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Here are some easy tips to make meal planning easier. (photo via Flickr Creative Commons user U.S. Department of Agriculture)

How to effectively meal plan in college

The semester is in full swing, so that means everyone’s schedules are only getting busier and busier. It’s easy to put making good meals on the back burner and opt for eating ramen for dinner the fourth day in a row. The idea of meal planning can be intimidating, but with these useful tips anyone can find themselves eating better in no time while also saving time and money. 

1. Be realistic

When some people decide to meal plan, they might be excited by all of the recipe possibilities and want to try a new dish every night. However, they will end up throwing away a lot of leftovers and wasting a lot of time. Pick two to three recipes to make a week and space them out so you can enjoy leftovers. Also make more time-consuming recipes on the weekend so your weekday evenings are spent doing homework or watching TV rather than doing dishes. 

2. Check out your junk mail

Seriously, coupons are friends. Base your weekday recipes off what is on sale at the grocery store. You will save money and it will help you narrow down what to make each week. 

3. Shop smart 

Do not buy huge containers of obscure spices that you will never use again. Try to make recipes that use simple ingredients that can be used for other things. Make sure you don’t buy too much produce that will go bad before you get around to using it. 

4. Consider what’s in season

This is important. You do not want to buy overpriced fruits and vegetables that are not even in season. Check out this seasonal produce guide by the USDA for reference before you head to Kroger or Aldi. 

5. Organize your freezer

Not only will this step save you the headache from digging through an overcrowded freezer, but it’ll also make it easier to see what you have and if you have room for more. It’s often cheaper to buy meat in bulk and freeze portions of it for later. Bags of vegetables for steaming also make quick weekday sides so you can focus on the main course. 

6. Feed your friends

Get on a plan with your roommates or friends to switch off making dinner for each other. It’s hard to cook for one person, so avoid it when you can. You might get out of having to cook for yourself for a day or two a week. 

7. Serving sizes

Make sure to double check the serving sizes of the recipes you are going to make to avoid having too many leftovers. If it’s too big, you can always cut the recipe in half and save on the amount of ingredients you will have to buy. 

8. Repurpose 

Find ways to repurpose your leftovers so you don’t get bored of eating the same thing. A lot of different meats like sausage can be transformed into breakfast omelettes or sandwiches. 

9. Stay organized

Lists are your friend. Make grocery lists to make sure you never have to make a second trip to the store. Also, make sure you have Tupperware to store all of your leftovers and take them to work or school for lunch. 

Happy meal planning!


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