Meal Prep College Style – Eating Right on a Budget

Meal Prep College Style

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in college.  One day, you’re living at home and you’re being fed, groceries magically appear – the next day, you’re eating all of your meals in the dining/mess hall and you’ve gained 30lbs.

Meal prep in college is a real thing that can possibly take your pocket and body to the next level.  Looking good and being healthy is a must in college.  Think of Spring Break!

I paid my way through college, it was rough working and managing school work but meal prepping, and not always eating out, put a little more money in my pocket.

Let me set the rest of this post up with saying that I am not a huge fan of cooking and mostly do it to eat well and save money.

Budget

The first thing you need to do is budget your money.  The goal is to spend less, own more, pay less and have fun.  What can you afford to buy in groceries on a weekly basis?  Once you set up your budget you need to try your hardest to stick to it.

Free Budget Worksheet from Nerd Wallet

To take your budget/earning potential a step further, use a credit card that earns awesome rewards for your groceries.  Maybe some cash back or travel points?  Just make sure not to go over the budget you planned for yourself and pay it off every month.  A great card for students is the Discover IT.

Save when you shop

Find ways to spend less when you’re purchasing your weekly groceries.

Purchase groceries that can be used in multiple meals.  For example, you can use ground turkey for ground turkey with vegetables or a ground turkey “taco” salad.

Stick to the same meal for a few days.  You can make grilled chicken with boiled potatoes on Sunday and have it for lunch Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  When you purchase and cook for one or two people, being wasteful is very easy.

Be mindful of meat going bad – If you get a pack of meat, let’s say chicken breast, you have about 4 days to cook it.  If you don’t cook the entire pack, you should freeze it.  The FDA says that frozen chicken breast can last 9 months.  I usually don’t do that, I usually cook the whole pack as soon as I open it and use the meat for different types of meals.

Pay attention to pricing and be careful with where you shop.  Certain grocery stores are by far more expensive than others.  In my area, Shoprite and Walmart have the best deals, Stop and Shop is good if you are into coupons, and Aldis has AWESOME deals but only takes cash or debit.  So there goes earning credit card points.

Meal Prep in College

meal prep college

Use a grocery list!  I use the notes section on my iPhone.  It’s always with me and I can add to it as I run out.

There are things that I always have to have for my meals.  Seeds of Change has a quinoa and wild grain rice that I always have a few packs of.  It takes 90 seconds in the microwave, is at least 2-3 servings, and is healthy!  Olive oil is a must have, as well as Flavor God Seasonings (healthy).



Start small, maybe with Dinner, and grow your meal prep agenda from there.  It’s a little more difficult and time consuming to prep for every meal.

If you aren’t a huge breakfast person, or don’t usually wake up hungry, you still have to eat something.  I am not a breakfast person so I usually have something small like rice cakes or applesauce.  Either way, its important to get your metabolism up and running as soon as you wake up.

Use your dining plan if you can!  You can still eat well and it might make sense financially.  Can you take stuff in storage containers for later?  Being creative in college can save you a lot of time and money.

Dorm Equipment to Meal Prep

It can be hard to prep when you don’t have a full kitchen.  I’ve been out of my studio, that didn’t have a kitchen, for just three weeks.  I know the struggle.  One appliance that’s under $20 bucks and saved my life?  A small indoor grill/panini press.  I used this to make grilled chicken and other healthy options. Amazon has it right now.

What you can have in your dorm room depends on the rules and policies of your school but a toaster or toaster overn is also a really good option.

You know what’s better than cooking?  Getting food to meal prep from your mess hall.  I hinted to this before.  When I was in college, we had a dining hall we swiped into and it was all you can eat.  Some of us would take containers and stock up on grilled chicken or other healthy options we could later use for meal prepping.

Meal Prep College Options

I break my meals down into two main separate, distinctive parts. A protein and a side.  Proteins usually take a little longer to cook then sides so I focus on them first.  Here’s my meal prep secret:  on Sunday I cook the meat for at least three days.  Let’s say a pack of ground turkey.

Since life happens, I never prep for more than three days in the future.  Every time I do more I end up throwing food out because life happens.  In this example I cook my ground turkey Sunday evening, for dinner.  On Monday I will make the Seeds of Change rice as my side, takes 90 seconds, and gives me enough rice for 2-3 meals.

My top three proteins

  1. Ground Turkey
  2. Chicken Breast
  3. Eggs

My top three sides

  1. Vegetables
  2. Rice (Seeds of Change Quinoa and Wild Grain Rice – 90 second cook)
  3. Avocado

One of my favorite meals, that is very easy to make, is two fried eggs and an avocado.  That meal costs about $2 and takes maybe 10 minutes to prepare.

Meal prep college style secret – Snacks are a real thing.  When you’re prepping your meals for the week grab snacks that you can have.  My weakness is Girl Scouts Cookies.  They aren’t the least bit healthy so usually I just have two right after dinner.


What’s your biggest struggle when you meal prep? 
Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 7.31.04 PMmeal prep college

21 thoughts on “Meal Prep College Style – Eating Right on a Budget

  • at
    Permalink

    Meal prep during college would have been a smart thing for me! 🙂 I wish I’d known about it then! These tips will help me now though too! Thanks!

  • at
    Permalink

    These are excellent tips. Meal prep saves a lot of time and headache, and this incredibly helpful in college.

  • at
    Permalink

    What great ideas and tips! There are so many more things available to make meal prep in college easier than when I was in school.

  • at
    Permalink

    My neighbors daughter started college this year and she makes simple meals in her dorm. I’ll share some of these suggestions with her as she is always looking for ideas and tips. She wants to keep cost down.

  • at
    Permalink

    These ideas should work well for apartment living on a budget too. Easy to put together meals are so helpful when your schedule is hectic.

  • at
    Permalink

    Having the same meal more than once is a great way to reduce food waste when you are only cooking for one or two people. And reducing your food waste saves you money.

    • at
      Permalink

      Yes! I always say that I meal prep to stay fit and keep more money in my pocket. For more Disney vacations of course lol

  • at
    Permalink

    Meal prep can save both time and money if you do it. Stretching your budget is always important including in college, here most colleges don’t allow most small electric appliances though so you have to use the dining hall.

  • at
    Permalink

    What an awesome list of tips for college students! My friend’s kiddo is heading off to college next year and he will definitely be needing these!

  • at
    Permalink

    I wish I had these awesome tips as a college student. Your favorite proteins are mine, too. Ground turkey can be used in so many ways!

  • at
    Permalink

    These are great tips I’ll have to share with my nieces who are in college. I so didn’t eat well in college!

  • at
    Permalink

    I never got to experience college in a dorm. I kind of wish I had! I am sure I would have been pretty broke!

  • at
    Permalink

    I didn’t live in a dorm but even when you are young and move out on your own these are great tips. It’s so easy to just eat out but boy, do you go through your money fast.

  • at
    Permalink

    Great tips for any young adult. I think sometimes they don’t realize how easy it is to make food themselves. Not to mention how much more affordable it is.

  • at
    Permalink

    My nephew just started his sophomore year of college, and is living off-campus. I’ve been worried since last year he ate in the cafeteria every day. This is awesome!! Practical and budget-friendly advice for kids who need to eat well without spending a ton.

  • at
    Permalink

    I greatly overestimated how much I would enjoy cooking for myself when I decided to get an apartment in college. We ended up eating out a lot.

  • at
    Permalink

    My daughter is in her last year at NYU and luckily she got a free ride and the meals are included. She does however buy her own groceries instead of going to the dining hall.

    • at
      Permalink

      That’s awesome. And she can do both. Sometimes going to the dining hall is too time consuming

Comments are closed.