College dorm rooms have come a long way in recent years. More and more, campus housing is looking a lot more like apartment units. Still, often your first year or two on campus involve living in a traditional dorm room. Basically a bedroom with a microwave and a communal bathroom down the hall. You might even have a single kitchen, stove included, on the bottom floor.
In a traditional sense, this makes meal prep seem impossible. You don’t have a normal size refrigerator, or even a stove top to cook on. How are you supposed to put together a week’s worth of healthy meals? There are more options than you might think, even in your limited space.
Your small space and busy lifestyle is even more reason to plan and prepare meals in advance. Don’t worry, I have been in your shoes and I have put together 5 easy recipes that fit into your busy college life. I also link my other posts with healthy meal prep recipes at the end.
College Meal Prep Recipes
Here are my favorite healthy meals you can prepare in your dorm room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These easy recipes with simple ingredients will help you save time while still eating healthy. I even added a few snack recipes at the end. Many of my recipes include substitution so you can use what you have on hand. Save money with budget-friendly options.
1 egg, large
1 cup grapes, red
1 oz cheese, sliced cheese, full fat/regular
2 Tbsp peanut butter
Hard boil egg
Many ladies like dipping the grapes in the PB “PB & J”
Note 1: No dairy? Have an extra egg
Note 2: I love single serving peanut butter packets like Jif or Justin’s. Almond butter, or any other nut or seed butter, is also fine.
Note 3: If you don’t have grapes, choose another fresh fruit
Raspberry PB Overnight Oats
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup dry oats (uncooked)
Combine oats, PB, raspberries, and cinnamon in a jar (like a Ball jar)
Top with milk
Let sit in container with lid overnight
No dairy? Use soy or almond milk. No PB? Use another nut or seed butter
Lunch or Dinner
(Ground) Beef and Broccoli
2 cups broccoli, frozen
3 oz ground beef, 85% lean, raw
3 tsp sesame seeds
1/3 Tbsp garlic, minced
2 Tbsp soy ginger sauce
Spray a pan with an oil spray. Add in garlic. Stir fry beef and broccoli for 5-6 minutes.
Remove broccoli & cut into small pieces. Add back into pan. Stir fry for another 3-4 minutes.
Add in sauce.
Top with sesame seeds when ready to eat.
Notes: No soy ginger sauce? Use soy sauce. No beef? Use ground turkey or tofu. Fresh or frozen broccoli can be used here – whatever you have! Also, if you have another % lean meat, that is also fine, use what you have.
Arugula Salad with Pasta and Avocado
1 cup leafy greens, arugula, raw
1 cup tomatoes, grape
1/2 onion, red
2 servings uncured bacon, slice
1/2 cup pasta, elbows, whole wheat, cooked
1/2 avocado, small
2 Tbsp vinaigrette, less than 50 calories per 2 Tbsp
Dash: everything bagel seasoning
Cook pasta, fry bacon and cut into small pieces, halve tomatoes, dice onion, and cut avocado into small pieces
Add everything bagel seasoning to avocado
Mix all ingredients together with dressing (If not eating right away, leave dressing on the side.
No bacon? Use turkey bacon or soy bacon. No everything bagel seasoning? Use dashes of salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. No avocado? Use extra bacon.
Basic B Chili with Spicy Cauli Rice
4 oz ground beef, 90% lean, raw
1 cup canned, diced tomatoes
1 cup carrots, medium
1/4 onion, yellow
1/4 cup celery stalks, chopped in half
1 cup veggie noodles/rice, cauliflower “rice”, raw
2 Tbsp cheese, Parmesan, grated
Dashes: chili seasoning, garlic salt, cumin, red pepper flakes
This recipe works best when making 2-3 servings.
Spray a pan with an oil spray. Stir fry beef until no longer pink.
While beef is cooking, spray a pot with an oil spray. Cook carrot (chopped), onion (diced), and celery (diced) for ~6-7 minutes.
Add in tomatoes and beef. Add in cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, red pepper flakes. Cook on low heat for at least 10 minutes.
Clean the ground beef pan and spray it again with an oil spray. Stir-fry cauliflower rice for 7-8 minutes, or until you see some browning.
Add in Parmesan cheese, cumin, and chili powder.
Top cauli rice with chili and serve.
If you want to add a little cilantro and/or sliced jalapeno please do!
No beef? Use ground turkey or tofu instead. No cheese? Use a dairy-free version.
Nuts or nut butters (in single-serving amounts): Throw them in a baggie, or opt for readily-made single-servings packs – roasted & salted is generally fine by me. Choose a variety of nuts to get all the benefits – no one nut is better than another.
Hard Boiled Eggs: Did you know hard boiled eggs last a whole week? Make a dozen on the weekend (only peel them when you’re ready to eat them). Just be aware of the smell haha! Top them with Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese.
Single-serving Cheeses: I LOVE string cheese and other single-serving cheeses like slices of cheese or round cheese in wax. So filling and tasty!
Jerky: Seriously one of my favorite filling snacks. So tasty and great protein. I love Trader Joe’s regular (not teriyaki flavored) turkey jerky and Epic “Strips”.
Chocolate Chips: I know, chocolate isn’t what first comes to mind when you think “healthy snack”, but chocolate has many health benefits, and just a few morsels will help curb your sugar cravings.
Meal Prep Tips for College Students
1. General Breakfast Meal Prep Tips
Are you actually hungry? If you’re not hungry, I would NOT force yourself to eat. Listen to your body’s hunger & fullness cues.
Assemble the meals as close to when you’re going to eat as possible. This way, your food will stay fresh. So for example, if, in the pictures below, all of the fruit is cut-up, it’s actually best to cut the fruit right before you eat it. I’ve just cut up the fruit ahead of time to make the picture pretty 🙂
2. Follow my “Formula” for Lunch and Dinner
It’s easy to create filling and energizing lunches & dinners with my “formula” also known as #thatformula:
2 cups of non-starchy vegetables, like lettuces, bell peppers, broccoli, etc.
100-200 calories of fats, like avocado, cheese, oil etc.
4-5 oz of protein like chicken, tofu, beef, etc.
3. Adjusting for Dietary Needs
Follow a certain way of eating? Here are some easy modifications.
Dairy free? Use a dairy-free cheese or yogurt – there are so many options in the stores today, which is awesome!
Don’t have the specific fruit I’ve recommended? Just swap it out for one you have.
Gluten free? Just use a gluten-free equivalent, like gluten free bagels or bread.
4. Prepping to Prep
When you find new recipes, have a system for organizing and categorizing them. If you look through Pinterest, create a separate board for recipes you want to actually try. If you find recipes on Instagram, create a separate saved folder. Go through your cookbooks and sticky-tab them with the same color post-it note.
Cook with foods that you can use throughout your meals. Many ingredients can be interchangeable – if one recipe calls for arugula but the other recipes call for romaine – you can very likely just use romaine for all of them. Unless you’re baking – cooking isn’t an exact science!
Choose varying sized food storage containers and ones with different sections – but based on your actual needs and what foods you are actually going to prep. Don’t buy a container with 6 compartments if you don’t want to prep 6 different foods for one meal.
Meal prepping does NOT have to always mean cooking. Including grab & go foods to create a snacky-type meal absolutely counts. For example, make a meal of Jack Links Beef Jerky zero sugar, baby carrots and hummus, and an apple – you are good to go!
(If you do not have access to a full kitchen, don’t worry, just choose recipes from above that do not require cooking, and check out my post No Fridge Lunches for more help. Also remember, many ingredients can be purchased pre-cooked.)
Start with cooking the foods that take the most time to prepare, e.g. roasting potatoes, soaking beans, etc.
Change the same base meal up with different spice combinations. For example, to make it Mediterranean, add basil and oregano. To make it Indian, add turmeric and cumin.
Make your meal prep time enjoyable so you look forward to it – put on a movie you can watch on repeat (so you don’t have to pay close attention), or put on your favorite music, audiobook, or podcast.
If your dorm allows it, use a slow cooker to prepare food the day before.
For cooked grains like pasta and quinoa, add olive oil or butter to keep them from sticking together.
Label your containers with what the food is, what date you prepped it, and how long the food will last if possible.
More Help for Meal Prep
Looking for more easy recipes and meal prep tips and ideas? Check out my other blog posts on this topic: