I went into this year planning on cooking more. I was tired of the trips to the dining hall and I knew that I couldn't afford to get all my meals at the food court and coffee shops. My solution, meal prepping and planning.

Growing up, my mom and her friends would cook together meals to put in the freezer and keep around for a rainy day. One person would do the shopping and then they would all come together to do the cooking. As I got older, I started to help and somedays I would be the one in charge of taking the frozen dishes out of the freezer and putting them in the oven. I was able to experience first hand how meal prepping can save time and energy in the long run.

As soon as I got to school my suitemates and I went grocery shopping. Our plan was to purchase basic proteins and lots of produce. Over the next few days, we would cook all of our food and keep it in the fridge or the freezer to keep it fresh to minimize waste.

When we left the store we came home with:

-about 24 servings of chicken breast

-8 servings of salmon

-two packages of spinach

-two cartons of blueberries

-asparagus

-two heads of broccoli

-two bags of cauliflower

-a bag of baby carrots

-two pounds of rice

-three cans of black beans

The next day I cooked all of the chicken in the hall kitchen. The package was originally six large chicken breasts, but I cut them into portion sized which ended up making about 24 small portions of chicken. I did the same with the salmon. We roasted all of the veggies on a sheet in the oven. Anything that we did not eat right away we went ahead and froze after we cooked so that when we were ready for dinner on any given night we could just microwave the food, make a carbohydrate to go with the meal, and enjoy.

So far, meal prepping has saved a lot of time this semester. No waiting in lines for dinner, no running around campus to dining facilities. Just a warm, home cooked meal in the comfort of my room with my school family.

Besides the comfort factor, physically I feel much better when I know I am eating healthy food and when I know exactly how the food was prepared. When I focus on making sure I am eating a balanced meal with plenty of protein and produce, I feel more fueled for the rest of the day.

We have been using lots of coupons to try to save as much money as possible, but when you begin to break it down by the number of meals you are getting out of your groceries, meal prepping becomes the obvious cost-efficient option for the college student on a budget.

One of my favorite parts of meal planning is being able to cook for my family at school. It reminds me of cooking for my family back home. I love being able to help out my friends by providing them with healthy food options that we can all share together!