Time and money have to be the two most valued things for any college student. For this reason alone, I will always be meal prep’s biggest fan. Any conversation I have with someone goes a little like this: “Hey guys, I only spent $4 per meal this week!” Or, “I love that I can just microwave my meal after classes and get back to studying. Yeah, it’s super convenient!” The people then proceed to ask me how do I actually sustain such prep. Don’t I get bored eating a meal from a tupperware bento box everyday? Through my two years in college, I have found five meal prep tips that have allowed me to stay thrilled about my meal prep throughout the week.

1. Keep it simple.

Zhihan Yang

I try to minimize my seasonings: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I season my proteins and vegetables with this “holy trinity” because it develops enough flavor without being too overwhelming. One week, I prepped some Swedish meatballs and a key ingredient in it was parsley. I got so tired of the intense flavor it gave, and to this day I avoid parsley when I can. That's why, when seasoning your food, stay simple and play to your tastes. 

2. Condiments are your friends.

Zhihan Yang

My cupboard is filled with five plus hot sauces (I might have an addiction). For my second meal prep tip, I suggest if you build an arsenal of different sauces, you can use them to provide different experiences throughout the week. For people who aren’t fans of heat, maybe look to stocking your pantry with sesame oil, mild bbq sauces, or even fresh citrus.

3. Texture is everything.

Zhihan Yang

Microwaving things tends to wilt food and make it soggy. In order to revitalize my foods, I use salad toppings like tortilla strips or wontons to add a crunch to chicken or veggies. Some nights, I might toast a piece of bread to provide structure to the meal. Other nights, I may add some shredded cheese to create a creamy cheese pull to my potatoes.

4. Have a back-up meal just in case.

Zhihan Yang

Now here's a secret: there are instances when I prepped something for the week that just didn’t come out how I wanted it to. Life is all about growth and forgiveness. Stock your fridge for those rainy days. Some of my favorites are the salad packets from Trader Joe's and ingredients to make a quesadilla or a grilled cheese. Even a simple bowl of cereal will suffice.

5. Involve friends.

Zhihan Yang

What’s cuter than Sunday dinners with friends? Sunday meal prep parties. Sometimes, my podcast is not enough human interaction I need for the day. When loneliness strikes,  I will invite friends to prep with me for the week. This is not only for their company, but by doing so we can trade meals after. It takes you back to a time when we would trade Oreos for Gushers at the elementary lunch table; instead we’re trading whole meals in college.

Food is an experience and should always remain one no matter your budget or schedule. Through experimenting with meal preps, I have been able to retain such experiences in addition to remaining cognizant of my food choices and reducing my food waste. All these reasons make me meal prep's biggest supporter.

#SpoonTip: I've recently heard Seth Rogen refer to raw chicken as a "poisonous ball" on Netflix's The Chef Show. If you are scared of the idea of handling raw chicken too, use rotisserie chicken in these ten easy meals.