Healthy Meal Prep and Snack Ideas on a College Budget

by Mehan Gibboney

As a soon-to-be college student, you might have a lot of questions surrounding academics, living on campus and what the meal and food options are on, or around campus. Consider this a peek into the college dining lifestyle, on a college student sized budget.

Like many other prospective college students, I feared the “freshman fifteen” that we all hear about. But I’m here to tell you with some limited cooking skills, simple supplies and a few affordable grocery trips, it easy to avoid. For the prices and foods I talk about, I’m using the Wooster Aldi grocery store as my reference. This is where I personally shop due to the incredible low prices, and the convenient location. Aldi also carries pots, pans, and cooking utensils, as well as some other home products.

My favorite recipe to make in the full-sized kitchen in my campus apartment is a chicken vegetable stir fry. This recipe can be altered in many ways depending on your preferences.

Chicken Vegetable Stir Fry

Spaghetti/ pasta noodles                                                   $0.89

Sliced Mushrooms                                                            $2.35

Cubed Bell pepper of any kind                                         $0.67

Chopped Broccoli (I use frozen)                                       $0.89

2 Chicken breasts                                                                $6.25

A sauce of your choice (I use a bottled sauce)                  $2.26

TOTAL MEAL COST:                                                     $13.31

SERVES 1 person for 3-4 meals           cost per serving   $4.00-$3.00

Step 1: Prepare the vegetables and chicken by cubing them (if you buy prechopped of each it makes the process faster).

Step 2: Start boiling water and a dash of salt in a pan for your noodles, once it begins to boil place a small handful of spaghetti in then water and boil for the time listed on the box.

Step 3: Place the cubed chicken in a frying pan and fry until fully cooked.

Step 4: Once the chicken is done place the vegetables in the same pan at a lower temperature. Once they become soft pour in the sauce of your choice.

Step 5: Pour the water out of your spaghetti, combine all elements (vegetables, noodles, and the chicken). You may want to add a bit more sauce, but, otherwise, your meal is complete!

Recipes like this one are super tasty and quick to make. At the bottom of the page are some additional links to great recipes. Some of my other favorite ideas for meals are crock pot ham and potatoes, grilled chicken, as well as any type of pasta vegetable combination. These meals are also all crockpot and grill friendly, both of which students can have on campus! I encourage you to get online, on Pinterest or even ask family members who like to cook what some of their favorite easy meals are. It makes for a good time with roommates and a break from studying. Almost any meal imaginable can be adapted to your personal preferences and budget.

What Do I Need?

When it comes to cooking there are some supplies required but, in college you don’t need the most expensive brand of dishes and pans that money can buy. What I and many other students recommend is visiting stores like TJMAXX, Goodwill or any yard sale you come across. These provide you with some of the cheaper and still good quality cookware. The main tools you’ll need in the kitchen if you’re planning to cook are the following: a sauce pan of any size, a frying pan, cookie sheet for the oven, some utensils (plastic or metal — both are great), a small cutlery set (set of 3 is sufficient), a strainer, cutting board, and measuring cups/spoons. Keep in mind these things aren’t all necessary, just helpful if you plan to cook.

What About Quick Snacks?

For snack ideas, many college students will tell you a box of your favorite cereal is a vital key in getting through the semester. It’s an easy, lazy meal with some fruit or a nice, quick late-night snack or breakfast between classes. Gummy snacks, pretzels of any variety, granola bars, fruit and even cheese sticks and yogurt are all very delicious and cheap snack ideas to keep you going through the day. Many professors will allow you to eat during lectures and these snacks are great for on the go!

Meal Ideas

Additional Snack Ideas


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