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Lunch Panic: 5 Tips For Packing Lunches After Moving Off-Campus

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

For many of us (for many years), our main concern with school lunch was when and where to eat it. Before college, our parents might have packed us a sandwich and some chips, or we stashed an array of what was in our family fridge into our backpacks before school. If not, we had the school cafeteria. The beginning of college introduced the simple privilege of grabbing whatever we wanted at the dining halls. At UCLA, we even had meal vouchers included in our dining plan to use at the chain restaurants or local coffee shops (Kerckhoff was my favorite) on campus.

But, somewhere along the line, most of us are forced to surrender our easy lunches for the opportunity to learn to be adults. In other words, we have to not only make our own lunches but also purchase what we need to make our lunches. And that is definitely daunting for a lot of us – myself included! That said, moving into an apartment is a super fun and exciting new experience, and making lunches can be, too.

Here are five easy ways you can alleviate your lunchtime stress:

Pack plenty of extra snacks

A critical flaw when packing food, especially for a whole day of school, is not including enough snacks to survive the day beyond the main “meal” you bring for lunch. When home, it’s easy to head to the kitchen or the snack stash to grab something if you’re hungry, but if you’re on campus and don’t want to spend the extra money for vending machine snacks, it’s imperative that you pack enough to satiate your hunger throughout your classes. Some of the easiest ways to do this are with easily accessible, filling snacks like nuts, chips or bars that you can stash in your bag for easy access.

Buy an organized lunchbox

One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are both packing enough food and enough variety of food is to buy an organized lunch box so that you can easily divide and visualize what you’re packing. I’m probably not alone when I say I enjoy watching the videos parents make on TikTok of the fancy bento boxes they prepare for their kids (definitely a guilty pleasure). Something like a bento box is ideal because you can easily separate all your food and even include a fork, spoon and chopsticks to eat with.

Meal prep with roomies/friends

There’s no getting around it—meal prep is exhausting. But, with friends or roommates, you can make it a fun social activity. Plan a few hours over the weekend to do some group shopping, split the cost and cook some fun recipes together. Not only will you save some fridge space (and your food will be less likely to go bad), but you will probably have prepared much healthier and more elaborate meals for the week and saved yourself from scrambling every morning before school.

Pack crunchy and protein-rich foods

Yes, I know that sounds weird and random. But I promise you, it works. Crunchy foods are great to keep you focused during class or while working between classes (something about the act of chewing). Protein-packed foods will sustain your energy and keep you full so that you don’t have to pack your backpack to the brim or buy snacks on campus to keep you satiated.

Include a combination of many different foods

I’m often tempted to pack five types of bagged snacks in my backpack just because it’s easy, but a collection of chips, popcorn and dried fruit might not be the most nutritious or satisfying collection of items to eat throughout the day. Instead, if you include (maybe even in that bento box we talked about) a salad or sandwich as an easy main course, with chips (as a crunchy carbohydrate snack), carrots and hummus (for veggies and protein), and some grapes, you will not only be packing a healthier lunch but will be less bored with your options!

I hope this list is proof that packing lunches doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With these tips, you can easily save yourself the money of buying food on campus (broke college students here!) and can actually enjoy your food throughout your school day. Whether it’s meal prepping with roomies or watching bento box prep TikTok videos, there are countless ways to make home lunches effective and exciting.

Kylee is a fourth-year at UCLA double-majoring in Communication and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Her poems have been published in Train River Poetry, The Mandarin, Open Ceilings, and our very own Westwind (among others). She also writes feature articles for Her Campus at UCLA. In her free time, she acts, drinks way too much coffee, romanticizes everything, and buys more books than she can keep up with.