When it comes down to your meals as a student, the easiest option is to grab a takeaway or put some beans on toast for ease. The only problem is, these options can either be very expensive, or not the healthiest option. Living the university lifestyle means it is so important to try and stay as healthy as possible and part of that is your eating.
There are multiple benefits to creating a meal plan, especially for students! Of course, a meal plan can be difficult to build into your university schedule but if there is some way you can fit one in even for part of the week then give it a go!
Eating the correct portions
One of the first benefits is that you can monitor how much you actually consume if you plan your own meals. This is opposed to buying takeaways and ready-made meals – which also cost a bomb!
This also helps you avoid overeating at restaurants (or at takeaways), which frequently provide portions that are far larger than you should be consuming.
Planning and writing lists is crucial to be ready to perform any meal planning and preparation for the coming week before you begin. The best thing to have is extra Tupperware containers (or reusable bags) ready to fill in your kitchen.
Preparing and chopping some vegetables before the main cooking session will help you save time in the long run if you know you’ll be utilising them in your meal prep so if you have any spare time in the day you can get ahead!
Planning meals for one person can be quite hard and you end up with some waste at the end of the day so meal prepping stops this as you can plan which meals you will be using your food in. This is usually things like vegetables that go off by a certain date. Meaning you will only buy what you eat.
Getting your 5 a day
Another benefits is that you can get your 5 a day – or at least more fruit and veg than your normally would as you can plan your week. This means you can pick up some fruits to fill your day as snacks.
Saving time and money
Undoubtedly stressful situations include being hungry and discovering you have nothing planned – I’m sure a lot of us have experiences this at uni when you find there’s nothing in the fridge! By meal planning, you can have a healthy dinner prepared by popping it in the microwave and heating it up as opposed to contemplating what to prepare while standing in front of your fridge. Additionally, you avoid the effort of cooking and cleaning up all the pots and pans afterwards. Which is great if you share with others who get annoyed at the pots and pans mounting up in the sink.
Living as a student comes with the occasional money struggles therefore meal planning is an excellent method to help save your pennies. Meal planning means you can buy your meals at the start of the week which can save you a tonne of money instead of buying ready-meals and takeaways. By sticking to the list, you can stop yourself from making impulsive purchases at the shop.
Think about space
Make sure your fridge and freezer have enough room, or buy a min fridge that you can use for your meals (I’ve seen a fair few students do this themselves). As mentioned because, make sure you have your tubs or reusable bags ready to store your food – making sure they aren’t too big!
Range of ingredients
I would say a key factor to make meal pre work is to never cook the same meals that you’ll eat every day for the upcoming week because you’ll simply find it boring.
Variety, having fun with recipes and ingredients, and thinking about your food budget and the best way to stretch your money over the course of the next week are all important components of a meal plan. Creating a plan beforehand is a great idea to make sure your meal plan is a success!
Your food budget can be decreased by purchasing some products in bulk, but you must make sure they can be utilised in a variety of dishes. So grab things like different meats, pasta, rice and potatoes, as well as your vegetables like carrots, frozen peas, beans and other similar ingredients which you can use in multiple meals in different ways. A range of different spices is also a good idea!
Create your own recipe book
Once you have given meal planning and prepping a go, try creating your own recipe book with you’re your favourites and keep adding news ones every so often.
It’s a good idea to have an order (or a contents page) so that you know exactly where to discover your favourites. If you want to be a bit adventurous you can add in things like dessert recipes or even starters if you are into your cooking. Or chose to group them however you like.
Making a customised recipe book offers countless options, and planning is half the fun as you can really get creative. It provides you so much freedom and also gives you the option to try need things to try new things once you’ve established the habit of creating a weekly meal plan and have found some new favourite items. Searching up new recipes online to a great way to find new ideas – or even use things like YouTube where you can visually see how it is made.
If you have never cooked for yourself before, it might be rather overwhelming, but it can also be a lot of fun to try new foods and develop your culinary skills. Developing the habit of a weekly meal plan will help you manage your money wisely, ensure that you always have a healthy meal each day, and maybe even inspire you to discover a whole new love for cooking.
Try Hello Fresh
Hello Fresh or other alternatives are a great place to start meal prepping as they do everything for you. Another bonus is that you can select how many days a week you want them to prep your meals for. So, you could do this for 4 nights a week and then with the other 3 days you can chose what you want to do, whether that be going out for a week or having your Saturday night takeaway.
I personally have tried Hello Fresh and found it a great place to start. You get given all the food items you need as well as a recipe. The great thing is you can try out different meals that you haven’t tried before or that you wouldn’t have thought to try before.
Of course, the occasional takeaway and dining out is very much needed when living as a student but be careful not to make it a regular habit. Nothing can hurt by giving meal planning a go – you can even try it with your flatmate if it makes it a little easier.
If you’re struggling with space in your fridge and freezer, then maybe try meal prepping a few days a week instead of the whole week and see if it is manageable. Now you have everything you need to know – Happy meal Planning!