Being a college student can be hectic. From working outside of class to being active in school organizations, how can you find the time to make healthy and filling meals? Coming home at 8 p.m. after a full day of activity, I never have the motivation to cook but I also do not want to be spending money each night on take-out meals. Because of this, I decided to try meal prepping.
Meal prepping is when you make your meals ahead of time. Since I only stress about what I am going to eat for dinner, I do not meal prep my breakfast and lunch, but there are many who do prep each meal of their day. It depends on your schedule and when you need your pre-made food. To begin my prepping, I decided to plan what meals I would eat throughout the week. I saw many posts of people who ate the same meal every day and I did not like that idea. I enjoy variety in my meals and decided I needed to have a different meal every night. This was the list I decided on:
Sunday: Pasta and meatballs
Monday: Shrimp taco bowl
Tuesday: Salmon over a salad
Wednesday: Fried rice
Thursday: Chicken over a salad
Friday: Chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans
Saturday: Shrimp pasta
Because I do not eat gluten and dairy I tend to eat on the healthier side. Also, due to the fact that I work out everyday, I needed meals high in protein. These lifestyle choices are what helped me decide what meals I would eat. I also enjoy flavorful meals, so I knew I needed a variety of spices in my dishes. If you are just starting out with cooking, I recommend using Pinterest. There are a variety of recipes for any meal your heart desires! Some of my favorites include Brussel Sprouts, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadilla and the Shrimp Taco Bowl which I ate during my meal prep week.
What was really important for me when meal prepping was taking the time out of one day during my week to physically prep each meal. I decided on Sunday, as this was the one day in the week in which I had no set-in-stone plans, and I could focus on the food I was preparing. Going into this experiment, I did have previous skills in cooking. I chose meals that I knew I enjoyed and would look forward to eating each night. I also chose meals that I was confident I had the skills to make. After all is said and done, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to prepare the food. On average, I spend one hour each night cooking my dinner. On Sunday, it took a total of four hours to prepare all of the meals. I was able to save a lot of time during the week by preparing my meals ahead of time.
While adding a whole hour to your day does not seem like a lot, I noticed a difference in my lifestyle. I was relieved to be able to finish classes, work, work out and not have to worry about cooking an entire meal when I came back to my apartment. While I did create a schedule on when I wanted to eat each meal, I did switch some of them based on how I was feeling that day. This was something that I really enjoyed about meal prepping. I was able to pick and choose what I wanted to eat each night without being held down by the preparation each meal would require.
The one thing that I did not enjoy about my meal prepping experience was the fact that I was unable to eat a freshly cooked meal. I felt as if the meat was more limp when I was eating it. However, the flavor remained good. While this was obvious going into meal prepping, I still missed the satisfaction of knowing that the food was made minutes before I was about to eat it. Still, this experience was positive overall, and I am excited to continue prepping my meals for the weeks ahead!
Chickpeas made for my salads
Salad with salmon, blackbeans, carrots, chickpeas, sunflower seed and dried cranberries
Chicken fried rice with carrots, broccoli and egg