Lunches/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Packing in the meal deals: how to prep for lunches

As someone who is often running out of the door to make it to university in time, breakfast doesn’t normally make it into my morning. So, by the time lunchtime hits, I’m running exclusively on instant coffee. Usually by this time I’m starving, and often I’ll go to the gym straight after university, so for me, lunch is incredibly important. However, with all those New Year’s resolutions to get in shape, eat healthier and save money, I also don’t want to be buying Pret or running into Rootes grocery store for a meal deal.

The easiest way for me to make sure I’m eating healthily and not buying food on campus is to meal prep. I usually schedule out a set time to do this at the beginning of every week, or on a Sunday night, and I batch make my lunches for the week ahead. Because I’m only cooking for one, this tends to mean having most of the same thing for lunch every day that week, but that doesn’t usually bother me as long as each week I switch it up a bit. So, here are some ideas for packed lunches that will save you money, and are fairly healthy to kickstart your 2020.

Mix up the veggies you use, and add different spices and carbohydrates to get effectively a new meal every time

A good base for all lunches is roasted vegetables. The meal prep for this is also incredibly easy. All you need to do is chop some vegetables and then shove them in the oven for a bit. You could have these several weeks running and just mix up the veggies you use, and add different spices and carbohydrates to get effectively a new meal every time. If you prefer basic flavours, just some garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper works fine. However, if you’re more adventurous, add paprika or cumin. This meal is suitable for most vegans and vegetarians and costs pennies; ideal for everyone. However, if you were an avid meat eater, you can throw in almost any sort of protein – grilled chicken, bits of bacon or chorizo.

Another easy meal to bring for lunch is egg fried rice. It works great with leftovers and is easily batch made with little ingredients. Egg-fried rice actually works better with rice that has already been cooked. I’m not the best at making the right amount of rice for one person, so if, like me, you always seem to end up with way more than you actually need at dinner, save that rice and use it to make egg-fried rice another time. Essentially, all you need for egg fried rice is eggs and rice. Then on top of that, it’s anything you want. This is an easy dish to make week on week, by just changing up what you put in it to keep it interesting. I use this dish a lot of the time to use up whatever leftover bits and pieces I have in my fridge, then add soy sauce and lots of chilli oil.

If you hate eating cold food, there are public places you can heat things up at

If I haven’t had time to do any meal prep, I try to just make extra dinner the night before. I usually always have enough food for two dinners, but just by adding an extra serving of pasta, or a bit more veg, I then have enough to have leftovers for lunch. This way it’s not taking any extra time than what you would be doing anyway and you’ll have food for the next day.

Don’t forget that there are microwaves dotted around campus, so if you hate eating cold food, there are public places you can heat things up at!

I have to bring snacks with me so that I don’t get too tempted by the smell of the Oculus waffles

When I’m busy on campus, sometimes breaks between seminars come at inconvenient times. Because of that, snacks are crucial. When it comes to me trying to eat healthily, the allure of some crisps or a family bar of chocolate to nibble on can be a problem.

Instead, alongside a ‘main’ lunch, I have to bring snacks with me so that I don’t get too tempted by the smell of the Oculus waffles. The thing is, labelled ‘unhealthy’ snacks aren’t bad for you in moderation. I tend to bring some fruit, a bag of crisps and maybe some chocolate with me to campus if I know I’ve got a long day.

If you find yourself really hungry in the evening, it’s usually because you haven’t eaten enough during the day

However, because I know I will easily eat a family sized bag of almost anything, I make sure to always buy individual packs of items such as crisps, and then only bring one bag with me to university. This way I’m enforcing a bit of portion control onto myself to stop me overindulging. Also, if I know that I’m going to want snacks that aren’t always as good for you, I try to buy a slightly healthier version of that food, for example baked crisps, or lentil crisps, rather than the deep-fried ones. It’s a small change and I always buy ones I actually like the taste of, but it’s an easy way to try and be a little bit healthier, without completely cutting something out of your diet. I also find that by having treats in moderation during the day, it stops me craving these foods later on. If you find yourself really hungry in the evening, it’s usually because you haven’t eaten enough during the day.

Bringing packed lunches onto campus is going to save you money and help you eat a bit healthier. Whilst Pret may seem more alluring, I promise that packed lunches don’t have to be boring! They can be anything you want, and just require a little bit of thinking ahead. On heading into 2020, two of the most common New Year’s Resolutions I hear are to be healthier and to stop spending so much money, so why not give some of these ideas a try?

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