Let me paint the scene: you’ve moved out for the first time, mum or dad are no longer calling you down for dinner, you’re Sunday roast-deprived and living off a hearty snack drawer and bowls of cereal. Sound like you? You may be a student.
Cooking homey and healthy meals can be difficult when you’re swamped with university work and socialising, you’re feeling poor and, let’s be honest, sometimes you just can’t be bothered! Making sure you’re eating well and getting all the necessary fruits and veggies, though, is really important to both your physical and mental health, especially whilst we can’t get out and do much exercise.
So, here are some cheap and easy meal suggestions that I’ve relied on during my time at uni:
Okay, okay, this one is probably quite obvious, but jacket potatoes are such a good way to squeeze in quite a few of your daily nutrients. They are so easy to cook - I usually stick mine in the microwave for 10 mins then in the oven with some salt and oil to crisp up for an extra 10 mins and, in that time, you can just chill out!
The best thing about jacket potatoes is that there are so many toppings you can pair them with; from beans and cheese, cream cheese and salad to tuna and sweetcorn, it’s a different meal every time! If you can’t tell, I’m big into jacket potatoes, and was literally known for them in my first year - sad, I know.
Another go-to of mine - spruce up a boring wrap by just buying some fajita spice mix(or if you’re feeling fancy, you can make some yourself). You can make them as simply as just with any type of meat/meat substitute, or add veggies like onions, peppers and sweetcorn and, if you want the luxury experience, add cheese, sour cream and salsa!
They’re a great, quick meal and, if you make a big batch, you can always have pasta or lunch wraps/sandwiches the next day with the remaining mix!
Recently made popular thanks to TikTok, tortilla pizzas are a great way to use up your extra wraps and save you the dent in your pocket that a Dominos would leave you with. Not to mention, they’re 10x healthier!
All you need for a basic pizza is some tomato paste (which you can also use for bolognese, so you’re not buying it for one thing) and cheese! Add any extra toppings you wish, and these can usually be scraps from the cupboard or fridge if you’re on a budget. These are a simple, but satisfying, alternative to expensive takeaways!
This may be an obvious choice but bolognese is actually a lot more versatile than you think. Not only can you use almost any type of mince (and there are lots of veggie alternatives), but you can serve it with lots of options that aren’t just pasta, which is great if you’re trying to use up some ingredients from the back of your cupboard!
Why not try it with potatoes, rice (chilli style), baps (sloppy joe style), pepper capsicums?
Or even throw it in your wraps fajita style! Here are a few great recipes you can make with bolognese that are not your standard spaghetti.
Paella or risotto
You may think this is a bit out of your range or budget, but both of these rice dishes can be made really easily with some staple ingredients; as long as you have a few spices in your cupboard, you can make a great meal!
The main things you’ll need are risotto/paella rice (they’re quite similar), some type of meat/alternative, chicken or vegetable stock, spices and a few veggies if you want them! Recipes are often very simple, and usually just require you frying off the ingredients and then letting them simmer. This is my go-to whenI have a little more time and want to put a bit more effort into having a proper homey, hearty meal.
Here’s a super easy beginner’s recipe if you want to give it a go (a few of the ingredients can even be missed/swapped if you don’t have them)!
Perfect for vegetarians, or vegetable-lovers, stuffed veggies come in a variety of forms; from simple to complex recipes, and using a range of veggies such as peppers, aubergines and squash, these meals are obviously a great way to make sure you’re eating your 5 a day!
Filling these veggies will eventually become second nature and you can fill them with anything you like! Most recipes include filling the outer vegetable with meats, extra veggies, rices, legumes, cheeses and sauces - there’s likely to be something you like! Recipes can also vary through different cuisines (my faves are Greek or Indian style), and so there are lots of different options and meals you can try out - you’ll never get bored!
Here’s a good basic recipe if you want somewhere to start out and you’re on a budget, or try out this more ambitious recipe if you have quite a few ingredients in your cupboard!