You’re probably tired of people telling you what you should be doing in quarantine. And you probably have a lot less free time than you thought to devote to all the random things you expected you could be doing.
Let me make the case for one thing that’s actually worth your oddly scarce time: meal prep.
Meal prepping is preparing several meals at once and storing them in individual portions to eat throughout the week. Why should you do this? Food in New York City is outrageously expensive. Meal prep, however, allows you to capitalize on the cheapest ingredients you can find and make them last for as long as possible — a skill that you’ll find is applicable to quarantining as well.
It makes the best out of a less-than-ideal kitchen situation — sharing one McMahon kitchen with five other hungry roommates, anyone? How about your parents’ kitchen with the whole family home? Having healthy meals ready-made also means that you’re less likely to grab unhealthy takeout in a rush. If you devote a little time now towards streamlining your meal prep process, staying healthy and saving both time and money on campus next semester will be a breeze.
Don’t stress, use whatever weird ingredients you can scrounge up from the bottom of your pantry or the half-bare grocery shelves, and, most of all, have fun with it.
Meal prepping pros stress the importance of planning. If you sit down and choose what meals you’re going to prep for the week, this cuts down on time deciding what to eat for lunch and will hopefully mean just a single grocery run each week.
Try breaking down your prep into sections: Plan to cook a healthy carb (rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, etc.), a protein (chicken, ground turkey, tofu, hard boiled eggs, etc.) and plenty of veggies, whether this be by roasting them or chopping them up into manageable pieces so you can throw together a quick salad. Double your recipes and freeze them if you’re able, or portion out all your lunches and leave individual components separate so you can mix and match for dinner.
If eating the same meal every day sounds boring, change it up by making or buying a healthy sauce or dressing to switch your meal around. These are easy to freeze in individual portions and can take your meal to the next level. You can also bring leftovers back to life by turning them into a new type of dish, whether that be a grain bowl, a soup or a salad.
Another great way to get more bang for your metaphorical buck is to multitask while you meal prep. It’s easy to catch up on your favorite Netflix show while stirring a pot of rice. Listen to music, an informative podcast or even an audiobook for one of your classes while you cook. Got an exam coming up? Grab a friend to quiz you over FaceTime while you prep. Making your prep process fun means that you’re more likely to stick to it.
Many staple items are understandably scarce at grocery stores right now. Make do with what you can find. Mix and match. Figure out a few simple meals that work for you and work them into your rotation. Don’t stress, either. Quarantine offers a low-stakes time to make mistakes, burn your chicken and cook to your personal needs. If you put in some time now, eating smart once you’re back on campus will be no sweat at all.