Cal cooking chronicles: A beginner’s guide to meal prepping

Infographic depicting meal prep tips for beginners
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As spring semester goes into full swing and your schedule is clogged with dozens of lectures, discussions and meetings, it becomes increasingly difficult to fuel your body and your brain. However, for all you busy students out there, meal prepping might just be the solution you’ve been looking for. Meal prepping is affordable, convenient, time-efficient and healthy, even if you have a harsh schedule. You can adjust every meal to meet your personal needs without breaking your bank.

However, if you’ve never meal prepped before, it may be difficult to know where to begin. So, here are some cost-effective, healthy and delicious ideas to get you started.

Getting started

Before you do any actual cooking, you’ll need to invest in some reusable meal containers. Since you might end up heating your food in the microwave, it is best to opt for glass containers instead of plastic. Next, it’ll be necessary to make a plan before heading to the grocery store. Meal prepping can often reduce your own personal food waste, but this is only if you make a concrete plan before shopping. Often, the best day to meal prep is Sunday, as this will allow you to devote a few hours to grocery shopping and preparing meals for the approaching week. While this may seem like a large chunk of time to spend in the kitchen, it will actually save time overall. However, it is necessary to factor this into your weekend plans. Your body and mind will thank you!

Ground turkey, rice and veggie bowl

When it comes to meal prepping, the more creative, the better. However, when you are just starting, it might be best to start with a simple recipe. Ground turkey is one of the most affordable meats on the market, and adding in some veggie and rice along with it makes for a delicious and nutritious meal.


  • Ground turkey
  • Spices of choice
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 lime
  • ½ cup cooked white rice
  • 1 package asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 plastic containers


  1. Cut up the bell pepper and jalapeño into small cubes.
  2. Place the ground turkey in a medium skillet and add desired spices, including the jalapeño and bell pepper.
  3. Cook on medium heat until the meat is a light color.
  4. Add lime juice on top, and mix.
  5. Place meat into four containers, leaving space for asparagus and rice.
  6. Place asparagus spears into saucepan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of water.
  7. Add in desired spices.
  8. Cook on medium heat until tender.
  9. Portion asparagus into the containers along with the cooked white rice.
  10. Place in the freezer.
  11. Take out when ready to eat, and place in microwave for four minutes.

Try out these different swaps

Now, I said previously that a benefit to meal prepping is that you can always customize it to fit your cravings. Also, to avoid getting tired of your meals, it is important to regularly swap ingredients and try different recipes. Here are a few swap ideas for your meal prepping — try as many combinations as you’d like.

Swap rice for quinoa

Quinoa is a cost-effective and delicious substitute for rice! Additionally, if you want to spice up your quinoa, you can add chopped veggies such as carrots and bell pepper.

Swap turkey for fish or tofu

Although some fish can be quite expensive, you can buy fish fillets in bulk at your local grocer for a cheaper price, and it makes for a pescatarian-friendly meat substitute.

Swap asparagus for broccoli

Although it is every kid’s least favorite veggie, broccoli makes for a great substitute for any veggie meal when seasoned with garlic, salt and paprika.

Hopefully, meal prepping can help reduce chaos and keep you healthy. Have fun with it!

Contact Isabella Carreno at [email protected].