College life is busy and leaves little time to cook complex meals. On top of that, groceries are incredibly expensive. Here are a few tips to cook nutritious meals on a budget:
1. Keep Multi-Purpose Ingredients on Hand
Multipurpose ingredients can help you save money, cook conveniently, and mix up what you're eating by making a few small changes to each dish. Plus, most of these things can last a while so you don't waste food!
Onions & Garlic
These are great to add some basic flavors to your dish. These are also very versatile and don’t go bad too fast. Canned garlic lasts a while in your fridge if you don’t use it often.
Rice & Pasta
Both of these very affordable carbohydrates act as a blank canvas. You can add different sauces to pasta and experiment with different shapes. Rice goes in a variety of different cuisines if you're someone who likes to mix up what they eat. It also works well when meal prepping.
You can buy frozen chicken or freeze it to lengthen its shelf life. It is pretty easy to cook in a variety of ways, and it can be added to most rice or pasta dishes. Not to mention, it's cheaper than red meat, like beef.. Chicken tenderloins are often cheaper than chicken breast and are easier to portion when cooking for one.
2. Meal Prep
When life gets busy it can be hard to find time or motivate yourself to cook. Meal prepping once or twice a week on days you have more free time can help you eat a nutritious meal every day. It also helps fight the urge to eat out if you have food that just needs to be heated up at home. You can even meal prep breakfast foods like overnight oats or egg bake if you want to have an easy nutritious breakfast.
Some meals that reheat well throughout the week are:
Chicken, rice, and veggies
Salads (you can cut up your own lettuce & additions and add different dressings and protein throughout the week to mix it up)
3. Stock up on the Essentials
Keep the essential cooking tools and ingredients so you don’t have to run to the store for just one small thing. If you’re set up to do the basics it will be much more convenient. Places like Costco or Sam's Club is a great place to buy in bulk, and Aldi is a great place to buy cooking essentials for a low price.
Essential cooking tools: Essential cooking ingredients:
- Medium & large pan - Olive oil
- Whisk - Vegetable oil
- Spatula - Cooking spray
- Small & large pot - Butter
- Colander - Salt & Pepper
- A few knives (3-5) - Flour or cornstarch
- Large spoon/ladle - Basic spices (garlic powder, onion
powder, cumin, paprika, red pepper
flakes, Italian seasoning, & cinnamon)
4. Learn to Replicate your Favorite Meal Out
If eating out is one of your worst habits, try to make it at home! If you spend all of your money at Chipotle, learn how to make burritos or burrito bowls at home. If you love Noodles & Company, learn how to remake your favorite pasta dish, like Penne Rosa. If you love Chick-fil-A, buy frozen bags of your favorite fried foods and cook them in the oven or air fryer. You can even buy their Chick-fil-A sauce in store. If you like food from a popular restaurant, you can usually find recipes for recreations of their dishes online.