Cheap Meal Ideas for a College Student?

January 10, 2005

Pile of coins on a white plate with a knife and fork on a wooden tableI have a request for cheap, low budget, yet tasty meal ideas. I'm going to school at St. Lawrence College in Kingston and I live in an apartment with my boyfriend where we both pay half rent. So money is a bit tight for me right now and I was wondering if anyone knew of any cool recipes?


Amy :)


October 14, 20090 found this helpful
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Tostadas: $8, 4 servings. Buy 1 XL can refried beans ($2), lettuce ($2), shredded cheese ($1.50), el pato salsa ($.50), (Spanish food section) and tostada shells($2). Get the shells in a bag not a box, they taste better and cost less.
-You can also make Spanish rice for around $3 and double the servings. My BF and I once ate tostadas and rice for 3 dinners straight, for only $11 total. When not on a budget I add green onion, sour cream, tomato, or even shredded chicken.

Mac & Cheese w/ Broccoli: $5, 2-3 servings. Get a box of velveeta shells & cheese ($3.50), at chopped broccoli ($1.50) last 2 minutes while pasta is cooking, drain and add cheese sauce.

Chicken Pot Pie: $11, 5-6 servings. Lasts 2-3 days as left-overs. Small bag mixed frozen veggies ($2), Rotisserie chicken ($5), 2 cans cream of potato soup ($1 ea), pie crust (3), 1 egg white. Shred white meat of chicken, mix with veggies, soup, and pour into bottom pie crust. Add top, score, top with egg white. Bake at 400 for 25-40 minutes,depending on oven, until golden. You can also thaw the veggies in a pan with a little butter, to make them taste less frozen.


My favorite hot dogs: $7, 8 hot dogs. Fry 1 bell pepper ($1.50) and 1 onion ($1.50) in a little bit of butter. Cook the hot dogs in another pan. Place hot dog ($2) in bun ($2), top with mixture, and mustard. Everybody says that sounds gross, but when they eat it they like it! Serve with cheap store brand chips.

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May 24, 20101 found this helpful
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I am also a college student and I sympathize with your situation. Here are some recipes that are inexpensive, fast (rushing between classes etc), and relatively healthy.

Stir fry
Small piece of boneless skinless chicken
(I use frozen chicken breast strips which I buy when they are on sale $7 for 3.5 pounds)
Frozen Broccoli, Green Beans or Asian Mix veggies ($1.50-$1 on sale)


Garlic (2 cloves)
Half an onion
Rice or Noodles (I prefer brown nice but it takes a while to cook)
Soy sauce

Brown the chicken in a little oil add onions and garlic until translucent. Then add frozen veggies until they are cooked all the way through. Serve over rice then add soy sauce. Or if you have time add the soy sauce to the chicken and let it marinate in that or teriaki sauce if you have it on hand.
This whole meal will cost you and your boyfriend about $3.50 depending on what's on sale and how much chicken you want. Depending on how much you eat you should have left overs for lunch!

Variations: Add noodles (linguine or fettuccine, or add ramen noodles that you cooked without the seasoning packet)

Fried Rice
One piece of boneless skinless chicken breasts


Cooked Rice (brown or white)
Frozen peas and carrots
Frozen Broccoli (if desired)
2 eggs

Cook cut up chicken with onions and garlic in about 3 tablespoons of oil, add frozen veggies, once they are cooked add the rice. Then scramble the eggs with a little pepper and add over the mixture and begin stirring the mixture until eggs are cooked through (about 2 minutes) serve with soy sauce and/or asian hot sauce/chili paste.
About $3 for two people. It's very filling.
You could also add left over beef or pork cubed. If you don't have meat you can just add more eggs.

Bean and Rice Burritos
There is a reason they are on the dollar menu at your favorite mexican place. They are very cheap to make. Here is how...
You need
One Can of Black Beans or re-fried beans
One cup of cooked rice (or 1/2 cup uncooked and prepared)
4 flour tortillas
(these can be expensive depending on where you live, you can also use 6-8 corn tortillas and make them into tacos)


Green Salsa
(or whichever salsa you prefer a small can in the hispanic food section of the grocery store is about 60 cents)
Cheese if desired
Veggies if desired (peppers and onions are my favorite!)

Combine cooked rice with beans in a pot and heat slowly add cheese if desired of veggies (honestly even broccoli works here). Scoop into tortillas which you have heated over the stove (if you have gas) or in the microwave add salsa and/or hot sauce.
This will keep you full for hours and is very portable if you are running late for class. If you want double this recipe and keeps some burritos in the fridge that you can take with you to class or have for a quick dinner.
Also about $3-$4 for two people with lunch left over.

Add left over chicken or whatever you have to get in more protein but the rice and bean combo should give you enough protein. You can make it fancy if you entertaining by placing the burritos in a baking dish and covering them with red salsa or enchilada sauce and cheese.


Staples to have on hand
The grocery store can seem scary especially when you are cooking on your own for the first time. You should try to stock up on these things when they are on sale. Even when they are not on sale they are inexpensive. They are something that you should always have in your house since they are so versatile and allow you to make food in only minutes.

Frozen Chicken (in small portions)
Even though you are two people chances are you are not going to go through a multi pack of chicken in a week (and for the sake of your budget you shouldn't!) When you get home from the grocery store freeze the chicken in individual zip lock bags write the date and type of meat with a Sharpe) Oftentimes the butcher case has better deal on meat then the pre packaged meat so make sure you check it out.

Frozen Veggies
We have all seen veggies languish in the bottom of the fridge. Frozen veggies are always ripe and never rotten they can be stored in the freezer for a about a year. Don't buy the veggies with sauce on them they are more expensive and unhealthy. Get broccoli florets, frozen peas and carrots and green beans. Trader joes has a good frozen peppers and onions mix. Try to buy them on sale but even if there not on sale the store brand is normally $1.50 a bag.

Brown Rice
I like brown rice but it is a pain to cook. So make about 6 servings at once and then keep the left overs in your fridge. Brown rice and beans is a complex protein. It's only slightly more expensive then white rice and keeps you fuller longer. You can buy it in bulk at health food stores etc.

A can of beans is around 90 cents and can act (coupled with rice) as a meat substitute. Make sure you rinse the beans well because often they are covered in salty bean water. You can make these yourself by soaking them over night and then boiling them but for me it's not worth the effort to save a couple cents. This way you always have them in your pantry ready to go. You can use black beans, kidney beans, etc for chili as well.

A college stable I prefer whole grain pasta because it keeps me fuller longer. I buy it when it goes on sale. You can get it for $1 a pound. But if you love white pasta you can use it just be aware that you shouldn't have it for every meal! It's fast to make and can be used for asian as well as italian meals.

Soy Sauce
A great addition to any Asian meal! I get the low sodium kind don't get a name brand if you have a trader joes near you their soy sauce is only $2.50 for a large bottle.

Chili Sauce
That bright red sauce in the asian food section of your market. It spices up any dish and can be added with soy sauce if you don't want it that hot.

You can buy it cheap in the HISPANIC section of a normal grocery store or even better at a mexican market (they also have cheap produce) get the cans to start off with to see what you like then invest in a jar.

Hot Sauce
When in doubt add hot sauce! That is my mantra. You can get tapatillo for 60 cents a bottle. You can add it on eggs, mexican food, mac and cheese, the possibilities are endless!

Salt, Pepper, etc.
I highly recommend that before you go to the spice section of your grocery store you check out the hispanic food section. They have packages of pepper for very cheap. As well as entire and crushed oregano for 60 cents. Cheaper then the Italian spice blend. But even if you have to pay full price for store brand it's a good investment to get some chili powder (for chili), salt, pepper, and if you want taco seasoning envelopes to make ordinary dishes more exciting.

Learn to love them they are cheap (aprox 67 cents a pound) and portable. Have one for a quick breakfast or a snack in class. You'll still need variety so get whatever other fruit is on sale make sure you weigh it first and calculate the cost so that you don't get surprised at the check out.

I hope that helped!
I have to run to class but if you want feel free to contact me or comment on this and I will write more ideas.
Happy Cooking!

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February 24, 20110 found this helpful
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I have to say that pasta is probably one of the cheapest ways to go (mac and cheese with broccoli, tuna noodle casserole, basic spaghetti, chop white onion, celery and carrots and simmer, then add tomato paste and spices, etc.).

But if you're like me, you'll like a little variety, too!

Indian food is a really nice change of pace, and you can adjust the spice levels to your preference. I recommend:

Dhal/Dahl/Dal: basically yellow split peas and twice as much water, simmered 'till cooked. Fry up some onions in cumin, cayenne pepper and a little oil or margarine and mix it in! Serve on rice (also cheap). Full recipe here:

Rajma chawal: This is Indian 'chili', basically! It's yummy and very cheap. It's kidney beans (canned), fried onion, fresh tomato, ginger, and spices simmered in water, served over rice. Very filling and good for you, too! Recipe here:

There are many cheap, healthy and satisfying Indian recipes! Great to break the monotony of Kraft Dinner and other 'white person foods'. ;) The only drawback is having to buy the spices up front, though they do go a long way. Still cheaper than buying meat!

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April 6, 2012

I live in China and am an international medical student. Can anybody suggest any quick energy giving meal recipes that are fairly cheap that I could cook? Thank you. I'm open to all suggestions.

By Angel


April 6, 20120 found this helpful
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Chinese food is quick, inexpensive and easy to make, and you're in the perfect place to learn how to cook it. If I were in your position, I would buy a wok and a good knife, and ask some of my Chinese friends for lessons on how to cook some quick and inexpensive meals. In return, you can you can invite them over for a meal.

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April 8, 20120 found this helpful
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Here are a couple of my favorites:
1) Open a can of tuna, drain it, add a few dollops of Greek yogurt, a teaspoon of mayonnaise, and a Tablespoon of relish; mix together and spread on bread or eat with crackers.

2) Heat on medium an electric or gas stove; spritz or spread oil on the bottom of a small frying pan; break an egg into the pan (break the yolk) and spread on bottom of pan. Check as it cooks so it doesn't burn; flip over and add a layer of shredded cheese, deli-sliced ham, and whatever cooked veggies you'd like; flip one side of the omelet on the other, then flip whole thing over to cook through.

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