In the Ingredients-Up Approach to meal prep we SHOP FIRST and ask questions later.

Get the correct number of meal components in the door and meal planning is a simple matter of divvying and designating. It’s like filling in a puzzle.

Which ingredients go with which ingredients?

That’s the heart of meal planning.

You already know which TYPES of ingredients you want on the plate. Now you need to decide which specific ingredient of each type you want on the plate.

For instance, if you are Paleo, your composition might be one part meat (or substitute) to two part produce. That now becomes:

  • Chicken, Mushrooms, Tomatoes
  • Eggs, Spinach, Pear
  • Tofu, Broccoli, Peppers

If you include grains or beans, then you have one more thing to factor in:

  • Chicken, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Black Beans
  • Eggs, Spinach, Pear, Whole grain bread
  • Tofu, Broccoli, Peppers, Brown Rice


Use our printable meal planner with a pencil to play the mix and match game with your ingredients.

You can print this out whenever you like by going to the Guides tab in your Members Area.

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The components of your diet don’t match the components on our meal planner?

You’ve got options:

Amend. Cross out the offending components and write in your components.

Start Fresh. Make a meal planner from scratch with a pen and paper. It takes all of two minutes!

The question is WHEN should you do your meal planning?

In the recipes-down approach you start with an image of how your meals are supposed to look on the plates and then you slave away to make it so. With the Ingredients-Up Approach you’ve got options right until the moment you plate the meals.

You can plan all your meals as soon as you get your components in the door or you can literally Shop, Chop, Sprinkle, and Poke all your components before ever deciding what will go with what.

In fact, if you are new to meal prep or inexperienced in the kitchen the latter is exactly what I suggest you do.

Let’s Talk Format

The format your meal takes on the plate has a baring on how early in the process you want to plan your meals.

A La Carte. Each ingredient is on its own. This is the easiest way to construct your meals. No advance meal planning required. Just pull the fully prepped components and put them together. Done. This is the format used in the beginner belt levels of Kitchen Karate and this is how we will approach it this Sunday for the Guided Meal Prep session. Even if you are an experienced chef, you can make perfectly delicious meals this way.

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Mixed. The ingredients are all jumbled together. These are your salads, stir-fry’s, pastas, and soups. This is the most portable format and just as easy, if not easier, to throw together as the A La Carte format. You can do this at the beginner level as well, but to create more sophisticated mixed dishes do your meal planning before the Sprinkle move.  This allows you to season the ingredients in a unified way. In the Cook-Along Kitchen Karate course you start doing this at the Red Belt level.





Layered. The components come together in an organized way; think wraps, sandwiches, lettuce cups, pot pies, casseroles. This format is of intermediate-level difficulty because you need to plan the meals before the Chop move. How you cut up the ingredients impacts how they come together. Also you will want to season them in light of each other so that they play nice in their layered format.





Blended. Some or all of the ingredients are liquified at some point during the process. Think purees, batters, and sauces. This is the most advanced move because it involves an additional step during the cooking process. We don’t introduce this level of complexity until the Four Weeks to Black Belt course.

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At which point should you decide on the format of your meals?

You’ve got options:

Easiest.  After poke. Chop, Sprinkle, and Poke everything as individual components and then combine them in meal containers at the end of your prep. This will allow you to play the meal prep puzzle game with finished components, put them into meal containers, and take pretty meal prep photos to post online!

Quickest but more advanced.  At meal time. After Chop, Sprinkle, and Poke you just throw all the individual components in the refrigerator and assemble them at mealtime throughout the week. You must be diligent about pulling the correct number of components for each meal or you will end up with stray components at the end of the week.

More creative, more advanced.  After Chop, before Sprinkle. Play the meal prep puzzle game after Chop by stacking the prepped components together as meals. This will allow you to season them as meals which will produce more unified and nuanced results. This opens up sophisticated mixed dishes and layered dished.

Most creative, most advanced.  After Shop, before Sprinkle.  Play the meal prep puzzle game with our printable Meal Planner and pencil and eraser (or dry erase marker if yours is laminated like ours) This is the most advanced option because it requires a lot of experience with all the components. You need to visualize how they will chop up and cook down. This approach opens up all the formats because you are able to pre-plan everything. Another great thing about this approach is that it creates a menu to post on your refrigerator. It’s like creating your own mini take-out joint.  This approach is taught from the jump in our Cook-Along Course, providing you with meal planners to follow throughout each Cook-Along as training wheels.  However, unless you are an experienced chef you might wait until Freestyle 2 before trying this technique on your own.

Questions and Comments on This Lesson?

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

Up Next

Cook-Along Prep