Easy Meals for College Students
Eating well in college is one of the most difficult things to do. Meal plans can be expensive, not to mention unhealthy, and sometimes just unappetizing. Most college students don't have a ton of extra cash to order in all the time, so learning to cook is a vital skill. Not everyone enjoys cooking and it's especially difficult in college where you don't have a full kitchen. Refrigerator space is also limited and most importantly, cooking can take up a lot of time which college students rarely have. That's why we've put together this list of easy recipes and meal ideas for college students! Most of these are simple to make, inexpensive, don't take a lot of time to prepare, and have simple ingredients.
There are several things you can do to make your college cooking experience easier. Some of these might require a bit of practice and others are general tips that will serve you well when making easy recipes for college students.
These are some basic skills that you should know before you head off to college or you should learn when you're at home during break.
- Learn how to peel and cut vegetables in a few different sizes and styles
- Learn how to prepare and cut meats like chicken, beef, and pork
- Learn how to cook ground beef, chicken, and pork
- Practice a few marination recipes
- Learn to make basic pasta
- Learn to make rice
The freezer is your friend
Many people are tempted to cook huge portions to cover several days of meals. This can quickly get boring and if you don't store it right, you might end up eating stale food. Worse, sometimes you may end up having to throw food away wasting your money.
It's always good to have frozen meats and vegetables that you can easily use in tons of recipes. Many of the recipes you will find here can be frozen in individual Ziploc bags. All you have to do is thaw them out and you have meals whenever you want them. Most microwaves have a thaw setting that usually takes about 20 minutes and you can always do it the old-fashioned way with room temperature water. Always have some of the following frozen and waiting for you.
- You can buy packets of frozen veggies or get them fresh, chop them up and freeze them yourself in Ziploc bags.
- Buy a rotisserie chicken, tear it up into little pieces and freeze the chicken chunks for easy access to cooked chicken.
- Brown some ground beef and let it cool. Freeze in a big ziplock bag as flat as possible so you can break off chunks whenever you need it.
- Pack your freezer with your favorite frozen hash browns, meatballs, chicken nuggets, and whatever other frozen goodies you like. They might not be the healthiest option but are easy and cheap to make when you're hungry and make excellent ingredients for many dishes.
- You can freeze loaves of bread to make them last longer.
- Run a quick Google search on whether you can freeze whatever leftovers you have. You'll be surprised how many things can be saved in a freezer.
Finish things before you buy more
Whether because you don't have enough space to store a lot of things or because you don't want to waste money and food by letting things go bad, learning to eat what you have before getting something new is important, especially in college. You can use the same ingredients in a variety of different ways so that it doesn't get boring. Be creative with the ingredients that you have and Google recipes that are easy to make. For example, you can use tomatoes raw in a salad, make a curry, put them into a sauce, make tomato soup, roast them in an oven with veggies, and tons of other things. The goal is to find interesting ways of using what you have.
Marination is one of the simplest ways of making any meat more delicious. You can marinate meat with something as simple as just vinegar and lemon, but there are tons of really easy marination recipes. Essentially all you have to do is put the meat in a ziplock bag with the marination mixture. The longer the marination, the more juicy and tender the meat will be, but you can get a benefit from marination durations as short as 15 minutes. If you plan ahead, you can marinate something all night in the fridge and have a restaurant-quality meal the next day.
You can fry vegetables and meat in oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, or any Asian sauce to quickly make a delicious Asian dish. You can even learn how to make fried rice or fried noodles. The best part is you only end up using one dish for most stir-fried meals, so there is less mess to clean up and you can do it just about anywhere with just a pan.
Single pot meals
You probably won't have a lot of pots and pans in college, and definitely not a lot of space in the kitchen, so learning some single pot recipes will be very helpful. Essentially these are recipes where everything is made in one pot so you don't need multiple burners or surface areas to keep ingredients.
If you cook a huge portion then make sure you have a plan for what to do with the leftovers. There are a lot of interesting ways of using leftovers to create a whole new dish. If you end up with leftovers accidentally, make sure you use them as soon as possible so that you don't waste food.
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Easy Recipes for College Students
This is a collection of various meal ideas and recipes that are easy to make, affordable, quick, and delicious. The perfect easy college meals!
Eggscellent easy meals
Eggs are cheap, easy to store, last a long time, and best of all can be made into tons of delicious dishes.
The college omelet
What do you do with the leftovers from the night before? You can literally fill an omelet with anything! Crack a few raw eggs and cook them slowly in butter, but just before they are done add in some meats, veggies, and leftovers from yesterday. Fold in half, and enjoy!
Pizzas are one of those staple college foods that often end up cold in the fridge. We're not going to judge you for liking cold pizza, but you can use leftover pizza to up your omelet game by making a pizza omelet. Tear your remaining pizza into small pieces and heat them in a pan. Add a few eggs after the cheese starts to melt, whip it all together, and enjoy your breakfast with cheese, eggs, bread, veggies, and meat.
Egg in a hole
This is a no-mess recipe. Make a hole in the middle of a piece of bread and place it down on a buttered skillet. Crack an egg into the hole and let it cook for 3 minutes. Flip the bread, add salt, pepper, and barbecue sauce and enjoy your quick breakfast.
The classic French toast
French toast is one of those nostalgic foods that many people have fond memories of. It may have seemed complicated when your parents were making them for you but it's actually really easy. Crack an egg into a bowl, mix in a little milk, some vanilla, and cinnamon. Dip a piece of bread into the mixture and cook both sides on a sizzling pan.
The egg burrito
This one's a little more complicated but totally worth it! Scramble a few eggs, cook a frozen hash brown, add some torn cheese slices, breakfast meats, and sauces of your choosing. Combine all of it in a tortilla and enjoy!
Sriracha scrambled eggs
This simple recipe adds a spicy twist to standard scrambled eggs. Beat two eggs in a bowl adding in a tablespoon of sriracha and a tablespoon of half-and-half along with the usual salt and pepper. Add any chopped vegetables you like to scrambled eggs. Butter a pan completely and slowly heat it up. Add the egg mixture to the pan slowly scrambling the eggs. Enjoy a delicious spicy egg meal!
You can make an excellent breakfast sandwich with just a few simple ingredients. All you have to do is put together a fried egg, cooked frozen sausage patty, and a slice of American cheese between two slices of toasted English muffins.
The salad selection
Some of these salad ideas are healthy, while some of them aren’t, but all give you your daily dose of veggies.
The summer Greek salad
Simple salads really let you enjoy the bright flavors and crisp crunch of fresh vegetables. The classic Greek salad has an assortment of thickly cubed tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese. Sliced green bell pepper, red onion, and olives tossed with Greek salad dressing. You can make a quick and easy salad dressing by combining red wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic, and oregano.
College chef salad
You don't have to go to a fancy restaurant to get a chef salad, they're really easy to make! Slice up some deli meats, cut up a few hard-boiled eggs, add cheese and chopped vegetables, serve on a bed of lettuce and you're done!
Taco salad is one of the best ways of using leftover taco meat. It's a little bit healthier and really easy to make. Chop up some lettuce and make a bed of it on a plate. Put the taco meat on top along with classic Mexican food ingredients like salsa, beans, guacamole, onions, etc.
Cold pasta salad
Pasta salad is one of the best ways of using whatever you have in your fridge. Boil up some pasta and set it aside to let it cool. Chop up any meats you have in the fridge along with hard-boiled eggs and veggies. Mix it all together with the cold pasta and add seasoning like salt, pepper, lemon juice, and salad dressing.
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Another college must-know is pasta! Sure, you can boil some noodles, chop up hot dogs and eat them with ketchup, but there are really easy ways to up your pasta game to make it more delicious, healthier, and impressive.
Cheesy butter noodles
This is a simple recipe that you may have enjoyed as a kid but makes an excellent meal in college as well. It takes only 10 minutes and the best part - it's cheap to make! Boil the pasta of your choice (we recommend spaghetti) with salt till it’s right before al dente. In a separate pan heat 2 tablespoons of butter and add the spaghetti. Fill the pan till it's about halfway covering the noodles and cook until ready. Add grated parmesan or other hard cheese until it is completely absorbed by the liquid making a luscious creamy sauce. Add pepper and salt to taste and enjoy!
Easy spaghetti with meatballs
This classic dish is one of the easiest to make. Boil some spaghetti noodles with salt and let them cool. Put frozen meatballs in a pan and cover them in a can of spaghetti sauce then heat it up until the meatballs are juicy. Add the pasta to the pan, stir, and you're done!
Creamy mac and cheese
Mac and cheese is one of those all-time favorites that is adored by people of all ages. This recipe isn’t too complicated but still gives you the joy of delicious creamy mac and cheese goodness. Boil your macaroni pasta until it is as hard or soft as you like it. In a separate pan, mix together butter and flour, and add milk until the texture becomes creamy. Add sharp cheddar cheese, and whatever spices you want like pepper, cinnamon, turmeric. Combine the pasta with the sauce, stir well, and call some friends over. You can always add chopped meat or vegetables to add more flavor.
Healthy chicken and broccoli orzo
For those of you on a health kick, you can reduce calories by eating chicken and veggies. Orzo is basically rice-sized pasta so you can substitute rice in this recipe if you want. Cook the orzo or rice according to the directions on the package. 3 minutes before it's done add some broccoli and then set aside. In a separate pan cook the garlic in butter till brown and then add the pasta. Mix in half & half, milk, or our favorite, heavy cream, and then add grated Parmesan cheese. Tear up a rotisserie chicken and add to the pan. Finally, carefully add the broccoli, then salt, and pepper to taste. A great way of making a healthy meal and using leftover chicken!
Quick freezable bolognese sauce
Bolognese sauce is one of those versatile meat sauces that can go with almost anything. The classic spaghetti bolognese is actually pretty simple to make and best of all, you can cook a large batch and freeze it for use later. This recipe requires a little bit of shopping and prep work but is definitely worth it. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and saute one large finely diced onion for 2 to 3 minutes and then 3 finely diced garlic cloves for 1 minute. Fry 1 lb of ground beef in the pan for about 8 minutes or until no pink shows and then mix in one tablespoon of dried oregano and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Now add 28 oz of crushed tomatoes and a handful of chopped parsley. Cook for at least 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. You can add the meat sauce to spaghetti to enjoy delicious homemade spaghetti bolognese. Freeze the rest of the sauce in Ziploc bags based on portion size and you have a delicious sauce waiting for you whenever you need it.
Upgraded instant noodles
Instant noodles like Ramen are a blessing for college students on a budget, but just a few simple additions can make it healthier and more delicious.
Add an egg
You can soft boil an egg and eat it on the side or you can slowly crack an egg into the broth while stirring to add long strands of eggy goodness.
Add some protein
Toss in some cooked pork, leftover rotisserie chicken, tofu, or whatever you have around to make it tastier and more nutritious.
You can literally add any type of vegetable to the broth to make a healthy version of this classic dorm dish. If you don't have any fresh vegetables, throw in some frozen ones!
Fresh aromatics can turn any dish from basic to awesome. Ginger, garlic, and green onion go especially well with Ramen. Chop and fry the aromatics in oil for 30 seconds to really help them release their flavor.
Instead of using the flavoring packets, you can use any kind of broth you like to really deepen the flavor. Experiment with different kinds of broths and different kinds of additions to control salt and taste.
Add any kind of sauce you have hidden away to the broth to add new and exciting flavors to the classic instant Ramen. Alternatively, you can finish the dish by adding sauces on top of the cooked noodles!
You can really elevate your Ramen game by adding all kinds of different things to instant noodles. Add eggs, some meat, some veggies, and top it off with soy sauce to get a restaurant-level Ramen experience.
One of the easiest meals to prepare is the good old sandwich. Even the most basic of chefs can put together pieces of bread with things inside.
Everyone likes pizza, and it's easy to make your own quick pizza sandwich! All you have to do is cover a slice of bread in pizza sauce, grated mozzarella cheese, and whatever other pizza toppings you like. Add another slice of bread and grill in a pan!
Avocado and hummus
For a healthy sandwich option, spread hummus on whole-grain bread slowly topped with sliced tomatoes and avocados. You can squeeze some lime on top for some added tanginess!
Tuna and egg sandwich
Boil some hard-boiled eggs and mash them up in a bowl with mayonnaise and mustard. Add tuna from a can and mix until everything is even. Place the mixture between slices of bread for a simple, delicious meal.
Pesto is a great ingredient to have around. You can make any kind of pesto sandwich by spreading the pesto on the bread and adding whatever other toppings you want like mustard, tomatoes, cucumbers, deli meats, cheese, etc.
You can transform a simple grilled cheese sandwich into a sandwich melt really easily! Bread, then cheese, then deli meats, then more cheese, and finally another piece of bread. Toast the whole thing like a grilled cheese sandwich and enjoy!
You can't go wrong with the classic peanut butter and jelly, but there are lots of sweet substances you can put into a sandwich as well. Try chocolate spreads like Nutella, or marshmallow fluff, or mashed bananas, or other fruits.
Loaded baked potatoes
Potatoes are cheap and filling, not to mention versatile. One of the easiest things you can do is bake them in a microwave, cut them open, and fill them with delicious toppings. Most microwaves take about 7 minutes to bake a potato but make sure to rotate the potato after 3 minutes.
The classic baked potato toppings are sour cream, butter salt, pepper, and cheese.
The healthy option
You can use frozen broccoli or fresh broccoli as an excellent topping for baked potatoes especially if you add some grated cheddar cheese.
The chili option
This is one of our favorites and it's super easy to make. Just heat up a can of chili and pour it into a baked split potato to have a delicious, decadent, spicy meal.
A potato is a great side for anything. Be creative and use whatever you have in the fridge as a topping in a baked potato. You might surprise yourself with the fascinating combinations you will find.
Meals In A Tortilla
Tortillas are the perfect component for many kinds of foods. They don't take up a lot of space in the fridge and last longer than regular bread, so it's useful to always have some stored away.
You can basically make anything into a pizza. In this case, all you have to do is spread pizza sauce on a tortilla, add mozzarella cheese, and your favorite pizza toppings. Fold twice and grill on a pan until the cheese melts. A quick and easy pizza substitute!
The classic burrito
You can put anything inside a tortilla and roll it up to make yourself a burrito. One of our favorites is the beans and cheese burrito. Spread beans of your choice on the tortilla, add salsa, guacamole, and cheddar cheese. Roll it all up and pop it into a microwave for a couple of minutes.
Use taco meat
Making taco meat is really easy and the best part is it can be frozen and used again in the future. All you have to do is cook ground beef with pre-made taco seasoning and water! You can make tacos by filling a tortilla with your taco meat, cheese, salsa, and whatever you like in a taco. Or you can make a quesadilla with the taco meat, or eat it with rice, or just eat it by itself!
Make a wrap
You can use a tortilla as the covering for any kind of wrap. An easy and delicious one to make is the chicken ranch wrap. Spread ranch on a tortilla, add some cooked chicken, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and grated cheese. Roll it up into a wrap and enjoy.
It's always breakfast time
Breakfast foods are usually pretty healthy, inexpensive, and quick to make, which makes them perfect for college students.
You can always have half a tub of yogurt and call it a meal but you can add just a few more ingredients to make it a healthy delicious experience. Add sliced fruit to the yogurt along with granola and you get vitamins along with a satisfying crunch.
Peanut butter oatmeal
Many people think of oatmeal as a boring breakfast food but adding just a few ingredients makes this boring food incredibly tasty. Boil milk in a pot and then add the oats, stirring until the oatmeal becomes soft, usually in just a few minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for another couple of minutes. Once it has cooled down a little add in peanut butter, mashed bananas, powdered cinnamon, honey, a pinch of salt, and enjoy a hearty delicious meal.
Pancakes are incredibly versatile and easy to make. You can buy pancake mixture in a box and all you have to do is add water and then fry them up on a pan. You can top your pancakes with everything from fruits to bacon. You can even use pancakes as a substitute tortilla. You can add salt to make it more savory or add more sugar for something sweet. Experiment with pancakes and you will never go hungry in college.
Smoothies are another incredibly easy, healthy, and delicious meal. All you really need is a blender and Greek yogurt. You can find tons of recipes online or you can just experiment by blending together different fruits, smoothie mixes, vegetables, etc.
Other great meals
Here are some more ideas that are just too good not to include on this list.
Nachos are delicious and can actually be a pretty good meal. Best of all, they are really simple to make. Put down a layer of tortilla chips, then a layer of cheese, then a layer of salsa, then a layer of meats, and another layer of cheese. Add classic nachos toppings like guacamole, sour cream, and extra salsa, then top it off with a healthy amount of more grated cheese. Put it in a microwave until the cheese melts and you’re done.
Soups are really easy to make using vegetable or meat broths. You can make your own (which takes a little bit of time) or you can buy premade broth. Tomato soup is one of the healthiest and simplest things to make. All you have to do is mash up a bunch of tomatoes and put them in water. Make sure you keep some canned soup in the pantry as well. You can add them to a homemade soup or just have the canned soup by itself.
It can be tough to get all the nutrients and vitamins you need when you're at college but one of the easiest things to do is to always have some fruits in the fridge. Fruits can be an excellent snack just by themselves and are incredible ingredients for smoothies, breakfast foods, desserts, etc.
You can find everything from canned sausages to canned sun-dried tomatoes. Some brands are healthier than others but most of them are relatively inexpensive. Canned foods are an excellent way of picking up ingredients and storing them for a long time.
Frozen meals aren't usually the best for you, but frozen vegetables are a great way of having a quick snack or a meal. You can find different combinations of frozen vegetable packets, so experiment and find the ones that you like!
To Sum Up
Cooking delicious meals in college does not have to be difficult. Sure, you might not have all the comforts of home, but that doesn't mean you can't eat well. Most of the recipes on this list are simple to make but delicious. You should now have some recipes for easy microwave meals for college students, easy single-pot recipes, quick recipes, freezable recipes, and other college meal hacks.
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