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8 Quick, Easy, and Cheap Food Ideas and Recipes for College Students

Updated on April 15, 2010
Baked potato
Baked potato

Baked Potato with Butter and Cheese

You don't need an oven to cook a baked potato - ten minutes in a microwave will do just as well. Butter or margarine is the only real necessity, other than a potato, which are usually only around a dollar each. I usually put shredded cheddar cheese and sometimes bacon bits or sour cream on my baked potatoes.

For complete instructions check out this detailed step-by-step guide at Wikihow.

Hint: Keep the skin of the potato a little damp after you wash it off. This helps the potato cook thoroughly without over drying the outer skin.

Cost: Less than two dollars per serving (one potato plus a few toppings)

Grilled cheese sandwich
Grilled cheese sandwich

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

With just some butter, two slices of bread, and a slice of cheese, you are on your way to a delicious, warm, quick sandwich. Butter the outer side of each piece of bread, turn on the stove to medium heat, and begin your grilled cheese sandwich. You can also put a slice of ham, turkey, or other lunch meat on there to make your sandwich a little more healthy and filling.

There is a great grilled ham and cheese recipe on that has all positive reviews that you should check out if you are interested.

Hint: If you can stand a longer wait, keep the stove heat low to thoroughly toast the bread and melt the cheese without burning anything.

Cost: Less than three dollars per sandwich, for a couple slices of bread, pieces of lunch meat, and slices of cheese.


Pasta with Parmesan Cheese and Marinara Sauce

Pasta is the quintessential poor college student food, because it's so cheap yet versatile. All you need is a pot of water for boiling the pasta, and ten minutes later you have a delicious meal. I like parmesan cheese and tomato sauce on my pasta usually, but sometimes I use alfredo sauce (the white sauce) or pesto (a delicious mix of basil leaves and pine nutes) on it instead.

You can also add in vegetables, with broccoli and spinach being popular options, to get in a serving of vegetables, too. This Pasta Con Broccoli recipe is simple but delicious.

Hint: Add a few tablespoons of salt to the water as you boil the pasta, to prevent the pasta from tasting too bland.

Cost: A box of pasta that has several servings in it is only a few dollars, same for the cheese and the sauce. Both the cheese and the sauce will last you through many servings, and vegetable produce to include is cheap. $3-$4 per serving tops.

Fruit salad
Fruit salad

Fruit Salad

Mmm, sweet, delicious fruit salad. You can plan out which fruits you want, or you can buy whichever are cheapest/on sale/in season when you visit the grocery store. Strawberries, bananas, pineapples, and grapes are popular ingredients, but blueberries, pears, oranges, and apples can be delicious additions, too. The only thing besides the fruit that you need for the salad is a sauce to bring it all together. If you want to be healthy, choose a flavored yogurt to add, or if not, add cream cheese or whipped cream.

Take your pick of fruit salad choices at's extensive fruit salad recipe page.

Hint: Use a fruit-flavored yogurt as the sauce and serve with granola to have a tasty and healthy meal or snack.

Cost: A few dollars for the fruits, plus $1-2 for a carton of cream cheese or yogurt.

Scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs

Scrambled Eggs and Bacon

Scrambled eggs are arguably the easiest way to cook eggs: move them around in a frying pan on medium heat until they are completely yellow but before they start to turn brown. Bacon, too, is easily and cheaply purchased in a refrigerated package and can be stored cold until you take out the bacon for stove, oven, or even microwave cooking. The entire process takes less than 10 minutes, and you have a complete meal. Add in some toast with butter or jam if you're feeling extra fancy.

After several weeks of testing, the author of settled on this first place-winning scrambled eggs recipe. It involves a lot of butter, however, so you might want to substitute margarine instead, to make the recipe a little healthier.

Hint: Whether or not you're going by a recipe, add in some milk and salt to taste before you add the egg/milk mixture to the frying pan. You get in a little calcium that way, and it's yummier!

Cost: Less than $.50 for a couple of eggs, and $1-2 for a couple slices of microwaveable bacon.

Bean and cheese burrito
Bean and cheese burrito

Bean and Cheese Burrito

All you need for delicious bean and cheese burritos is a small can of refried beans, a flour tortilla, and some shredded cheese (usually Cheddar). Cook the beans until they are nice and hot, scoop them onto an open tortilla, and sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Yummy! You can also add spices, taco sauce, meat, lettuce, tomatoes, or whatever other ingredients you like to make your burritos deliciously unique each time. For example, this popular bean burritor recipe on calls for black olives!

Hint: Add in some avocado slices, lettuce, use corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas, and exchange the refried beans for black beans to make this recipe much healthier. A bit more expensive, though!

Cost: A small can of refried beans is less than a dollar, and cheese and a couple tortillas per serving should also work out to be less than a dollar each.

Cinnamon toast
Cinnamon toast

Cinnamon Toast

I saved one of my favorites for last- no, it's not very healthy, but it can be a delicious breakfast treat for special ocassions, and it's extremely easy to make. Set your oven on broil, and get a cooking pan out. Spread butter or margarine on a few pieces of bread, and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of the slices of bread. Go easy on the cinnamon- it overpowers the sugar pretty quickly, so be careful not to add too much. Then throw it in the hot oven for no more than 2-3 minutes, and you'll have nicely browned-but-not-hard cinnamon toast, ready for immediate consumption!

Stephanie at The Joy of Baking discusses using other kinds of bread than just plain sandwich bread to make cinnamon toast, and I must say, I am intrigued. It's supposed to be great on thicker, fuller breads such as Ciabata and Italian, so you might want to give that a try. She also has a more detailed recipe there.

Hint: Try using brown granulated sugar instead of white sugar for a thicker, richer taste to the cinnamon toast.

Cost: You'll only be using a tiny portion of the cinnamon and sugar cannisters, so your main cost is in whatever kind of bread you choose to include in the recipe. The recipe should be no more than a few dollars per serving.

Fresh tossed salad
Fresh tossed salad

Tossed Salad

The beauty of a casual salad is that once you have the lettuce and dressing, you can add whatever you like to it! Try to add in fresh, seasonal produce from the local grocery store or farmer's market to keep it as healthy and natural as possible. You can add tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, zucchini, squash, or cucumber for some delicious vegetables, and fruits such as grapes or apple slices for added sweetness. Sprinkle with a light cheese (like Parmesan), add the dressing, and you are ready for a deliciously light lunch!

Rita of A Pookie Pantry truly embraces the idea of an improvised, delicious summer salad in her blog post. She even adds some cooked pasta to the salad for a fun twist.

Hint: If you need more flavor in your tossed salad, try adding lemon juice or garlic powder for added punch.

Cost: Lettuce and most produce items are very cheap, so your cost per serving shouldn't be more than a few dollars, depending on how many items you add.

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    • E. A. Wright profile image

      E. A. Wright 8 years ago from New York City

      Hah! These were my staples for the first year *after* graduation when I had little time to learn how to make anything more adventurous. Might have done crackers and cheese some nights rather than grilled cheese for variety ...

    • mwaky profile image

      mwaky 8 years ago

      nice hub like the tips

    • christine almaraz profile image

      christine almaraz 8 years ago from colorado springs

      These sound a lot better than the Top Ramen and hot dogs I ate in college.