After a full morning of lectures, an afternoon of work and then coming home to a demanding pile of assignments, trying to make anything more than an instant meal for dinner might seem overwhelming. A semester can pass by like this, and more often than not, a bowl of Fruit Loops or a cup of ramen might have been the most popular item on your own personal plate. Eating like this might save time, but it’s extremely unhealthy. Learning how to effectively meal plan is essential to keep your body healthy and your brain alert.
Have a budget
One problem that plays into the lack of proper meal planning is the amount of money that can go to waste – a huge issue college students would much rather avoid. If you buy more food than you use, it will end up being tossed out. Choosing take-out or fast food on a busy day or a day you didn’t have time to pack lunch can seem like the easier option – until it stacks up and you see your bank account. Rather than being surprised that you spent more than intended on food, budget wisely each week. Once you know how much you can spend each week, you can start planning your meals and snacks. Also, eating out every now and then isn’t bad, but budget how much money you will put into eating out so it doesn’t go over. If you don’t finish your food, you can always take your leftovers home and have a meal for the next day.
Look up recipes
Before the week begins, search for recipes and decide what you can make that week that you will enjoy and that will fit your budget. Try to find recipes that use some of the same ingredients – bag of spinach or carrots can go a long way! Write down your meals in a planner or calendar, somewhere that you will remember, then write down the ingredients so you won’t miss anything on your trip to the grocery store.
Make large portions and take advantage of leftovers
Since you’re already busy cooking, think about adding a little more than just the portion size you were planning. One meal you make can last you for a few days, and you can also freeze leftovers. Soups and lasagnas can be defrosted, re-heated and enjoyed for a quick and easy homemade meal.
Have back-up meals
Planning doesn’t mean everyday is going to go exactly how you imagined, and that’s okay. Invest in a few back-up meals for days where you might not be able to follow your meal plan, or days where you can see ahead of time that you’ll be too busy to cook. You can choose a few ready-made meals, but also make sure to pick healthy options like sandwiches or salads packed with the right amount of vegetables.