“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw
I have to agree with Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life. I love food, any type of food at all, really. I will say that I’m nowhere close to being an Iron Chef, but one of my favorite pastimes is to watch Food Network, then recreate dishes that seemed yummy in my own kitchen. As a college student living on campus, however, I don’t have the funds, kitchen appliances or time to make my version of gourmet meals. Additionally, the meal options offered by the school aren’t always the most appetizing. For those of you who are having a similar problem or are just looking for alternative meals, even to make at home, I’ve found that the recipes below are all really yummy, easy to make and easy on a budget.
What better way to start off this list than with breakfast. This recipe is both super easy and super quick. All you need is a mug, fork, egg, milk and your choice of veggies. While this particular recipe calls for butter, cheese and torn bread, feel free to leave them out or pick and choose what you want to add. Personally, I love to put in spinach and peppers. Also, since you cook it in a microwave, it’s great for those who don’t have access to a stove or oven. See directions here.
- Turkey Pesto Grilled Cheese
While I was traveling abroad in Italy, my friend made the best grilled cheese. I don’t know how she did it, but she combined bread, butter and provolone cheese and it was one of the best things I’d tasted in a while. (This could also be because the food at the Castle isn’t anything to pay homage to.) A grilled cheese is really easy to make, but if you want to spruce it up a bit, this recipe for a turkey pesto grilled cheese is a great one to go for. While the pesto is probably the priciest ingredient for this dish, it can either be bought premade or made at home. Also, since you’re only using a small amount of it here, it can easily be used again in another recipe. Again, you can pick and choose which ingredients you want to add. If you don’t like turkey, feel free to use sliced ham. Just make sure to get cooked meat. Many deli meats are cooked, but double check you’re not eating anything raw. See directions here.
- Pesto, Tomato and Broccoli Pasta
If you bought the premade pesto for the previous recipe and are looking for another way to use it, this pesto, tomato and broccoli pasta dish is one option. Pasta primavera is one of my favorite meals; the fresh flavors from the vegetables and pesto spark awareness on my tongue and remind me that spring is here. While purchasing vegetables from the produce section can get pricey (depending on which veggies you get and how many), you can always opt for a bag of mixed, frozen veggies. Cooking these will be a little different than this recipe says, but most frozen bags will include instructions. Overall, this dish shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to make. See directions here.
- Cheese-Crusted Pork
If you’re feeling daring, try this recipe for cheese-crusted pork. Most households already store flour, breadcrumbs, and olive oil in their pantries; they’re versatile ingredients that can be used in numerous recipes. If you don’t have them, ask a neighbor, as one is likely to have them. The instructions to make the meal are straightforward and it takes about 30 minutes to make, 15 for prep and then 15 for actual cooking. Using this method of coating the pork in flour, egg and breadcrumbs is also used for chicken, if you wanted to substitute meats. See directions here.
Sometimes, I’m feeling lazy. As much as I love to cook, there are times when I don’t feel like making something that involves washing more than three or four dishes. Here’s another recipe-in-a-mug that’s perfect for those who want a yummy meal that is super easy to make. All it entails is stirring a mixture of milk, ketchup (optional), oats and ground beef together and then microwaving it. Total time to make: 15 minutes. See directions here.
You can never go wrong with a homemade pizza. Many people, including myself, may be frightened by the prospect of rolling out dough. Nowadays, you can purchase a premade crust. The rest is beyond simple. First, layer marinara sauce (store-bought is both cheap and easy), cheese, then any other toppings and bake in the oven. This particular recipe is great to make with a group. You can make small, individual pizzas or large ones for everyone to share. See directions here.
- Mashed Potatoes
I love mashed potatoes, especially the smooth, creamy ones with cheese. There are a ton of instant mashed potatoes that you can buy in the store, but if you’re health conscious, homemade tots are the way to go. I also find them more filling and flavorful. This recipe is both easy and cheap. All you need are potatoes, milk and butter. Cube and boil the potatoes, drain, and mash. (Mashing can be really fun and a great way to exert some pent-up tension.) Now all that’s left is to add butter and milk. See directions here.
- Chicken Fajitas
Now, I’m not a huge fan of Mexican or Spanish foods, but there’s no going wrong with this recipe. It’s another one of those microwaveable meals that’s tastier and healthier than the one’s you’d buy in the frozen section of the grocery store. It also only takes 15 minutes to make. All you have to do is slice half an onion and some peppers, throw southwest seasoning mix (can be purchased in grocery store) on the veggies and chicken tenders (raw). Then cover and cook in the microwave. Serve with tortillas if desired. This recipe is also inexpensive. The priciest ingredient would be the chicken, which at most, would cost 7 or 8 dollars. See directions here.
- Chocolate Hazelnut Stuffed French Toast
What better way to end a meal than with dessert. Even though French toast is a breakfast food, add chocolate and you’re definitely getting more of a dessert vibe. This recipe should only take 20 minutes, 10 for prep and 10 for cooking. You also only need five ingredients: eggs, milk, butter, bread and chocolate-hazelnut spread. This recipe is perfect if you want to do a breakfast-for-dinner meal. See directions here.
- Chocolate Molten Lava Cake
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered the chocolate lava cake for dessert? I have, and when I took the first bite, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. After scouring the internet, I’ve found that making them at home can be both easy and cheap. For this recipe, all you need are a box of dark chocolate cake mix, a box of angel food cake mix, a few bars of dark, mildly sweet chocolate and water. After mixing the ingredients per the instructions, you pop it into the microwave and out comes a gooey, chocolaty dessert. Beware not to overcook. See directions here.
Of all these meals, I would have to say my favorites are the pasta dish and the chocolate French toast. But all of the recipes above are just as yummy and easy to cook. Many of them give you the freedom to pick and choose the ingredients you want to add, which allows you to personalize each dish to best fit your tastes. They’re also all easy on a budget, perfect for college students looking to make an easy homemade meal. If you see a recipe that looks appetizing, have fun cooking it. For now, happy eating!