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Meal planning tips and tricks, anybody?

It seems for me the hardest part of a diet is planning and organizing the food. With commuting and working, and gym time, and maintaining the house and yard, I very often find myself with no proper meals ready to go and no time to prepare something. (I’m a single guy, so don’t tell me some bullshit like “have your wife do the shopping”, or “move closer to work”. ) Does anybody have some lifestyle tricks and tips they would like to share to help get the diet on track? I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem (am I?)

i am single, with a house, yard, and a job which i work 50-60 hours a week, i live 18 miles from work, and still train 4 days a week. i can not prepare everything everyday. the thing i do is do everything on sunday. i start the laundry, then i run to the store and buy what i need for the week. i get all the food i need for the next 7 days, and i have it all planned out on what i get. when i get home, i fire up the grill, put all that damn chicken and red meat on there i’m gonna eat. i cook all my potatoes in the oven, and cook all the rice i’m going to eat, etc…etc…etc… what i found out that works well for me is those little Glad throw-away plastic containers. usually get 5 for a few bucks. then i break up all that food and put those in these containers. i stick about 2/3 of them in the freezer, and the others in the fridge to get me through to tuesday. it’s like having a bunch of t.v. dinners pre-made. you usually have to put a little water in it before you microwave it. by the time that’s done i’ll have all my laundry done and ready for the week. all my work and gym clothes together. i do all this while trying to catch the nascar race. during work, i have a tube of oatmeal and whey protein at my desk that’s pretty easy to prepare. the best thing about oatmeal at work is that we have a hot water spigot on our coffee maker. i use an old scooper from protein powder, which is a 1/4 cup. i dump 2 of those into a coffee mug,with the hot water, (make it a bit runny) and i let it sit there for about 20 minutes until its cool enough to chug… well, that’s about it in a nutshell… just try to set yourself some time to where you can get a lot of things done all at once.

Damn right your not the only one with that problem…I live with my girlfriend now so that helps a little bit, but I think the real trick is to write up a list of habits that you should be in. Such as a food log, shopping for the week ahead and packing a cooler. Then work on one habit at a time. I start all my clients off by getting them in the habits that beget success. Another beautiful invention for the health conscious person is the colapseable cooler. I got a great one for 20 bucks. Once you get in the habit of keeping a food log you can work on reducing the deficiencies in you diet. Just focus on picking up good habits. Dropping old ones is to hard to do without picking up some good ones to take their place.

Cook in bulk whenever you have the chance and buy some tupperware. Instead of cooking a couple of chicken breasts, cook 6 or 8 along with a few servings of long grain brown rice or sweet potatoes. Cook a whole package of protein enriched pasta and refrigerate it. Always have MRP bars handy. I keep a tub of protein and a tub of MRP in my car along with a couple of shaker bottles. You can always find time to throw together a shake. Keep plenty of fruits and veggies around to grab on your way out the door.

Tuna is a godsend. Especially the vacuum packed tuna in a bag. I don’t know your work situation, but I keep some mayo and relish in the fridge at work along with a loaf of whole-grain bread. Throw some mayo and relish in the bag and you’ve got a meal. Sometimes with bread, sometimes without. Or mix it up with some brown rice and soy sauce. A tub of no-fat cottage cheese is always handy, too. Throw in some of your favorite protein mix and stir it up. I eat at least 3 pounds of cottage cheese a week. No-fat yogurt is always a good snack, too.

Do a search for recipes for success in the back issues of T-Mag. There are a lot of good ideas there. The chili is pretty good and will last a few days.

Keeping a food log and lugging all of this stuff around is a hassle and cold or re-heated food generally sucks, but you get used to it.

Agreed with the above comments…basically you can maximize your time by cooking a lot of food at once, then portioning. I also cook 6-8 chicken breasts at a time, but I also cook up a large package of extra lean ground beef, then freeze it. Then you can scoop out whatever you need for a serving, throw it in a container and mix with salsa and lettuce and wrap in a whole wheat tortilla, for example. I also don’t have a huge amount of time (wife, 2 small kids) but if you want it bad enough, usually a guy can make the time.

Good luck!!

One word: tupperware.

Actually, keep a small pad of paper on the DOOR of your fridge. Anytime you run out of something - write it down. Easiest way for me to keep track.

Shop one day out of the week or once every two.

Buy lots of plastic containers to strore food in the fridge. Cook in large portions.

I've (and Ko) have made it so that all I need to do in the mornings before work is pull out a ready-made lunch in a rubbermaid container.

If you are not a organized person - it will take a while and work to get into some sort of pattern. But once you're over that hump, it is a breeze. Oh, and do you shop at Costco? If not, check it out.

That would help so much to start cooking in bulk (instead of thawing some chick. breasts every time I’ve got to eat). One question that comes to mind, though is : How do you tell the weight (so that you can correctly note it in your food log?) of like say… Pasta. I can tell you that it’s dry weight of 2 oz. will give you 42g of carbs, 3g of fat, and 6g protien, but how do you account for this if you cook like 2 lbs. of pasta at one time? Or Beans for that matter? How would you portion out the beans so that you were able to keep track of exactly how much you’re eating? On a side not, do you guys actaully keep a count of the carbs that are in veggies? I find that there are so few carbs in veggies that it is negligible. Maybe I’m eating too few veggies…

Kyle: Excellent question!

Unless you’re one of those guys on those “MRP and Oatmeal” diets, it’s better to be CONSISTENT instead of exact. Now…I’m not suggesting that you get sloppy and haphazard in your diet…far from it. But the differences in cooked and uncooked measurements will be neglible IN AN OVERALL PROGRAM of cardio, resistance training and supplementation. You should be fine. Pick dry or cooked weights and measures…just be consistent with it. (Hope that answered your question?)

Just wanted to ad my voice to the bulk cooking chorus. Try it - it works.

Also, that advice from Jeff B is about the best I've ever seen. Habits, man, habits! That's what the lifestyle is made of. Good call, Jeff!

Finally, to Kyle: Measure out 2oz. of pasta (dry weight). Cook it. Weigh it again. Now you know how much 2 cooked ounces of pasta weighs. Simple, eh?

Thanks for all the suggestions. It looks like bulk cooking is the way to go. I also like the idea of working on one bad habit at a time. I’ll get right to work.