Meal prepping is one of the most popular topic of the past years. If you research on the internet, experts discuss this theme thoroughly and in relation to every category of people. However, the benefit of preparing your own meals while attending university is not addressed as much. In this article, I will tell you how I started meal prepping and why it’s beneficial for university students.
During the Science Foundation Year, I approached a healthier way of eating. I became more aware of food and I took the steps towards becoming vegetarian. Although I could already cook, I had little experience of meals without meat or fish in them. I put myself in the hand of expert meal preppers. And by this I mean I searched around the internet and found those tutorials that seemed easy and appetising.
One website I recommend is Sweat Peas And Saffron where you can get lots of recipes. Even though my recommendations are vegetarian and vegan, if you are a meat eater you can search using the keywords “meal prep ideas” and you will find thousands of hits. YouTube is another brilliant source of meal plans and you can see the dish while it’s cooking. Look for the list of ingredients, so you can write them and use them for your next grocery shopping.
There is not much more to say. From my personal perspective, I enjoy doing it and it has changed the attitude I have towards precooked food. I have to be honest: during the first year of Neuroscience, I had a “relapse” and I went back to buying food on campus. If we go back to university in September 2020, I will try my best to keep up the excellent habit of preparing my lunch. That said, what are the benefits of meal prepping for university students?
3 reasons meal prepping is perfect for university students.
It’s cheaper than you think
University students are often on a budget. Most of us have to split our money between rent, bills and groceries. One question that people ask me is whether meal prepping is cheaper than buying food on campus. The answer is: it depends.
You probably expected a positive response. The reason I’m not saying an absolute yes is whether you consume meat. In my case, meal prep is cheaper than purchasing meals in the canteen or in the various coffee shops on campus. This is not always the case. Let me elaborate on this.
In the UK, I base my diet on vegetables, legumes, fruit and cereals. All these foods are cheap, especially if bought in local shops and farmer markets. Canned legumes are economical and full of proteins, so I can get my nutrients and still avoid meat. However, if you enjoy meat alternatives – yes, even tofu is in this category – your expenses will go up. When I’m in my home town in Italy, I gravitate towards these substitutes. I live with meat-eater parents, so I like to eat something that’s like their meals. Hence why I buy more replacements, increasing the costs of my groceries.
For those who enjoy fish and meat, the price of these items fluctuates depending on their quality. As a person who has distanced herself from this industry and researched a lot about it, I have some experience on what the difference in prices mean. If you’re looking to buy free-range, well-fed meat, then the cost will be higher. If instead you can settle with intensive-farmed, then it will be much cheaper. Which kind of meat is used to prepare meals in the canteen? Setting the ethical questions aside, most people need to make a choice based on their budget. This is where the “it depends” lies.
To sum up, meal prepping is cheaper than buying food on campus if you are smart about your choices. It all comes down to find deals in the supermarket and shopping at local markets. With time, you can become more economically savvy, not only gaining a new ability but also saving money.
It allows you to keep healthy
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people eating panini and sandwiches. Although there is nothing wrong with these meals, there are healthier options.
During the Science Foundation Year, I lost weight. I was working out and eating the best quality of food. When I think about it, I rarely bought items from the canteen. However, as I started my first year, I had to focus on studying more than before, so I became lazier and less aware of my meal choices. As a result, I gained some weight I had lost. This is not a tragedy, but I noticed it and thought about my attitude towards food. After researching scientific papers, I saw the connexion between being desk-bound and eating meals I had not prepared.
To support my claims, I found this article. The authors explain how their study highlighted the correlation between going to university and gaining weight. This increase is mainly because of becoming more sedentary and eating unhealthy foods.
This is where meal prepping comes in to the picture. One of the top benefit it has is you always know the ingredients you utilise to cook and you can keep track of the calories you are consuming. Even though calorie-counting is not for everyone – be aware of eating disorders when planning this – it’s an effective way to monitor your intake. My situation has proven to be the perfect example of this. When I planned, I was eating healthier; when I didn’t, I gained weight.
It can become a pastime
Before you jump at me saying “university students don’t have the time to prep”, I’ll tell you how you can make it. If you think about the number of hours you should spend for each module per week, you get a workload of 8 hours per day. What are the chances you will stick to that strict plan? But let’s assume you carry on this excellent practice. You will get at least a free hour.
Start small. Research recipes you can cook in batch and quick. When you get into the habit of doing it, it will become easier and easier to organise your recipes and prepare food.
Why don’t you turn cooking into your hobby? There are lots of university societies that explore this pastime. Here is a brief list of pros of choosing to cook as a side-interest:
You will get the chance to meet new people if you attend classes;
You can develop transferable skills, such as organisation, patience and planning;
It can help you release stress through concentrating on something else than studying/working;
It can release your creativity if you experiment with new recipes;
You can turn it in a side job, providing you gain the certificates required in your Country;
Are there cons? The only one I could find is it requires you to commit to it. If you’re not fond of cooking, it will become difficult to stick to a prepping routine. Although I enjoy preparing food for myself and my family, at some point I fell out of this good habit. However, I’m planning to start again whenever I go back to the UK for the next academic year.
By this time, you have realised how meal prep can change your overall experience away from home. I wrote this article thinking about students attending university, but the same principles apply to people occupied with a job. I want to reiterate my key points. Meal prepping can save you money in the long run, make you healthier and can become a lifelong hobby. In my opinion, meal prep is worth having a look at.