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

http://pinchofyum.com/skinny-spaghetti-and-meatballs

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

http://www.sweetphi.com/5-ingredient-slow-cooker-salsa-chicken-quinoa/

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:

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

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

Spices
¾ cup italian breadcrumbs
½ tsp salt*

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

Frozen
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.

Brilliant.

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.

Friday Fitness Finds 6/16

I’ve definitely fallen behind.

As many of you know, I lost my grandfather last week and the following days were not kind to me. I spent Thursday processing it, Friday in denial, Saturday trying to stay distracted, Sunday-Tuesday mourning with family and Wednesday getting the last little bit out of my system. I’ve been running, doing boxing classes and I’ve been back at work so I’ve slowly gotten back into the groove of things but it’s still not easy.

Boo-hoo, I guess.

I’ve gotten a boatload of support from friends and family — both those that came to visit and those that reached out via social media — and I’m back to normal emotionally (I think). With that said, I’m motivated once again to keep pressing on with this weird fitness shit you guys seem to enjoy reading.

Father’s Day is this weekend and I hope you little weirdos haven’t forgotten your dear old dad. Sometimes I wish my dogs were people so they’d be expected to get me stuff like this food slicer, this Instant Pot or this Kitchenaid Mixer.

Lately I’ve been gawking at photos of $2,000+ smokers and making funny noises at them like I’m watching hardcore porn.

Anyway, here’s some cool stuff I found this week:

  • A-Side Meal Prepping Pt. 3 by Me
    Just like the weeks before, this is the most-recent post I made about meal prepping. Part 3 in a 6 part series. Go ahead and get caught up if you haven’t already and get ready for part 4 coming up on Sunday!

  • Don’t Save Anything for the Swim Back by Brett and Kate McKay via The Art of Manliness
    This essay draws inspiration from a film I’ve never seen (Gattaca) and discusses the importance of putting all of yourself into your goals — so much so that there’s nothing left to come back with — so much so that you’re closer to a new adventure/goal than from your starting point. May as well just keep pushing, yeah?

  • Chocolate Chip Raspberry Shortbread Cookie Bars by PaleOMG
    Not a lot to say here, I’m just hoping to make this for my friends soon. Fully Paleo, a sweet treat and a lovely way to use raspberries!

  • Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala by BudgetBytes
    This is on my list to make for next week’s meal prep. I’ll definitely let you know how this one works. The Domestic Man makes a beautiful chicken tikka masala that is also my favorite recipe to make at home but it requires an entire afternoon of attention whereas this recipe is a “set it and forget it” recipe. I’m into it.

  • The Seven Deadly Sins of Fitness by Eric C. Stevens via Breaking Muscle
    There’s no such thing as “seven deadly sins of fitness” but this article does a pretty great job of tying those infamous “sins” to the world of fitness. I’m certainly guilty of all of these and will likely continue to be, but I think it’s a positive thing to be aware of them. However, I also think you should be allowed to show off what you’ve worked hard for, no matter the pride/lust involved :-)

  • Eye Candy / Physique Goals by Ricki Hall
    Ricki Hall is an inspiration to me for many reasons and in many ways. I’d thought about him recently and how Instagram changed their algorithm so that I don’t see his posts much any more. When I went to his page today I found this and just…damn.


Music to Run Fast-ish To

I haven’t heard much new this week. Not a great way to start this section with a new name. I’ve definitely been listening to a lot of the Velvet Underground in the last week as I’ve seemed to find peace during this weird time in the voice of Lou Reed. With that said, here’s an appropriately titled Velvet Underground song and we’ll hope I can come up with something better next week.

Paps: Mourning with Words

On Thursday night our Nashville Predators were getting killed. I laid in bed with sore hamstrings, sore calves, sore quads, sore hips, sore obliques, sore pecs, sore lats, sore delts and sore traps. We went lights out halfway through the third period and I rolled over onto my right side, curled up into a ball. I cried myself to sleep.

The tears weren’t because my state’s Cinderella story hockey team were getting their asses handed to them in game five of the Stanley Cup finals or because my body was abnormally and mysteriously sore. I cried because I couldn’t stop seeing his face.

“What do you think about that, boys?”

My cousin and I couldn’t have been but just a few years old — old enough to remember but just barely — when we stood in the dining room at my Gran and Pap’s house. They had recently gone to see Tina Turner live in concert and had brought back an oversized booklet with enormous photos of Tina, her band, her crew and a lot of their backstage antics. At the center of the book was a pull-out poster of Tina wearing a tight-fitting white dress seductively sprawled out onto a lounger. Her lips were painted bright red and she was laughing. She was definitely sexy but I didn’t know what that meant back then.

It’s one of my earliest memories. I remember the book, the dining room table and the enormous headphones that were laying on it. Their design reminded me of a rotary telephone with a coiled wire attached to them. The back door behind us was sliding glass and at one point had a sliding screen door on the other side. I remember the handle on the screen had been taped over because, as Paps said, “Granny tried to walk through” it and that was funny to me. I don’t know what actually happened but we both laughed about it.

We laughed together a lot. I was still very young on one particular night when we were going out for dinner. There was only four of us – my mom, Gran, Paps and myself. Before we left, I found Pap’s deodorant — a strange stick of Old Spice that was shaped differently from any deodorant I’d ever seen up until then (or after, if memory serves). I asked him what it was and he told me that if I put some on, I wouldn’t be able to keep the women away because I’d smell so good. I asked him if he had it on, and when he said yes, I decided to do the same. That night I rode in the front seat with him to the restaurant with a confidence my young self had never had before. I felt big, like an adult that may confuse the workers of the restaurant into giving me an adult menu. All because I was wearing deodorant and was riding in the front seat with my Paps. I remember asking if my Gran and mom being in the back seat of the van would prevent us from getting girls that night. We joked about it during the trip and we laughed most of the way there.

Though he provided me with more laughter than I could stand in a lifetime along with timeless stories to create those laughs, the man also taught me more life lessons than most fathers teach their sons. When I spent time with him I always came away with something. Lessons about love, life, work, planning a future, taking care of your wife, taking responsibility for your own shit and taking care of others every chance you get.

We had a mowing business for years and we’d spend most of the summer together mowing yards, counting money, pumping gas and eating Hardee’s cheeseburgers. He taught me that while it wasn’t impossible to mow a yard after it had rained, it was extremely difficult and it’s best to wait for it to dry. As an adult, I understand it better but as a kid I always loved the rain because it likely meant I didn’t have to mow that day…

…except for when he woke me up to come mow John and Avis Phillips’ yard after a big rain. I think it may have actually still been raining. We unloaded the mowers and I started in the front yard like I always did. He spent some time gassing up the other mower, wiring the trimmer and taking care of anything else that needed to be done when my mower quit. Three times. The grass was too high, too thick and too wet to mow that day. I was still sleepy, had a young teenager attitude and needed to cool off so I made a rude gesture toward my mower and walked away. I’ll spare the details of his pep talk lest I incriminate my business partner but the ultimate message was “Don’t ever walk away from something you start.”

I think I was 13 or 14 when that happened and I haven’t forgotten it. I may have spent the rest of that day sulking but it’s been a driving force in many aspects of my life ever since.

One thing that bothers me in my life is that every family characteristic I have I can easily identify as my mom coming out in me. It doesn’t bother me that I’m my mom made over — that’s my best feature, honestly — but I sometimes wonder what characteristics of my dad’s I have and am just not aware because I didn’t ever really know him. I didn’t grow up with him. Despite having a dad that didn’t give a shit about me, I was a fortunate little boy because my father figure was a strange combination of Chuck and Paps. Sure a lot of how I handle myself as an adult comes from lessons and examples Chuck set for me — I couldn’t buy a better step dad no matter how much money I had — but I can’t call any of my Chuck-isms genetic because they’re not. I don’t know why I need that so badly.

It was only recently when I started picking out little things about me that I’m confident are Paps-influenced. The most prevalent example is my need to be involved in something I’m passionate about and put my whole heart into it. Paps spent a lot of time at Harmony Presbyterian Church. I don’t know that Paps was ever particularly religious or even spiritual at the time — he never brought it up to me, at least — but he was attracted to being involved there. He loved being the go-to guy for fixes and was super involved with helping the other men build things, make repairs and make business decisions for the church. Together we mowed the church lawn, took the church’s garbage to the dump, helped clean and organize, and every once in awhile would randomly stop by just to make sure everything was okay.

In many ways I do the exact same thing only it isn’t church, it’s TITLE Boxing Club. I spend at least a little bit of time there every day. Sure, I’m a paid trainer there, but I’m there when I’m not getting paid just to see everyone. Just to help out where I can. I love gloving people up and going over the proper form and technique with people. I love sharing my fitness journey with prospective clients and telling them how much TITLE will benefit them. Very much like Paps at the church, I love letting strangers know “If you come here, I’ll go out of my way to make sure you’re taken care of” and I’ll always stick to that. Instead of happily putting together a food basket for you like Paps used to do, I’ll happily show you how to properly throw a hook so you don’t hurt your wrist and you get sexy shoulders for the upcoming pool party.

He had a hard time sitting still — once deciding to paint the garage door and rig an umbrella over his grill just because he ran out of shit to do — and I’m the same way. He’d definitely sit still for a good NASCAR race and I’m kind of the same only my NASCAR is hockey. He spoiled his wife very much like I do mine. And despite a possibly rough exterior and sometimes being awkward in social situations, he loved everyone. I’d confess to being his twin in that regard but it may ruin my rep.

The last few years of his life were extremely difficult for everyone, particularly my mom. Every day she’d have to juggle her daily responsibilities with meeting the needs of a father that was mostly bedridden at a nursing home and a mom that lives in constant grief because her best friend lives somewhere else where she can’t always see him. My mom is the strongest person on the planet and she handled it better than anyone else could. Nobody else in the world could take care of her parents the way she does. I often think there is no greater love in the world.

While it often hurt me to see my mom in distress, it also hurt me to see Paps in his condition. It was so hard for me to see him in his bed, sometimes sleeping, sometimes crying. Knowing that day in and day out he was thinking about improvements he was going to make to his home when he got out bothered me. Not because I knew he was never coming home, because I made a decision on day 1 that I was never giving up on him; rather, it bothered me because I knew this wasn’t him. Paps is supposed to be up tinkering, not in bed and withering away before our eyes. It just never seemed real. It was never fair for him.

Paps is gone and that can never change. I hate that I was never able to cook him a proper breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. I hate that he wasn’t able to come to my wedding. I hate that he was never able to come see where I live. Despite this, he knew I was okay and he was one of my biggest fans all the way to the end. What he gave us will be in our hearts forever and we’ll pass it on to others as we meet them and as we help them. Paps will in one form or another live forever. What he gave us was that strong.

I don’t believe in Heaven, Hell, Valhalla, Purgatory, angels, demons, valkyries, ghosts or any of the like, but I’m ready to see him again. He’ll get my attention somehow and tell me my yard needs to be mowed.

And I hope he does. In that moment, I’ll nod and say, “I know, Paps. I’ll go get the mower,” and breathe in that summer air that’s mixed with gasoline and sweat that always reminds me of him.