As a part-time MBA student taking eight credits this semester, I’m only home for dinner two nights in the workweek. Three nights a week, I eat three meals away from home. It’s easy to give into the temptation of running to CVS for a sad Lean Cuisine between work and class, eating a 1000-calorie Chipotle burrito, or spending way too much money eating out, so I try to keep costs down and stay healthy by planning and bringing meals. Here are my tips.
Get a meal delivery service. Just do it. I was reluctant to give in at first but I’m glad I did. I’ve used every introductory offer on just about every service out there and landed on Hello Fresh. The meals are delicious, easy, and pretty healthy. It’s more expensive than doing your own meal planning, but you don’t have time for that (trust me!) and I’ve found the reduction in food waste evens things out. Another huge plus— they make it much easier to coordinate meal planning with a partner or spouse. You don’t have to spend your time together going grocery shopping or coordinating lists and recipes. Your partner knows exactly what to make for their own dinner and they have everything that they need.
Keep food at the office. I don’t always (ok, almost never) get up in time to eat breakfast before I leave. Instead of remembering to grab a serving-size yogurt to bring to work every day, I have one larger container that I keep at the office and I even keep a small bottle of honey in my office to sweeten it. It’s one less thing to remember and schlep to the T in the morning.
Cook in bulk at the start of the week. On the weeks when I’m really on top of things, I marinate and cook a protein at the start of the week, cook a grain like couscous or barley, and combine it with sauteed vegetables and a cheese like feta. It’s one of my favorite lunches and easy to make the ingredients in bulk. This New York Times recipe for oven-roasted chicken shawarma is one of my favorites for this. It’s easy to start the marinade the night before, cook while you’re getting ready in the morning, and then dice up for your lunches throughout the week.
Repeat meals. I’m not picky, so I sometimes bring two servings of a salad and eat one for lunch and one for dinner. Other people would probably hate that, but it’s sustenance!
Pre-buy healthy snacks: When you’ve skipped dinner and you’re starving, the potato chips at Breadwinners are impossible to forgo. I try to buy something healthier in bulk— like a low-sodium nut mix or a package of mozzarella string cheese—and (of course) just store it at my office.
The brown bag classic. Sandwiches or wraps are the classic brown bag lunch, and when you’re packing 2-3 meals a day, they’re incredibly practical. They’re easy, they don’t take up a lot of room in your bag if you make them at home and (I’m repeating myself, again) you can always store the ingredients at the office!
But most importantly, if you pride yourself on cooking from scratch and eating healthy— relax. Working full-time and going to school is a LOT. If you find yourself cramming in both a case and a Chipotle burrito before class, you’re ok. 🙂
Some Recipes to Get You Started
- Bountiful Barley Bowl by Hello Fresh
- Crispy Chickpea Bowl by Hello Fresh
- Fattoush Salad by Hello Fresh
- Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Israeli Couscous by Martha Stewart
- 11 Healthy Grain Bowls that Make Effortless Lunches by Martha Stewart
- Honey Sesame Chicken Lunch Bowls by Sweet Peas and Saffron