Shopping Is Half The Battle #pickingupthepieces

Eating healthy is a big part of trying to lose weight and reducing your risk for disease. Having a daily workout regimen aimed to increase your heart rate and burn fat (or calories) is detrimental to getting your body in the shape that you desire for optimal health. Combining these two practices make for one heck of a journey towards a healthy future. As a personal chef, I know that preparation before execution is everything.

Having your mise en place means to have everything ready in its place.

In every professional kitchen, all cooks have their mise en place ready to go before creating a dish, jumping onto the line to start dinner service, or even to test out a new recipe. We try to make sure everything is sorted, washed, prepped, cut, chopped, and sliced ready to be used in the final cooking process. I teach all my clients, learning how to cook, to make sure their mise en place is in order. This means planning a weekly menu, researching recipes, making an ingredient/shopping list then going to the grocery store and buying the right kind of ingredients to use for the week. This may seem like a ton of work at first. But if you think about it, doing this sets your week up with planned dinners and meals. All your thinking for the week has been done all in one day or weekend.

Now when you go to the grocery store I advise you all to keep your eyes open when shopping. Don’t go in there like robots picking up the first item on your list right off the shelves without “shopping around.”




Here are a few Successful Shopping Tips:

1. Look for deals or sales. Usually marked with bright colors, most grocery stores have sales every week. This will help out with your grocery budget and ultimately keeping your finances in check. Cooking at home for you and/or your family is not expensive if you shop smart.

2. Pre-cut and pre-prepped fruits and vegetables are usually more expensive. Buy whole produce and do the prep yourself. You may more because you are being charged extra for doing all the work for you. Sometimes this can help you out but if you plan your week accordingly, doing all the prep yourself can save you ton of money.  

3. Another key thing with fruits and vegetables is that every ingredient has its prime season for the best flavor and ripeness. When shopping for produce, buy seasonal ingredients.  Apples and squash are best in the fall to winter. Melons and tomatoes are incredible mid summer. Buy seasonally assures ripeness, full flavors, and inexpensive prices.

4. Along with shopping seasonally, purchasing products from local growers and producers not only save your a buck or two but help out your community. Locally grown produce and made products are most often cheaper than items brought in from more than 100 miles away. This not only assures fresh tasting foods but also promotes supporting businesses and farms in your neighborhoods and state.

5. Buy in bulk! The bulk department is my favorite department because you can buy as much or as little as you want. You can control the costs of the products you buy. You can reduce your costs in half because you don’t have to pay for packaging or the limited size and quantity. You will also eliminate any potential waste at home. Buying some packaged products for some recipes are great. However, if you only need a little bit for one recipe, your product may expire or go bad before you ever use it again. You’ll end up throwing out an entire container of spices or dry ingredients meaning money in the trash…something we don’t want!

This past weekend I set up my own mise en place for a detox that I was going to start. It is the Beyond The Resolutions: 11-Day Winter Clean Eating Program run by Portia Joyce Wellness. It is a detoxifying meal plan set in place to help remove toxins and waste from your body that it has acquired through the air and especially through what we eat. It is also a great way to a healthy recovery and start on a clean state. Detoxing before making any drastic changes, such as altering your diet, makes a whole world of difference. Check out my links if you have a chance and if you think this is something for you.

So I went shopping for the week. I actually designed my groceries for two people. I brought my mother along this journey in hopes to lower her Triglycerides and increase her HDL levels. If anything, she’s definitely more excited because she doesn’t even have to lift a finger. I have shopped, prepped, and I packaged and serve her meals everyday. She has no excuse and now that I have done the same for her, I don’t either. Here are the results of my shopping experience at my local Whole Foods Market.

Detox Week 1 Shopping List & Totals

Detox Week 1 Shopping List (1 of 2)

Detox Week 1 Shopping List (2 of 2)

I visited Whole Foods Market in Paramus, NJ and not to my surprise I was able to find everything I needed. As you will see, with much preparation and organization, you can pre-plan and shop for your week with ease. Then, once you have everything you need, take another hour or two washing your produce, chopping and prepping them all and pack them away in reusable containers. You’re week is basically all set and ready for you to cook. So believe me when I say,

“A few hours today will save you double the amount of time throughout the week. Planning your week out and then taking your time to organize yourself, well you’ve done the hard part. SHOPPING IS HALF THE BATTLE…now the cooking part, well…GIVE ME A CALL! :-)”

Black Friday, Cyber Monday…NOW Small Business Saturday

As someone working hard to get their own small business off the ground here in New Jersey, I know how good it feels when patrons knock on my door. Along with this year’s holiday sales and doorbusters, Black Friday for retailers and Cyber Monday for online shoppers, small businesses have their own special day for an economic boost. Launched by American Express through their social media outlets in 2011, Small Business Saturday falls directly between the two major money-saving holiday shopping days. Growing the economy starts somewhere and for the most part we do patronize small businesses more often than we think. I’m sure that we know of and support these “mom-and-pops” as well as everyday Americans that own and work for them.

Here are a few Small Business Facts: (as of 2011)

-There are 28 million small businesses in America

-70% of small businesses are operated by one person

-Immigrants make up 12.5% of small business owners nationwide

-Small businesses pay 44% of U.S. payroll

-60%-80% of all new jobs come from small businesses <– My favorite fact!

Check out this amazing article linked above to learn a little more about how much small businesses make up the America we know of today. They also have great resources for small business owners, current and future.

In my opinion, the foodservice industry makes up a good percentage, if not, the majority of the small businesses out there. This summer, I was able to meet a few up-and-coming small businesses in the food service industry at a weekly local food fair in Brooklyn, NY called Smorgasburg. I got to see what they were all about; their passion, their creativity, and more importantly, their delicious, love-filled food. These amazing entrepreneurs originated from immigrants and college drop outs to blue collar workers and “reformed corporate suits.”

They came from all walks of life, all with the hopes to pursue personal goals and achieve childhood dreams…to do what they’re really passionate about.

They are powered by such a simple, innate emotion that are most often, if not, always lost as age climbs and responsibilities pile up.

A few popular SMORGASBURGers and small businesses:

Alchemy Creamery @thealcreamist …Thee BEST vegan ice cream IN THE WORLD! I said it here, let it be known! Say “Hi!” to Giuseppe for me!

Anarchy In a Jar …They make my favorite Strawberry Balsamic Jam!

Asia Dog …Read about them here on their own blog!

Bombay Sandwich Co. @BombaySandwich …These folks create a vegan, mostly plant-strong (my fav) menu that tantalizes your taste buds!

Lumpia Shack @LumpiaShack …A group of fellow Filipino-Americans who took a staple from their cuisine and mainstreamed the heck out of them!

Mrs. Kim’s Kimchi @MrsKimsKimchi …their product is as homemade as it gets!

Saucy By Nature @saucybynature

Uttapam & Co. …a true local farmers’ friend!

Please tell them Chef Flo (King) sent you from Serve M.E. Now!

Now if you are like me and most of my friends and family, you probably already support these businesses on a daily basis.

What I’m trying to move on is that we need to spread this “PATRIOTnizing” to our fellow consumers in order to keep these job-making, economy boosting, and local-loving American entrepreneurs afloat.

Just like we read from the Business Insider this is exactly what grows America’s economy. In the wake of our current election centered around “job creation” and “economic slumps,” supporting our neighbors, friends, and families through this season of shopping makes for a true happy holiday. Go online, walk to the corner store, or line up at a local food truck for a bite to eat with your coworkers, today and everyday.  What’s even better is that they may offer some new and exciting product or services that you can’t get at your everyday retailer and/or chain. Let this holiday season be a time of unique and special gift giving to the ones you love. You’ll not only be named the “Gift-Giver of the Year” but I’m sure you’ll make it on the “Best Customer” list as well!

Now go out there and shop local…shop small!

-Chef Flo


Here are a few resources for you up-and-coming small businesses out there. I found them extremely informative and appreciatively helpful!

U.S. Small Business Administration

Free Small Business Advice from Score

Goldman Sachs Helps the Small Business