The best meals to cook on a student budget

Some tips and tricks for healthy meals without wasting time and money

For university students, quick and cheap eats can be just as essential as studying, so it's important to know ways to create healthy, budget-friendly meals. (Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto)

For university students, quick and cheap eats can be just as essential as studying, so it’s important to know ways to create healthy, budget-friendly meals. (Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto)

As university students, we are always on our toes to find new and existing ways to save money. Whether it be advice from a friend or colleague about cheap meals to whip up, or grocery stores to buy essentials at, we often make a mental note of it for next time. 

Quick and cheap eats are as essential as studying because your money and time are too precious to put to waste. Here are some ways to keep all your grocery needs within your budget, and some healthy, easy to cook meals you can take inspiration from. 

When we think of budget-friendly food at grocery stores, we automatically think of instant food like canned items, cup noodles, and microwaveable dinners. Eating these foods does more harm than good for your health in the long run, but it can also be easy to feel its short-term effects like not having enough energy, dehydration, and having a hard time focusing. Eliminating these types of food altogether is not quite realistic, but it’s easy to switch up how you eat them and make it healthy. 

I have some personal recipes with instant noodles, canned food, and oats because these foods have a long shelf life, are very cheap, and take me a short amount of time to prepare. 

For a quick breakfast, especially when you are in a rush, eating overnight oats is sufficient in giving you energy that lasts all morning. All you need to do is mix up some oats, nuts, chia seeds, your fruit of choice, and milk inside a container the night before, and then just grab it and go in the morning. 

For a heavy meal, I have my two go-to recipes: tuna egg sandwich and peanut butter ramen. 

I know a tuna egg sandwich recipe is not new, but it’s a fast and affordable meal you can eat when you’re in a rush. Just mix your canned tuna, mayo, scrambled eggs, and some herbs like parsley and spring onions to make the filling, then assemble it with your bread of choice. I personally like to add some lettuce and cilantro for a crunchy texture.

I saw a peanut butter ramen recipe online and loved it because it not only opens room for creativity, but is budget friendly. Instead of using the packet of high-sodium seasoning included in instant noodles, you sauté some ginger and garlic in a pot, then add equal amounts of water and beef or chicken stock before adding the noodles. 

Once the noodles reach a desired texture, I like to add a tablespoon of peanut butter for creaminess, then carrots, lettuce, or any vegetable of your choice. Try some of these recipes, modify, or take inspiration from them because the possibilities are endless. 

While having recipes in mind is helpful, it all boils down to planning and thinking ahead. I recommend having a schedule that lays out where and when to buy groceries, set a budget, and make a list of what you need. I find using this method is efficient because it lessens the time spent wandering aimlessly inside a store which can lead you to buy unnecessary things.


I prefer buying groceries every two weeks because there is enough time to consume fresh produce like fruits and vegetables before it goes bad. Be creative and open with the ingredients you already have and find a way to make a good, hearty meal out of it. Search up new recipes online with what you have and maybe try some one-pot recipes. That way, you can still save some money without sacrificing your nutrition and time.