It’s the last month before the end of the semester, and that usually means two things: final exams and projects, and more time spent on campus preparing. A good portion of VCU students already live on-campus, which means they eat on-campus, with their meal plan, and don’t have to think about their next meal beyond what’s on the menu at Shafer. The majority of those students, however, are freshmen. That is not to say that there are not students who live off-campus and still opt for their swipes and Dining Dollars. However, for the students like myself, particularly upperclassmen, who live off-campus and have the greater option of tailoring their class schedule to include less days on campus in exchange for longer days in classes, packing your food for the day becomes an added burden. All of this on top of packing your bag for your four classes every Tuesday and Thursday, is a lot.
I knew that a meal plan wasn’t for me by sophomore year. I just preferred having more control over what I ate and what goes into it, which meant I had to buy and make it myself. This year, I acquired the added challenge of packing a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for a full day on campus. Meal-prep became commonplace and meal-planning became a weekly routine.
With VCU being a heavily-based commuter college, there are plenty of us out there that have that challenge, so I thought I would walk you through my “day in the life”. Most of you all’s schedules are probably not nearly as rigorous, but as we close in on the days of late night study sessions, early morning starts on studying, and Saturdays spent locked in Cabell, hopefully you can still grab some inspiration.
The Morning Grind – Grab and Go
7:00 AM – Arrive on campus (Pre-breakfast)
I know, I get on campus extremely early; I can find free street parking for the day and I take a morning class at the gym. I usually have some time before the class starts so I pack an apple or banana to eat right before so I’m not starving when we finish.
9:30 AM – Morning study time and real breakfast
My meal of choice for this is overnight oats; they’re quick to make the night before and in the morning you can just grab them along with your other meals and throw them in your lunchbag. I have two favorite recipes, apple cinnamon oats like these, and this chocolate recipe I mentioned my Chocolate Week article. I also recently started experimenting with homemade granola bars and energy balls, and they are great as a breakfast option or a snack. And, you can never go wrong with a nice thick smoothie. I made a chocolate one that’s also in my last article, but recently I have found adding in a little more banana can really help thicken up your smoothie so it really fills you up like breakfast should.
Mid-day to Afternoon – It’s Tupperware Time
Yeah, I said it. A portioned-out container that carries your mid-morning snack, lunch, and possibly a mid-afternoon snack will be your saving grace from an overload of plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, and mismatched containers. P. S. I just got mine from Big Lots.
10:30 AM – Pre-class snack
My first class doesn’t actually start until 11. Again, I know, it’s a long day but it’s how I roll. I eat all day and I love snacks, but I need something that will also hold me over until lunchtime. Healthy fats are a great go-to, and I usually opt for a cup of almonds and grapes. Combined they are a great filler to hold you over and the grapes add a nice sweet touch that I, the #sweettoothqueen, am forever grateful for.
Other good options:
- Sliced apples with nut butter
- Grapes and a stick of string cheese
- Almonds with any other fruit you like
12:30 PM – Lunch break between classes
I like to switch up my lunch spots from time to time (the Barnes and Noble Cafe, the area with the big window on the second floor of the library, etc.), but I have found three staples that pretty much occupy both my lunchtime meal and dinner: wraps, baked chicken, and quinoa. All are filling, all are good for you, all can be refrigerated overnight and last in your lunchbag throughout the day and all can be used interchangeably and with whatever ingredients you prefer. Special note: I like to bake a big pan of chicken breasts at the beginning of the week so I can chopped them up and use them throughout the week as I want.
Here are two of my usual combos:
- Greek quinoa salad with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, black pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar (may add chicken)
- Tex-Mex chicken wrap with peppers, onions, shredded cheese, and whatever else you want to throw in (may swap out chicken for quinoa if vegetarian)
2:30 PM, 3:15 PM, 4:00 PM…. etc. etc. – Mid-afternoon snack(s)
I’m still in classes at this point but I’ve been a class-snacker since middle school. The key is to have something easy to grab and casually move it from your bag to your mouth. In times like these I recommend those homemade granola bars or energy balls, kale chips, veggie sticks, or some light popcorn.
End of the Day – Wrap it Up
At this point, I usually like to stop back by my car and drop off some of my books and my empty mason jar and tupperware. Now is usually a good time to swap out for my dinner and last snack, which I keep in these cool U-Konserve bags that I got from Ladles and Linens in Carytown.
5:30 PM – Early dinner before evening class
I’m free! Well, until 7. Like I said before, I pretty much interchange my lunch and dinner routines, but I usually prefer having two of my wraps for dinner. They’re pretty filling and have that nice touch of protein to carry me through my last class.
I mentioned one above but here’s another wrap I like:
- Chicken wrap with lettuce/spinach, tomato, onion, shredded parmesan cheese, and honey mustard
6:30 PM – One last snack
It’s always good to have a backup snack. My last class is at 7 and it’s only an hour and 15 minutes so if I squeeze in one more snack beforehand I can usually make it through the last stretch of the day. I usually opt for something sweet as somewhat of a “dessert” if you will — and by that I mean typically mean an apple or one of my “homemade” muffins or brownies.
What do you eat in a day? Do you have all day classes? Click this link to check out more recipes. All are great to snack on during busy days.