Food? How?
December 6, 2014 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I would like to be given a very specific grocery list telling me exactly what to buy in a week, as well as instructions on how turn the groceries into meals.

I am a young male, living alone. I need to eat better than I have been. In particular, I'd like to start working out again, but the exercise doesn't give me much benefit if I don't keep up a high calorie, high protein diet. My biggest obstacle is not willpower or anything, it's the logistics of getting and eating food.

General advice on nutrition has not helped me, nor have vague shopping lists that tell me what categories of things to buy. AskMe has lots of good ideas for recipes in this category but I just end up getting confused. I think I need specific instructions: exactly what to buy and how much, and then exactly what meals I'm going to make with each thing and when and how I should make them. Ideally, these would be relatively low-prep meals; I have pots and pans, a stove, and an oven, but nothing fancy like a blender or food processor. Plus, if you have to do all the prep yourself, it's exponentially slower than dividing it up among people.

It would be great if there were like, a menu of weekly plans so that I could have some variety, but even just instructions for one week would be great (given a specific plan, it's easy enough to make small modifications for variety). I'm thinking of this as a temporary crutch; once I get a feel for things I hope I'll be able to do the planning myself. It should be a reasonable budget but I'm not that concerned about bargain-hunting or buying things in bulk.

I know there's lots of stuff online, but a lot of it seems to be targeted at families, and tries to be interesting or assumes I have a fully stocked kitchen. I am just a single guy who wants to eat a lot of protein and has a pretty high tolerance for bland food.
posted by vogon_poet to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
The Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge seems to be pretty much what you're looking for. Here is a previous question looking for more things like the Buzzfeed one. Here are some more previous questions that might help you out.
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

This question might help point you in the right direction. I'm doing the Buzzfeed clean eating challenge right now and it is super detailed and idiot-proof, but it's also expensive and not sustainable over the long term. I let myself cheat with healthy snacks since I'm not trying to lose weight, just cook at home more and generally eat better. (I also drink coffee because I'm not a masochist.) Point being, if you approach it with some skepticism and flexibility, it might be a good place to start.

On preview: HA. jinx.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

*The Buzzfeed one should be what you're looking for in terms of shopping/prep, but the foods are super low-calorie "clean eating" foods, which you may or may not be interested in.
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2014

Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals books have a pantry list in the front, and most of the recipes are good for buying in large amount-- they're low prep and sort of modular in that they are very protein-veg-starch variations.

If you don't want to shop, will deliver the exact components needed for meals of your choice.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2014

This might help, though I'm not sure it is just what you're looking for: Whole 30 meal plan week 1.

The meal plan is for the Whole 30 program, which cuts out grains, sugars, etc. You can modify the recipes to suit you. They are high protein and pretty darned tasty! She has a link to a shopping list buried in there as well as a list of what you'll be making for the week (she seems to prep everything on Sunday, then cook quick things (such as scrambled eggs) fresh each day).

This is aimed at individuals looking to improve their health.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 11:57 AM on December 6, 2014

Response by poster: To clarify:
The Buzzfeed thing is exactly what I'm looking for in form! But yes, it's pretty much the opposite of what I want in content. I am not trying to lose weight; in fact, the problem here is that the logistical challenges result in me not eating enough.

The Whole 30 thing is great in terms of the food, except it really looks like way too much upfront work for me.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:18 PM on December 6, 2014

I have been using CookSmarts meal plans for about a year now; they change every week, give you plenty of options (need a vegetarian version? eating paleo? etc), and provide a complete grocery list. The complete archive of meals is available in case there's something you don't like in a particular week, or are just having a craving for something you had before. Each meal takes about 30 minutes to get on the table, especially if you do the week's prep (which is usually not too onerous, nor requires lots of specialized equipment) ahead of time.

Each week's plan gives you four meals; as a single person, I find I only need to make three of the four meals to provide just about all of my lunches and dinners each week. You could easily just eat more than I do, and there's nothing particular low-calorie about the meals.
posted by zebra at 12:20 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

How many calories do you need daily? Also where are you?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:20 PM on December 6, 2014

Real Simple magazine does this sometimes. This is the most recent one, I think.
posted by marmago at 12:24 PM on December 6, 2014

The Dinner Survival series all have grocery lists at the back ( ordered by week). It's pretty normal food.
posted by exois at 12:41 PM on December 6, 2014

If you do a search for "weekly meal planning guide" or "weekly meal planning list" you may get some hits.

A lot of womens' magazines do the kind of thing you're looking for time to time, although they're pitched more towards planning for a family than a single person. But i think it's the concept you're looking for.

Here's something I found released by Whole Foods that may also be what you're looking for.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:47 PM on December 6, 2014

This previous question received a lot of good answers. That poster ended up going with a company called Fresh20. They also link to a one time grocery list and menu like you're requesting.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:56 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Vogon_poet Diet

It’s not that hard to put together meals. If you devote an hour or so on the weekend to prep and cooking, you can eat like a king all week. I’d also suggest that you make a date with a friend to go grocery shopping if you don’t enjoy it. I used to do it with my friends so we could connect while getting one of our errands done.

Daily Menu

Breakfast: 1 piece of Egg Puff, 1 yogurt, fruit
Lunch: ½ bag salad, grape tomatoes and salad dressing. Cup Creamy Tomato Soup. Cold cuts and cheese slices rolled around pickles (or just eaten out of a bag.)
Afternoon snack: 1 yogurt and a protein shake/bar
Dinner: ½ bag salad, grape tomatoes and salad dressing , ½ bag frozen veggie, roasted protein, baked potato/sweet potato or brown rice.
Dessert: Fruit, toast and peanut butter. Milk (optional)

Grocery List

7 or 14 Greek Yogurts
2 packages of sliced cheese
1 8 oz package shredded mild cheddar/jack cheese
1 can chopped green chiles
1 Quart of cream
7 bags of pre-mixed salad mix (or a couple of HUGE bags)
1 basket of cherry or grape tomatoes
1 jar favorite salad dressing
Cold cuts from the deli counter: hard salami, ham, turkey,
1 jar pickles
7 premixed protein shakes/protein bars
Apples, Oranges, Pears
4 bags of frozen veggies of your choice, broccoli, cauliflower, medleys, squash, etc.
Pork Chops
Chicken Breasts
Salmon Filet (wild, fresh or frozen)
Non-stick cooking spray
Baking Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes
Brown rice (can be frozen or Uncle Ben’s ready to microwave)
Loaf of whole wheat bread
1 Jar of Peanut Butter
Seasoning mixes for meats including barbecue
Garlic Powder
Can of black beans/Goya Black Bean Soup
Milk (optional)
Dozen Eggs
Fancy mustard
Olive oil
2 28 oz cans of tomatoes (you can use crushed to save time)
Sour cream (if you like it on potatoes)
Small Can tomato paste
Dorot Garlic and herb cubes, get these at Trader Joe's
Bag frozen peppers and onions
Bag frozen chopped onion


Egg Puff
7 eggs
2 ½ cups cream or milk
Squirt of mustard (Dijon, brown)
Shot of hot sauce
8 oz of shredded cheese
1 can chopped chiles

Beat the eggs, add milk, beating until it’s well mixed. Add seasonings. Spray an oblong baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Put half package of cheese on the bottom, then sprinkle the chopped chiles, then finish with cheese. Pour egg mixture over cheese. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until it puffs up and is brown. Can be sliced into 8 portions to be individually wrapped and heated up in the microwave.

Cream of Tomato Soup

2 28 Oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 stick butter
Handful of chopped frozen onion
1 cube Dorot Garlic
½ cup cream

Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add thyme, onion, and garlic. Cook until onion is completely soft and translucent, 10–12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; add tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often, until paste has begun to caramelize in spots, 5–6 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes. Let cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add cream and Salt/Pepper to taste. Can be portioned out and eaten with lunch. (If you like substitute thyme for basil.)


Baked: Oil up a potato, poke it with a fork. Bake for about 2 hours at 350 degrees. Goose the time by putting it in the microwave for 5-6 minutes first. Then grease and thow in the oven with steak, chop or chicken.

Roasted: Chop potato into about 8-10 pieces. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Sweet: Chop potato into about 8-10 pieces. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle with barbecue seasoning, dust with garlic powder and a smattering of cinnamon. Then mix with hands and bake with protein.
Rice and beans: To spice up plain rice, add beans to it. Goya black bean soup is already perafect to mix with rice. If you get regular black beans, saute frozen red pepper and onion mix in olive oil. Add some garlic powder/Dorot garlic cube and a shake of thyme. Add beans until warm. Mix with rice.


Lots of different meat seasonings, to sprinkle on your meat, and sauces to add after they’re done. Experiment around. Try Mojo, Chimmichurri, Teriyaki, anything that sounds interesting.
To make it easy, I line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, throw the meat on it, sprinkle with seasoning and then bake at 350. Takes about 20 or so minutes for meat and boneless poultry, and 15 for fish. Assuming 8 oz or smaller pieces.

This should be easy enough to do as it requires no fussing with chopping. You can just throw things together. Feel free to memail me if you have questions, or if you want to fuss at me.

Happy munching!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:26 PM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I am just a single guy who wants to eat a lot of protein and has a pretty high tolerance for bland food.

If you're serious about tolerating bland food, I'll give you my meal plan for free. I'm a single gal and a heavy lifter so I eat a lot and a lot of protein:

Pantry ingredients:
Dried oregano
Garlic powder
Olive oil and/or cooking spray
Peanut butter

Weekly grocery list:
Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Greek yogurt
Pick two vegetables: bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower

On Sunday, pre-heat your oven to 350° F. Spread aluminum foil on a baking sheet, place chicken breasts on the baking sheet, then generously apply salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried oregano to the chicken. Bake in the oven until the thickest piece reaches an internal temperature of 165°, or is no longer pink in the middle. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked, let cool.

Now crank up your oven to the low 400s. Chop up or vegetables of the week, or dump them out of the pre-chopped container because you are lazy and you paid extra to buy them that way. Put them in a Ziploc bag. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, plus some salt and pepper. Seal the bag and shake it around until everything is well coated. Dump the veggies out onto the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the veggies are just slightly burnt.

Use a sharp knife to cut the chicken into pieces and put it all in a tupperware. Put the cooled veggies into a separate tupperware.

For the rest of the week:

  • No prep: Yogurt
  • Morning prep: Oatmeal, scrambled eggs
  • Prep night before: Soaked oats
  • No prep: Chicken with roasted veggies
  • Minimal prep: Rice with chicken with roasted veggies
Dinner: Same as lunch

Snacks: Anything mentioned above.

And that's pretty much how I live. I also keep in the pantry for unexpected food shortfalls and post-workout: cans of tuna, crackers, a jar of mayonnaise, frozen fruit (great in oatmeal or blended in greek yogurt), protein powder, and cheese.
posted by telegraph at 1:37 PM on December 6, 2014 [14 favorites]

A bit off track but consider getting one of those single-drink $10 blenders so that you can make smoothies or protein shakes. If all you're blending is milk or water and protein powder, maybe a banana it can handle it, and if you need a high protein diet it will help you achieve that with very minimal effort.
posted by lafemma at 1:39 PM on December 6, 2014

Emeals. It's awesome and the app allows you to have the shopping list with you on your phone. Food is great too.
posted by superfille at 2:24 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nd-ing Fresh 20 -- they do exactly this for a low subscription price. You can try one week for free.
posted by tinymegalo at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Shopping List:
pack of cherry tomatoes
two cucumbers
bag of baby carrots
large package of hearts of romaine
one lemon
one package of full-fat greek yogurt
2-4 chicken breasts; buy them precooked or just shake on a seasoning mix and saute them up
bag of pita bread
package of hummus
one package of feta
jar of kalamata olives or an assortment from your market's olive bar

Peel both cucumbers and scrape out the seeds. One gets sliced into nice salad-or-sandwich sized chunks; one gets grated with a box grater. Mix the shredded cucumber with the juice and zest of the lemon and the greek yogurt for a sort of tzatziki sauce. That's it. That is all the cooking you need to do.


Salad - dress a bed of romaine with the tzatziki sauce, top with tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, chicken, feta and olives. Optional toasted pita on the side.

Sandwich - Spread a warmed pita with hummus on one side and tzatziki on the other then stuff with tomatoes, cucumber, chicken, feta and olives

Snack - Dip carrots, cucumbers, spears of romaine, tomatoes, and/or chunks of pita bread in the hummus and tzatziki

Lettuce Wraps - Spread leaves of romaine with hummus and then toss everything else on top of it - good with lots of feta

What I Usually Do With It: Just make a plate of everything and roam around the plate dipping stuff and cramming stuff in my mouth.

(I originally posted this here but it seems to meet your criteria; a nice thing about it is that no leftovers get wasted because you don't always need every single ingredient)
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:47 PM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

Other people have been giving great answers to the central question (and as someone who is completely comfortable in the kitchen, I'm actually a bit tempted by the fresh20, since after a few decades one gets bored of one's own cooking and it takes effort to keep adding new and interesting things that still fit within time limits).

Plus, if you have to do all the prep yourself, it's exponentially slower than dividing it up among people.

I'd just add that this isn't actually true in my experience. It's almost always slower to cook in a group unless you have things super organized assembly-line style, or if there is a specific task (like chopping five pounds of carrots into small pieces) that one person can do while another person does everything else. Most meals fall into an easy one-person work flow, and good descriptions of the process (like in some of the links above) show that really clearly.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:31 PM on December 6, 2014

Nthing, Tofufuton upthread on Fresh20. Here's a NY Times article about it.
posted by Elsie at 4:09 PM on December 6, 2014

I have suggested Fresh20 in the past on all questions for this. They have the standard menu for small families. They also have menus for 1, gluten free, vegetarian and Paleo. Highly recommend them. They have great instructions for someone just getting use to cooking and don't require a lot of fancy ingredients or tools.

For someone like me who likes to cook and is pretty good at it (or so I think) it takes me back to basics cooking new foods from different ethnic backgrounds all from scratch. It gives me the chance to put my own spin on dishes by changing the seasoning, adding/removing ingredients and modifying it to my family's taste without having to come up with an interesting meal on my own.
posted by saradarlin at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2014

The Menu Mailer by Leanne Ely is EXACTLY what you're looking for. Here is a free sample weekly menu to try before you shell out for a paid subscription (it's $15 for 3 months). Choose one of the "Serves 2" options and eat the second portion as lunch the next day.

You might also find her books helpful, particularly Saving Dinner Basics: How to Cook Even If You Don't Know How to get started with.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:05 PM on December 6, 2014

Also exactly what you're looking for: eMeals.

Once you start collecting recipes and planning out your own menus, I can't recommend Plan To Eat highly enough.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:53 AM on December 7, 2014

Response by poster: This is all absolutely fantastic! Thank you, everyone. I don't think there are any bad answers, but I've marked as best the ones that answer the question most directly.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:17 AM on December 7, 2014

Check out Blue Apron. They have weekly menus and you pre-order meals. Then they deliver the ingredients for each meal with recipes. I haven't tried it myself, but a few coworkers use it and enjoy it. At $10/meal per person it's pricier than buying things and cooking them yourself.
posted by pravit at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2014

The Only Grocery Shopping List You'll Ever Need is more of a formula BUT the main page has a sample list for 1 week's worth of groceries and what you can make with the ingredients on the list. The target is someone cooking/shopping for one.

Less explicit is How to Boil an Egg: 184 Simple Recipes for One by Jan Arkless. She wrote it with her son in mind, who was going off to college and knew nothing about the kitchen. It really helped me when I first moved into my own apartment, because the directions are very explicit, low-prep, and the dishes are only for one person, unless the recipe states otherwise. Helpful advice is sprinkled throughout the book because the author assumes zero previous knowledge of cooking. There's no grocery list per se, but she indicates the amounts you should use when cooking for one (e.g. 175 grams of beef per person), so you can approximate just how much you need to buy when shopping for one week's worth of groceries for yourself.

Eggs though. Eggs should be a staple on your weekly grocery list, with or without recipes in mind! Eggs are so versatile and so filling, and can be prepared in so many ways. It's hard to fail with eggs and I've winged it so many times, producing many accidentally tasty dishes just scrambling, frying, mixing with leftovers, or making fried rice. If after a week, I still have some left, I boil them and make egg salad or use them as toppings for meat dishes. I love eggs!
posted by Lush at 12:55 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites] does meal plans for one and there's a 14-day free trial. They do give you the shopping list as well.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:54 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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