Calling all college students! Between classes, organizations and sports, parties, and general life stuff, it can be tricky to find the time and energy to cook healthy meals. And while premade meals are definitely convenient, they tend to be pricey and wrapped in plastic, making them unforgiving on the wallet and the planet. So what’s a busy student to do? Stasher Meal Prep 101 is in session!
In this guide, we’re walking you through our favorite meal prep ideas for students: easy, nourishing, and quick meals that can fit into any schedule. Because with a little organization – and a Stasher bowl or two – you’ll be whipping up healthy, budget-friendly meals in no time.
Perfect for the busy college student who wants to make nutritious meals but is cooking on a budget, burrito bowls are our go-to solution to quick, budget-friendly meal prep. The ingredient possibilities are endless, so you can always switch it up based on your mood or whatever ingredients you already have on hand. Even better, burrito bowls can be prepared, stored, and eaten out of a Stasher bowl, which means minimal dishes for you, more space in your mini fridge, and a whole lot less plastic waste in our world.
To get started, pick a protein like chickpeas, tofu, or meat (leftovers are great for this). Add some seasoned veggies of choice (think: bell peppers, tomatoes, or corn), black beans or pinto beans, and rice or cauliflower rice. Top with guacamole, sour cream, cheese, or your favorite salsa.
For more easy ideas with accessible ingredients, try these burrito bowl combinations:
- Fajita chicken burrito bowl
- Bean and cheese burrito bowl
- California burrito bowl (perfect for leftover french fries or potatoes)
- Breakfast burrito bowl
- Surf and turf burrito bowl (use leftover fish, or even microwavable fish sticks!)
Prep Smoothies for Healthy Breakfasts
For a quick breakfast to-go (and anytime snack), try these make-ahead smoothie packs. Besides being a speedy healthy breakfast, smoothies are great for college students because you can make them with budget friendly, easily accessible ingredients. Some of the cheapest fruits and veggies year-round include bananas, pineapples, oranges, cucumbers, frozen berries, kale, and spinach. (Pro tip: using a sustainable grocery-delivery service like Imperfect Foods makes produce extra affordable!)
To start your no-cook meal prep, portion out your smoothie ingredients for a week in individual Stasher Sandwich Bags. If you’re planning to whip up a few different types of smoothies that week, you can use a chalk marker to label your Stasher bags with the intended day of the week or smoothie flavor. Store your Stashers in the freezer, and now you have a breakfast smoothie at your fingertips – just pour the contents of one bag into the blender with juice, milk substitute, or water, and you’re done!
Need a little smoothie inspiration? Here are some of our favorite combinations:
- Tangy green smoothie
- Strawberry banana smoothie
- Cherry coconut smoothie
- Peanut butter banana smoothie
- Lemon blueberry smoothie
Let the Slow Cooker Do the Work
Despite having “slow” in the name, slow cookers are a major time-saver for busy students. Because while you’re studying for that English literature midterm or working in the biochemistry lab, your meal will be quietly cooking away on its own – and there’s nothing better than being able to return home to a meal after a long day. Slow cookers also make meat super tender, turning even cheap cuts of meat into a delicious budget friendly meal you can enjoy all week (or share with the rest of your dorm).
When it comes to slow cooker meal prep, you can chop up your ingredients the night before and store them in the fridge in a Stasher 8-Cup Bowl, or even prep your ingredients weeks in advance and freeze them in a Stand-Up Mega Bag. (It’s like a freezer smoothie pack, only for slow cookers!) You can also batch cook your slow cooker meals and then dole out single portions into 4-Cup Bowls to freeze. That way, when you’re craving a hot meal, all you have to do is microwave it!
Here are a few slow cooker recipe ideas to get you started:
- Stews like vegetable, beef, or chicken stew
- Curries like coconut chicken or vegan chickpea curry
- Soups like chicken tortilla or potato soup
- Pasta dishes like baked ziti or Tuscan chicken pasta
No-Cook Granola Bars
Whether your dorm only has a microwave or you’re too busy to bake, no-cook granola bars are an easy and filling snack or breakfast. The no-cook meal prep is simple: just combine a sweet syrup of choice (maple syrup, agave nectar, or golden syrup) with rolled oats, spices, and add-ins like nuts. (We’ve got our eye on this recipe, which includes nut butter for extra protein.) Press the mixture into an oiled or parchment-lined baking pan, and refrigerate to let everything set overnight. In the morning, lift the mixture out of the pan and slice into bars. Keep them in a Stand-Up Mid Bag in the fridge or freezer, and you have a tasty snack at your fingertips!
Overnight Oats Bowls
Like slow cooker meals, overnight oats are a college student’s best friend because they practically make themselves, require minimal dishes, and are something you can make for the week ahead. While overnight oat jars are popular and planet-friendly, Stasher bowls are lighter, easier to transport, and don’t pose the risk of broken glass in your backpack (yeah… not fun).
To make this healthy breakfast option, combine oats, seeds, spices, maple syrup, and plant milk in a Stasher 2-Cup Bowl. Seal it up, give it a good shake, and let your concoction thicken overnight in the fridge. In the morning, grab your Stasher bowl and a spoon, and you have breakfast to-go!
For more student breakfast ideas with majorly time saving prep, check out some of our favorite overnight oat bowl combinations:
- Honey and greek yogurt overnight oats
- Cinnamon apple overnight oats
- Peaches and cream overnight oats
- Berry crumble overnight oats
Stir fry is a cheap, healthy, versatile meal that can fit into any college student’s schedule thanks to time saving food prep. Armed with a large wok pan, you can batch cook a few days worth or even a week’s worth of evening meals, saving yourself a lot of time down the road. Even better, stir fries are excellent when cooking on a budget, because you can use up leftovers and toss in whatever you have on hand.
You can also simplify this healthy meal prep by making a cup-of-noodles rather than a full stir fry. In a Stasher bowl, combine soup stock paste, instant noodles or pre-cooked noodles, frozen vegetables, and hot water.
Here are some stir fry recipe ideas to get you inspired:
As a college student, your schedule is jam-packed between school and social, family and friends. But it’s still totally possible to make time for healthy, budget-friendly home-cooked meals thanks to a little meal prep magic (and Stasher bags and bowls, of course). Happy cooking!