Healthy Weekday Meal Prep for Students!

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Being a university student is difficult! With a full workload, part-time job and social life to maintain, it can often feel like you don't have the money or time to cook decent, healthy meals. As I'm about to finish up my years of uni life, I thought I'd share my biggest tips for cooking for myself. I know the struggle all too well, but after a few years of finding ways around this, I found that the one thing that saved me was meal prepping! I like to reserve a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon to prepare all the components for my lunches and dinners for the school week.

When planning my meals, I like to keep things balanced and follow the rule of having a protein, some vegetables and grains in each dish. I choose 2-3 proteins, 2-3 grains and up to 7 seasonal vegetables to mix and match throughout the week and try to cook it all up in one batch. Each week is a little different as I like to choose the produce that is on sale and in season. And in terms of flavours, I always have a variety of seasonings, spices and sauces on hand that I can change up every time I cook.

So here is one version of my weekday meal prep that rounded to about $2 per meal and covers lunch and dinner for one uni student wanting to eat healthy!

Supplies:

Grains:

  • 1 cup of medium grain rice, rinsed
  • 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
  • 500g bag of pasta

Proteins:

  • 2 medium chicken breasts
  • 400g block of firm tofu
  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained

Vegetables:

  • Bag of mixed lettuce leaves
  • Punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • Small bag of green beans
  • Small bag of mushrooms

Seasoning:

  • Taco seasoning
  • Dukkah
  • Dried Italian herbs
  • BBQ seasoning
  • Miso paste
  • Soy Sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Lemon

Kitchen Equipment:

  • 2 large baking trays
  • Baking paper
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp knife
  • 3 medium saucepans
  • Colander
  • Tongs
  • Slotted spoon
  • Small mixing bowl

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Step 1: Prepare the Grains

Quinoa:

1. Place the quinoa and 2 cups of water into a medium sized saucepan on a medium/high heat

2. Once the water has reduced to a boil, lower the heat and cover with a lid

3. Let the quinoa simmer for 10-15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed

4. Once cooled, transfer to tupperware

Pasta:

1. Bring a saucepan filled up halfway with water and a generous amount of salt to the boil on a high heat

2. Drop in your pasta and let it cook at a high heat until al dente (my spiral pasta cooked for 8 minutes), making sure to stir occasionally

3. Once cooked, pour the pasta into a colander over the sink and rinse under cold running water to stop it from cooking any further

4. Transfer to tupperware

Rice:

1. Place the rice and 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil over a medium/high heat in a saucepan

2. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot for 15 minutes

3. Without removing the lid, take the pot off the heat and let it stand for another 15 minutes

4. Take the lid off and fluff the rice with a fork before transferring into tupperware once cooled

Step 2: Chop Up the Vegetables and Proteins

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 Fahrenheit) and place baking paper onto baking trays

2. Chop up all your produce and place it all onto each tray. Use one for vegetables and the other for protein

  • Sweet potatoes: cut into small cubes
  • Mushrooms: thick slices
  • Green beans: cut the ends off and chop in half
  • Broccoli: take off the stalks and break into smaller heads
  • Chicken breast: dice into small chunks
  • Tofu: Chop into medium cubes
  • Chickpeas: dry with a paper towel and place onto baking tray

*Keep the lettuce greens, tomatoes and avocado fresh and as they are because they can be easily prepared when assembling your meals during the week

Step 3: Season the Vegetables and Proteins

You can use any combination of spices to add some flavour, but at the very least, sprinkle on some olive oil and salt and pepper. Here's what I used for this week's round of food after tossing everything in a light coating of olive oil:

  • Sweet potatoes: 2 tbs. of dukkah seasoning
  • Mushrooms: 2 tsp. of dried Italian herbs
  • Green beans and broccoli: salt, pepper and the juice of half a lemon
  • Tofu: 1 tbs. of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. of brown sugar, 1 tsp. of miso paste mixed in a bowl and poured over the tofu
  • Chickpeas: 1 tsp. of BBQ seasoning
  • Chicken breast: 1 tbs. of taco seasoning

Step 4: Cook It All Up

1. After everything has been seasoned, transfer the trays to the oven

2. Bake for 20 minutes, making sure to toss everything about halfway through*

3. Remove from the oven once everything has been cooked through and let it rest until cool

4. Store all the different components into separate containers and keep in the fridge.

5. Now you are all ready to start assembling meals as you need them!

*In some cases, not all vegetables will cook at the same time. For instance, you might like your greens on the crunchier side, and your potatoes a little softer. Just remove the vegetables that don't take as long to cook before the rest.

Step 5: Meal Ideas

When I'm making my meals each day, I like to finish things off with a sauce or dressing to round out the dish and to keep things interesting.

Here are some examples you could try:

  • Pesto
  • Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
  • Peanut butter, soy sauce, chilli flakes and minced ginger
  • Hummus
  • Sriracha
  • Tahini

And when it comes to meal combinations, there really are just so many you can create. Just remember to include a grain, protein and some vegetables in each one.

Here are a few ideas to start you off:

  • Quinoa tofu salad: Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, tofu, balsamic dressing
  • Chickpea macro bowl: Sweet potatoes, quinoa, green beans, avocado, chickpeas, hummus
  • Pesto pasta salad: Pasta, chickpeas, green beans, cherry tomatoes, pesto sauce
  • Chicken rice bowl: Broccoli, rice, mushrooms, chicken, peanut sauce

Happy meal prepping :)

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    audreyobscura

    8 days ago

    Thanks for sharing your tips, your photos are great too!