Mealtime can be hard when you’re a busy student (especially one who doesn’t always want to be subjected to dining hall food). It’s important to nourish your body regardless of how busy you are, so try and keep some easy, cheap meal ideas in your arsenal. These meals should be easy enough regardless if you live on or off-campus, and can be easily adjusted for dietary restrictions or preferences. Here are a few of my favorite go-to meals when I cannot be bothered to think too hard about cooking.
- Homemade Burrito Bowls
Who needs to spend $10+ at Chipotle every week? Get some beans and/or rice, veggies of your choice (I go for peppers, onions and corn), your favorite seasonings (my go-to is smoked paprika, garlic, cumin, chili powder and of course, salt and pepper) and any toppings you might want to add! I usually top my bowls with avocado, some shredded cheese and salsa. This is a perfect filling meal that packs in proteins and veggies with little effort and little money!
I hated oatmeal until last year. Once I finally learned to make it “right,” it quickly became one of my favorite breakfasts. Oats are so versatile and great to have around, and can easily make a solid breakfast in any way you choose (be it overnight oats, baked oatmeal or a classic microwave or stovetop oatmeal). The simplest go-to oatmeal recipe I lean on is a half cup of oats, one cup of almond milk (or any dairy or non-dairy beverage of your liking), a mashed ripe banana, a pinch of salt and a LOT of cinnamon. I also like to add some chia seeds, nut butter and some more fruit to top, but if you’re trying to keep it real simple, you can’t go wrong with the oat, banana and cinnamon base.
- Frozen Dumplings
If you have access to a freezer, I highly recommend keeping a bag of dumplings around. They’re an easy snack or meal, and they’re usually microwave friendly! H Mart and Trader Joe’s have great options for dumplings and will usually last a while too. When I’m really stumped on lunch or dinner or want to add some protein to whatever I’m eating, I love adding a few dumplings on top of a veggie stir fry or just with some rice. Any way you choose to eat them, you’ll probably enjoy them!
It would be wrong of me to not include pasta on this list. It’s another extremely versatile option for lunch or dinner, and can be made any way you like! Whether you keep it simple with just noodles and sauce or like to add some frozen or fresh veggies, you can’t go wrong with a bowl of pasta. I personally am a big pesto fan, and really enjoy some pesto pasta with spinach and cherry tomatoes. The options really are endless, so if you’re looking to change up your usual, pick up a new pasta sauce or try a different pasta shape!
- Breakfast Scrambles
This one might not be the easiest if you’re living in a dorm and sharing a mini-fridge, especially if you’re hoping to include lots of veggies or some meat. However, breakfast scrambles are a great breakfast option that I love making when I have a little extra time! The beauty of this meal and the others listed above is you can add anything you want. My go-to is eggs (duh), sweet or gold potatoes, bell peppers, onions and spinach. Season to your liking and top with hot sauce, and you have a great, balanced breakfast!
These simple meals are definitely not the most unique or interesting, but they have been so helpful when I want something quick, cheap and filling. Hopefully, you’ll make and enjoy your own variations of my go-to meal ideas!