Most college students, when living away from home for the first time, struggle with the newfound freedom of choosing what to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner every single day. After a while, the novelties of takeaways and canteen lunches can get tedious and very, very expensive.
While the idea of meal prep and batch cooking can sound dull, having a home-cooked meal ready and waiting for you after a long day of studying never gets old.
According to Stop Food Waste Ireland, as a country, we generate at least one million tonnes of food waste every single year. With batch cooked meals, not only are you saving money, but by ensuring you are using up all your fresh food, you are helping to cut food waste and helping the environment.
Between studying and socialising, students often don’t have hours to prepare, cook and store meals for an entire week, however even doubling up a portion makes things easier for the rest of the week.
With recipes available at the click of a button, it can be intimidating for someone living alone for the first time to know what and when to cook. TikTok is the perfect place to find quick, easy and inexpensive student meals. Some great creators include @lilymayedwardsx , who shares ideas for shopping lists, meal plans and how to make the most of your student budget, and @weightloss_beth, who although specialises in low carb and healthy meals, gives perfect inspiration for meal prepping, with enough recipe ideas to ensure you won’t be bored of repetitive meals. As well as this, simply searching the #studentmeals can give you enough inspiration to last you an entire semester.
Some easy to prepare and affordable meal prep recipes could include chicken curries with veg, chicken/beef/prawn and vegetable stir-fries or lasagna and pasta salad. These can be frozen in Tupperware and left to defrost while you are away at college. Fresh noodles/rice can be cooked in under 10 minutes and before you know it you have a nutritious, quick meal that will ensure you have the energy to study or socialise.
With many students turning to vegetarianism or veganism when they head to college, it’s hard to know what to cook that won’t take up too much time, as well as suit their budget. Some student-friendly ideas include chickpea curry, vegetable stir-fries and plant-based alternatives such as vegan sausages or Quorn.
One tip for planning your meal prep is investing. Invest in spices, oils etc that will last you the entire semester. This will mean each week you will only need to buy “fresh” ingredients like meat or vegetables to add to your meals.
Another important investment for batch cooking is good quality storage. It’s important to check the Tupperware you buy is freezer, microwave and dishwasher safe – just to make life a little easier for yourself. Keep an eye on supermarkets such as Aldi or Lidl who often have quality storage containers in their “specials” aisles at a very reasonable price. Other places to check out include Ikea, Amazon and homeware stores like Woodies or Homebase. It’s also important to check your food containers have good quality lids and covers because after a long day of meal prepping, no one wants their dinner to spill all over the fridge!
There are so many benefits to meal prepping, whether it be the time, the money, or the environment, there really is something for everyone!