Eating Healthy on a Budget for College Students [9 Meals]

Issac Glantz
By Issac Glantz 8 Min Read
eating healthy on budget for college students

When you’re in college, it’s all too easy to rely on cheap fast food. But with these nine simple meals you can eat healthier and within your budget!

Eating at college is nothing like eating at home. No longer do you have your parents to cook wholesome meals for you. So you may end up eating out a lot at first — but that gets expensive.

Don’t worry. You can still cook a decent meal without breaking the bank and without having to be a gourmet chef.

Here are nine easy and thrifty college meals:

1. Pasta

Pasta is cheap and filling. It’s so versatile that you can eat it with any meat or go vegetarian. Not only that, but the process of making pasta is so easy.

Can you boil water?

You’re good to go!

While some meals can get monotonous — not pasta. There are so many varieties of sauces to use on your pasta that you can cook a different dish every day of the week.

You have your traditional marinara, which is a tomato sauce with herbs and spices. You can even alter this sauce with a few extra ingredients to add a new flavor, such as the spicy arrabbiata or the creamy vodka sauce.

You can also use pesto or alfredo sauce for a completely different take.

Don’t forget the childhood favorite: macaroni and cheese! Add a can of chili to the mix, and you’ve got the popular chili mac.

Choose your pasta shape and sauce, add meat or veggies, and top it off with some parmesan cheese for yummy deliciousness.

Did you know that some pasta shapes pair better with certain sauces?

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Learn all about that here.

2. Protein Bowls

Protein bowls are the epitome of healthy, filling, and easy meals.

First, you start with your base grain. This can be quinoa, lentils, or other protein-packed grains.

Next, you add more protein by adding grilled steak, chicken, or pork. Of course, no meal is complete without some healthy veggies, so you need to add a few of those as well.

There are many different protein bowl varieties that you can choose from.

Here are three based on different food cultures:

  • Mexican: Make this with quinoa, steak, black beans, cilantro, salsa, and a squeeze of lime.
  • Mediterranean: Add chicken to lentils, cannellini beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a dollop of hummus.
  • American: On a bed of barley, add chopped pork, corn, cheddar, and drizzle with barbeque sauce.

3. Caesar Salad

One of the most effortless lunches that’s fresh but also filling is a Caesar salad. This simple, tasty salad includes romaine lettuce, caesar dressing, grated parmesan, and croutons.

You can add grilled chicken, spicy shrimp, or balsamic steak for a punch of flavor to your Caesar.

This salad pairs great with a side of garlic bread for a full dinner entree.

4. Foil Packets

A favorite cookout dinner that can also double as a college meal involves throwing all your food into a foil packet to cook.

All you need to do is choose a protein, a carbohydrate, and a veggie. Add your choice of spices, a dab of butter, or olive oil.

Wrap all your ingredients up in heavy-duty foil and throw it in the oven. It’s the epitome of easy cooking and easy cleanup. (Who wants to wash dishes? Ew.)

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Need some inspiration?

Here are some examples of delectable foil packets:

  • Sweet potato cubes with butter and creole seasoning topped with sliced pork loin
  • Steak slices with chopped potatoes, onions, and peppers drizzled with olive oil and taco seasoning
  • Chicken, zucchini, tomatoes, and onions, with shredded cheddar cheese, butter, and salt and pepper

5. Omelets

This fast and filling breakfast is a great way to use up any veggies about to go bad in your mini-fridge.

It’s also easy to make with virtually endless recipe possibilities. Check out Taste of Home’s collection of omelet recipes for your next morning meal.

6. Deluxe Grilled Cheese

Why not take a childhood favorite and make it special?

You can jazz up a grilled cheese simply by adding a few unique ingredients.

You can add tomatoes, fresh basil, and garlic to a mozzarella grilled cheese for  Italian grilled cheese.

You can also add shredded chicken or pulled pork to grilled cheese to make it more epic.

Those two recipes just scratch the surface of all the ways you can prepare grilled cheese sandwiches. Here are 50 grilled cheese recipes to get you started.

7. Stir Fry

Another easy meal is to cook a stir fry. Again, there are so many ways to switch it up.

Choose your meat. This can be chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp.

Next, add veggies. Some of the best stir fry vegetables include green beans, broccoli, green onions, peppers, and bamboo.

Throw them all in a wok and fry at high heat with a bit of oil. Then add a sauce. This could be garlic sauce, spicy Szechuan, or teriyaki.

If none of those appeal to you, take a look at these easy stir fry sauces. Of course, you can always cheat and buy the bottled sauces.

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Serve it on top of rice or Asian noodles, and you’ve got a whole meal!

8. Personal Pita Pizza

You can make your very own personal pizza so easily just by using pita bread.

Place the pita on a baking sheet and top it with pizza sauce, your choice of toppings, and oodles of gooey cheese.

Put it in the oven to bake at about 400 degrees until it’s slightly crispy. You can also cook this in a toaster oven. Even a frying pan could work.

9. Breakfast Burritos

Another breakfast special is the breakfast burrito. There’s nothing more convenient than a meal you can hold while you’re heading out the door.

Just take a flour tortilla and fill it with scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, or bacon. Sprinkle it with cheese.

Add some grilled veggies of your choice. Good choices include spinach, tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

Top it all off with some mild, hot, or chipotle salsa, and you are ready to go!


Cooking may not be your forte; however, eating at college can be expensive if you don’t cook, and who wants to dip into their fun money for food?

These nine meals are not only delicious but nutritious. They’ll provide your body and brain with the energy it needs to survive your first year of college!

About The Author

Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Copper Beech Radford to help them with their online marketing.

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I'm Stuart, a tech enthusiast and experienced writer. I've worked with multiple tech blogs over the years, leveraging my 8 years of digital marketing expertise. My journey began when I was searching for ways to make money online and stumbled upon blogging. Back then, starting a blog on Blogspot was the norm. Aspire to be one of the best bloggers in the world, I've witnessed how the age of the internet has revolutionized technology journalism. In this era of social media and video marketing, it's essential to recognize the importance of reading articles to gain in-depth knowledge and insights. Let's explore the fascinating world of tech together!
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