Student meals needn’t just be expensive junk food and these cheap and healthy recipe ideas prove it.
This go-to student meal can be easily prepared without bulky supermarket vegetable packs, sugar filled sauces and heavy noodles. Not only can this save you money in the long run, but I pretty much guarantee you won’t be wasting as much food either! By buying the vegetables that you actually want in your stir- fry (for example, I always opted for more broccoli and less beans sprouts), you not only make your meal tastier, but also have vegetables that you can use across a variety of meals, instead of exclusively for stir-fry. Stir-fry sauces are packed full of sugar and salts that aren’t necessary for your meal to taste great. A go-to option is light soy sauce- you can dab some into your meal and everything is guaranteed to taste great. If you can’t live without sweet and sour or hoisin sauce, consider buying sauces sold a re-sealable container (or your own container), so that you don’t have to use it all in one go, and can save it for the future. It may seem more expensive now, but it the long run it will save you some crucial pennies. For me, the noodles are always the best part of the stir fry- although I know some who opt for rice. Regardless, if you want to keep your meal healthy, changing out your regular rice and noodles for wholegrain options is always a safe bet. If you want to go a step further, you can get BareNaked Noodles, Rice and other alternatives that contain barely any calories- these can be expensive but if you look at healthy food websites, you will always find a bargain!
2. Tuna Pasta Salad
I know all too well how dependent students can be on pasta, so why not turn you average meal into a tasty and healthy alternative? To start, swap out your average pasta for wholegrain- it can be just as cheap and is a lot better for you. I always bought the biggest bag of pasta I could and never had to worry about it for a couple of months. Tuna is also a great source of protein, and is cheap to stock up with. To pick the healthiest tuna, make sure you choose skipjack tuna that is often classed as light tuna, and opt for water packed instead of oil packed. To make it a tuna pasta salad instead of just tuna pasta, let your pasta cool, and add salad and vegetables of your choice if you have frozen peas (which is always a cheap and clever idea) use these, chop some lettuce, and add more of your preferred vegetables. Instead of using fatty mayo or a calorific sauce, drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top of your meal. This meal can be used for dinner and leftovers can be saved for lunch!
3. Turkey Chilli With Sweet Potato
Swapping out red meat for Turkey is difficult and can be expensive, but if you shop smartly you will end up eating healthier for less. I generally bought very large amounts of turkey mince, and when home would separate it before freezing, so that I knew the amount of portions I had, saving me from spending any more in the future. I also enjoyed making my own sauce, because buying my ingredients in bulk and using them for lots of different meals made more sense then splashing a few quid on a jar of sauce which would be packed with salt and thrown away. All you need is some stock cubes, chilli, paprika, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, and maybe some extra vegetables! These can be more expensive- especially the spices- so if you can’t afford to splash cash on lots of ingredients, make sure you invest in dried chilli con carne flavoring instead of sauces! Instead of having rice with the chilli, having sweet potato mash or chunks of sweet potato cuts out the carb content of the meal and replaces it with more vegetables. Just cook the sweet potato as you would normally- you could even make sweet potato chips and chilli! If you do make chips, do not drown them in oil, or you’ll have yourself a soggy and oily dinner.
4. Vegan or Protein Pancakes
My housemate was vegan, and she made the best pancakes I have ever tasted- we would have evenings where we would eat her pancakes with fruit instead of cooking a conventional dinner. Using almond milk, coconut flour, and splenda (although coconut flour is expensive, so she would reluctantly cook with our cheap standard flour on occasions) she would cook delicious pancakes that we would top with bananas and preferably Biscoff spread. These pancakes can also be made with eggs, which are cheap and another great source of protein. Speaking of protein, protein pancakes are a great and healthy sweet meal! Using eggs and egg whites, as well as protein powder, cinnamon and sweetener, you can have guilt free treats whenever you fancy! These ingredients can sound expensive, but if you plan on using things like flour or protein powder more than once, buying large amounts can spread the cost.
5. Fish Tacos/ Wraps
Fish Tacos and Wraps can be a great healthy alternative to your standard cheesy chicken fajitas. Fish is packed full of good vitamins healthy fatty oils, which makes them an easy choice to put into a taco or wrap. Salmon is the healthiest fish, and grilling it with paprika or a spice mix will make the flavor burst. Salmon can be expensive, so I always opt to buy packets that are freezer-friendly to spread the cost. Grilling the salmon also means cutting out any excess oil. In addition to the salmon, chop some onions, tomatoes, peppers and any other vegetables to you fancy and add them to the grill. You can also use avocado to cool the spice of your fish. Tacos can be found for a great price if you opt for store-branded, and the same goes for wraps. You also have the opportunity to buy whole meal wraps, which will make your meal significantly healthier!
6. Healthy Sunday Roast
Everybody loves a good Sunday roast, but we’re often overwhelmed by the amount there is to do, and the amount of calories we end up consuming! To start, swap out the roast potatoes for standard mash, or an even healthier carrot and sweet potato mash. This gets rid of the ridiculous amount of oils used and still tastes just as good. A roast is also a great opportunity to put that frozen bag of veggies stowed at the bottom of the freezer drawer to good use! Keeping frozen peas, carrots, and cauliflower is a cheap and easy way to make sure you always have vegetables for a healthy last-minute meal. You can keep chicken or substitute in turkey, or even swap for vegan options such as Quorn chicken and sausages. Making simple swaps and adding extra vegetables to your roast will mean a tasty and healthy meal. Other changes you can make include using low- salt gravy, and even investing in gluten-free yorkshire puddings!
Omeletts are an easy and cheap way to guarantee a healthy eating on a budget. To keep it plain and simple, all you need is eggs, but of course you can always add to the flavorings with ingredients like cheese, tomato, ham, onion and more. Sometimes the omlette won’t come out perfect and you might have accidentally made scrambled eggs, but it will still taste great. Turn this into a great meal by making a salad and having the omlette on the side!
8. Vegetable Risotto
Perfect for warm winter evenings, Risottos are a great way to fill you up quickly. Own brand risotto rice is available, and if you’re cooking for one you never need to use much, meaning making an investment early on will allow you to cook as many risottos as you like! As long as you have stock cubes in the house and an array of fresh or frozen vegetables, risotto is easy and healthy. As long as you avoid adding extra cheese or making your risotto creamy, it will be healthy and a great go-to meal. Alternatively, frozen risottos are available- but skip the ready meals and look for frozen risotto bags (much like frozen vegetable bags)- they will last and you only need a decent chunk to have a healthy meal!
9. Vegetable-based Pasta Bake
A student favorite, pasta and vegetables are a great way to get all of the nutrients you need. Cutting peppers, mushrooms and onions into chunks, even adding peas and sweetcorn, will fill up the pasta dish so you have more veg than you do carbs. Gently grill or boil your chosen vegetables and cook the pasta before adding to a baking tray/tin. The trick here is to shop smartly- if you are buying a pasta bake sauce, check all of the nutritional information, as even healthy options can contain horrendous amounts of salt and sugar. You could consider making your own sauce, but that will end up using a lot of ingredients, and if you were looking to stretch resources pasta bake isn’t a dish that you will want for leftovers a few days after.
10. Falafel Burgers and Sweet Potato Chips
Put a twist on the usual frozen burger and chips combo and try out this healthy option instead. Falafel is a go-to vegan favourite, but you don’t have to be vegan to be able to enjoy it. You can buy falafel mix from most supermarkets, which is preferable to buying pre-made, as it means you can lightly fry your food instead of receiving it after being put through a deep fryer. Instead of making the falafel into the generic ball shape, flatten them out and put them in a pun- and voila! Great, healthy burgers. You could also invest in turkey, if falafel isn’t your thing.