It’s back to school time. For college students, this means leaving the comfort of a home-cooked meal and going back to the dining hall or to frozen meals everyday. However, if you are a college student, you can bring the feeling of a home-cooked meal with you back to college. This is possible through meal preparation. Scroll below for easy meal prep recipes for college students.
Benefits of meal prepping for college students
There are many benefits of meal prepping, especially in college.
Less Food Waste
When one is inexperienced with cooking, it can be difficult to cook correct portion sizes, buy the right groceries, and more. However, when one takes the time to fully plan out their meals, they can portion each meal to have the right amount of nutrients while also being fulfilling. This leads to less food waste, as no part of the meal is wasted.
Setting aside 10-15 minutes a week to prepare the upcoming meals is much more efficient than spending 20-30 minutes everyday scouring through the fridge and finding a few ingredients to scrape together a meal. For this reason meal prepping can save time that college students do not have enough of already. This also means one spends brain power daily on minuscule tasks, such as cooking, and focusing that energy into something like homework and projects.
Improves Emotional Wellness
Most do not want to answer the question: “what should I make for dinner?” after coming home from a long day of school. Meal prepping can remove the burden of having to make that choice, which can relieve anxiety and stress. Additionally, eating a fulfilling, nutritious meal improves mental well-being.
Now that we have covered why college students should embrace the practice of meal prepping, let’s get into the basics.
What is meal prep?
Essentially, meal prepping is preparing an entire dish—whether that be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—in bulk and ahead of time. There are various ways to go about this, such as, preparing the whole dish before or only key parts. The meal is typically portioned out and then simply reheated when it is time to eat. It is typical to prep food a week beforehand and store food in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer.
What is needed to start meal prepping?
There are a few essential tools needed to start meal prepping:
- Potential Ingredients
- Protein: Meat, Chickpeas, Beans, Tofu
- Grains: Rice, Pasta, Quinoa, Oats
- Veggies: Spinach, Peppers, Broccoli
- Sauces: Tomato, Curry, Salad Dressings
- Fruits: Berries, Bananas, Apples, Grapes
- Meal Prep Schedule
Along with physical materials, a schedule of planned dishes is important to create.
- Decide which meals—lunch, dinner, breakfast—you want to prepare ahead of time. Also, plan how far ahead you will cook your meals.
- Make a list of which dish you will eat each day, compile a grocery list based on this information.
- Pick one day of the week to prepare your meals.
- Track recipes you like, and keep making them.
Remember to keep in mind any dietary restrictions, such as being vegetarian or having allergies. There are plenty of replacement ingredients and other recipes that can be utilized.
As a college student, one is trying to spend money effectively. For this reason, try to keep a budget for how much you will spend on meal prep. One way to save money is to buy in bulk. Additionally, invest in affordable ingredients, such as canned beans, potatoes, oats, and brown rice.
Let’s get into meal prep recipes for college students—breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Breakfast Meal Prep Recipes
Overnight Oats with Various Toppings
Overnight oats can help with prevention of heart disease, weight loss, and are an immune system booster. The two main ingredients needed are oats and milk. Many people like to add chia seeds, yogurt, and additional toppings to add flavor. The recipe is simple: add one part oats to one part milk, add ⅛ part chia seeds if you want.
Egg Muffins with Vegetables
This breakfast is simply a muffin made of egg filled with vegetables. The ingredients needed are egg, veggies, and seasoning. Simply whisk the eggs and add them to a muffin pan with veggies and seasoning—then bake.
Greek Yogurt Parfaits
Yogurt contains a good source of protein and calcium. For this breakfast meal prep, gather some granola, yogurt, and fruit. Layer the fruit and yogurt in a container and store in the fridge. When ready to eat, add the granola.
This recipe is extremely simple. Add a combination of fruits and vegetables in a bag and freeze them for up to three months. Once ready to make the smoothie, add dairy of your choice and blend.
Lunch Meal Prep Recipes
Mason Jar Salads with Homemade Dressing
Mason jar salads are a great healthy and easy lunch idea. You can make different variations of these salads as well, all you need to do is switch up what ingredients you are using. Make sure to follow this layer order to ensure maximum freshness:
- Layer 1: Dressing at bottom
- Layer 2: Crisp ingredients
- Layer 3: Protein
- Layer 4: Cheese
- Layer 5: Leafy greens
Wraps and Sandwiches with Different Fillings
Wraps and sandwiches are another simple meal that can be varied and delicious. Use chickpeas or black beans for a good source of protein. Squeeze some lime and sprinkle some salt to enhance the flavor. Using spreads and sauces (hummus is a personal favorite), can make these wraps especially tasty.
Pasta Salad with Customizable Ingredients
Pasta salads are another great meal prep as they can be eaten cold. Various pastas can be used, such as cheese tortellini. Veggies and protein can be added as well.
Dinner Meal Prep Recipes
Burrito bowls are a great way to get protein, fiber, and grains. They are also delicious. So it is a win-win. Burrito bowls are simple to make and can be easily reheated when it is time to eat.
Curried Chickpea Bowl
Chickpeas, spinach, and rice creates a balanced and fulfilling meal. It is a warm meal that will make you reminisce about food from home. It can be very easily prepared for the week ahead.
This sesame noodle bowl only takes 15 minutes to prepare. If you want to make the meal even quicker, you can buy sesame sauce rather than making it from scratch. And if you are vegetarian, the protein can be switched to tofu to replace the chicken.
Storing and Reheating
Make sure to invest in good quality storage containers. They need to be airtight to ensure maximum freshness. Additionally, label and date your prepped meals. Meals are typically good for 5-7 days, depending on the food, so knowing when you will eat each dish will make sure no food goes to waste. Lastly, practice safe reheating methods. Generally, one should plan to reheat food the same way it was cooked. However, this is not always possible. Anything that has liquid ingredients or holds moisture well can be reheated in the microwave.
Meal prepping has various benefits. Planning ahead and cooking your meals will ensure that you are staying healthy while eating delicious food. These recipes will help you eat nutritiously while saving time with your busy college schedule.