Meal Planner: Successful Grocery Shopping Strategies

In this episode, Coach Cat covers how to grocery shop effectively for meal prepping.

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I'm joined by MetPro coach Cat Ramirez and we will be discussing grocery shopping tips for your healthy food plan. Cat, thank you for joining me.

Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

I always enjoy our talks. We should start with why we're discussing this topic. Why is it important to discuss shopping tips when you're trying to eat healthily?

If you're like me and you get to the store, sometimes you check out and you're like, “I don't know why I have these extra items.” You see things and you're like, “This looks healthy. It probably is.” You then take it with you. You always come out with way more than you need. Fiscally, it's responsible. Also, for trying to stay on plan, attack your prep efficiently and then also in a financially responsible way.

How do you plan for the shopping if you're on MetPro? Even if you're not, but you want to eat healthily. Do you need to plan all of the meals that you're going to be eating? Do you need to do some of them? How does that work?

It’s a couple of things. If you're a MetPro concierge client, our coaches and I have links that we can share with our clients of staples to keep in the pantry or on hand to make prep easy. In your app, there is a shopping cart feature. When you create or select your meals, it will put those items in the shopping cart and then you have your list right there and ready to go. If you're somebody who likes to cook, then your concierge coach can help you break down some recipes. If you need assistance doing that or if you're savvy, then pick out some recipes for the week and decide what ingredients you're missing.

The other thing is snacks are so important. Having a go-bag with you is never a bad idea. Working with a tactical community, having snacks is a good idea. If you're a mom, you likely already have one with your kiddos. Those are some important reasons why before you even get there, have a plan of attack. I am eating MetPro.

My kids are not eating MetPro but they're eating foods that we use at MetPro, like healthy whole foods. If you're somebody like me, look ahead and see, “What can I prepare that's going to set me up for my meals but then also give me enough leftover, so the kids have something and when I work, I have a sitter come in and help me out?” I'm anal. I have the little bento box. I put all of their little stuff in there, put it in the fridge and made it ready for the sitter.

I love that. I am a planner myself. If I'm leaving the house, I need to have everything prepared. I need my breakfast, snack, lunch and afternoon snack. If I don't plan and take those steps, catastrophe will occur because something in my day is not going to go as planned. I guarantee that. I don't know what it is and then I'll just grab whatever because I'll be hungry. I'm curious. When you're shopping, do you shop differently at a traditional grocery store versus a big-box grocery store, something like a Costco or Sam's Club?

Yes and no. I frequent Costco all the time. Where I live does not have a Trader Joe's, unfortunately, but if I go to the largest city, I go to Trader Joe's and stock up forever. I buy some other foods that I don't find at Costco. They have been out of bananas all the time. I can't find them to save my life. My kids love bananas. I will then go to Fred Meyer. It is what we have here. One of my daughters has a milk allergy. She has to drink pea milk. That's the only place they have it here, so I will do two orders. I do shop differently.

At a traditional grocery store, when they do product displays and layout, if you tend to stick to the outside of the store, that's where you're going to find most of the coolers. This isn't true for every store. Fred Meyer has a couple of aisles of coolers that have their more natural foods in them. That's where the pea milk is, kombucha and all of those types of items or alternative items. For the most part, we've got the fridge cases on the back with your dairy and the rest of it. The meats and the butchers are in the back. The produce is usually off to one side but we're still looking at mainly the perimeter.

I always say to start on the outside at one end, do the perimeter around and then look at what you are missing. Another thing that I like to do is when I write my grocery list, I write it in produce, dairy or dry goods so that while I'm standing in produce, I go down the produce, instead of being like, “Bananas are here. Lettuce down here.” It's all in one section. That helps you stay on task as well because you're hitting the sections of the store that you need instead of cruising the aisles, which gets you into trouble.

When I do a big box store, the displayers sometimes are all over. Sometimes you're like, “A pair of jumper cables next to the pork tenderloin, next to a pack of batteries and some toothbrushes forever.” It can be a little bit different. I filmed a day of shopping at Costco. That should be coming out. That'll be helpful for everybody too. I will hit the produce usually first in Costco. It goes produce and meat right next to each other.

I'll stay in that section and then right around the corner is usually the dairy, so I'll just stay there. If I forget anything else, then I go down the aisles. I have kids. I'm going to get the little squeeze packs. For the most part, it's where you need to live and then occasionally, you'll go down the spice aisle to get something to cook with or some sauces are approved and your coach can send you a link for what those are as well.

Are there things or items that people should look to get at a traditional grocery store or a Trader Joe's versus going to a big box store or vice versa?

It's helpful to get stuff like produce and meat. I have three children. That's a lot of kids to give milk. If it makes sense financially to get it at a big-box store, go for it. If it's going to go bad, then get it at a regular store as opposed to a big-box store. The produce, you know how it is. You get a bag of spinach, you cook it and you're like, “I have this much-finished left.” If you're eating a lot of vegetables, which we do on MetPro, then you want to go get all your veggies at a big-box store so that you're stocking up. Make sure you have room in your fridge.

This is something else that I always forget. I get home and then I have to play Tetris with all my food in the fridge. I liked to get some of the pre-marinated. If they have a tri chip at Costco and it's a spice rub, I'll butcher it myself, cook it in little baggies, freeze some and then have some ready to cook for the week. It's less expensive that way. Those are some items I would suggest or things like oats where you're like, “I'm going to eat oats every day.” It's not bad as long as you keep them. Your brown rice is great.

As something that will eat in bulk, it's not necessarily going to go bad. Canned goods, go get them at Costco. They've got slats of green beans, carrots, tuna, canned fish or canned meats. Those are great also to get at Costco. They keep forever. You can stock them in your pantry. You're ready to go. That way, if you get home from a trip and you don't have any groceries, at least you have that stuff ready for you. Other perishable things, maybe you're not going to go through as quickly or you can't find everything sometimes at the big-box stores or whatever they're carrying for that season. I usually make that run after. I'll go to Costco first, whatever I can pick up, then I go to the next store and grab the bits that I missed.

I do the same thing because I feel like you get everything then and you know that you got it comparatively at the lowest price you can. We have 2 kids at home and 1 of them drinks an inordinate amount of milk. I'll buy 2 or 3 gallons. That's a huge difference in price at a big box versus going to a local chain. When you're at any of these grocery stores, are there things that you can look to buy that make your prep easier? Are there foods that you can point to that are like, “This is going to make life a lot easier but you're still on the plan?”

Things that I've found at Costco got a big sheet and pre-packaged 3-ounce of chicken bites and grilled chicken bites. You can tear them off and throw them in your bag. Also, the little disks of hummus or they have the walk or smashed avocado. It is great. For the kids, there are the squeezers. If you need a quick snack carb, you can also use those squeezers depending upon what the car breakdown is on the back of it. Things like that will help.

Another thing they've got is pork tenderloin that's cut up into little medallions. It's already pre-marinated. It's a rub. I pull out some, cook it for the wee and freeze the rest in four per bag. That's super easy. It takes minutes to do. The other thing that you can do, if you want to, is you can get the little packs of veggies or sliced apples. I have a client who refuses to slice apples but I only buy the sliced ones. Whatever you got to do, I don't care.

Everybody has a thing that it's too much and too far.

It's overwhelming to me, like the whole pineapple where I'm like, “There are so many prickly things on it. I want it sliced.” There are little items like that helped. If you can find the plain Greek yogurt, those are nice as well. There's tons of stuff at Costco that makes things super easy. The chicken skewers are already made. I found some paleo meatballs that I'm trying out that are lemongrass and are great. 4 meatballs are going to be 1 full protein. There's nothing weird in it at all. There are lots of little fines if you look around.

You talked about the ones that are already marinated. As a person who maybe doesn’t know what’s “allowed or not allowed” in their plan, they're not familiar with it. When you look at the back of some of the pre-prepared things, it might be difficult based on the list of ingredients. Do you have maybe some direction on how they can tell, “Yes, This is a good thing to have. No, this is probably not a good idea?”

First of all, your coach can help you with anything. If you're like, “I saw this,” snap a picture of the label and shoot it to your coach. If you're standing in line to pay, maybe it's too late but if you can do it ahead of time, then do that. Another thing is spices rubbed with no sugar. You want to make sure some of the meat that still does have brown sugars or something like that, you want to stay away from that. Anything that's going to be sugar or molasses, we want to stay away from but if it's a spice like paprika, garlic, salt, pepper or something dry, then it's typically fine. People are like, “Marinades?” We do allow marinades and sauces. We want to look for under 40 calories per serving.

If you're looking at pre-marinated meat, they're not going to be like, “This is Bill's marinade and it's under 40 calories. Don't worry about it.” Look at the ingredients. We want to stay away from sugars or molasses and honey. Ultimately, if you're somebody that's like, “I found this meat. It looks delicious. The rest of my meal is super on the fan. I'm a little unsure about this,” the marinade itself isn't going to crush you as long as you're not pouring it over the top and drinking the marinade. You took a lot of it off anyway. It's typically fine but you can always clear it with your coach if you have a question about it.

Do you feel like there's anything else that people need to know about how to navigate the grocery store or shopping in general for food?

For me, the biggest thing is going in with a plan and having a route of attack. A second to that is you want to also be able to have certain little things that are your staples. Understand what those staples are. Those are oats, brown rice, almonds and a little bag of clementines, which is forever. You can buy apples. They last a long time. You can do the sugar-free applesauce dish. There are so many things that you can have that won't perish that you can always have on-hand and stock up or throw in your freezers like frozen blueberries or stuff like that where you're not wasting stuff. Go in with your eyes too big, go home and half of it goes bad.

Think about the things that you can have in your home or freezer that you do not have to be wasteful with. When you get home and you're putting stuff away, my mom thinks I'm crazy but I like unpackaged things or if they're stuck together, I rip them up. If they're in a big box, I take them out and put them so that they're easy to grab.

They're right there or I've already taken them out to package them in different ways. I can keep it quick when I am doing prep because at the end of the day, if I'm hungry, the kids are hungry or things are happening, I will then be more inclined to just grab something and make it happen as opposed to looking at it and being overwhelmed with like, “I have to unpackage it, do this or that. It's too much. I'm in a rush. So-and-so is crying.” Have it be handy and accessible. Do that work when you have time to do that work so that when you don't, you're still succeeding because it's there and ready for you. You don't have an excuse to be like, “Forget it. I'm eating a bowl of cereal tonight.”

Life gets in the way and the things that we're doing to eat healthily aren't difficult. It's easy to do but when you get distracted by things or when life gets in the way, it can derail you. If you're already low on energy, you had a bad day and the kids are crying, it can throw you off. Those are amazing tips for people.

I want to say one more thing about shopping. A lot of people are like, “I don't have time to shop. I'll start on Thursday when I can go shopping.” There's no excuse because the bad thing about COVID was COVID but the good thing about COVID was that suddenly everything became accessible from your home. Instacart and other grocery stores have private delivery. Some people will run errands for money, for a job or for you. There's not a reason or the drive-up where you're like, “I'm getting out of the church. I'm driving through Walmart and I'm back on my way.”

You open your trunk, they put it in and you're off. I'm a big Instacart fan. Life is too busy. It's simple to use the app as your grocery list too. I have two grocery lists going at all times. I have my MetPro and Instacart grocery list. Not everybody in my family is eating the MetPro Method, so then I can have their stuff and I can also have my stuff. Whenever I get my week planned and ready to go, I just throw the rest of it and Instacart. It shows up at my house two hours later. It's amazing.

It's $9 a month for that. If you think about it, especially as a working mom, you put three babies into car seats, get in the car, go up there, do the shopping and get back in the car. It’s worth $9 a month for me to do that. It keeps you accountable because you're not browsing. You're just putting the things that you need from the store in your Instacart. You're not like, “Look at this new jerky.” It keeps you right on track.

I buy a lot less chocolate that I don't go to the store myself. I need an intermediary between me and the shopping. I am also a chocoholic. Cat, this is good stuff. Thank you so much for your time.

Done with Dieting with MetPro

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