If there is one thing that you learn in college, it is how to eat cheap. After all, you’ve got to eat, but money isn’t always in your bank account. The good news is there are easy college meals you can make that are affordable and tasty. Whether it’s a yummy bowl of pasta or even Chicken Parmesan, you can make cheap meals for college that you’ll actually want to eat.
Ramen – Ramen is a college student’s friend. You can buy packs of ramen for between $.20 and $.40 at almost any store, so be sure to stock up on packs when you see the lowest price. When I was living off campus in my first house (with roommates), I ate ramen at least four times per week. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s filling. It’s also incredibly high in sodium, so make sure that you are also consuming a $.50 cup of yogurt (or something similar) to help keep your meals a bit more balanced. Ramen is a struggling student’s staple, so just think of it as part of the college experience.
Pasta – If you are in a dorm or don’t have a working stove, you can actually make really good pasta in the microwave on a budget! All you need is a short pasta and water. Pour some noodles into a microwave-safe bowl and add enough water to cover the pasta. Look at the box to determine how long the pasta needs to cook and add 3-4 minutes to the microwave time. Any time pasta or sauce goes on sale for $1 or less, stock up! You can keep it in a tote under your bed so that you have everything you need for a delicious meal (or in the kitchen if you have an apartment or house). If you ever order pizza, be sure to ask for extra Parmesan packs to stash away for when you make pasta dishes.
Rice And Beans – Buying rice in bulk is a one-time expense (for $5-$10) that will keep you eating for a LONG time. Purchase different kids of beans (cheapest when bought dry in bulk, but canned is often an easier option) and change it up. Experiment with spices ($1 at the Dollar Store or CVS), salt and pepper, or just eat as is. It’s cheap, it’s filling and the dry ingredients stretch for many, many meals.
Grilled Cheese – Love grilled cheese, but only have access to a two slot toaster? Turn your toaster on the side and place your bread with a slice of cheese on it into the toaster. Because it is on it’s side, the bread will brown on one side and melt the cheese on the other. Do this in both slots and then sandwich the pieces together once the cheese has melted.
Soup – There are various soups that make for super easy college meals. Condensed soups go on sale for as low as $.49 each (typically in the late fall and winter, so stock up then) and larger cans go on sale for $1 or so. These are shelf stable for a long time, which makes shopping easier. If condensed soup is on sale for $.49 each, buy six. That is six meals for $3. If eggs are on sale at a great price, make this Easy Egg Drop Soup. You should have enough for several meals while spending only a few dollars.
Chicken Parmesan – Want something to impress the new person in your life? Get some breaded chicken tenders (often on sale in the freezer case) and cook them in an open toaster oven or microwave. While the chicken is cooking, make some pasta. In the last couple of minutes when the chicken is cooking, top it with pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese. Pour the pasta on a plate, place your chicken creation on top and serve! Fancy and doable!
Stuffed Bread – If you’re looking for something different, stuffed bread is always a good option! Buy some crescent roll dough and stuff each roll with your favorite leftovers. Let’s say you had barbecue from your favorite barbecue restaurant the night before and have leftover pulled pork. You can cut the sheet of dough into four pieces and make four little barbecue turnovers. Just toss the meat with some sauce, add some cheese if you like, place the ingredients on half the piece of dough and fold over. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 12 minutes in the toaster oven until golden brown. You can have two today and keep two for tomorrow. Also, depending on what you have in your kitchen, you can throw together these Stuffed Taco Crescent Rolls and Homemade Pizza Pockets!
Anything on Sale – I know that as a college student, I never had any idea about sales or what groceries cost less or more. That said, learning about loss leaders is one of the best ways to eat on the cheap. Figure out where the closest stores are and watch for what groceries are on the front page each week. (You can even look at the ad on your computer before running out.) These are the loss leaders (groceries that have been deeply reduced in price) and they are meant to get you into the store. That said – and during the right season – you can get berries for $.99, corn 7/$1, sweet potatoes for $.29/lb and so much more if you just keep your eyes open. Be creative, use coupons when you can, and you can turn $3 into a few really nice meals!
There you have it! Do you have any easy college meals to add to the list? Leave them in the comments, I’d love to know!