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April 9, 2024

If you spend any time on social media (let’s face it, who doesn’t?), you’ve probably come across a post or TikTok or reel about a wonderful fad called meal prep. While this may seem like a trend that will come and go like Smencils or Silly Bandz, meal prep is here to stay as a life-changing hack for busy people. 

Simply put, meal prepping is the act of planning and preparing meals ahead of time for easy eating later on. Meal preppers set aside a time at the beginning of the week to make their meals so they can relax and save time during busy mornings. A grab-and-go approach to lunch, it allows time for workers and students alike to complete tasks that really matter.

Take a look at your typical school day: you wake up and realize you’ve slept past your alarm, you pop out of bed and run to the shower, you get ready faster than your professor can say “Pop quiz!”, and speed to your 10 a.m. anatomy class. As your professor rambles on, you are devastated to realize you forgot to make a lunch. On-campus restaurants are too expensive for your college student budget, and you frantically rack your brain for a solution. Lunch is the best part of your day!

What to do with such devastating news? Meal prep! By meal prepping, you can sleep in longer and still get the sustenance you need for your long classes and other college to-dos.

We consulted with expert homemakers and cooks Caroline Picard, Samantha Macavoy, and Beth Moncel to find the best tips for becoming a pro meal prepper. Follow our step-by-step guide and you’ll be more excited for school than Taylor is for a Chiefs’ game.

1. Map Out Your Week

Typically, meal preppers prepare food to last up to one week. Keep in mind that meal prepping means you will typically have the same meal every day, Picard and Macavoy explain. If you prepped for more than a week, you’d get sick of eating the same food every day! 

Decide on how long you will prep meals for, and which meal it will be (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). We recommend prepping for lunch since that’s when you’ll be busy in the thick classes and studying.

2. Play Chef

Choose what your meal will be for your week! A helpful way to decide is to follow the formula of fruits/vegetables + grain + protein. This way, you’ll create a healthy and sustaining meal.  

According to Moncel, some of the best foods to use while meal prepping are:

  • Roasted brussels sprouts, asparagus, bell peppers, radishes
  • Fresh celery, carrots, peas, kale, cabbage, spinach
  • Whole fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, plums, pears)
  • Potatoes
  • Oats, quinoa, rice, barley, buckwheat, couscous
  • Pasta
  • Lean cuts of chicken, turkey, beef, pork
  • Canned seafood
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Cheese
  • Sauces, dips, dressings

Mix and match elements from these food groups to cook your dream meal!

3. Make a Grocery List

Determine which ingredients you need to make your meal that you don’t already have. Add them to your list! Be sure to buy enough ingredients to prep for enough days (one week or so).

Also, consider how you will store your meals. You’ll find a jackpot of food storage containers on Amazon that we have hand-selected for you! Once your list is ready, head to your favorite grocery store to pick up your ingredients!

4. Meal Prep Time!

Wash, chop, slice, peel whatever you need, Picard and Macavoy teach. Grill your meats, roast your vegetables, cook your rice, and do whatever takes time now so you don’t have to worry about it later!  

Divvy up your ingredients into separate containers, one container for each day of the week. For example, scoop an individual portion of quinoa into your Tupperware, add six or seven cubes of chicken, garnish with roasted chickpeas, spinach, and bell peppers. Spoon your hummus into a separate small container, and drop an apple and some almonds into the smaller space connected to your main Tupperware.

Repeat for each day of the week, and then store containers in the fridge. Now you have 7 days of delicious lunches!

5. Morning Of

You sleep through your alarm again, rush to the shower, and open the front door, but you remember you have a tasty lunch waiting for you in the fridge! Relieved, you quickly grab your Tupperwares, stick them in your backpack, and head to Anatomy. This time, you don’t need to worry about what to have for lunch that day. You’ve been prepared for the best part of your day since last Sunday!

Don’t you feel ready for your busy week at school? It’s like meal prep was invented with college students in mind. Healthy, time-saving, and fun are just a few reasons why if you’re a student, meal prepping should be your new jam.

If you become a pro at meal prepping, post a pic of your meals on Instagram and tag @openbookbnl for a chance to win a free meal-prepping cookbook & guide! Happy prepping!