Headed to college this fall? Wondering how you’re going to feed yourself with a limited budget, equipment and facilities? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this list of five ingredients you’ll want to keep on hand, so you’ll only be 30 or so minutes away from an ultra-tasty meal. You can stretch these ingredients into a multitude of simple dishes that’ll keep you well-fed and satisfied throughout the school year (no cafeteria required).
A staple item in most households, spaghetti is something you’ll want to always have on hand because it’s so versatile. Worried about the dishes? Did you know that with many pasta dishes you can cook the spaghetti right in the sauce? Less cleanup is always a good thing!
● Make Cacio e Pepe, a classic dish where all the ingredients are cooked together in one pot, and the sauce reduces while the pasta cooks, no draining necessary. You don’t even need to wait for the water to boil!
● You can’t go wrong with Spaghetti and Meatballs, a dependable dinner staple that’ll fill you right up. Do yourself a favour and make a big batch of Meatballs and Sauce to keep in your freezer, so you’ve got a proper meal at your fingertips any time!
● Looking for something different? This Spaghetti and Meatball Bake lets you eat spaghetti and meatballs by the slice instead of the bowl! Each slab of this easy-to-prepare casserole has tiny meatballs and pockets of cheese. Change it up by using cooked sausage slices, or add extra veggies if you have them on hand.
● Got extra cooked spaghetti? No problem – this Genius 20-Minute Spaghetti Frittata is a great way to disguise leftovers as a completely new meal!
If you’re going to keep one “fresh” food on hand, it has to be eggs. They’re so versatile: you can use them in breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes for an easy, tasty protein fix. Hard or soft-boil them, fry them or use them in these recipe suggestions – the possibilities are endless!
● A classic way to use eggs and all the “bits and pieces” in your fridge is in a Veggie-Filled Frittata. Not only are they simple to make, it’s a “one and done” dish that cooks up in less than 30 minutes. It also makes for tasty leftovers.
● Looking for something a little more substantial? Whip up a Quick Quiche. If you use store-bought pie crust, this meal could not be any easier. Once again, you can customize the filling according to which ingredients you have on hand. It’s excellent to make on the weekend for meals throughout the week, and pairs perfectly with a Simple Green Salad.
● Eggs are also a staple ingredient for brunch. Dishes like Eggs Benedict that you might enjoy in a restaurant are actually fairly simple to make at home. Got eggs? Got English muffins? You’re halfway there! Even that fancy sounding Hollandaise sauce is simple to make at home.
● Lastly, all students need a reliable on-the-go meal that can stand-in for breakfast, lunch or as a healthy between-class snack hack. These Prosciutto-Wrapped Egg Cups are here for you.
3. Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes should be a staple in anyone’s pantry, but particularly in a college student’s, because of how versatile they are. A simple can of tomatoes can transform into any number of dishes. Bonus? If you have an immersion blender or mini blender, you can make your own tomato juice!
● Are you a fan of breakfast for lunch or dinner? Shakshuka should be a go-to meal of yours. Stewed veggies with poached eggs makes an excellent quick, healthy meal for one, but it’s easy to batch up if you’re cooking for a crowd! Use a Quick Ratatouille as a base for even more flavour. You can also make the Ratatouille on its own for a quick and easy meal to serve over rice, or with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.
● A foolproof way to transform a can of tomatoes is to make Tomato Soup (with grilled cheese, obviously). This tasty version features mini bacon grilled cheese sandwiches, taking things up a notch to create the ultimate comfort food pairing.
● Get inspired by the flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine and whip together a Moroccan Vegetable Couscous Dish in just 30 minutes. Canned tomatoes are used as the base, together with frozen squash and a can of chickpeas.
● Why let a can of tomatoes sit untouched on your shelf, when Skillet Chicken Parmesan could be in your future? Use crushed canned tomatoes, or tomato puree for the base for a quick, comforting dinner that certainly beats the cafeteria.
4. Frozen Mixed Vegetables
Trying to eat healthy on a college student’s budget isn’t always easy, especially when you factor in the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables. One way around this is to substitute frozen veggies where possible. Flash frozen when in season, they’re the next best thing compared to fresh, and also budget friendly. If you have these in your freezer, there are so many ways you can feed yourself!
● A classic way to use frozen vegetables is in a Quick Fried Rice. Add a splash of soy sauce for flavour and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal in a flash. Incorporate chicken, beef or tofu for extra protein if desired, or simply make a Plain Omelette and chop it into the rice and veggies for a restaurant favourite that’s easy to replicate at home.
● Looking to batch cook a recipe to enjoy throughout the week? If you’ve got frozen veggies on hand, you’ve got the makings of a tasty Vegetable Soup. Add cooked leftover turkey or chicken for a complete meal in a bowl!
● Hankering for some comfort food? Ramp up your Casserole game by adding a medley of frozen veggies into the mix. This drool-worthy recipe by Alton Brown is a creative (and easier) take on chicken pot pie.
● Grill your frozen vegetables, then add them to hearty Vegetarian Burritos. Serve with rice or salad on the side for a satisfying meal in a flash!
5. English Muffins
While you might not always have fresh bread on hand, if you have a small freezer, store English muffins, which are the perfect base for so many great recipes! The obvious way to use these is toasted with butter and a sweet or savoury topping, but there are plenty of creative ways to fancy them up and make them all the more meal-worthy.
● We’ve already seen how muffins can be used for Eggs Benedict, but how about for a proper Breakfast Sandwich or even in place of a Burger Bun? They’re arguably the most versatile bread product there is, so keep an extra frozen pack in the fridge for when you’re in a meal pinch!
● Craving French Toast, but don’t have any bread on hand? Opt for English muffins instead, served alongside fresh fruit, eggs and bacon for a hearty meal that’ll keep you full and energized through all your morning classes.
● We’re a bit obsessed with these Easy English Muffin Pizzas (read: no need to worry about wasting precious time making the dough!), which can be assembled ahead and kept in the freezer for a satisfying anytime snack or meal. They’re perfect for those late-night study sessions.
● Other creative uses for English muffins include subbing them to make a sweet Bread Pudding, using them as the base for Tuna Melts, or even chopping them and drizzling with oil to make Crispy Croutons!
For more quick cooking tips and hacks, see these 35 budget-friendly recipes with canned beans, our best affordable chicken dinners and 25 cheap dinner ideas for two that won’t break the bank.