Best meal plan ideas for students
Preparing lunches and dinners in advance can seem like a right hassle when you're constantly on the go at university. But with a few tips and tricks, it can save you both time and money!
Meal prep or meal preparation is basically preparing food in advance (shocker!) for the next few days or week ahead. Planning exactly what you're going to eat and when can feel like a bit of a chore, which is why we've decided to do the hard work for you.
The average student spends £92 a month on groceries and an extra £34 on takeaways (that's £126 on food in total), which comes to around £1104 for 12 months.
We've done the maths, and if you follow our cheap meal prep plan, you could end up saving over £200 a year, with a day's worth of meals (that's breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snacks) coming in at just £2.67!
We've also added free downloadable shopping lists below to get you started. 🙂
How to do a meal plan
Cheap and healthy meal plan ideas
Seven different recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner PLUS snacks might seem like a lot at first glance. But the good news is: we've come up with 28 different recipes so you aren't eating porridge day in and day out! The prices listed are how much one recipe costs for one person per portion.
Breakfast meal plan ideas
Lunch meal plan ideas
|Tuesday||Bacon and egg pasta||59p|
|Wednesday||Cheese and onion rosti||61p|
|Thursday||Chickpea and chorizo couscous||£1.29|
|Friday||Sausage and bean casserole||£1.04|
|Sunday||Chilli con carne||83p|
Dinner meal plan ideas
|Thursday||Pea and mint spaghetti||77p|
|Friday||Chicken with roasted vegetables traybake||£1.76|
|Saturday||Cod with pesto, vegetables and herb potatoes||£1.74|
Healthy snack ideas
|Monday||Omelette muffins with vegetables||50p|
|Tuesday||Cheese and crackers||25p|
|Wednesday||Homemade hummus and carrot sticks||20p|
|Thursday||Yoghurt and granola||50p|
|Saturday||Avocado on toast with egg||59p|
|Sunday||Celery and cream cheese||20p|
28 days: £9.96
Shopping list for meal prep
If you do think that our meal prep plan might sound like one for you, we've created a shopping list using all the recipes above that should last you a month.
We based our calculations on Tesco.com prices (which were accurate at the time of writing) and as you can't generally buy just 25p's worth of porridge, we bought enough ingredients for four servings per recipe to last the month.
Kitchen cupboard essentials
|Stock cube beef flavour||100g||55p|
|Stock cube vegetable flavour||100g||55p|
|Tea bags||200g (80 tea bags)||58p|
|Tomato puree||142g (1 tin)||35p|
Monthly shopping list
|Baked beans||2 tins||64p|
|Beef mince||2 x 500g||£2.98|
|Black beans||1 tin||55p|
|Cannellini beans||2 tins||£1.10|
|Cherry tomatoes||2 packs||£1.08|
|Chicken breast||2 packs||£7.60|
|Dark soy sauce||150ml||65p|
|Eggs||2 boxes of 15 and 1 of 6||£3.23|
|Frozen vegetable mix||1kg||79p|
|Kidney beans||1 tin||30p|
|Low fat yoghurt||3 x 500g||£1.35|
|Orange juice||3 x 1L||£1.35|
|Penne pasta||2 x 500g||58p|
|Spaghetti||3 x 500g||60p|
|Stir fry vegetables||600g||£1.40|
|Wheat biscuits cereal||432g||75p|
|Wraps||1 pack of 8||95p|
Note: Certain items will have to be bought in bulk and may cost more than our rough estimations for each recipe.
How to do meal planning
Meal prepping doesn't have to be a mountain of a job. Where there's a will there's a way!
Start with one meal a day
Planning three meals a day for seven days a week can seem like a mammoth task if you've never done meal prep before, so start small and prep one meal a day for yourself.
Lunch is probably the best one to start with as it's the one you're most likely to eat at uni. Even though uni canteens and cafes are generally cheaper than a Pret, you still end up spending around a fiver for one dish. May we remind you of our bean salad recipe that only costs you 49p per serving?
You can make a different dish for every lunchtime the night before, but we'd suggest you either make enough of what you had for dinner to use for lunch the next day, or make a really big portion to last you a few days. Then feel free to add in breakfast, dinner and snacks as you go along!
Set aside time to do meal prep
The easiest way to work meal prep into your very busy schedule of uni, coursework, socialising and extracurriculars, is to set aside one day a week or a month to do all of your meal prep cooking.
Remember, the freezer is your friend. If you wanted to do lunches for a whole month, for example, you could make five portions (seven if you want to include the weekend) of four different dishes on a Sunday afternoon and freeze the lot. That way you can alternate your lunches so you don't end up eating the same dish for a week!
Choose a handful of recipes that are quick and easy to make
Choose a bunch of yummy recipes that you love AND are easy to make. Going back to our lunch example, that's only four recipes. It'll make your meal prep much easier and you won't spend hours on end figuring out what to munch on for the next week.
Make meal planning fun
If you enjoy cooking, spending an afternoon in the kitchen won't be a problem. But even if you don't, there are ways to make meal prep a more enjoyable activity. Whack on some tunes or have a Netflix series on in the background (don't get distracted and cut yourself when you're chopping veg, mind!).
Meal prep with one of your housemates if your kitchen is big enough. Cooking together is a great bonding activity and having a gossip while cutting cucumbers will make time fly! If your housemate fancies joining in the on the money-saving, you could each choose a couple of recipes and split the end result. Four hands work a lot quicker than two!
And while we're on the subject of life admin, here's some apps which'll sort out even the most disorganised of students everywhere!