Between classes, work, clubs, and sports, where is there time to eat? In a recent Student Health 101 survey, 45 percent of students said they don’t feel like they have enough time to cook each day, let alone eat. Sure, you can grab an overpriced noodle bowl at the dining hall or a few Oreos from the cupboard and call it dinner. Or you could meal prep and actually eat something of substance.
Besides being a more nutritionally sound option, setting aside one day to prep your meals has a slew of benefits:
- Save time not having to cook every single day
- Save money by avoiding takeout, eating out, and dining hall costs
- Stress less over what to eat; everything’s planned for you
- Eat healthier more consistently
To make your venture into meal prepping easy, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide. Set aside about two hours at the beginning of the week to get everything ready.
Here’s exactly what to do during prep
Part 1: Take care of the most time-consuming stuff
The key is to start with the thing that’s going to take the longest amount of time. In this case, the egg cups take 25 minutes, so heat the oven to 325 degrees for those first.
Start by dicing up your tomato and sautéing it in a pan until cooked, or use raw, if desired. Note: You can also add spinach, ham, mushrooms, and whatever veggies you’d like to the egg cups. Set the cooked ingredients aside while you whisk together your eggs and milk, and divide into muffin tins. Top with veggies/cooked ingredients and cheese, and pop them into the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top looks firm and they appear to be cooked through.
Now it’s time to prep your chili. Our recipe calls for a slow cooker, but if you don’t have that, brown your ground turkey or beef in a pot on the stove with your spices. Add the rest of your ingredients and let simmer.
At this point, you can also start making your rice/quinoa for the burrito bowls. You can use a quick microwaveable rice or one that requires a stove or rice cooker. Feel free to make extra for the chili!
Note: Your egg cups might be done at this point, so set those aside to cool. Turn off your oven—you’re done with that for now.
Part 2: Prep it and forget it
As your chili and rice are cooking, place some greens in your burrito bowl containers. Rinse and dry your black beans and portion them out atop the greens.
Note: Check in on your rice/quinoa, it’s probably done.
Add the rice/quinoa to your bowls, followed by the rest of your toppings. If using avocado, be sure to add that on the day you’re going to eat it to avoid browning. (Tip: Switch up your bowls by using different add-ins for each day of the week.) Burrito bowls are done!
Note: Check on your chili. If it’s done, turn off the stove and let it cool.
Time to throw together your overnight oats. Measure out your oats into jars or bowls, followed by your milk and add-ins. Into the fridge they go.
For your last meal: Prep your beans and greens burgers. Form these into patties, wrap them in plastic wrap, and keep them in the freezer. This makes it easy to pop on the stove for dinner on the nights you’re having them. The recipe makes four to six burgers.
Part 3: Organize the fridge
For easy grab-and-go meals, organize your fridge so that you have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day stacked and ready.
“Meal prepping is absolutely amazing. Meals can be made in advance, so if you’re a late sleeper, you can run out the door with a premade breakfast wrap. Also, if you often find that you’re tempted to eat out, meal prep can save you a ton of money—[it’s] probably much healthier too.”
—Ewan C., second-year undergraduate student, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, British Columbia
“It allows me to [have] one less thing on my plate. Since I know I already have food ready, I don’t have to stress about where my next meal is coming from.”
—Reese A., third-year undergraduate student, University of Kansas
“It helps me eat healthier and have time to eat at all. It also saves me a massive amount of money vs. eating out. Between homework, school, and my actual job, I tend to skip a lot of meals. With meal prepping, I can ensure I eat healthy meals.”
—Cordel G., second-year student, Wake Technical Community College, North Carolina
“Meal prep gives me peace of mind in high-stress situations. It saves time, helps me eat healthier, helps me manage my time better, and helps keep me focused.”
—Caroline H., first-year graduate student, Dominican University, Illinois
“Meal prepping helps me manage my hectic schedule. During my busiest weeks, I find that meal prepping ensures that I eat regularly, I eat healthy and I save money by avoiding fast alternatives like vending machines and fast food.”
—Ericka C., recent graduate, University of Wyoming
Other recipes that lend themselves well to meal prep:
Harvard School of Public Health. (2018). Meal prep: A helpful healthy eating strategy. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2017/03/20/meal-prep-planning/
Student Health 101 survey, October 2018.