Whether you went down a 45-minute rabbit hole of meal-prepping videos on TikTok or you are ready to put your Pinterest saves to use, you might be ready to start meal prepping, but you don't know where to start.
Meal prepping is preparing full, ready-to-go meals ahead of time to make them easy to grab during busy weeks. This helps ensure that you are eating enough throughout the day. It's nutritionally balanced, rather than a to-go snack bag of chips and a cheese stick. Senior criminal justice major Sydney McCaron points out the convenience of meal prepping as a college student. “It takes a lot of time just going to class, commuting, and working. By the time it's time to eat I don't want to plan a whole meal and cool it, so meal prepping is just easy.”
Start small by picking one simple recipe to prepare for a few days that week. Next, figure out what ingredients you have and what you will need to buy.
After getting your ingredients together, find some containers that will work well for what you're making and where it will be stored until you're ready to eat it.
You don't need to invest in a fifty-piece set of fancy glass containers — leftover takeout containers will work just fine! If it's a meal you plan to microwave, just make sure the container is microwave-safe.
All that's left to do is follow your recipe and portion out enough for each day you're prepping for. Make sure you reduce or increase your recipe as needed based on how many days you're prepping for. Then, you can store your containers in the fridge and grab them when needed!
Each recipe is different, but generally, you should not prep for more than a week in advance to ensure your food stays fresh and safe to eat.
Some people meal prep for convenience, some meal prep to stay on track with specific goals, and others do it for both! Olivia Gagne, a first-year graduate student at the University of Maryland, began meal prepping her junior year of undergrad to “stay on track and healthy instead of getting takeout and eating junk food all the time.”
Gagne advises anyone looking to start meal prepping to eat balanced, nutritious meals to figure out what kinds of carbs, proteins and fats they like to eventually start creating their own recipes.
Her favorite recipe is ground chicken with taco seasoning, white rice, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cheese. She recommends adding extra flavor to recipes “to keep it interesting.”
Gagne's advice for beginners is to find something they enjoy eating.
“If you meal prep a bunch of food that you don't like, you're just going to end up throwing it away.” She says it might take some time to find recipes you enjoy prepping, but once you do, “'it's incredibly convenient. Saves a lot of time and keeps you healthy.” Senior government and politics major, Shelby Bennoit, has been meal prepping for years to help her with her busy work and school schedule. For beginners, she recommends “start small” with what you’re prepping.
“Don’t immediately try to prep for every meal of the day for a week. Start with lunches or dinners first so it’s not overwhelming,” she said. Meal prepping is an excellent practice for busy college students with full schedules and little time to cook every meal from scratch.