For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.

Food & Drink

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 lunch

Credit: Julia Mikhaylova – Shutterstock

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. 🙂

Cheap and healthy meal plan ideas

meal planning tupperware healthy food

Credit: Kiian Oksana – Shutterstock

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.

Feel free to pick and mix if some look more tempting than others!

Breakfast meal plan ideas

DayMealCost
MondayPorridge22p
TuesdayCornflakes11p
WednesdayWeetabix20p
ThursdayToast10p
FridayYoghurt14p
SaturdayEggs26p
SundayPancakes43p

Total cost

Weekly: £1.45
28 days: £5.79

Lunch meal plan ideas

DayMealCost
MondayBean salad49p
TuesdayBacon and egg pasta59p
WednesdayCheese and onion rosti61p
ThursdayChickpea and chorizo couscous£1.29
FridaySausage and bean casserole£1.04
SaturdayItalian soup76p
SundayChilli con carne 83p

Total cost

Weekly: £5.61
28 days: £22.44

Dinner meal plan ideas

DayMealCost
MondayPulled pork£1.36
TuesdayBolognese75p
WednesdayEnchiladas£1.72
ThursdayPea and mint spaghetti77p
FridayChicken with roasted vegetables traybake£1.76
SaturdayCod with pesto, vegetables and herb potatoes£1.74
SundayStir fry£1.29

Total cost

Weekly: £9.39
28 days: £37.56

Healthy snack ideas

DayMealCost
MondayOmelette muffins with vegetables50p
TuesdayCheese and crackers25p
WednesdayHomemade hummus and carrot sticks20p
ThursdayYoghurt and granola50p
FridayPopcorn25p
SaturdayAvocado on toast with egg59p
Sunday Celery and cream cheese20p

Total cost

Weekly: £2.49
28 days: £9.96

If none of those snacks take your fancy, maybe these will...

Shopping list for meal prep

shopping basket items fruit vegetables

redit: goffkein.pro – Shutterstock

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

Cupboard essentialsQuantityCost
Total
£16
Balsamic vinegar250ml£1
Breadcrumbs175g80p
Butter250g£1.50
Instant coffee100g74p
Cumin43g85p
Dried basil18g70p
Flour1.5kg45p
Ground coriander16g85p
Olive oil250ml£1.30
Paprika52g85p
Pepper 25g70p
Salt 750g35p
Stock cube beef flavour100g55p
Stock cube vegetable flavour100g55p
Sugar1kg£1.60
Tea bags200g (80 tea bags)58p
Tomato puree142g (1 tin)35p
Worcester sauce150ml85p
Fish sauce150ml£1.70

Monthly shopping list

ItemQuantityCost
Total
£74.75
Avocado2£1.70
Baby potatoes700g69p
Bacon500g72p
Baked beans2 tins64p
Beef mince2 x 500g£2.98
Black beans1 tin55p
Bread1 loaf36p
Cannellini beans2 tins£1.10
Celery100g49p
Cheddar cheese460g£2.30
Cherry tomatoes2 packs£1.08
Chicken breast2 packs£7.60
Chickpeas3 cans£1.65
Chilli powder50g85p
Chopped tomatoes 2kg£1.40
Chorizo sausage191p
Cod520g£2.18
Cornflakes500g50p
Couscous500g70p
Crackers300g40p
Cream cheese200g55p
Curry paste200g£1.35
Dark soy sauce150ml65p
Eggs2 boxes of 15 and 1 of 6£3.23
Egg noodles300g£1.50
Fresh mint20g70p
Frozen peas900g62p
Frozen spinach900g£1.50
Frozen vegetable mix1kg79p
Garlic2 cloves32p
Gran padano175g£1.89
Granola1kg£1.60
Green pesto150g90p
Kidney beans1 tin30p
Lemon130p
Lettuce145p
Low fat yoghurt3 x 500g£1.35
Mayonnaise500ml41p
Milk8 pints£2.18
Mushrooms190g81p
Mustard powder57g£1.35
Onions12£1.08
Orange juice3 x 1L£1.35
Passata500g32p
Penne pasta2 x 500g58p
Pepper 9£2.85
Popcorn6 bags£1
Pork shoulder1kg£3.85
Porridge1kg75p
Potatoes 700g£1
Red onions363p
Rice1kg45p
Sausages8£1.40
Spaghetti3 x 500g60p
Spring onions100g55p
Stir fry vegetables600g£1.40
Sweet potatoes1kg95p
Wheat biscuits cereal 432g75p
Wraps1 pack of 895p
Total per day
£2.67

Note: Certain items will have to be bought in bulk and may cost more than our rough estimations for each recipe.

Free editable shopping lists here

Make sure you follow these tips at the supermarket to get as much bang for your buck as poss!

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!

  1. Start with one meal a day

    chopped tomato

    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!

  2. 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!

  3. Choose a handful of recipes that are quick and easy to make

    dried pasta shapes

    Credit: Jiri Hera – Shutterstock

    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.

  4. 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!

To fridge or not to fridge the tomatoes?

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!