Between school, clubs, sports, and homework, where is there time to eat? In a recent Student Health 101 survey, 53 percent of students said they don’t feel like they have enough time to cook, let alone eat. Sure, you can grab a packet of Oreos from the cafeteria and call it lunch. Or you could meal prep and actually eat something of substance.
Exactly half of you have said you or your family has tried out meal prepping before. Besides being a more nutritionally sound option, setting aside one day to prep your meals has a slew of benefits:
- Save time not having to prepare food every single day
- Save money by avoiding takeout and restaurant costs
- Less stress over what to eat; everything’s planned for you
- Eat healthier more consistently
To make your venture into meal prepping easy, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide. Set aside about two hours at the beginning of the week to get everything ready, and see if a parent is around to help you. Who knows? It could become your family’s new Sunday tradition.
Here’s exactly what to do during prep
Part 1: Take care of the most time-consuming stuff
Start by prepping your chili. Our recipe calls for a slow cooker, but if you don’t have that, brown your ground turkey or beef in a pot on the stove with your spices. Add the rest of your ingredients and let simmer.
At this point, you can also start making your rice/quinoa for the burrito bowls. You can use a quick microwaveable rice or one that requires a stove or rice cooker. Feel free to make extra for the chili!
Part 2: Prep it and forget it
As your chili and rice is cooking, place some greens in your burrito bowl containers. Rinse and dry your black beans and portion them out atop the greens, along with red pepper, corn, and anything else you desire for your bowls. (Tip: Switch up your bowls by using different add-ins for each day of the week.)
Note: Your rice/quinoa is probably done!
Add in your rice/quinoa to your bowls, followed by the rest of your toppings. If using avocado, be sure to add that on the day you’re going to eat it to avoid browning. Burrito bowls are done!
Note: Check on your chili. If it’s done, turn off the stove and let it cool.
Time to throw together your overnight oats. Measure out your oats into jars or bowls, followed by your milk and add-ins. Into the fridge they go.
For your last meal: Prep your beans and greens burgers. Form these into patties, wrap them in plastic wrap, and keep them in the freezer. This makes it easy to pop on the stove for dinner on the nights you’re having them. The recipe makes four to six burgers.
Part 3: Organize the fridge
For easy grab-and-go meals, organize your fridge so that you have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day stacked and ready.
“It helps me eat healthier. At the end of a long school day, I don’t usually have the will or energy to cook, so it helps to just be able to throw it in the microwave or stovetop.”
—Lena, junior, Reading, Pennsylvania
“It helps a lot because my school ends at 3:20 p.m. and then I have sports, which end at 5:00 p.m. I then take a train home, plus the bus. I get home at 6:30 p.m. and do homework and then walk the dogs. Having food already prepared is a lifesaver.”
—Adriana, junior, Auburn, Massachusetts
“Meal prep saves us time. I can instantly eat something that won’t delay my schedule.”
—Tamer, freshman, Glen Allen, Virginia
“It helps us make sure we don’t eat cereal for dinner.”
—Aria, senior, Midland, Michigan
Other recipes that lend themselves well to meal prep:
Harvard School of Public Health. (2018). Meal prep: A helpful healthy eating strategy. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2017/03/20/meal-prep-planning/
Student Health 101 survey, October 2018.