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Best meal plan ideas for students

Best meal plan ideas for students
December 24
12:20 2019

Preparing lunches and dinners in advance can seem like a right hassle when you’re constantly on the go at university. But with a few tips and tricks, it can save you both time and money!

meal prep lunch

Credit: Julia Mikhaylova – Shutterstock

Meal prep or meal preparation is basically preparing food in advance (shocker!) for the next few days or week ahead. Planning exactly what you’re going to eat and when can feel like a bit of a chore, which is why we’ve decided to do the hard work for you.

The average student spends £92 a month on groceries and an extra £34 on takeaways (that’s £126 on food in total), which comes to around £1104 for 12 months.

We’ve done the maths, and if you follow our cheap meal prep plan, you could end up saving over £200 a year, with a day’s worth of meals (that’s breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snacks) coming in at just £2.67!

We’ve also added free downloadable shopping lists below to get you started. 🙂

Cheap and healthy meal plan ideas

meal planning tupperware healthy food

Credit: Kiian Oksana – Shutterstock

Seven different recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner PLUS snacks might seem like a lot at first glance. But the good news is: we’ve come up with 28 different recipes so you aren’t eating porridge day in and day out! The prices listed are how much one recipe costs for one person per portion.

Feel free to pick and mix if some look more tempting than others!

Breakfast meal plan ideas

Day Meal Cost
Monday Porridge 22p
Tuesday Cornflakes 11p</strong<
Wednesday Weetabix 20p
Thursday Toast 10p
Friday Yoghurt 14p
Saturday Eggs 26p
Sunday Pancakes 43p

Total cost

Weekly: £1.45
28 days: £5.79

Lunch meal plan ideas

Day Meal Cost
Monday Bean salad 49p
Tuesday Bacon and egg pasta 59p
Wednesday Cheese and onion rosti 61p
Thursday Chickpea and chorizo couscous £1.29
Friday Sausage and bean casserole £1.04
Saturday Italian soup 76p
Sunday Chilli con carne 83p

Total cost

Weekly: £5.61
28 days: £22.44

Dinner meal plan ideas

Day Meal Cost
Monday Pulled pork £1.36
Tuesday Bolognese 75p
Wednesday Enchiladas £1.72
Thursday Pea and mint spaghetti 77p
Friday Chicken with roasted vegetables traybake £1.76
Saturday Cod with pesto, vegetables and herb potatoes £1.74
Sunday Stir fry £1.29

Total cost

Weekly: £9.39
28 days: £37.56

Healthy snack ideas

Day Meal Cost
Monday Omelette muffins with vegetables 50p
Tuesday Cheese and crackers 25p
Wednesday Homemade hummus and carrot sticks 20p
Thursday Yoghurt and granola 50p
Friday Popcorn 25p
Saturday Avocado on toast with egg 59p
Sunday Celery and cream cheese 20p

Total cost

Weekly: £2.49
28 days: £9.96

If none of those snacks take your fancy, maybe these will

Shopping list for meal prep

shopping basket items fruit vegetables

redit: goffkein.pro – Shutterstock

If you do think that our meal prep plan might sound like one for you, we’ve created a shopping list using all the recipes above that should last you a month.

We based our calculations on Tesco.com prices (which were accurate at the time of writing) and as you can’t generally buy just 25p’s worth of porridge, we bought enough ingredients for four servings per recipe to last the month.

Kitchen cupboard essentials

Cupboard essentials Quantity Cost
Total £16
Balsamic vinegar 250ml £1
Breadcrumbs 175g 80p
Butter 250g £1.50
Instant coffee 100g 74p
Cumin 43g 85p
Dried basil 18g 70p
Flour 1.5kg 45p
Ground coriander 16g 85p
Olive oil 250ml £1.30
Paprika 52g 85p
Pepper 25g 70p
Salt 750g 35p
Stock cube beef flavour 100g 55p
Stock cube vegetable flavour 100g 55p
Sugar 1kg £1.60
Tea bags 200g (80 tea bags) 58p
Tomato puree 142g (1 tin) 35p
Worcester sauce 150ml 85p
Fish sauce 150ml £1.70

Monthly shopping list

Item Quantity Cost
Total £74.75
Avocado 2 £1.70
Baby potatoes 700g 69p
Bacon 500g 72p
Baked beans 2 tins 64p
Beef mince 2 x 500g £2.98
Black beans 1 tin 55p
Bread 1 loaf 36p
Cannellini beans 2 tins £1.10
Celery 100g 49p
Cheddar cheese 460g £2.30
Cherry tomatoes 2 packs £1.08
Chicken breast 2 packs £7.60
Chickpeas 3 cans £1.65
Chilli powder 50g 85p
Chopped tomatoes 2kg £1.40
Chorizo sausage 1 91p
Cod 520g £2.18
Cornflakes 500g 50p
Couscous 500g 70p
Crackers 300g 40p
Cream cheese 200g 55p
Curry paste 200g £1.35
Dark soy sauce 150ml 65p
Eggs 2 boxes of 15 and 1 of 6 £3.23
Egg noodles 300g £1.50
Fresh mint 20g 70p
Frozen peas 900g 62p
Frozen spinach 900g £1.50
Frozen vegetable mix 1kg 79p
Garlic 2 cloves 32p
Gran padano 175g £1.89
Granola 1kg £1.60
Green pesto 150g 90p
Kidney beans 1 tin 30p
Lemon 1 30p
Lettuce 1 45p
Low fat yoghurt 3 x 500g £1.35
Mayonnaise 500ml 41p
Milk 8 pints £2.18
Mushrooms 190g 81p
Mustard powder 57g £1.35
Onions 12 £1.08
Orange juice 3 x 1L £1.35
Passata 500g 32p
Penne pasta 2 x 500g 58p
Pepper 9 £2.85
Popcorn 6 bags £1
Pork shoulder 1kg £3.85
Porridge 1kg 75p
Potatoes 700g £1
Red onions 3 63p
Rice 1kg 45p
Sausages 8 £1.40
Spaghetti 3 x 500g 60p
Spring onions 100g 55p
Stir fry vegetables 600g £1.40
Sweet potatoes 1kg 95p
Wheat biscuits cereal 432g 75p
Wraps 1 pack of 8 95p
Total per day £2.67


Note: Certain items will have to be bought in bulk and may cost more than our rough estimations for each recipe.

Free editable shopping lists here

Make sure you follow these tips at the supermarket to get as much bang for your buck as poss!

How to do meal planning

Meal prepping doesn’t have to be a mountain of a job. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

  1. Start with one meal a day

    chopped tomato

    Planning three meals a day for seven days a week can seem like a mammoth task if you’ve never done meal prep before, so start small and prep one meal a day for yourself.

    Lunch is probably the best one to start with as it’s the one you’re most likely to eat at uni. Even though uni canteens and cafes are generally cheaper than a Pret, you still end up spending around a fiver for one dish. May we remind you of our bean salad recipe that only costs you 49p per serving?

    You can make a different dish for every lunchtime the night before, but we’d suggest you either make enough of what you had for dinner to use for lunch the next day, or make a really big portion to last you a few days. Then feel free to add in breakfast, dinner and snacks as you go along!

  2. Set aside time to do meal prep

    The easiest way to work meal prep into your very busy schedule of uni, coursework, socialising and extracurriculars, is to set aside one day a week or a month to do all of your meal prep cooking.

    Remember, the freezer is your friend. If you wanted to do lunches for a whole month, for example, you could make five portions (seven if you want to include the weekend) of four different dishes on a Sunday afternoon and freeze the lot. That way you can alternate your lunches so you don’t end up eating the same dish for a week!

  3. Choose a handful of recipes that are quick and easy to make

    dried pasta shapes

    Credit: Jiri Hera – Shutterstock

    Choose a bunch of yummy recipes that you love AND are easy to make. Going back to our lunch example, that’s only four recipes. It’ll make your meal prep much easier and you won’t spend hours on end figuring out what to munch on for the next week.

  4. Make meal planning fun

    If you enjoy cooking, spending an afternoon in the kitchen won’t be a problem. But even if you don’t, there are ways to make meal prep a more enjoyable activity. Whack on some tunes or have a Netflix series on in the background (don’t get distracted and cut yourself when you’re chopping veg, mind!).

    Meal prep with one of your housemates if your kitchen is big enough. Cooking together is a great bonding activity and having a gossip while cutting cucumbers will make time fly! If your housemate fancies joining in the on the money-saving, you could each choose a couple of recipes and split the end result. Four hands work a lot quicker than two!

To fridge or not to fridge the tomatoes?

And while we’re on the subject of life admin, here’s some apps which’ll sort out even the most disorganised of students everywhere! 

Source: Save Money

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Jess Aszkenasy

Jess Aszkenasy

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