Many college students aim to pack their own lunch because it’s one of the best tricks to save money. Even better, you get to control what goes inside your lunch box, and consequently, eat healthier meals.
But the problem is, preparing your own meals takes time. Juggling your loaded school schedule and a part-time job is already taxing. How are you supposed to pack your lunch for college?
Here’s some good news: With basic cooking skills, you can prepare your meals fast and easy. I’ve gathered practical tips on how to pack lunch for college so you can save money, and stick to a healthy diet!
Invest in a quality bento lunch box
A functional, good-quality lunch box is your best friend when it comes to packing your own meals. Apart from the meals you’ll prepare, it matters where you place your food, too.
Much has been said about BPA’s adverse effects to health so you’d want to get a lunch box that’s free of BPA, and other toxic compounds like lead, phthalate, and mercury.
Also, consider its ease of use. A quality bento lunch box is something that offers great features. Aim for a bento box that comes with its own utensils, extra containers, and food divider.
These features will help you pack your meals more efficiently, and allow you to control your meal portions, especially if you have a strict diet.
It’s also better if you’ll choose a lunch box that you can easily fit in your bag. Most of the time, you have to carry your books with you or rush for your work shift.
You may not have extra hands to accommodate a separate lunch bag, so popping it in your bag may be your best bet. Should you go this way, make sure that you keep your lunch box secured in a case.
And of course, looks matter, too! You don’t want to use a lunch box filled with cartoon characters. That is something preschoolers will enjoy. Consider a lunch box that isn’t too grand but looks sleek and polished.
If you haven’t purchased a lunch box yet or are looking to replace your old one, you can consider the Karma lunch kit. It’s stylish, functional, convenient to use, and a total package.
Begin with baby steps
Now that you’ve got your lunch buddy, it’s time to get started. If the thought of preparing a whole meal intimidates you, you can start with baby steps.
For example, you can begin with snacks. You can shop for fruits, nuts, seeds, jerky, and cheese sticks good for the entire week.
You can pack your snacks into Ziploc bags on Sunday or mix and match them in your lunch box every morning. The important thing is to introduce meal preps in your regular routine so you can be well-adjusted.
Strategize your meal prep
It may be impossible for you to pack your lunch every single day, and it’s totally fine. If Fridays are hectic because you need to juggle studies and extracurricular activities, and work a shift, skip meal prep for this day.
If you’ve got lax days, though, take advantage of it. For example, if you’re not very busy every Tuesday and Thursday, you can use your free time during these days to pack lunch for Wednesday and Friday.
The trick is to know your weekly schedule and strategize your time. You can also cook bigger batches on Sunday. After cooking, you can transfer your culinary masterpieces into your lunch containers, and store in the fridge.
This will save you a lot of time and hassle in the morning during the school week as all you need to do is grab and go.
Organize your lunch packing essentials
Preparing your lunch can get even more stressful when you don’t know where to find your kitchen tools, containers, and snacks.
To avoid this from happening, buy bins and drawers where you can put all your lunch packing essentials. Have these bins and drawers properly labeled and organized.
For example, place all kitchen tools in one drawer, and have a separate bin for all snacks. This will make lunch packing easier and more efficient for you, especially when you’re already in a rush for that 8 AM class.
Pack fruits and snacks
Snacks help to settle your stomach rumblings. Packing yourself a snack will help keep your hunger at bay, especially in the afternoon when your body experiences a dip.
You can pack high-protein snacks like jerky, trail mix, Greek yogurt with berries, dark chocolate, and fruits. These goodies will not only keep you fueled but help boost your health with powerful nutrients, too!
Freeze batches of PB&J sandwiches and individual servings of pasta and rice
You can also make big batches of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, pasta, and rice dishes. Pack them in Ziploc bags, and store them in the freezer.
In the morning, you can take one PB&J sandwich out from the freezer, and transfer it to your lunch box. It’ll be thawed and ready for eating by your lunch break.
For the frozen rice dish, and pasta, here’s what you can do: Transfer a single serving to your microwave-safe lunch box, and reheat it before heading out for school.
Pack filling meals and snacks
Balancing studies, extracurricular activities, and work can get very stressful. And here’s the thing: Some people tend to feel hungry easily, especially when they’re under stress.
Research reveals that stress increases the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. Our bodies and minds can’t perform at its maximum capacity when we’re hungry so, it’s essential to pack filling, satisfying meals.
Maximize your leftovers
Packing your leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch is absolutely a brilliant idea. It not only saves you time for the following morning but effort as well.
But you can take your leftovers to a whole new level by stuffing them into gyoza wrappers! This is perfect if you’ve got some leftover casserole or curry. All you need are your leftover food, wrappers, and water for sealing!
You can enjoy it even better if you have some dip to pair your dumplings with. Think hummus or guacamole. Although a plain soy sauce can already do the trick!
Boil eggs at the beginning of the week
Want to add more protein to your diet? Look no further than hard-boiled eggs! To make it hassle-free for you during the school week, hard-boil a bunch of eggs on Sunday night or Monday morning.
Store them on the fridge so you’ll have them handy throughout the week. For taste, you can prepare a small container of salt and pepper.
Mix homemade meals with store-bought foods
There are days when you lack the energy to pack a complete meal for lunch. This is completely understandable, especially when you’ve stayed up late studying for an exam.
During days like this, pre-packed foods are your friend. You can use store-bought rotisserie chicken for your wraps, and canned tuna for pasta. You can also buy prepacked sandwiches.
Prepacked foods not only help to save time but prevent you from resorting to fast food and other unhealthy meals as well.
Make muffin tin meals
Muffin tins can be useful in preparing your lunch, too. You can use them as a tool in making yummy dinners and lunches. Even better, they allow you to control your portions and provide a convenient option for cooking for one.
From mini veggie lasagnas to BLT quinoa cups and baked mac and cheese muffins, you’ll surely want to have your muffin tins handy. You can try making these muffin tin meals for your lunch!
Pack a healthy salad
If you’re running out of time giving your lunch much thought, pack a salad. This is one of the simplest lunch ideas you’ll find useful during busy days or when you’re lacking inspiration.
Pair your salad with an equally refreshing dressing, and you’re good to go! Need some inspiration? You can try yummy main-dish salad recipes like Keto Caesar Salad, and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Pecan Nuts.
Lunch packing for school doesn’t have to be too complicated for college students like you. With the right strategy, you’ll enjoy a filling lunch that you deserve. Keep these tips handy for your next meal prep and savor a tasty, healthy lunch!