This is the first of The 5 Moves of Kitchen Karate






It’s also the most important.

When you build your meal prep from the ingredients up, how you SHOP means everything. Your diet, budget, schedule and the quality of your food is all addressed in this one move!

Let’s investigate…

Flipping the script on meal planning

Here’s the order of events when you work recipes-down:

  1. Search for recipes
  2. Plan your meals
  3. Make a shopping list
  4. Go shopping

Here’s the ingredients-up approach:

  1. Go shopping
  2. List your ingredients
  3. Plan your meals
  4. Create recipes

Just imagine the freedom of walking into a market without a list. Shopping for your meals should involve you inspecting INGREDIENTS not a piece of paper in your hand or an app on your phone.

Ingredients up is how the best chefs do it

When you eat at locavore establishments (places that buy fresh from local markets) you are treated to dishes inspired by ingredients that came in fresh that day. The executive chefs at these restaurants meet the boats at the dock (figuratively or literally) in order to hand-pick the freshest ingredients at the best value. THEN they figure out what they are going to do with the ingredients. They make the menu AFTER shopping. They let the ingredients INSPIRE the dishes.

Chain restaurants have standing menus and source ingredients from the cheapest source available. This is why chain restaurants are filled with processed foods.

I want you to run your kitchen like a craft food establishment, not a chain restaurant. I want to see you with your head up in the market, zeroing in on the freshest ingredients at the best prices. Not ping-ponging around the market, hunting and pecking for ingredients to scratch off your list.

What you lose by shopping with a list:

  • Every time you bypass a fresher ingredient than one on your list you sacrifice quality.
  • Every time you skip an ingredient that offers a better value than one on your list you waste money.
  • Every time you double-back to a grocery aisle you have already passed for an item on your list, you waste time.

The question is not what to get, it’s how much

Don’t walk into a market thinking about what you HOPE to see there. Walk in ready to pounce on what IS there. The question of what to get is answered by what grabs your eyes. The bigger question is how much to get. Specifically, how much of each TYPE of ingredient you need for the meals you plan to make?

Think COMPONENTS, not complete dishes

Just as we can break cooking down to its component parts, we can break a “meal” down to its component parts. And since we are concerned with our everyday food-as-fuel meals when it comes to meal prep, let’s focus on what constitutes a well-balanced meal.

A well-balanced meal is not “a salad”.

A well-balanced meal is a certain configuration of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. However, aisles at the grocery store are not labelled as such. There is not a protein, a carbohydrate or a fats department. Instead there are categories of INGREDIENTS.

There are four main categories to choose from:

  • Produce
  • Meat
  • Grains
  • Beans

Your job is to decide which of these components belongs on your plate and in what proportions.

I know some of you are screaming, “What about fats???” I consider fats like oils, nuts, and seeds to be seasonings, not main ingredients. But it doesn’t matter what I think. It only matters what you think. You can define components however you like. The point is to actually define them.  

Let’s talk diet type

You don’t need to look for vegan recipes or Paleo recipes or Keto recipes.

Just buy INGREDIENTS that square with your diet, season ’em up, cook ’em down, eat it and like it.

Here are some popular diet types in terms of components:

Vegan: Produce, Grains, Beans

Paleo: Produce, Meats

Low Carb/Keto: Produce, Meats, Beans

DASH: Produce, Meats, Grains, Beans

All you need to do is determine the RATIO of components on your ideal plate of food.

  • How much produce?
  • How much meat (if any)?
  • How much whole grains (if any)?
  • How much beans (if any)?

It’s as easy as one-two-three:

  1. Draw a circle to represent a plate.
  2. Draw lines to divide up the plate.
  3. Write down the component that goes into each section on the plate

Now let’s talk serving sizes

You’ve got your plate divided up into components. What quantity of each component will fill that part of the plate?

Measure everything by hand.

Forget cups and grams and ounces. Your hands are your new measuring device.

Protein = Palm-size piece

Produce = Big handful

Whole Grains / Beans = Cup of your hand

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Refer to this Shop-By-Hand Guide

This can also be found under the Guides tab in your Members area.

Shop by hand

What’s a family size portion?

Imagine a “family-sized” hand and measure the same way with that hand in mind.

family size hand


Go here for more on Family-Sizing Your Prep

The Family Sizing It video can be found under the Guides tab in your Members area.

Questions and Comments on This Lesson?

Drop me a note in our private forum The Dojo Lounge. I will respond during office hours.

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Cooking 101: Chop