprouts. I’ll put a star by all items that I think I can benefit from getting at Costco — this is my way of having a list within a list (list-ception?). Look back at the list above and you’ll see those stars.


Everything else I’ll buy at Publix.

The final step is pruning. This is super important so you don’t end up like my grandmother with more toilet paper stocked up that Target. Or like my mom that time I noticed three opened boxes of Bisquick up in the cabinet. I love my mom and I love my gran but I don’t want to end up in that position. So I’ll take my list and email it to myself so I can have it on a mobile device (you may be building it on yours) then I take it to my kitchen and start removing items I already have.

In the above example, I only had the chicken and eggs in my kitchen. There are times when I can wipe out half the list because I’ve built up my pantry staples. Hell, there are times I need so little I can get by with just a quick trip to my local Publix. Those are great weeks!

Now you have a primed and pruned grocery list that’s broken down into departments (roughly) that will allow you to strategically run through your grocery store like the Ultimate goddamned Warrior with little-to-no distractions.

Which should be your goal, right? Let me tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I dropped by Publix after work looking for something specific. I don’t remember what it was and it’s not important. What IS important is my list was minimal, like one or two items tops. I frequent my local Publix to the point where I follow some of the employees on Twitter. I’ve baked them cookies before. I’d buy life insurance from them. Needless to say, I know the place; I can get around in there.

I had found my items and was making my way to the front when a glorious aroma encircled me. It was as if the heavens opened up and the food angels grabbed me by the throat and started yanking me into the delicious clouds. I was nearly drooling and I literally stopped in my tracks. They had just taken a batch of fried chicken out. I was helpless and followed my nose to the bakery and deli area.

I explained to the gentleman that I was about to go home and cook dinner – that I didn’t want to buy a batch of fried chicken tenders, but the smell forced me to come look.

So he just gave me one.

The dude just gave me a fresh, crispy and earth-shattering chicken tender. It was marvelous.

I tell you this because I want you to learn from my mistakes. Very much like Porky Pig lost a whole afternoon, I lost like 5 minutes in there doing this.

If you want to move through your grocery store with ease you’ll definitely need a plan and the ability to stay focused. Your store is going to do a great job of letting you know that those doughnuts just came out fresh or their lunch meat is on sale but if you don’t have it on your list, it’s dead to you.

Don’t buy dead shit.

Use a store (or stores) that you’re familiar with so you’re not wandering around forever and making yourself open to distractions. Buy what you came for and get out.

My only other shopping Pro Tip is to go as early as you can. People love to sleep so if you show up early you’re less likely to be there with mouth-breathing grocery zombies that barely shuffle around and stand still in the middle of the aisles. They’re worse on Sunday because I guess the holy spirit has dropped a heavenly anchor in their asses.

My list determines where I go and when. Typically I’ll buy my frozen stuff from Publix so I start at Costco. Costco opens at 10am so I’m in the parking lot at 9:50, in the door at 10:01 and walking out at 10:10. Publix is very similar.

You certainly do not have to use multiple groceries, but I encourage you to educate yourself on what’s available to you. Honestly, I hate going to Costco to just wander around and “shop” and I appear to be in the minority. Regardless, the price you pay for a Costco or Sams Club membership is invaluable once you become the meal prep pro you’re training to be. Seriously — well worth your hard-earned dough.

Now that you’re out of the store, you can start putting your shit up and you have lots of time to get to actual meal prepping.

*STOP* — Remember the first list we made? The one that was basically just a copy/paste of the recipe ingredients with the links? NOW is when you’ll need that one handy. Go ahead and email it to yourself. You’ll find out how we’re going to use it next week when we actually start cooking!

As always, say hey if you have questions.

This is part 3 of a 6 part series on meal prepping. A lot of clients and potential clients ask me about meal prepping and I want to give as thorough of an explanation as I can. Over the next few weeks, I will be covering how to eat, how many calories you need to eat, calculating your macro requirements, finding good recipes to use, making your grocery list and shopping it, smart ways to prep a week’s worth of food and other shit I know to be true. I will illustrate as much as I can with my real-life meal planning/prepping processes so hopefully it will make more sense. Along the way you get to enjoy my wit and my foul mouth.

I also want to go ahead and state that while I am a certified personal trainer, I am NOT a certified nutritionist. I can give you tips on eating better and point you to FDA guidelines, but unless I’m married to you I can NOT make custom meal plans for you. Not even if you pay me or send nudes but thanks for the offer.

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