As a college student, it can be challenging to stretch your budget to cover all your expenses, including food.
While relying on cheap, unhealthy options like fast food or ramen noodles might be tempting, it’s essential to incorporate nutritious and satisfying meals into your diet.
That’s where affordable dinner ideas come in!
In this post, we’ll share some delicious and budget-friendly dinner ideas that are perfect for college students.
Whether you’re cooking for one or a group, these ideas will help you save money and enjoy a satisfying meal.
So read on for inspiration and ideas to help stretch your food budget while still eating well.
Table of Contents
- 1 Idea #1: One-pot meals.
- 2 Idea #2: Slow cooker meals.
- 3 Idea #3: Budget-friendly proteins.
- 4 Idea #4: Meal prep.
- 5 Idea #5: Budget-friendly takeout options.
Idea #1: One-pot meals.
One-pot meals are an excellent option for college students looking for an easy and affordable dinner solution.
These meals are made in a single pot or pan, making for easy prep and clean-up.
One-pot meals are also a great way to stretch your food budget.
They often involve using less expensive ingredients and can be easily scaled up or down depending on how many people you’re cooking.
Some simple one-pot meal ideas for college students include:
One-pot pasta dishes are quick and easy with just a few ingredients.
Cook your pasta in a pot of boiling water with some vegetables and protein (such as chicken, shrimp, or tofu).
Toss everything together with some sauce or seasonings.
Chilli is another one-pot meal that’s easy to make and can be customized with various ingredients.
Sauté some onions and peppers. Add in some ground meat (or beans for a vegetarian option). Stir in canned tomatoes, beans, and any other seasonings or vegetables you’d like. See also: 10 Healthy Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights.
Stews are a great way to use leftover vegetables or proteins, making them easy to make in a single pot.
Sauté some onions and garlic, add in your choice of protein and vegetables, and then stir in some broth and seasonings.
Allow the stew to simmer until everything is tender, and serve with some crusty bread or over a bed of rice.
Overall, one-pot meals are a convenient and budget-friendly option for college students looking for an easy dinner solution.
With just a few ingredients and minimal prep, you can have a delicious and satisfying meal on the table in no time.
Idea #2: Slow cooker meals.
Slow cookers are a convenient and budget-friendly option for college students looking for an easy way to make dinner.
With a slow cooker, you can throw all of your ingredients into the pot in the morning, set the timer, and come home to a hot and ready-to-eat meal in the evening.
Slow cookers are also great for making large batches of food, which can be easily portioned out and frozen for future meals.
Some recipe ideas for slow cooker meals include:
1. Pulled pork
Slow cookers make tender, flavorful pulled pork.
Season a pork shoulder with your choice of spices, place it in the slow cooker, and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours.
Once the pork is tender and falling apart, use a fork to shred it and serve it on sandwiches or with some BBQ sauce.
2. Chicken tacos
Another easy slow-cooker meal is chicken tacos.
Place some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker, and add some diced onions, peppers, and your choice of taco seasoning.
Let the chicken cook on low heat for 6-8 hours, and then shred it and use it to fill tacos or burritos.
3. Beef stroganoff
Slow cookers are also great for making tender beef stroganoff.
Place some beef stew meat in the slow cooker, and add sliced mushrooms, onions, and a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup.
Let the beef cook on low heat for 8-10 hours, and then stir in some sour cream and serve over noodles.
Overall, slow cookers are a convenient and budget-friendly option for college students looking for an easy way to make dinner.
You can come home to a hot and ready-to-eat meal every night with simple ingredients and minimal prep.
Idea #3: Budget-friendly proteins.
Protein is an essential component of a healthy diet, but it can be expensive to incorporate into your meals, especially if you’re a college student on a budget.
That’s where budget-friendly proteins like beans, lentils, and tofu come in. These plant-based options are not only cheap, but they’re also very nutritious and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Here are some recipe ideas for using budget-friendly proteins in college student dinners:
1. Black bean tacos
Black beans are a cheap and nutritious protein option used in various dishes.
Mash black beans with diced onions, peppers, and spices, and use the mixture to fill taco shells or tortillas. Top with some shredded cheese and your choice of toppings, and enjoy!
2. Lentil soup
Lentils are another budget-friendly protein option perfect for making soup.
Sauté some onions and garlic, and add some lentils, diced vegetables, and broth.
Let the soup simmer until the lentils are tender, and then season to taste.
Serve with some crusty bread or over a bed of rice.
3. Tofu stir fry
Tofu is a cheap and versatile protein option used in various dishes, including stir-fries.
Drain and press some firm tofu, and then cut it into cubes.
Sauté the tofu in a pan with some diced vegetables and your choice of sauce. Serve over rice or noodles.
Overall, beans, lentils, and tofu are budget-friendly protein options that can incorporate into various college student dinners.
These plant-based options are cheap, nutritious, and can help you stretch your food budget.
Idea #4: Meal prep.
Meal prepping can be an excellent way for college students to save money and time on dinners.
You can reduce your time cooking and shopping by preparing meals in advance. You can also stretch your food budget by making a big batch of grains or protein for multiple meals throughout the week.
Here are some tips and ideas for meal prepping as a college student:
1. Plan ahead
The key to successful meal prep is planning.
Consider what meals you’d like to make for the week, and then make a list of the ingredients you’ll need. It will help you shop efficiently and avoid overspending.
2. Make a big batch of grains or protein
One of the most efficient meal prep methods is making a big batch of grains or protein that can use in multiple meals throughout the week.
For example, you could cook a batch of rice, quinoa, or pasta or make a big pot of beans or lentils. These ingredients can be used as the base for various dishes, such as stir-fries, salads, or burritos.
3. Prep vegetables and other ingredients
Another way to save time on meal prep is to chop and prep your vegetables and other elements in advance.
It will make it easier to throw together meals quickly during the week.
4. Use containers
Use good-quality containers to store your prepped meals. It will make transporting your meals to school or work easier and help them stay fresh in the fridge.
Overall, meal prep can be an excellent way for college students to save money and time on dinners. Planning and making a big batch of grains or protein can stretch your food budget and have quick and easy meals ready throughout the week.
Idea #5: Budget-friendly takeout options.
While relying on takeout as a quick and easy dinner option might be tempting, it can quickly add up and become a costly habit. However, there are ways to make ordering takeout more budget-friendly for a college student.
Here are some tips for finding budget-friendly takeout options:
1. Look for deals and discounts
Many restaurants offer discounts or special deals for takeout orders, so it’s worth checking to see if any are available.
It could include discounts for ordering online or special deals on specific menu items.
2. Opt for smaller portion sizes
Another way to save money on takeout is to opt for smaller portions.
Many restaurants offer smaller sizes of their dishes, which can be a more budget-friendly option.
3. Order in bulk
If you’re ordering takeout with a group of friends, consider calling in size to save money.
Many restaurants offer discounts for large orders, so it can be more cost effective to order a larger quantity and divide it among your group.
4. Choose budget-friendly options
Finally, it’s worth considering which menu items are more budget-friendly when ordering takeout.
For example, beans, lentils, or tofu dishes are often more affordable than meat-based options.
Overall, ordering takeout can be affordable for college students if you’re mindful of your budget.
By looking for deals and discounts, opting for smaller portion sizes, and choosing budget-friendly menu options, you can enjoy the convenience of takeout without breaking the bank.
In conclusion, plenty of affordable dinner ideas for college students are delicious and budget-friendly.
From one-pot meals and slow cooker meals to budget-friendly proteins and meal prep, there are plenty of options for making satisfying and nutritious dinners on a tight budget.
By incorporating some of these ideas into your meal planning, you can stretch your food budget and still enjoy delicious and satisfying meals every day.
So don’t be afraid to get creative and try out some of these affordable dinner ideas – your wallet (and your taste buds) will thank you!