It’s the end of a long day filled with endless class assignments and work, and all you can think about is getting home to eat dinner. However, you then remember you have nothing in your apartment refrigerator to cook and are too tired to go to the grocery store to buy anything. On your drive home you pass a couple of fast food places and decide to pull in, spending yet another $10 to $15 on food that is just mediocre.

This is a daily occurrence for college students who struggle with cooking for themselves, and most importantly, finding the time to do it. However, meal prepping has suddenly become the new craze. Simply searching the words, “how to meal prep” on the internet will lead you to pages of articles, Pinterest recipes and blogs of how to prep your meals throughout the week.

If you find yourself wanting to cook more AND save money while in school, then this craze is perfect for you. Meal prepping does take about a day of preparation (hence the word “prep” in the phrase), however it saves you more money and time in the long run. Here are some tips on how you can start:

Buy either plastic or glass containers for storage. Most of us have containers for storing leftovers in our apartment already. However, they probably all come in different sizes. Meal prepping is all about making several small meals you can enjoy throughout the week and storing them properly. Amazon has great and affordable options specifically for this use.

If you have a prime account, you can order and receive them within two days. Here are some great and affordable options in plastic and glass.

Pick out one day of the week for your shopping and preparation. Most students like to meal prep on Sundays, as this provides them meals throughout the week. However, pick what day you know you will have several hours to shop for the ingredients you need, and to prepare and cook the meals. Sticking to a specific day will help you stay on track each week.

Make a list. Mindless shopping at the grocery store usually leads to unnecessary purchases and spending too much money. Shopping with a specific list will help you to only buy what you need, not just want you want. We also recommend shopping after eating. Shopping while hungry usually leads to impulse buys.

Buy a meal prep book for recipes. There’s nothing wrong with searching for meal prep recipes or using Pinterest for new ideas. However, sometimes that can leave you sifting through pages for hours trying to find meals you like.

Meal prep books usually come with serving sizes and measurements based on how many calories you are aiming to eat each day. You can even find books that meet specific dietary needs, such as vegan or paleo. Having these written directions of what to buy and how to prepare each meal will save you a lot of time in the long-run.

You can check out one of Amazon’s best-selling meal prep books here.

Mix things up. Many people who meal prep complain about eating the same foods over again and getting bored. This doesn’t have to be the case! When planning, pick out some of your favorite proteins, grains, vegetables and any other sides and mix and match them each week, or each day. Having a plan to rotate what you make will help keep meals more exciting.

Find overlaps. If you know there are two dishes you like that both have rice in them, you can easily cook a large batch of rice at once to divide it up between the various meals. Maybe one dish has an Asian flare and the other is more Mexican! Cooking in bulk will save you time in the long-run from having to make something right before you eat dinner.

Have fun! Meal prepping should be anything but boring. After all, it gives you a chance to not only save time and money during busy weeks, but also try out new recipes! If you have a friend that has been wanting to try it too, it’s a great way to spend time together and hear about new recipes.

Meal prepping isn’t just for people trying to lose weight or eat healthy. It can be a great tool for college students to save time and money during hectic weeks of class and can definitely go a long way.

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