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Cooking in College: Meal prepping is full of gains

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One of Sallee Ann Ruibal's prepared meals of the week. Credit: Sallee Ann Ruibal | Arts & Life Editor

One of Sallee Ann Ruibal’s prepared meals of the week. Credit: Sallee Ann Ruibal | Arts & Life Editor

According to my bank statement, the last time I ordered Moe’s delivery to the newsroom was on August 26.

“ORDERUPMOE’S” used to make up about half of my bank statements. Now it’s “PURCHASETITLEBOXING.” I have become one of those people who takes fitness classes before the sun rises, meets with a personal trainer and, most surprising of all, meal preps. It’s a big change from downing queso.

I learned how to meal prep how I have learned most things in life: the Internet. Specifically, Reddit. One of the social platform’s subreddits (a community within a community, so to speak), MealPrepSunday, is full of posts from users who devote a day, usually Sunday, to preparing their meals for the week. Users often have three or four different gourmet-looking, perfectly nutritionally balanced meals stored in BPA-free plastic containers with nifty dividers.

This was intimidating to me at first. But when my personal trainer said I have the diet his 2-year-old son wishes he could have, I knew I had to change my delivery ways. I couldn’t allow a kale protein shake-drinking toddler to be more of an adult than me. I knew it would make my wallet fatter and stomach smaller if I stopped ordering fast food and started meal prepping.

I store my meals in Ziploc containers that I got at the grocery store, four for $3. I don’t microwave my meals because I think some foods are just better cold than reheated. Therefore I don’t have to worry about plastic containers releasing carcinogens in the microwave (not that I ever have) like many other subreddit users.

At first, the cooking part of meal prepping was the most daunting. Yes, that person’s chicken and roasted asparagus looks delicious, but how do you make that? Where’s the recipe? Spoiler: there’s not many recipes when it comes to meal prepping. It’s based more so on general knowledge of basic cooking skills and personal preferences. This is one reason why it’s an easy skill for college students — read: lazy people like yours truly — to adopt.

Speaking of lazy, I have learned through this that I have no shame in buying pre-cut vegetables courtesy of the lovely people at Giant Eagle Market District. If I buy a sweet potato, it stays in my pantry until it starts sprouting little sweet potato trees of its own — I know that’s not how science works, but just go with the metaphor. Pre-diced sweet potatoes, though? Those go straight into my oven, preheated to 400 degrees, cozy next to some asparagus, with a drizzle of olive oil and some seasonings of my choosing — thyme, parsley and the fanciest spice of all: rosemary. Those roast for about 20 minutes, or until I remember to poke them with a fork to test tenderness and see that they’re done

On the stovetop I boil a pot of water with a glug of olive oil and salt for quinoa. Quinoa is like rice’s sister who does yoga, and it also keeps better in the fridge, in my opinion. I heat a pan up, setting of around 6, and prep my meat. I need protein otherwise I’m just unfulfilled and those massive boxing biceps of mine don’t get big — I’m very small. My protein of choice is steak. I get a packaged strip steak of medium size, by that I mean costs approximately $7, and that lasts me about two or three servings, especially when bulked up with quinoa and roasted vegetables. I pat the steaks dry, rub with olive oil and steak seasoning, sear on both sides and finish in the oven. I know it is done when I do a test slice and blood doesn’t leak out a la “The Walking Dead.”

It makes me happy when I see my full, stacked containers in the fridge. Food that comes in boxes is always more appealing, isn’t it? Meal prep is like that, only with a much bigger and better payoff. But I still love you, Moe.

One comment

  1. Meal prepping is definitely great for the student on the go in they’re into saving time + health and fitness. It’s also getting pretty big as a business. Many chefs are renting commercial kitchens and starting their own meal prep delivery business. http://www.truemeals.com also helps grow meal prep businesses by listing their business with customers near their area.

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