The Beginner’s Guide to Grocery Shopping on a Budget

As a macro counting beginner, we suggest making it as simple as possible by eating whole foods and logging everything. Eating whole foods doesn’t mean you actually have to shop at Whole Foods and spend your whole paycheck. (Though we are super fans of Amazon’s changes to the grocery chain).

Whole Foods or whole foods?

When we talk about eating whole, real foods, we are talking about primarily staying on the outside of the grocery store. If you think about the perimeter of the aisles, what foods do you find there? Produce, meat, dairy, and maybe your run of the mill olive bar. All of these foods come from the earth, and most of them are relatively unprocessed.

Stay towards the outside of the grocery store when you’re making your rounds. It’s an excellent way to keep yourself laser-focused on the foods that will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck.

We understand that some of these whole foods more expensive than the foods you can find inside the aisles. While that may be true, in this case inexpensive = cheap = lacking nutritional value.*

*Let us make a small exception here: There are certain foods that you’ll find in the aisles that are nutritionally dense, i.e. nut butters, beans, rice, oatmeal, and even salsas and sauces. *

I’m definitely not a beginner grocery shopper, but I don’t want to spend all of my money on food.

Lucky for you, you’re in the right spot! Check out our tips for making your grocery store trip as inexpensive and easy as possible.

Tip 1: Plan ahead and determine what you’ll eat during the week.

Figuring out your meals for the week will not only save you the headache when it comes down to crunch time, but will also save you big bucks. Simplify everything by knowing exactly what you need to buy to make your week’s meals and cut down on unnecessary spending!

Find a few functional, printable, and free meal planning templates here.

Tip 2: Write out a grocery list that includes strictly grocery items.

When you don’t have a list written out before you head out on your grocery trip, you are more likely to buy items you don’t need. If you plan ahead and figure out what you want to eat during the week (AKA Tip 1), making a list is much easier to manage.

Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to travel to different stores to find the best deals.

I’ve reached a point where I could shop with my eyes closed and still be able to pick up exactly what I need for the week. I find that certain stores are better and less expensive for certain items than others. Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Kroger seem to be my favorite three- give them a go! Their business models and coupons (like the additional savings you can find on the Kroger app) are wallet friendly.

Tip 4: Buy frozen vegetables and fruit and stock up on clearance items when you can. Avoid convenience foods.

Opt for foods that might take a little extra prep time on your end, like unpackaged greens or uncut fruit. Buying precut, prewashed or prepackaged produce often marks up the price.

Frozen veggies and fruit can be much cheaper than buying them fresh, and will last you longer. If you’re trying to buy organically, buying frozen is a great way to save some change. Not to mention, frozen produce keeps its nutritional profile for longer.

Don’t be afraid of the clearance section! If you’re planning on cooking, eating, or freezing a clearance-marked food within the next 24 hours or so, it is a wallet-friendly option. Obviously, if the meat or produce is looking a little sketchy (i.e. wilted, moldy, or grey), skip it.

Tip 5: Shop on a full stomach and when you’re not stressed out or tired.

When you’re hungry and tired, or hangry, you tend to gravitate towards highly palatable/highly processed foods. This is the case whether you’re shopping the aisles of the grocery store or the shelves in your pantry. If you have to go to the store while you’re feeling anything other than jovial, we recommend sticking to the stores that you know so you can get in and out quickly. Less distraction, less frustration, more happiness!

 

Whatcha Gonna Do With All Those Carbs?

Overwhelmed by your carb goal?

Feeling like there aren’t enough potatoes in the world to help you reach your macros at the end of the day?

Sometimes Ryan Gosling is here to help. But, in the rare occasion that he isn’t saving you an extra plate, we wanted to suggest some higher carb foods that will help move you closer to your goals.

When the only carb you know is sweet potatoes…

It’s time to make a change.

Put down the granola bars and Wonder bread sandwich, and let’s talk about all of the other delicious, whole food options that pack a carb punch. Without all of the processed crap.

Bean-based pastas

We, like the rest of the health foods world, are obsessed with bean-based pastas. These gluten-free, egg-free, vegetarian and vegan-friendly pasta options are an amazing source of not only carbohydrates but also protein. Some of our favorite kinds are made from edamame (soy beans), chickpeas, black beans. Find brands like Banza at almost every grocery store and even big box stores like Costco.

Rice

Did you know just how many different types of rice there are? White, brown, black, long grain, basmati, arborio, sushi, sticky… the list goes on! Each type of rice has it’s own nutritional profile and macronutrient break down, and all rice is NOT created equal.

Generally speaking, brown rice contains more fiber than white rice, meaning it keeps you full for longer. White rice, on the other hand, is more heavily processed to removed the bran and germ. This makes it easier to cook and chew but less nutrient dense than its darker colored cousins.

Quinoa

Quinoa is rice’s circular little cousin and packs a higher protein punch in exchange for a little bit less carbohydrate. But, don’t be fooled: these naturally gluten-free grains are crazy nutrient dense and are a great replacement for oats and glutenous products like pastas, breakfast cereals, and more. Still not convinced it’s worth your time? Check out some more info here.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is an incredibly versatile and forgiving grain to cook with. Try it as overnight oats, mixed into any meat as a great gluten free binding alternative for a burger, or gently cook it on the stove top for a traditional breakfast (or lunch, or dinner….).

Opt for the least processed varieties with the most nutritional value like steel cut/Irish oats, or their finely ground brother, the stone ground oat. Avoid quick-cooking and instant oats, as they are the most highly processed. Though this makes them the easiest to cook, they are the most nutrient deficient choice. Learn more about each type of oatmeal, here.

Barley

A somewhat foreign grain to many people, barley has been used for centuries as a hearty, starchy base. Add it to salads, soups, stews, and more to increase the carb density of your meal. Barley comes with a nutty flavor and chewy texture, not to mention it packs 73g of carbohydrate per 100g!

Unsure how to use it in a recipe? Check out one of our favorite recipe generating websites, Yummly.

Discover The Key To Tracking Your Macros in Three Minutes

Hey you. Start here.

Keep your brain clear, your scale visible, and your belly full! Tracking doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. Take 3 minutes today and read about some of our top Do’s and Don’ts to tracking your macros.

Do:

Keep your food scale on the counter.

Out of sight, out of mind! Keep your food scale out and visible as a reminder to weigh and measure when you’re at home. It is the most accurate way to figure out how much you’re eating!

Track everything you eat.

If you don’t, you are defeating the whole purpose of tracking your macros in the first place. The beauty of tracking is being able to eat whatever you want (no guilt here!), but within a portion-controlled amount.

Choose nutrient-dense foods.

9 times out of 10, choosing a nutrient-dense food (for example, a piece of fruit), will pack LESS macronutrients than choosing the less nutrient-dense food (like a scoop of ice cream). That means, if you love to eat in volume, you can eat MORE for LESS. Win, win.

Communicate with your coach.

If you’re constantly starving, having trouble hitting your carbs, or generally feeling unmotivated, your coach is here to help you! Communication is key, and we promise, we’ve been there before. Let us help you work through it.

Don’t:

Beat yourself up if you aren’t perfect.

There is no reason for you to forget about the progress you’ve made if you aren’t perfect for a day, or even a week. Be gracious with yourself and remember that this is a lifestyle change, and it takes time. Not to mention, that added pressure of being perfect may actually be detrimental to your goals. Stress = Counterproductive.

Restrict.

Restriction of certain food groups or individual foods will only cause cravings, and ultimately binges (unless you are actually sensitive/allergic to these foods). Let yourself live! You can have your cake AND eat it too. As long as you track it.

Looking for more tracking tips? My Fitness Pal suggests these 10 for tracking newbies.

Dirty Foods and Dirty Minds: Why I Refuse to “Eat Clean”

When Food Becomes A Marker of Morality

For as long as I can remember, classifying food under a “Good” or “Bad” category has been an everyday habit. I couldn’t tell you the first time that I ever engaged in that kind of thought, but it has followed me into my 26th year on this planet, and I am vowing to take them out altogether.

When you claim to be “eating clean” you are automatically assigning morality to your eating actions and habits. You are deciding that “clean” food is “good” and “dirty” food is bad.

What is even considered clean? Is it foods that come from the earth? Is it foods that follow a ketogenic lifestyle? A high carbohydrate lifestyle? Foods that only include ingredients you can read? Vegan? Grass-fed meats? Organic vs. non organic? GMOs? Do you see what I’m getting at here?

This blog post from Mark’s Daily Apple gives us the break down in some of the simplest terms we can find:

“Unfortunately, if you scrutinize long and deep enough, just about any food choice can put you on the shame train. Seriously, at some point, we have to refuse to ride anymore”, because, quite frankly, it’s exhausting.

Clean eating is not scientific terminology. It is something that the fitness and food industries have come up with to convince you to buy their products because they are “guilt-free” or include “all natural” ingredients.

Morality is so intertwined in what we eat already, WHY do we want to add more pressure on ourselves to make the “right”, “good” choice?

I challenge you to eliminate those words from your vocabulary and reframe the way that you look at your food.

Food is neutral.

Take Action: Reframe

Think about how you refer to what you put in your body. Do you assign morality labels to certain foods? If you said no, you’re lying. We all do it, because we’ve all been conditioned to do it.

Reconsider the way you are thinking about your food.

 

Try and think: there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure or a dirty food. There are only pleasures, only foods. Some of them may be more nutrient-dense than others and made from whole ingredients (fact), but there are no morals. Eat the foods, and then move on.

When members come up to us and ask what they can be doing better for their diet, our default answer is to ask, “Are you eating whole foods and logging everything?”. Notice how we don’t suggest that you “start eating clean”. A whole food can be defined. A clean food cannot. A whole food does not have morality associated with it. A clean food does.

Ask yourself: Do you know the whole story?

Just as you would never shame another person based on the way that they look, why would you shame them based on the foods they eat?  Better yet, why would you do that to yourself?

Some people can afford to eat organically, others cannot. Feel better when you eat a lower carb, higher fat diet? You go, Glenn Coco! Eating gluten free because you’re sensitive to gluten or just because you think it’s a better way for you to live? Sounds great!

What works for you – biologically, financially, emotionally- might not work for everyone else. That is a fact.

Give yourself a break.

We have so many negative external factors pressuring us to be so many certain ways. Pressure to be skinny, strong, masculine, feminine. Eat only the absolute minimum amount to maintain a petite frame/eat as much as you can to be big and strong.

Why would you want to make yourself any more stressed out by telling yourself that you are a good or bad person by what you choose to eat? Give yourself a break from the world telling you to be a certain way because it makes them a profit.

 

 

4 Tips to Make Meal Prepping Your Macros Easier

 4 Tips to Make Meal Prepping Your Macros Easier

After countless consultations with clients, there’s a common theme that comes up in almost every conversation. Meal prepping seems to be the most universally recognized difficulty that most of our F5 clients have. Whether it’s the fact that you just don’t enjoy cooking or having to add the additional time and effort to calculating your macro nutrients, meal prep can be a daunting task. Take a read at some of our favorite meal prep tips below!

1. Find A Buddy

Get a friend to be your accountability buddy! – Or, as I fondly refer to them, your accountabilibuddy. If you’re lucky enough to have a roommate or partner who is interested in figuring out their macros too, meal prepping and eating can be infinitely more fun and easier. If you don’t have someone close to you for support, you can use the F5 community! Whether it’s a coach or someone else following the F5, having someone to rely on for frustration, meal ideas, and sharing successes can be hugely beneficial in your progress. iPhones are even make it easier to track and share your meals between friends with the iMessage feature to send My Fitness Pal meals through text. (YES, it’s a REAL THING!)

Facebook Group: F5 Method – Friend Maggie or Jessi on Facebook and we will add you to the group!

Instagram Account: @F5Method

2. Digital Scale

The very first thing I did before I even came in for my F5 consultation was buy a digital scale off Amazon (this one). I had been using a small, analog scale when I first tried measuring my macros a few months prior, and though it worked just fine, it made it about 14 times harder to calculate between units. I used this as an opportunity to understand how much I was eating before getting my assessment and to get used to the feeling of weighing and measuring everything. Once I went

through my assessment, it was much easier to change my mindset to looking for a specific number on the scale.

Another tip? Keep the scale on the counter. Don’t put it away. Every time I put the scale away for the night or after a meal I am that much less likely to remember to pull it back out for the next time I eat. If it’s always sitting out on the counter, looking at me, it is so much harder to ignore it.

3. Time Management

Frozen Veggies & Fruit

Keep frozen vegetables and fruit in the freezer always, just in case. One of my favorite throw-together dinners is a hodge podge of frozen veggies (Mukimame/shelled edamame, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower) and some fresh bell pepper and zucchini all sautéed in a pan and then added to some sort of ground meat. I kid you not, it takes me less than 5 min to make a heaping plate and I never have to think about my veggies going bad in the fridge. Talk about the best of both worlds! Frozen fruit can be a great sweet treat when you’re craving something sugary or a quick source of carbs to add to smoothies.

Save Reoccurring Meals

One of my favorite My Fitness Pal hacks is saving the meals that you eat over and over again. Having the same thing for lunch every day this week? Instead of entering each food item every day, just save your meal from Monday and add the entire thing to the rest of the week’s days.

To save, click the three dots at the bottom of the meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) and choose “Save As Meal”. Once you’ve saved, you can add the entire thing by choosing “Meals” when searching for a food. So simple and so time efficient!

Take Advantage of Weekends

Use your weekends to meal prep- don’t assume you’ll have time during the week. Carve out at least one hour to get everything done for the next few days, which means you have to meal prep more than one meal at a time. I guarantee that eating the same thing for lunch a few days in a row will be completely worth it when you’re finished packing your week’s lunches in 10 minutes.

Siri

Use Siri to help with your meal prepping. I know it sounds a little silly, but I don’t use Siri for anything except meal prepping. Rather than adjusting the weight of my food in MFP, I’ll just ask Siri how many grams of X are in whatever I want to eat. For example, if I have 4oz of banana on my scale, I’ll ask her how many grams of carbs are in 4oz of banana and adjust accordingly based on my macros. That way I know exactly how much I need to eat and can input it directly into MFP.

4. Make It Fancy

Go buy yourself some brand-new Tupperware and a new lunch box. I promise, the “treat yo’self” idea is applicable to more than just eating food: shiny, beautiful Tupperware containers that make your food look that much better will make meal prepping that much more fun. Who doesn’t want to show off their glass, snap-lid containers in their new lunch box? (It can’t be just me….) I promise you, it’s going to make packing meals that much more fun. Not to mention your plastic Tupperware containers are probably really old and dirty and some of them don’t even have a lid!

Get rid of ‘em. Just do it.

Want to take it a little bit further? Some preliminary studies have shown that eating your meals out of a bowl actually make you feel more satisfied than eating the same meal from off of a plate. Take it for what you will, but I am all about this bowl trend!

Try These Healthy Patriotic 4th of July Eats

Classic 4th of July recipes and their healthier (but just as tasty) substitutes

The 4th of July is just around the corner (HOW did it get so close?!) and we know that feasting celebrations are one of your favorite traditions during the holiday (ours too!). As much fun as it can be to indulge with your family and friends, overeating on holidays is a real thing and something we all want to try and avoid. Even if you run your local 5k that morning or participate in our 10am community WOD, that doesn’t mean you get to stuff yo’ face with whatever you want. Whether you’re hosting or just bringing a dish, consider swapping some of these fan favorites for their lighter, just as flavorful options.

Some of the recipes have the nutrition facts already calculated for you for easy tracking!

Potato Salad

  • Skip the mayo and try a trendier version. Use sweet potatoes, like this recipe from Paleomg, or keep it simple with traditional red potatoes and tons of herb-y flavor. Find a recipe here.

Burgers

  • Classic burgers are fattier, normally made with 80/20 meat, cheese, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, mustard and a white burger bun. 
  • Choose a leaner beef (90/10 or higher) or even a leaner meat option all together (ground turkey, ground chicken, or a lean ground pork). Season and skip the cheese. Pesto, tomato, pickles, grilled veggies make fantastic toppings. Use a whole wheat bun or a bed of lettuce, pull the insides of the bun out (hollow it out) to make more room for toppings and less room for carbs!
  • Check out this chicken avocado burger recipe from Laughing Spatula! Need to cut the fat? Use less avocado!

Hot Dogs & Bratwurst

Corn on the Cob

  • Make it your classic way (we like grilled or boiled), just go easy on the butter and salt. Or, skip them all together and savor the naturally sweet flavor.

Alcoholic drinks

Just say no! Pour yourself a virgin version or avoid the carbs and sugar all together and stick to good ole’ water. But, if you must, consider substituting sodas and sugary mixes with seltzer water, flavored or unflavored, and using natural/fresh fruit instead of the fruit concentrate or juices.

If you really want to take the brain work out of it, there are a few companies selling spiked seltzer water by the can now. Take a look at this taste-test review of a few different brands if you’re looking to mix it up! Most are very low in carbohydrates, sugar, and you can find plenty of brands that are gluten free.

Coleslaw

  • Try a recipe that uses a vinegar or olive oil base instead of mayo, for a healthy fat or no-fat option. Check out this olive oil-based recipe.

Deviled Eggs

  • Try this recipe and substitute Greek yogurt for mayonnaise. Trust us, it’s good.

Pie

  • Cobbler or Crumble (less crust!) Try this low carb, rhubarb option. If you’re not a rhubarb fan or don’t have any on hand, sub any type of fruit you like!

Red White and Blue Cake

The classic white cake with vanilla frosting, blueberries and strawberries to create an edible American flag. Cute, yes. Healthy… not so much. Get the same kind of patriotic vibes with these Banana Split Kebabs!

Skewer a piece of banana, blueberries, and a strawberry onto a kebab stick in alternating red, white, and blue order or organize to make them look like a flag. Dip them in whipped cream or drizzle chocolate on top for an extra dessert kick. Feel free to use any combination of blue, white, and red fruits you enjoy eating!

Don’t forget our BRFC community WOD at 10:00 on July 4th! Bring your friends and family to the gym and we’ll all sweat together before the cookouts and fireworks begin!

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too (If You Make It Yourself!): Five Reasons to Make Dessert At Home

As we move into the summer months, we still want you to be able to treat yo’self without the guilt normally attached to eating dessert. As a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I (Maggie) look for every excuse to eat dessert; so, I present to you the top five reasons that you SHOULD eat dessert this summer… as long as you make it at home.

You’ll save money.

I hate to break it to ya, but pretty much everything is cheaper if you make it at home. There are definitely a few exceptions, but do you really want to be eating an ice cream cone that you bought for 60 cents? Quality over quantity, people.

You’ll save calories.

Have you ever heard of someone actually making a bowl of cookie dough ice cream from scratch? Unless you grew up with Ben and Jerry (or someone with an ice cream machine and a lot of spare time) you probably have only ever eaten it from someone selling it! Eating desserts that you make yourself will save you calories because, well, you probably don’t know how to make most of your favorite treats from scratch. So, if you can’t make it, you can’t eat it. If you are willing to try and make a fan favorite in your own kitchen, you’ll also have control over exactly what is going into the sweet treat you’re making. You can opt to use healthier substitutions (applesauce for butter, cut back on sugar), or try a new, healthy version of your favorite treat. Making it at home gives you total control!

You can share with someone you care about.

If you enjoy cooking and consider yourself a decent cook, chances are you’ve had an opportunity to share a dish with someone you care about, and chances are it felt pretty good to do that! Did you know that the more you share your happiness, the more happiness you create for yourself? Sharing increases joy, so that means homemade dessert= joy! Right?!

You’ll form good habits for your kids.

Studies show that cooking with your kids not only positively influences your children’s behaviors and choices regarding food, but also can increase self-esteem, communication skills, reading and math comprehension, and more! Bond with them, encourage them to experiment with trying new foods, and open their eyes to how GOOD it can taste when they make it all their own!

Experiment!

Don’t hesitate to try new recipes! The internet is FULL of healthy dessert recipes, and tons of them have the nutrition facts already calculated for you (like the ones we found on Good Housekeeping and Eating Well). Check out some of the recipes we’ve picked out below, as well as a few simple, no-cook ideas!