We all know the struggles of a student’s life. You’re juggling lectures, study sessions, part-time jobs, social life, and trying to squeeze in some precious hours of sleep. Between all this, there’s barely time left to whip up a decent meal, let alone worry about the cost. So you end up relying on cheap, unhealthy instant meals or survive on ramen noodles. However, eating healthy and affordable meals is possible even on a tight budget. Plus, it doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive.
Here are six meal ideas for college students that are nutritious, delicious, and easy on the pocket.
1. Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Vegetables
Who can resist a good bowl of spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce? It costs nothing and can easily be bulked up with frozen or fresh vegetables.
- Canned or homemade tomato sauce
- Bell peppers
- Olive oil
- Italian herbs and spices (optional)
Cook spaghetti and set aside. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and sauté in olive oil with garlic until tender. Add the tomato sauce and desired herbs or spices, and simmer for a few minutes. Mix the spaghetti with the tomato sauce and vegetables, and keep stirring until heated.
Understanding how to cook spaghetti properly can make a huge difference in the taste of your dish. Otherwise, it can be a mushy mess and ruin the entire meal. So, learn all the tips and tricks to master this meal before cooking.
2. Tater Tot Casserole
Does that sound too fancy? Well, try it once, and you won’t be able to resist making it again.
- Ground beef or turkey
- Tater tots
- Mixed vegetables
- Cream of mushroom soup
- Shredded cheese
Brown the meat, mix with veggies, layer half of the tater tots in a baking dish, add meat-veggie mix, pour cream of mushroom soup, and top with remaining tots and shredded cheese. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes until golden and bubbles are formed. Enjoy your delicious casserole.
3. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
This easy-to-make meal screams comfort and is perfect for days when you have to study a lot and work on tons of assignments.
- Bread slices
- Cheese slices
- Olive oil
- Tomato puree
- Garlic powder
- Dried basil
- Salt and pepper
Butter one side of each bread slice. Place a cheese slice between two bread slices with the buttered sides facing out. Grill the sandwich on a pan until golden and crispy, flipping it once to ensure even cooking.
Heat olive oil in a pot and sauté garlic to make tomato soup. Watch it closely to avoid burning. Add tomato puree and let it cook for a few minutes. Season with garlic powder, dried basil, salt, and pepper. Serve the grilled cheese sandwich with a bowl of hot tomato soup for the perfect comforting meal.
4. Veggie-Packed Fried Rice
When cooking feels like a chore, this quick and easy recipe will surely hit the spot.
- Cooked white rice
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil (optional)
- Green onions
- Garlic powder
Start by heating some oil in a large skillet or wok. Toss in the carrots, peas, and corn, sauté them until they’re crisp-tender and radiate a delightful aroma. Push the veggies aside to make room in the pan, crack the eggs into the open space, and scramble them to perfection. Then, stir to combine the vegetables and the eggs. Next, mix the cooked rice so the flavors mingle. Splash in soy sauce, sprinkle in the garlic powder, and drizzle sesame oil to give it that classic takeout flavor right at home. Finally, sprinkle green spring onions on top for a vibrant color and a fresh, oniony crunch.
5. Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
This tempting meal is full of flavor, and the slow cooker does all the work. What more could a busy student ask for?
- Chicken breasts or thighs
- Buffalo sauce
- Ranch dressing mix
- Hoagie buns
- Lettuce and tomato for toppings (optional)
First, coat the chicken in the slow cooker with buffalo sauce. Add butter and sprinkle ranch dressing mix on top. Set the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Once the chicken is tender, shred it directly in the slow cooker and let it soak up all the spicy buffalo goodness.
Pop open your hoagie buns and pile high with this flavorful buffalo chicken. Add a crunch of lettuce and a fresh tomato for a refreshing contrast to the spicy chicken.
6. Broccoli and Cheddar Stuffed Chicken
A healthy and delicious dinner option that’s easy to prepare and packed with flavor.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Fresh broccoli florets
- Grated sharp cheddar cheese
- Garlic powder
- Olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice
Start by preheating your oven to 375°F. While the oven is heating, make a pocket in each chicken breast by cutting along one side; be careful not to slice all through. Season the inside of the pockets with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Next, steam your broccoli until it’s tender, then combine it with the grated cheddar. Stuff this mixture into the chicken pockets and secure them with toothpicks. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, then season the outside with more salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
Managing finances can be challenging for college students, but that doesn’t mean you live off ramen noodles and fast food. These six budget-friendly meals are easy to make, flavorful, and much healthier than the typical routine meal.
So, cook the spaghetti with tomato sauce and vegetables or grilled cheese and tomato soup. Are you craving a Chinese takeout? Try making your own veggie fried rice and save some money. And for those lazy days, bake the broccoli and cheddar stuffed chicken breasts for a delicious and effortless meal. Slow cooker buffalo chicken sandwiches and tater tot casseroles are pocket-friendly dishes to add to your meal rotation.