University students are sharing their go-to dirt cheap meals on Reddit

September means one thing for many people: The start of the new university year. For some, this marks the first time they’ll live away from home and fend for themselves. This means somehow managing to eat a (vaguely) balanced diet on a student budget – which is not very much at all.

Luckily, students, as well as those who have experience of home cooking on a shoestring budget, have shared their go-to meals on Reddit to help freshers all over the world.

Some tips you’ll think are genius, while others are a little bit more experimental, shall we say…

Rice is a recurring theme


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Rice features regularly, and you can see why. It’s filling, nutritious, and you can buy it in bulk, plus, you don’t need a whole lot of other ingredients to make it into a whole meal.

Sampioni13 describes his “poor man dinner”: “Pan fry ground beef, throw cooked white rice in after you drain the grease out and season however you want, I use steak seasoning salt. Cheap, quick, but filling.”

For Ariel_Etaime, you can do anything with fried rice: “You can put any protein, veggies and some soy sauce (and or sesame oil/oyster sauce/srichacha) saute it with rice then you have an instant meal! Substitute the rice for noodles and you’ve got yourself some pancit! Remove the rice and noodles and you’ve got stir fry.”

Guava_Pirate recommends: “White rice and canned lentils cooked with tomatoes, onions, chorizo, and potatoes. Add a fried egg on top. 10/10 delicious and nutritious.”

Eldritch800XC is also on the fried rice train. They suggest: “Poor man rice: fried rice with bananas and eggs.” We might leave our bananas out of our dinner for now, but it depends how desperate things get as term goes on.

Obviously pasta is your classic student dish

Okay, so pasta is slightly less healthy than rice, but it’s also just as easy to whip up, and very tasty. If you didn’t have pesto pasta at least twice a week when you were at uni, were you even at uni?!

Tuna pasta is Scallywag20’s go-to meal, because it’s “quick, cheap and pretty darn tasty.” They stock up on cans of tuna in oil or chilli oil, and when they want dinner they fry up a lot of garlic in the oil from the can, throw in chilli flakes, add the tuna and mix it with the pasta.

If you don’t know this cooking hack, get ready to be blown away

A jacket potato is one of the best meals you can prepare as a student: It’s easy, cheap, relatively healthy and has enough stodge if you’re going on a night out. However, many people are either too lazy to wait for the potato to cook or they don’t have an oven in their halls.

However, this hack will solve all these problems. Kimlitz writes: “My life changed when I found out you could bake a potato in the microwave. I do not have enough patience for regular baked potatoes.”

You can thank us later.

Crockpots are an essential for many

Crockpots (slow cookers) might be an investment buy, but for many students it means you can consistently cook cheap, tasty meals. The best thing about slow cookers is you can chuck all the ingredients in at the start of the day, and by the time dinner rolls around, everything will be cooked and tender.

DwelveDeeper recommends dumping some chicken and salsa in one: “Wait eight hours then tear apart with a fork and serve on warm tortillas. It’s an easy meal to doctor up too: just add fresh jalapenos, onions, or garlic.”

It’s all about bulk buying

If you want to keep food costs down, a little preparation and bulk buying will go a long way.

aperture413 advises: “My favourite college meal was tuna curry. Asian markets usually sell a tub of curry paste that you can get for cheap. I would cook a big batch of rice each week and every day I would heat up a skillet with some oil in it, simmer some of the paste in the oil, then add the refrigerated rice and a can of tuna.”

Some people have got their influences from further afield

Not all students stick to your basic rice and pasta fare. Instead, some Reddit users are a bit more experimental with their cooking.

Reddit user Bug-Fairy shares their go-to recipe: ” ‘Helushki’ – I believe it’s Polish. This sounds nasty but it’s absolutely delicious. A head of cabbage chopped into squares, saute cabbage with a stick of butter in a huge pot. Once brown and saggy (I swear this will be delicious) turn stove off and add cooked shell noodles (medium size pasta shells).

“Mix, then (don’t let this throw you off) pour in bowl and add ketchup on top. Mix up and enjoy! Note: I believe this dish is supposed to have a tomato sauce on it but due to the depression, this is how my great grandmother made it.”

Yes, this would be a low-cost and simple meal to prepare, but not everyone is convinced. livin4donuts comments: “I’m gonna be honest with you. That sounds horrifying.” Ouch.

And then there are some meals we’re just not buying into

stonecats advocates a “soft boiled egg mixed into plain corn flakes”, which is an assault on the good name of breakfast if you ask us. They say: “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” so maybe we need to branch out more.

andywade84 divulges their recipe for: “Toast sandwich. Toast one slice of bread. Butter two slices and whack the toast in the middle for a super cheap snack. Add chocolate spread or jam or peanut butter for a sweet snack. Add ketchup or mayo for a savoury one.”

M3atTruck suggests eating “peanut butter out the jar” but as delicious as that is, it doesn’t count as a homecooked meal.


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