Chances are that when you hear the phrase “meal prep,” you don’t get overly excited. I was in the same boat not too long ago. I recently started meal prepping a few times a month, and I am here to tell you that meal prep is actually exciting and has many benefits (especially for students!) and will honestly change your life.
First, it will save you time and money. Prepping most of your meals one day per week means that you won’t have to worry about cooking most days, and you will always have quick access to meals. You will also be less tempted to open that SkipTheDishes app once again to order takeout, which will undoubtedly help your bank account balance.
Another benefit is that you will reduce food waste. As inflation goes up and groceries get more expensive, we all want to get the best bang for our buck. It’s embarrassing for me to admit how many times I have bought veggies only to have them rot in my fridge, but no longer!
Lastly, you will also save a lot of energy by not cooking every day. Student life is crazy busy, and it’s vital to eat satiating meals, but cooking every day for every meal is just not viable. Meal prepping will ensure that you always have something nutritious to eat.
Without further ado, here are my top beginner meal prep tips:
- Find some containers
You will need to find some containers around your house to use for your meal prep. I honestly just use old yogurt and sour cream containers for most of my meals. If you have something that requires compartments, I recommend just going to the dollar store and grabbing some cheap reusable plastic containers.
- Compile a list of recipes that you love
When I started meal prepping, my first mistake was thinking I could only make boring rice, veggie, and protein bowls. I have since learned that you can make almost anything work. I have recently been really into prepping cookies and soups (a little random, I know), so I will make a massive batch of cookies and freeze them, and then I will make two different soups and put them in individual yogurt containers. This process has worked well for me, and after a three-hour Zoom lecture, I really look forward to these meals and snacks!
- Know what to stay away from
Although most things can be meal prepped, a few things just don’t work. Fried fish, meat, or anything else fried for that matter will likely become soggy. Another tricky one is salads because the leaves wilt quickly. For salads, I recommend just buying some of those DIY salad kits, which will last you at least three meals if you are a one-person household.
- Get groceries once a week or bi-weekly
Once you plan the meals you want to prep, it’s time to go grocery shopping. I usually make a big shopping list, so I only have to go twice a month. There is an app called Flipp that I highly recommend as it has flyers for each grocery store near you. I try to go where there are the most sales or where I can price match items. I also like to set a budget of $200 per month for groceries which still leaves me some fun money to get takeout with. I eat mostly plant-based meals, so you will need to adjust your budget for your eating preferences (meat is super expensive right now).
- Choose a time to prep and make it fun
You can get a lot done in three hours, and so that’s where I would start. I usually do three hours on a Sunday, and then I have dinners for the busy weekdays. Making it fun can mean many things, and for me, it usually looks like watching a sitcom, listening to a podcast, or jamming out to some good music.
- Personalize your meal prep
Meal prep is something that requires some trial and error. Some things will prep well, and others won’t. You may want to prep every meal or just certain meals; in the end, it’s entirely up to you. For me, since I eat cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, I usually just end up prepping about five dinners and snacks for the workweek.
To conclude, please remember that just because you meal prep does not mean you can’t have fun with food. You should totally still get takeout from time to time, and if you don’t feel like eating one of your prepped meals and want some ramen noodles instead, go for it. But trust me, you will be grateful most days that you have some satiating meals ready to go!