Now you’re a college student!
You start college and everything is so exciting! You make loads of new friends, you’re in a new city, and you can go to bed whenever you like!
But wait, now you have to look after yourself. Mum’s not here anymore, so you have to do your laundry and cook your meals.
What to eat?
It can feel impossible to find the time to make three meals a day. Classes, going out with friends, partying, and trying to get at least a few hours of sleep a night. So when do you have the time to cook!?
So you end up buying copious amounts of pizza and burgers and making only instant noodles at home. Hey, it’ll keep you alive, sure. But it’s not very nutritious, and you’ll spend all your money if it all goes on take-out.
Making meals at home is a good way to stay healthy and eat on a budget. But, of course, the only way you’re going to be able to fit all that in is you start meal prepping.
Why meal prepping as a college student is a good idea
Save money and time
There are many reasons why meal prep is a good idea. For starters, it’ll save you money. You won’t be eating out as much or buying foods that go bad before you eat them.
It’ll also save time, which is precious while at college and can be better spent having fun—or studying.
Having to cook every meal from scratch can be very time-consuming. Prepping on a Sunday for the whole week will mean you don’t have to put much effort into your meals for the rest of the week.
It will also help you make healthier choices. For example, meal prep can ensure you get enough fruit and veg into your diet. Most college students aren’t too worried about it, but it is essential! And it doesn’t count to have some peppers on your pizza or a bit of lettuce in your burger!
Meal prep will make it easier to eat three meals a day. But unfortunately, many college students endlessly snack on junk food or do not eat all day and binge eat junk food in the evening.
Having three nutritious meals a day is a much healthier choice. Plus, you won’t get those sugar crashes throughout the day.
Now you get to choose when to treat yourself to junk food, and it’ll taste so much better after eating healthy all week!
Cooking for one
Meal prep is the answer to unattended cooking. If you are only cooking for yourself, it can often feel difficult or pointless to spend time making proper meals. But meal prep makes it easier to put in the effort and reap the rewards all week.
Making a considerable portion of something doesn’t mean that some will get wasted. Instead, put some in the fridge for later in the week, so your efforts don’t go to waste. This also saves on other meal prep time. Bonus.
Alternatively, put some in the freezer if you don’t want to eat the same thing all week. Leftovers can get boring after a couple of days, so save them for another time.
It’s all well, and good planning to eat your leftovers all week. But if you have nothing to store them in it isn’t going to work.
Make sure you have plenty of containers. There are various types to choose from, and some have compartments to separate foods.
Buy a slow cooker. It’ll be your best friend! Especially if you don’t have a great dorm kitchen in your halls.
There are so many fabulous healthy recipes for slow cookers. Chuck everything in the pot, and then you don’t even have to worry about it and can study at the same time as it’s cooking. Perfect.
If you have a sweet tooth (like me), you’ll eat loads of chocolate while studying. So making sure you have healthy snacks is a key part of meal prep.
Bake rather than spend money on something loaded with sugar from the vending machine! You can make all kinds of healthy snacks at home with way less sugar.
You can make oatmeal bars, protein bars, muffins, or low-sugar cookies. These will give you a tremendous mid-morning boost without experiencing the crash that comes with sugary snacks.
If you share a place with lots of people, you probably don’t have much space in the fridge. Or it’s always full of moldy takeout boxes that have been in there for two weeks.
Coming up with a plan for the fridge can be helpful.
Maybe everyone has one shelf each. Or you have a weekly fridge cleanout, so you know nothing is growing in there.
If there isn’t enough room for you and your housemates, you could invest in a mini-fridge for your dorm room.
Plenty of college-friendly recipes online make cooking easier with limited equipment or space. Have a look and try some out.
It is a great idea to try and bulk buy items to save money. If you plan ahead of the week and prep several meals with similar ingredients, bulk buying is worthwhile.
For example, buy chicken in bulk and make a curry, a chicken salad, chicken wraps, and fajitas. It’ll prevent food waste and makes planning more accessible if you know what ingredients you’ll use.
Buying frozen fruit and veg can also make meal prep much easier. In addition, nothing will go bad if it’s frozen so you won’t waste any money.
It can also be more accessible to prep many things and put them back in the freezer, so they’re always ready. For instance, put different smoothie ingredients into bags so they’re prepared to chuck in the blender. Easy peasy.
It can also help with money-saving to shop around a bit. Some of the more expensive stores might have better fresh produce which is worth the extra money. But your oats might be cheapest elsewhere.
Spend a bit of time working out what is nearby and how to plan your shopping trips to get the best deals.
Meal prep ideas
It can be a good idea to write a week-long meal plan (or even longer). This way you know exactly what to prep and what ingredients you need to get from the grocery store. Meal planning can help ensure you have everything you need, without any unnecessary food waste at the end of the week.
It also saves you some of the stress of thinking about what you’re having for dinner, how long it’s going to take etc. Knowing ahead of schedule what you will be making will allow you to make plans around your meals. Which is very useful for the busy college student life!
As a college kid, you probably have super busy mornings. Trying to get yourself out of bed after a night out to get to your lecture on time is hard enough. So it’s likely that you’ll skip breakfast and get something from the vending machine later on.
Breakfast meal prep
Breakfast is the most important meal, especially if you have a lot to do and want to keep your energy up all day. If you meal prep for breakfast at the beginning of the week, you can make sure you always get the energy you need first thing.
Meal prep for breakfast doesn’t have to be much either. There are some straightforward healthy breakfast recipes online for you to check out.
Oats are great for giving you a good boost of energy in the morning and can keep you full until lunchtime. So you won’t be tempted to snack!
You can make overnight oats, so it’s ready to go in the morning. Or, if you don’t have time to sit and eat, you could bake some oatmeal bars when you prep for the weekend. These are then all ready for the week for you to grab and take with you on your commute.
Feel free to chuck in some peanut butter or fruit to make it extra tasty.
Having a smoothie can give you a great start to the day with all the vitamins and nutrients to get your brain raring to go! They are super easy to prep as well, whether your fruit is in the fridge or the freezer.
Separate your ingredients into sandwich bags so in the morning (or the night before) you can throw it all in the blender without measuring anything. You can be creative too and make all kinds of smoothies. Check out some smoothie ideas online.
Eggs are a great source of protein and are a great healthy breakfast food. If you have got 5 minutes in the morning to cook up an omelet you’ll be glad for it for the rest of the morning.
Prep the ingredients you want in there ahead of time. Chop up peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms. Anything you like, divide it into portions ready to chuck in the pan.
Boil a few eggs at night and put them in a container to take to class. You could also pop some fruit and various nuts in there too. The eggs and nuts have lots of protein which will help keep your energy up and stave off hunger pangs. It’s also super easy meal prep and takes a matter of seconds!
To make sure you are eating healthy meals, prep your lunch at home to take with you. It’ll save you money and means you get to skip the lines in the dining hall.
You can do all your lunch meal prep at the beginning of the week, so it’s ready to get out of the fridge each morning with no stress.
It can make life easier to use similar ingredients for most of your meal prep. For example, your lunches for the week could be; chicken salad, chicken wraps, and chicken curry leftovers. Be a bit creative, so you don’t get bored of the same foods. There are tonnes of easy recipes online for inspiration as well.
As a college student, you might not have access to a kitchen or microwave at lunch. So having food you can eat cold is a good idea. Various kinds of salads are easy to make and have very little meal prep time. Grains such as couscous and quinoa can bulk out salads to make them more filling and are a healthier choice than rice or bread.
Dinner is probably the most time-consuming meal, so is what you’ll want to do most of your meal prep for.
One option is to cook a huge amount so you can portion it out for the rest of your week’s dinners. These benefits make your meal plan easier and cut down on meal prep time. However, eating the same thing every day can get boring so you might want to mix things up.
You can easily make various one-pot meals and have very little meal prep time. Have all the ingredients chopped, portioned, and ready to throw in the pan after you get back from class.
You can search online for some recipe inspiration. Alternatively, here are some ideas for easy meal prep recipes.
There are so many kinds of curries you can make, depending on your taste and the level of spice you can handle! Try a one-pot chicken tikka masala, or a chickpea and lentil curry. If you have done your meal prep and have your veggies and spices ready, these are super easy to make and keep you going all week.
The casserole is perfect for a slow cooker or crockpot. It tastes so much better the longer you leave it cooking, so you could even start it off before you leave for class. Then when you get home your place smells amazing and your dinner is all ready!
Again, do you meal prep before just putting it all in the pan and going?
Another great meal to make with that huge load of chicken you bought! Fajitas are mega delicious and hardly take any time at all.
Your meal prep will just be chopping some peppers and onions and prepping the chicken to cook. Have this all ready to fry in the pan and some sour cream on the side. Your taste buds will thank you!
Make it healthier by replacing the wraps with gluten-free or wholewheat wraps.
Chili is so easy to make and can also be done in one pan, saving on washing up and stress in the kitchen.
Make it healthy with lean ground beef and swap out the white rice for wholewheat. It’s versatile, too, so make loads of it and turn it into burritos tomorrow night for a bit of a change.
I hope you find some of these ideas helpful, and they inspire you to get meal prepping! I promise you that meal prep will change your college life for the better. You’ll feel super healthy and in control.
And the good news is, you might even have some extra cash to spend on your exciting social life!