Preparing Meals as a College Student

Figuring out what to eat each day, how to eat healthy, and buying the right amount of food so it doesn’t go bad can appear tedious. You’re no longer living at home where food just appears on the table. Now you have to plan out your own meals and budget for that. Even if you cooked at home with your family, you now have to figure out how to cook meals for one person. 

If you’re struggling to figure out what to buy at the grocery store and how to plan your meals for the week, you’re not alone. However, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed every time you think about grocery shopping. Keep reading for tips and tricks to help you get the most out of grocery shopping and begin eating better as a college student. 

Plan Out Your Week for Groceries 

Everyone operates differently. People will give you advice on the “best” way to buy and use groceries, but the truth is that there’s no right way to plan your meals. You have to figure out what works best with you and your schedule. With that being said, here are some ideas for planning out your meals throughout the week. Find what works for you, and even try some new ways of grocery shopping if your current system isn’t working. 

Meal Prepping

Meal prepping is when you prepare a meal one night and then portion it out to eat it throughout the week. You can package it into different containers and have it easily accessible to grab and go whenever you need it. Meal prepping takes the stress of figuring out what to cook and when to cook it during the day. 

One downside to meal prepping is you might grow tired of eating the same meal every day. However, if you value efficiency and ease, meal prepping might work for you. 

Here are some common ingredients to include in your meal prep that will last throughout the week:

  • Grains and pasta
  • Cooked meat
  • Vegetables (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, kale, etc.)
  • Cheese 
  • Nuts 
  • Sauces (like salad dressing) 

A great way to meal prep is to use a meal prep company like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, or EveryPlate. These companies specialize in delivering planned out meals to your door. They give you the ingredients and all you have to do is prepare the food. This is a great option if you feel overwhelmed when beginning your meal prep journey. 

One final piece of advice I will give is to start small with meal prepping. Start with one meal that consists of a grain, vegetable and protein source. Once you’ve mastered this simple meal, you can move onto more complex recipes. 

Meal Planning in Reverse

Reverse or backward meal planning involves taking an ingredient that you already have and making multiple meals around it. Take inventory of what you have in your pantry and freezer, and then think of meals you can make with those ingredients. If you do this before you go to the grocery store, you’ll save money by not buying as many ingredients because you already have a planned out meal. 

This form of planning allows you to stock up on goods that don’t expire quickly or put meat in the freezer for later use. You don’t have to make as many trips to the grocery store if you find ways to make meals out of your existing food. If you don’t have enough food stocked up, you can go to the grocery store with backwards meal planning in mind. The key is to buy foods that can be put in multiple dishes. 

Regardless of how you plan your grocery shopping, buying foods that have a long shelf life brings us to our next point. 

Stock Up on Nonperishable Goods

College students’ lives are busy and you might not have time to cook every meal you planned for. Or you want to go out to dinner with your friends on a Friday night. That’s why you should focus on buying goods that won’t go bad if you miss a night of meal prep. 

Common foods to stock up on are:

  • Rice 
  • Pasta 
  • Cereals 
  • Oatmeal 
  • Frozen vegetables 
  • Frozen fruits
  • Frozen meat (you can buy frozen meat or you can freeze the refrigerated meat you buy) 
  • Canned beans 

I’m not saying you can’t buy fresh produce, but if you buy fresh produce, you should use it in a meal before it goes bad. If you’re operating on a budget, you’d be wasting your money if you don’t use the food you buy. The key is to know yourself and know your schedule. 

Understand Yourself and Your Eating Habits

There’s no “one size fits all” rule for grocery shopping and meal planning. Your schedule looks different from other people, and ultimately, you have to know yourself well enough to plan for your meals. Depending on your class or work schedule, finding time to eat and prepare meals can be difficult. Find a time to sit down and plan out your week with whatever system works for you. 

Morgan Jones
Morgan Jones
I'm a public relations student at the University of Georgia with a passion for creative storytelling and content creation. The work I produce reflects my love for music, art and culture, and I strive to create content that resonates with college students. Learn more about Morgan


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