As a college student, your main focus is on going to class, writing papers, doing homework, studying, and, ultimately, getting your degree. You are doing all of this while possibly working a part-time job, maintaining some type of social life, and staying within your meager budget. You should not have to worry about cooking yourself gourmet meals.

But, for many of you, this is your first time living away from home. Knowing what to eat and how to cook can seem daunting. It is sometimes easier to eat out. However, that gets pricey if done frequently. And, fast food is not as nutritious as a home-cooked meal. As a busy college student, it is important to eat food that provides you with nourishment to give you enough energy to get everything done while still being budget-friendly.

We want to offer you some suggestions for quick and easy meals that you can make as a college student on a budget. Here are some of the criteria that we used in determining what to include on our list:

  • Simple - Does not require too many ingredients or fancy kitchen equipment
  • Quick - Prep time is less than 30 minutes
  • Cheap - Can be made with ingredients you may have in your apartment or can be bought for a low cost at the grocery store

Recipe Tips

As you look for things you want to make, here are a few tips to consider:

Buy staple foods in bulk when possible.

It can be more economical to buy a big package of something, like rice, and use it over several months than to buy smaller packages more often. If it is something that will keep in the pantry for several months and you know you will use it, buy in bulk when you can. This can also be true of items that can be frozen, providing you have the space.

Check out what is on sale.

Buying items that are on sale for the week is a great way to save some money. Before you go grocery shopping, check the grocery store’s weekly ad online. Once you see what sales are happening, build your weekly menu around those items. Protein is often the priciest item in a recipe. Even if you just focus on buying meat that is on sale, you will save a few bucks.

Keep common spices on hand.

It is okay to substitute dry spices for fresh spices if that is all you have; just use less of the dry. It is also fine to substitute a spice in a recipe for a similar spice in your cupboard if that is all you have. 

Make several recipes using similar ingredients.

If you buy a package of something and will not be using the whole thing, is there another recipe that you can make to use the rest of the package? Finding recipes with a few similar ingredients can help you to use every ounce or pound of an item without it going to waste.

Substitute ingredients.

If a recipe calls for a protein or vegetable that you do not like or do not have available, it is okay to substitute it for something else. Unless you are baking, which is more precise, the recipe can be modified to your taste using the ingredients you have on hand. Feel free to experiment with the recipes.

Cut the Recipe in Half.

Recipes might be meant for a family of five. When you are cooking just for yourself, you might not want a ton of leftovers. As needed, cut the recipe in half or even quarter the recipe to make the amount you want. While some measurements are easy to divide by two or four, others might not be. Use a conversation chart to help in reducing more challenging measurements. 

Recipes to Try

Breakfast

As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While a bowl of cereal is quick and easy, it is nice to have something hot or more substantial every once in a while. Here are a few simple breakfast recipes to try.

Sandwiches

Sandwiches can be more than just some deli meat and cheese between two pieces of bread. Here are some fun and easy sandwich recipes.

Pizza

What college student doesn’t love pizza. But, pizza does not just have to be rolled-out dough topped with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. These recipes are creative versions of pizza. Feel free to swap out the listed pizza toppings for your favorites or add more.

Soups

There is nothing like a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter night. And, most soups are super simple to make. Many of these recipes will make several servings so you can enjoy them for several meals or share with others.  

Asian-inspired Dishes

Some nights you are just craving something Asian, but you don’t want to spend the money on take-out. Here are several easy Asian-inspired meals to give a try cooking at home.

Mexican-inspired Dishes

Just like Asian food, Mexican food can sound amazing. And when you want it, you want it. Here are some simple Mexican-inspired recipes that will leave you full and happy so you can go about your busy day. And, you can save some money by not going out to eat.

Casseroles

Casseroles are a great way to make a hearty meal that lasts all week. Make it on the weekend while you are studying or writing that paper. Then, save the rest for leftovers to eat during the week so you do not have to cook. They are also great if you want to cook a meal to share with your roommates.

Other Dinner Recipes

Here are some other possibilities that just don’t fit into one of the above categories. But, we did not want to leave them out.

Dessert

And, don’t forget dessert. Some nights, you just want something sweet to enjoy at the end of your meal and you desire more than store-bought cookies or ice cream. Here are several simple desserts to make at home.

This is the time to try new things, including recipes. We encourage you to pick a new recipe to try every couple of weeks. By doing this, you learn new cooking techniques. You’ll also have a list of recipes that you like to cook and enjoy eating.