As a college student, you’re probably sick of eating frozen meals. However, you also hate spending tons of money on restaurants. Meal prepping is a great way to manage your time and money, and while still eating delicious meals. It helps to go into this activity with the mindset that you will being eating things you like for cheaper. A big hump to get over is the fear of a lack of variety. If variety and freshness are want you want, here are two methods to help you plan your weekly meals:
Story by Nafisa Gazi
Illustrations by Bryant Ju
Designate a day on the weekend (I like to meal prep on Friday afternoons after my classes) to buy the fresh produce you’ll need for your recipes. If you can, buy in bulk from places like Costco. On Sunday, set aside a couple of hours to get all of your cooking done.
Split up your cooking throughout the week. You could cook on Sunday and again on Wednesday, or you can prep and portion your ingredients on Sunday so you can cook fresh meals everyday for the rest of the week. This method works best for people who hateeating leftovers.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, in addition to thinking about your daily schedule:
Do you have back-to-back classes on certain days?
Then maybe freeze some wraps at the start of the week and then quickly pop them in your bag before you head out in the morning. This way you can eat something discreetly during lecture without having to get fast food between classes. It’ll also save the money that used to go to vending machines. Two-dollar snacks a day really add up. You could also plan your bigger dinners for these days.
Is variety crucial?
Cook two types of lunches and dinners so that you can substitute a lunch item for a dinner item, or swap two of the same category. Using recipes that overlap in ingredients will also cut down on your grocery bill.
What kind of portion sizes do you eat for each meal?
If you like having big dinners, then plan a recipe that serves for eight or more so that you can create larger serving sizes per day.
Cooking novices are often daunted by trying new recipes because of the fear of buying new ingredients for each recipe. If you’re starting out with a bare pantry, here’s a rundown of some good basics to start out with:
Jar of marinara sauce
Jar of pesto
Meal prep may seem like a lot of work, but it will end up saving time in the end. Here’s a week-by-week example that uses recipes that require the same few ingredients.
Recipe One: Baked Chicken
Serving Size: Six
3 Chicken breasts
1 cup yogurt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ginger
2 tsp salt
In a bowl, mix spices and yogurt together. Make 4 shallow vertical cuts on each chicken breast, this will allow seasoning to soak in. Marinate the chicken in a tupperware and let it sit for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
At 375°, bake the chicken breasts on a baking tray for 1 hour, and broil for 10 minutes afterwards. It’s normal if the yogurt slides off during this process.
The yogurt makes the outside of the chicken crispy, but the inside moist. This recipe can be paired with the asparagus recipe for dinner and some of this meat can also be used to make chicken tacos in a later recipe.
Recipe Two: Roasted Asparagus
Serving Size: Four
1 bundle of asparagus
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, rosemary and thyme (or just buy any bottle of spice with these two key components)
Wash asparagus thoroughly and let dry. Cut off the stiff parts of the asparagus, which is usually two to three inches from the bottom.
On a plate, drizzle olive oil over the asparagus and coat thoroughly by tossing them. In a pan on medium heat, take three to four asparagus at a time, and lightly salt to your preference, half a teaspoon of rosemary and thyme combined per three to four asparagus should season the veggies effectively. This can be eaten with the chicken recipe above and served alongside quinoa or rice.
Recipe Three: Chicken Tacos
Serving Size: Six to Eight
6-8 pre-made tortillas
3 poblano peppers
A small jar of salsa
Heat up tortillas on a skillet or microwave them on a plate. Wash and cut poblano peppers, red onion, and lettuce. Separate each ingredient into ziplocs so that you can make your tacos fresh each time.
If you’re using method 2 for meal planning, then this recipe is easy to do because the ingredients are pre washed and cut. Shred leftover chicken from the baked chicken recipe and layer your ingredients to your liking.
Recipe Four: Mushroom & Poblano Pepper Pasta
Serving Size: Four
8 oz of pasta/spaghetti
5 mushrooms (any kind)
2 poblano peppers
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ jar of marinara sauce
2 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ of a yellow onion
½ tbsp canola oil
1 tsp garlic
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Wash and cut peppers and mushrooms into bite size pieces. Thinly slice onion.
In a pan over medium heat saute the onions until translucent, then add garlic and spices. This should form a paste. Add half of the marinara sauce and toss in the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until soft, and add the peppers and the rest of the marinara sauce.
Drain the pasta and toss in with the sauce, to make it a thicker consistency, you can add cheese.