A student’s guide to meal prepping

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Meal prepping is all the rage for full-time adults, health nuts and college students. It cuts time spent cooking meals throughout the busy week and prevents people from taking hours to decide what to eat. Although meal prep seems straightforward, there are some rules to follow and many beginner mistakes that you should learn to avoid.

Use stackable containers for storage

My biggest tip is to use regularly shaped containers for meal prep because it will save a lot of room in your fridge. I remember using random Tupperware for my meals and Tetris-ing all those containers on my fridge shelves. Your containers don’t have to be the fanciest; you can buy them cheap at Walmart, Amazon or HomeGoods. 

Plan ahead if you are eating out or getting takeout

My roommates and I always have our weekly Friday night takeout and I usually reserve two nights a week for Chipotle. It’s definitely important to keep these things in mind to prevent throwing out any food. Consider preparing only four to five days worth of meals if you frequently eat out.

The freezer can be your friend for large batches

If you plan on cooking large batches, use your freezer to store your meal prep and reheat whenever you plan on actually eating your preprepared food. Frozen meal prep is also great if you find yourself too busy to prepare the next week of meals and only have time the week before. However, make sure to use your items within a month to prevent freezer burn. Watch out for foods that don’t freeze well such as avocado and mushrooms to keep your meals tasting fresh even after being frozen. 

Switch up components to keep meals interesting

Eating the same meal for lunch or dinner can be monotonous and can sway you toward ordering more takeout. In my experience, I like to switch up several items in my meal prep to prevent my meals from being boring. For example, when I prepared chickpea curry, I paired half of the meals with quinoa and the other half with pasta. Keeping the same protein and vegetables while changing the carbohydrates is an easy way to have variety in your meals.

Don’t meal prep breakfast

Personally, I don’t prepare my breakfast ahead of time since many of my favorite breakfast meals can’t be stored well. Additionally, sticking to meal prepping lunch and dinner lets me save time and focus on those meals while saving more fridge space. I stick to a granola bar and fruit for breakfast, but some great fast meals are bagels with bananas and peanut butter, quick oats with cinnamon and low-sugar cereal mixed with yogurt. 

Use different kitchen equipment while prepping your meals

One easy way to keep the meal prep process quick is to use multiple pieces of kitchen equipment at the same time. For example, when you are using the stove top to prepare a part of your meal, use the oven to roast some vegetables, use a rice cooker for rice and use your toaster oven too. Simultaneously using various equipment can cut prep time in half and allows the waiting time for cooking to be used efficiently. 

Buy frozen vegetables to save time and money

My biggest secret is buying frozen vegetables because they are presliced, usually cheaper and just as delicious as regular produce when prepared well. I can add these frozen vegetables directly to my meals without defrosting them, which saves me so much time. Take a trip to your grocery store to see the huge variety of frozen vegetables! 

Have these basic spices in your pantry

I really dislike having to buy a specific set of spices for just one meal. However, I always have these spices in the pantry since many basic recipes call for them: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil and paprika. Additionally, I highly recommend vegans to get nutritional yeast for meals that need a cheesy flavor and I think everyone should also have their favorite hot sauce in their assortment to spice up any meal.

These tips will definitely help you ease into the meal prepping process, even if you are a beginner. I highly suggest looking up meals that you can meal prep — there are tons of options, ranging from comforting mac and cheese to healthy grilled chicken and vegetables. As you practice more, you’ll discover even more hacks to keep meal prepping quick and easy.

Contact Nicholas Clark at [email protected].