I Tried Meal-Prepping For a Week and Here’s What I Learned

Like many other college students, I am admittedly not the best cook. My personal journey with cooking as a young adult started when I moved into my first apartment from living in campus housing. With my first ever own kitchen came the possibilities of choosing what food I want to cook and eat instead of settling for dining commons food. While I thoroughly enjoyed being able to eat cereal at 3am and microwave leftover pizza, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t taking full advantage of the collegiate culinary possibilities.

My preliminary ventures with cooking started with copying online recipes and of course the mystical Trader Joe’s frozen food section. While I did find some gems from this and it was convenient, I thought I would challenge myself to actual cooking. And this leads to my week-long meal prep experiment.

I’ve heard meal prep be hyped up by Instagram fitness pages and Pinterest as a solution to eating healthy when on the go. I hoped this would be the solution to my beginner cooking skills and overall laziness to cook full meals on a daily basis. I decided to give these two recipes out for the week: 15-Minute Quinoa and Korean Beef Bowl & Easy Honey Garlic Chicken (with added veggies and rice). Read below my daily accounts of my meal-prep journey and more overall thoughts from what I learned from the experience:

Easy Honey Garlic Chicken

15-Minute Quinoa & Korean Beef Bowl

SUNDAY:

I bought all the ingredient for the recipes and found that surprisingly I already had a lot of them in my kitchen. Prepping both recipes took about two-hours and I ended up with five portions of each meal. This was a lot of work but felt very rewarding in the end. 

MONDAY:

I decided to bring my chicken, rice, and veggies as my lunch on campus. It still tastes pretty good for being second-day and I felt satisfyingly full until I got home. I usually just wait to eat lunch around 3pm, but getting in a fully-prepped homemade meal really made a difference in my energy levels I found. When I got home I warmed up my quinoa and Korean beef and topped off my bowl with shredded carrots and a fried egg, the end result was delicious. It was also quick and easy to do. 

TUESDAY:

I'm able to eat lunch at home on Tuesdays so I decided to switch it up and have the Korean beef for lunch this time. Instead of eating it as a bowl I actually had it in a lettuce wrap, this was also a quick and easy variation on the recipe. I found that having a food base of ingredients turns out to be very versatile. When I got home from class I made more portions and veggies and ate my chicken and rice. Honestly, chicken quickly gets boring to me so I'm not sure how much longer I can go on eating it. 

WEDNESDAY:

Today I was very tempted to get Freebird's nachos but resisted knowing that I have a fully stocked fridge of meal-prep waiting for me at home. The ingredients for these recipes were relatively affordable and have stretched me a lot farther than shelling out $20 for expensive (albeit delicious) nachos. I usually eat out at least five times a week and my bank account is loving the break from food-spending at the moment. 

THURSDAY:

The chicken is definitely getting boring at his point. Still yummy, but I find myself craving other things. It's also getting hard to eat quinoa everyday as I think saving it in my fridge for so long has made it gone soggy. Still I persevered through a lunch and dinner of the same old food. I also find myself snacking a lot less.

FRIDAY:

Okay, definitely ready to finish off my remaining food and grabbing something else to eat. I'm dying for a burrito. 

Final Thoughts: 

Meal-prepping for an entire week was very eye-opening for me. I found that I was a lot less stressed knowing I had ready-made meals in my fridge and I also saved a lot of money from not eating out. I also found that eating healthy lunches and dinners on a consistent schedule kept me full and more energized than when I would eat inconsistent meals and snack in-between. Although I got tired of eating the same food towards the end, I found this experiment very rewarding and it made me realize that I could eat delicious, healthy food at home and affordably. If I were to meal prep in the future I would make smaller portions so I don't get too tired of the same food and also find recipes that allow for variations. I'll definitely be snooping on Pinterest (HerCampusUCSB's Food Pinboard) and recipe sites for my next meal-prep venture.