Have you ever been on an Instagram spiral and spent hours stalking meal-prepping accounts? It can sometimes feel like only the people who have their sh*t together can effectively meal prep, but the truth is, meal prepping is so easy and convenient, especially for college students! If you’re a meal-prep beginner and want to learn the ropes to have a healthier and more organized diet, then check out this ultimate guide to college meal prepping.
Step 1: Plan it out
No more aimlessly wandering the snack aisles of your local grocery store. If you want to get serious about planning out your meals, then you have to make a game plan. Start by researching meals that you like and are easy to cook and store. There are countless blogs and social media pages dedicated to providing meal-prep help, so do your research before you begin!
Pinterest is another great resource for planning your meal prep plan of attack. Some Pinterest accounts even share detailed grocery lists and recipes for every meal! The internet is a treasure trove of soccer moms sharing their extremely-detailed meal-prep regimen, so feel free to follow their wisdom.
However, don’t go in over your head. Start by thinking of a few meals that you know you’ll want to eat every day, and go from there.
Step 2: Hit the store
Now that you’ve figured out a few staple meals that you want to meal prep, it’s time to go shopping. Hit up your local campus grocery store with a detailed list and pick up all the ingredients you need.
It may be beneficial to check out a wholesale store like Costco or Sam’s Club and buy your groceries in bulk. It can be hard to stick to a college meal-prep plan when you are running out of groceries every week.
Remember: when you’re grocery shopping, you’re on a mission. Don’t mindlessly wander through the snack aisle and grab whatever looks good. That’s not to say that you can’t purchase your favorite snacks, but make sure it fits in with your overall meal-prep plan.
Step 3: Chef it up
You wrote out a plan, you have your groceries – now it’s time to get to work. Meal-prepping involves preparing a majority of your meals ahead of time so you don’t have to cook as much during the week. Because of this, it’s important that you set aside a few hours every week to prepare your dishes.
If you’re cooking some rice, make a huge pot full. If you’re grilling chicken breast, add 3 or 4 to the pan. When you’re frying your vegetables, make sure you’re cooking enough for a full week.
A common mistake new meal-preppers make is not preparing enough food for the entire week. You definitely don’t want to run out of food halfway through the week, so be sure to measure out the amount of food you make carefully.
Step 4: Don’t forget snacks!
A lot of people associate meal-prepping with just your three core meals, but meal-prepping snacks is another effective way to keep yourself full throughout the day without overeating.
There are a ton of snacks that you can pack easily into containers, my favorites being veggies and hummus, fruit, pretzels, and granola bars. Accounting for your snacking in your meal-prep plan will help you regulate the amount that you’re eating and stay full when you’re on the go from class to class.
Step 5: Think about breakfast, too
As Ron Swanson would say, “there will never be a sadness that can’t be cured with breakfast food.” And he’s right!
Meal-prepping is a great way to control your eating and save time in the kitchen, and that isn’t just limited to lunch and dinner. You can meal-prep your breakfast, too, to save yourself a little extra time in the morning before your first lecture (a luxury, really).
Some great breakfast meals that you can prepare easily are overnight oats, fruit smoothies, and even breakfast burritos. Again, Pinterest is a great resource if you’re searching for new recipes. Get creative and see what works for you, and save yourself those extra zzz’s.
Step 6: Stick to the plan
I cannot tell you the number of times I have prepared my dinner in advance in college, just to inevitably go to Chipotle anyways. It can be extremely tempting to ditch your plan and order takeout, especially if your friends are always eating out.
But stay strong! The beauty of meal-prepping is that it will save you time, energy, and (most importantly for a poor college student) money! Stick to your plan and don’t let your precious cooking go to waste, even if that Chipotle is calling your name. I promise it will be worth it in the long run.
Step 7: Find a community
Finding a community of like-minded students help you stick to your goals, especially when it comes to meal-prepping. If you’re practicing meal-prepping for your health, there are countless other students who are going through the same process. Why not reach out and start a support group?
Some social media apps are centered around fitness and diet tracking (MyFitnessPal is my personal favorite), where you can connect with others about your exercise and eating habits! Or, you can utilize Facebook or Instagram to seek out other meal-prep junkies. Either way, having a community of others will help hold you accountable and give you inspiration for new recipes and meal-prep tips!
Step 8: Don’t restrict yourself
It can be easy to restrict your diet to your meal-prep plan, but that can easily lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, allow yourself “cheat days” to eat whatever you want!
By giving yourself a cheat day during the week, or indulging in your favorite snack every so often, you are keeping yourself sane. Sure, it’s nice to have healthy meals planned out for you every day, but you also need to enjoy the foods that you love.
If you want a piece of pizza, then get one! If you seriously can’t resist a donut, then enjoy one (I know I would). Your mental relationship with food is just as important as your physical one, so feel free to treat yourself whenever you see fit.