5 Affordable Meals College Students Can’t Afford to be Without

If there was one thing I looked forward to the most in college, it was the food. Having the liberty to eat on my own where I could eat whatever I wanted and when I wanted was what I had always wanted. My food preferences highly contrast those of my family. But like for most college students, preparing food became a struggle of its own. Between classes, extracurricular involvement and what’s remaining of your social life, it seems like there’s never enough time to cook a decent meal. But for some, time isn’t the only factor. Many students are on their own financially, and the majority of the remaining students who aren’t, are on tight budgets. Learning how to budget can be difficult for these students in their first semesters. In these situations, it’s tempting to just whip out the ramen and microwavable macaroni and cheese. But just because your wallet says so, you don’t have eat like you’re poor. Here are four meals that won’t break the bank, are time-friendly and will add variety and nourishment to your diet. Both your stomach and your wallet can thank me later.

1. Sirloin steak and lemon-broccoli

Steak dinners probably were the last thing you would be eating in college. But as a whole, this meal is pretty affordable! Two stocks of broccoli are probably going to run you $3 or less, and a decent cut of sirloin steak typically can be as low as $6.98 per pound. But here’s the kicker –– when accompanied with a good side, a little over one pound of steak can produce four servings. Combined, this breaks down your cost per meal to less than $3.

Cook your steak on a grill or on a stove-top in a frying pan as you like. Be sure to season it! Steam the broccoli for three minutes, and sprinkle lemon juice. Serve and enjoy!

Optional: Spread fresh garlic on steak for flavor.

Cooking time: Approximately 10 minutes

2. Wide-Lo-Mein Noodles and Grilled Shrimp

For this, I typically eat 5-6 medium shrimp in one serving. Shrimp is light, but high in protein.

One medium shrimp is roughly only seven calories, with very little fat, according to Health.com.

Cook the noodles as instructed on the package. After draining, prepare butter with garlic powder in a frying pan and add the noodles on a medium heat. Drizzle soy sauce among the noodles and mix it in until they absorb it. In a separate pan, add your desired serving size of shrimp to two tablespoons of butter. Add garlic salt and lemon juice for flavor. Once the shrimp starts to shrink, that’s how you know they are well overdone. Add the shrimp to the noodles and enjoy. For some extra flavor, add Honey Teriyaki sauce from Lucky’s Market as a marinade.

One pound of shrimp will be around $10 per pound, and can come with between 25-30 medium pieces. One pack of Wide-Lo-Mein noodles are usually $2.50.

Cooking time: 5-7 minutes

3. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Basil Bisque

Before you say, “hey, this isn’t substantial food,” just remember that Panera Bread charges $8 for this combo. After you create your grilled cheese as desired and microwave the soup for 2-and-a-half minutes, you’re done!

Campbell's Slow Kettle Style Tomato & Sweet Basil Bisque can be found for less than $3, a loaf of honey wheat bread is  $2.88 and a 24-count of Kraft Singles costs $3.67 at Walmart.

Cooking time: Less than 5 minutes

4. Salmon and Rice

Salmon and rice go together like peanut butter and jelly. Be careful though and remember that you are cooking with fish and need to cook it thoroughly to prevent contaminants. This one is a little pricier but definitely worth it. Salmon, like chicken, is very versatile and can be cooked in a variety of different ways. Try different recipes for flavor variety. My favorite is teriyaki salmon and garlic brown sugar glazed salmon. Cook the rice in boiling water for minutes. Add garlic salt and basil seasoning to the rice as needed for taste.

Two fillets of salmon will run you about $11 on average and 32 ounces of Basmati rice will cost less than $4.

Cooking time: Approximately 10 minutes.

5. Egg & Avocado Sandwich

The best thing about this sandwich isn’t even how easy it is to make. If you wake up late, and it’s too early to eat lunch or you just cannot willingly skip the most beloved meal of the day, this sandwich is your best friend. Use the same honey wheat bread from the grilled cheese recipe, and toast it. In a pan, fry an egg to your liking. Spread a thin layer of butter to each piece, add avocado to each side, add the fried egg and a tablespoon of mango peach salsa with a pinch of garlic salt to the top. Woke up early and just want toast? Use the same recipe without the second piece of bread and adjust serving accordingly.

Cooking time: Approximately 5 minutes.

These simple recipes will save time, money and add variety to your diet. Enjoy!