Amidst all of the assignments and midterms, students don’t always have the time—or energy—to put together satisfying, homemade meals. Meal prep, however makes cooking quick and easy with the benefits of being a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly option than buying food on or around campus for lunch every day. Furthermore, preparing simple meals for weekly lunches offers students the opportunity to gain confidence in the kitchen while also engaging in a non-academic yet productive task. Here are a few basics to get into the healthy habit of meal prepping.
Pots, pans, and perseverance
A lot of meal prep recipes online require the use of equipment, like a slow cooker or a food processor, that aren’t items found in a typical student’s kitchen. Such equipment is unnecessary: A pot, a pan, a bowl, a cutting board, some knives, and a good attitude are totally sufficient. Even for adventurous meal prep endeavours like roasted chicken or meatballs, just add a cheap sheet pan to your pantry.
Vegetables are an important part of our daily nutrition, but getting the right amount, or even eating any at all can seem difficult. In reality, many vegetables are easy to prepare. Some, like carrots and bell peppers, need no cooking, just slicing and packing, while other vegetables like broccoli and asparagus only require some boiling. They can be flavoured differently by topping them with sauces or seasoning, but make for the perfect snack when they’re plain. Vegetables are also ideal for packing into small plastic or glass reusable containers for easy transport to campus. For an extra challenge, drizzle your favourite veggies with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them in the oven.
Starting from starch (and some protein)
A straightforward way to assemble a complete meal is to pair a starch, like rice or potatoes, with a protein, such as meat, beans, or tofu. There are a million types of rice, such as white, jasmine, and wild, and many ways to cook potatoes, including boiling, roasting, and mashing, so the options for the starch component are nearly endless. While there are more complicated ways to prepare protein, there are simple methods that result in delicious taste. Chicken or tofu cut up into bite-size pieces and sautéd quickly with some salt, pepper, and a mix of spices to season deliver a delicious source of protein in only a few steps. Alternatively, a dish like a pasta salad or a casserole is relatively quick to assemble and satisfies your serving of proteins and vegetables all in one. A more time consuming yet worthwhile dish, is a curry or a stir fry, which may take some practice to get right but once you get a hang of it, can be very flexible dishes that will undoubtedly impress your friends.
Looking for a snack
Snacks are essential to maintain focus and energy throughout a long day of work. Granola bars, dried fruit, and crackers are all effective power bites to bring to campus. However, homemade muffins can take your snacking to the next level. Muffins are a relatively forgiving baked good, as mistakes in the baking process often don’t ruin a batch, which makes them the ideal starting point for beginning bakers. Plus, they are pretty versatile so you can personalize them with your favourite flavours such as banana chocolate chip or blueberry oat.
A bonus of meal prepping is saving the Earth from the single-use containers that come with daily take-out lunches. Plastic or glass reusable containers are cheap and available at a variety of stores, including supermarkets, pharmacies, and the dollar store. You can also reuse yogurt containers, pasta sauce jars, and similar food containers from the grocery store to bring your prepped meals and snacks to campus.
Meal prepping may seem like a daunting task, but in reality, it is quite simple. An extra half an hour on the weekend to cook your meals for the week is the perfect opportunity to start saving money and eating healthier, and you might even find that you have a knack for it. Happy prepping!