My 5 Favorite Budget-Friendly Dishes

When I moved into my first apartment last semester, I, like many other students, found myself struggling when it came to cooking for myself (and occasionally my roommates). It’s not that I find cooking particularly challenging, but building grocery lists and planning what to make ahead of time while on a college student’s budget is much harder than I thought it would be. I found myself having to make extra grocery runs to fill in gaps for things I was forgetting to buy on my regular shopping trips, and my roommates and I often defaulted to making frozen meals or ordering food that was far too expensive. But, after much trial and error, I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at building lists and planning meals; we’ve been eating far less takeout at least, which is good news for our bank accounts. These are a few of my favorite dishes that I’ve made that help us avoid delivery and pasta sauce from a jar!  

  1. Pasta is a staple of any college student’s kitchen: it’s cheap, fast, and simple to make. This recipe has been my favorite way to make a pasta dish that everyone enjoys. Plus, it’s a one-pot dish, so clean-up is minimal, and most of the ingredients are things you already have in the kitchen. I add spinach to this recipe as well to make it a more balanced dish.

  2. ramen

    I got a small slow-cooker for Christmas and this was the first thing I made in it. It was so good, and even though I cut the recipe in half, it was still enough for my roommates and I to eat and have leftovers. I just cut up all the ingredients before I logged onto my Zoom classes and it was ready when I wanted to eat dinner. 

  3. Chicken being so inexpensive definitely works in our budget’s favor. This curry recipe gave us leftovers for days and made us feel like we were eating something much fancier than we actually were. The only thing we really had to buy that we didn’t already have in the fridge was the curry powder!  

  4. Asian Wraps

    This meal took only 20 minutes to prepare and was easily customizable. I’ve swapped out the different kinds of meat, lettuce, and seasonings to make new variations of these wraps and have enjoyed them every time. To make this even more simple (and to reduce the cost) I just buy regular romaine lettuce and chop it up and put the meat over it and eat the wraps as a salad and it’s just as delicious.

  5. 5. Buffalo Chicken Dip

    This last one is my favorite weekend dish to make for everyone to share during the day; you can make it as spicy or not as you want and it goes great with vegetables and crackers. My mom has made this dish for every football game, so I don’t have a link to the exact recipe. Here's the one I use:

    INGREDIENTS 2 cups shredded cooked chicken; 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened; 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce; 1/2 cup ranch dressing; 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles.

    DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Spoon into a baking dish. Bake 20 minutes or until mixture is heated through; stir.  

There’s nothing wrong with getting delivery every once in a while, but we can’t afford it all the time. I hope these recipes help you plan some meals in the future!