After I asked you all to fill out this survey, I got feedback that you wanted to hear about how to prep meals and food ideas for busy college students. As a former busy college student and current busy law student, I’m well-versed in how difficult it can be to come home after a long day and feel motivated, let alone have enough time, to cook a full blown meal for one (which for the record is very difficult in a world that packages food for four). So, today I wanted to share my top tips for meal prep, as well as my top recipes for every meal (and snacks). Right now I’m using Plated, which makes life easier, but I do remember the days of struggling to find something for dinner before opting for take out (the Chinese place in my college town basically had my order memorized and the lady at the Thai placed always smiled and asked me how I was when I showed up for my curry).
Let’s begin with meal prep. I was never an expert at meal prep, but I do try to prep for a busy week and making sure I’m still getting good nutrients. My best suggestions for meal prep are personal to me, but may work for you! Part of meal prep is figuring out what works best through trial and error. For example, I tend to get sick of eating the same thing all week, so I only prep one meal for two days at most. But alas, here are my tips:
(1) Plan meals. Plan the four or five breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you’re going to make for the week. Then go to the store and get the stuff. Then prep. Make sure you have a schedule so you know what’s coming and if you have down time the day before you can start prepping things for the meal(s).
(2) Try to cook or prep things you’ll be using for meals on Sunday. Sunday morning is the best time for me to prep because I’m getting back into the groove of a week, but haven’t gotten fully into the academic part of my week yet. It’s a good day to cut up veggies and freeze or refrigerate them, and it’s also a good day to cook meals you can easily reheat, like pasta or tacos. However, most of us prefer slightly healthier food. Prepping materials for your weeks meal will cut down a ton of prep time later in the week!
(3) Make more than you need and portion it out. If you have room, divide the meal into a few tupperware sets, and label by day. You can even put on in the freezer for truly desperate days where you have no time to cook and don’t want take out.
(4) Make sure to eat full meals. I’m the worst at this. I’m always in a hurry, and forget meals. If you prep ahead, you won’t run into this problem. You can just grab and go! At my college, the doctor used to remind us to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, and dinner like a peasant. Begin your day with your largest meal, and it’ll keep you energized and upbeat. You also won’t go to dinner too full. It’s also good to snack throughout the day!
(5) Pick meals based on efficiency. While really involved meals may taste amazing, chances are you don’t have time to make them. I’m going to share some meals that are quick, but also filling and delicious.
Freezer breakfast burritos! Make breakfast burritos ahead of time, with any fillings you like, and freeze them. Pull them out and reheat them either in the microwave or oven.
Pumped up oatmeal! Adding things to oatmeal is a great way to get a ton of nutrients in the morning. Keeps you full and energized longer for those busy college days!
Egg Bites! If you have a muffin tin, you can reuse it for breakfast purposes! Make some egg bites Sunday morning, and refrigerate them. Each morning, just heat them up on your way out, and you have breakfast to go that’s healthy and will give you the nutrients you need.
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese! This is a Friday morning or once a week breakfast. If you go for it everyday, it’ll get old. It’s also a lot of calories, so probably not the best idea for multiple days in a week. BUT, it’s a great Friday treat!
Egg white scramble! For mornings when you have more time, and egg white scramble is a great option. Also, pre-cut all the ingredients the night before, and you’ll cut down time used in the morning to make this protein fueled meal.
Pumped Up Top Ramen! Adding things to your Top Ramen turns a cheap college staple into a full blown meal! And it’s a whole lot more affordable than the ramen at a restaurant.
BTLA wrap! Don’t want the carbs of a sandwich, but the protein of one? Grab some tortillas (Gluten Free are really good!) and stuff it full of your typical bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado and bam! You have a quick and easy lunch. You can also pre cut ingredients, and assemble throughout the week. TIP: Cut avocado by half, and leave the pit in the half you don’t use, it’ll keep it more fresh.
Burrito Bowl! I love burrito bowls. Making your own is less fattening than (the ever delicious) Chipotle. It’s also easy to prep because you can cut everything and make it all ahead of time, and just keep it stored in sandwich bags until the day you want the burrito bowl for lunch.
Cobb Salad with your choice of protein! Cobb salad is so easy to prep because you prepare all ingredients ahead of time, then throw some lettuce in a bowl, add toppings and dressing, and you’re good to eat lunch between classes or meetings.
Chinese Chicken Salad! I LOVE Chinese chicken salad, but I don’t eat it very often. However, salads that are easy to prep and easy to assemble are always at the top of my list.
Mexican Quinoa Bowl! This is an easy dish. It requires a bit more cooking time, but I would recommend making this one of the meals you prep on Sunday, and then reheat during the week. You can also try a crockpot version, and just keep warm until you’re ready for it.
Crock Pot Taco Night! The linked recipe is for beef tacos, but there are also chicken versions. My college friend used to put chicken breasts with a cup of salsa in her crockpot all day, then shred the chicken when she got home, add the toppings, and eat her tacos. Tacos toppings are practically zero prep!
Pasta with sautéed zucchini and veggies! Quick pasta is so great. Also, a lot of grocery stores sell precut and sliced versions of the veggies, so this is super easy and requires minimal prep if desired.
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes! I love sweet potatoes! You can easily substitute regular potatoes if sweet aren’t your thing, but this is such an easy, fast, and delicious meal to come home to after a long day.
Steak Gyro! If you like Greek food at all, this is the meal for you. They are filling and delicious and have so much flavor in such a tiny meal. This, like other meals, don’t require much prep other than cooking the meat, which you can do in advance.
Avocado Toast You’ve probably seen the phenomenon that is avocado toast. It’s delicious, it’s Instagram worthy, it’s fresh, and it’s healthy. What more could you want in a snack? Also, this can stand in as a breakfast for the really rushed days (throw an egg on top and it’s more protein). I love this snack! You can make it as fancy or as simple as you want.
Rice cake, banana, peanut butter (or almond butter) This option is so fast and easy, but also just sweet enough to pass as a treat! It’s healthy, but so good too. This is definitely one of my favorite snacks.
Hummus and Veggies I love hummus, whether it’s plain, garlic, sun-dried tomato, whatever. It pairs great with Naan, but also great with veggies. Pack an array of veggies in your lunchbox, along with some hummus, and you’ll have an immediate boost if you start to get hungry and lose energy during the day.
I hope this covers a lot of what you’re looking for in terms of healthy and fast eating in college! Overeating or under-eating can be so common in college, making meals easy is a priority everyone should have!
What are your favorite fast meals?