Meal prep. It sounds like something the middle-aged, fad diet-obsessed soccer mom raves about. Who really has the time for juice cleanses and kale? Unlike many food trends, advanced meal preparation is one college students should seriously consider. Taking a little time at the head of the week to prepare grab-and-go lunch options, rather than eating on campus, can save some serious cash.

I personally like eating a salad for lunch. I got into the habit in high school and being in college wasn't going to stop me. When I had my meal plan, I had no issue buying salads from the dining hall with my swipes. But once I moved off campus and started cooking for myself, I realized it was way more economically friendly to make it myself.

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The Comparison

A large salad with 5 toppings in our food court costs $6.99. Multiply that by 5, and you get almost $35 a week just for lunches. My bank account is crying at the very thought.

My standard salad is romaine lettuce, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, radishes, dried cranberries, and green olives. Already I'm over the 5-topping limit, and the food court doesn't even stock radishes or green olives.

Now assuming we're dealing with full-priced items, Publix checks out at:

• Romaine $3.99

• Cucumber $2.00

• Carrots $1.89

• Tomato $1.69/lb (assume 1 lb)

• Radish $1.49

With these perishable ingredients, I get 10 full salads for $11.06. The olives and cranberries last about one month before needing to be restocked, so the $1.59 olives and $2.99 cranberries add about $0.23 per twenty salads. Salad dressing costs between $2-$5 per bottle and will likely last a month or two.

At these rates, making my own salads for one month will cost between $28.72-$31.20 versus $139.80 to purchase them.

broccoli, vegetable, salad, herb, parsley
Elizabeth Layman

So, start making some time in your Sunday Funday for meal prep. Not everyone may be as into salads as me, but these savings will transfer over to other foods as well. Check out these meals for some inspiration. 

There's better food out there to spend your hard-earned dollars on. Your wallet (and waistline) will thank you.