Top 10 Quick and Easy Meals for Busy College Students
By Aimee Hosler May 14, 2012
College cooks face unique challenges, not the least of which is having practically no time to spare in the kitchen. Sure, you could turn to packaged foods or take-out, but you wouldn't be doing your budget (or waistline) any favors if you did. What can you do? Start by checking out these top 10 quick and easy meals for college students.
10 insanely easy meal ideas for college students on-the-go
1. Italian Beef
A rump or chuck roast + a jar of pepperoncini (yes, all of it) + a slow cooker = one delightfully comforting meal. Set your crock pot to low and cook for at least eight hours (the longer, the better). Serve shredded beef on crusty bread. Add some cheese if you're feeling it!
2. Lotsa pasta
Pasta is a phenomenal college student staple: It is cheap, has an awesome shelf life and goes with almost anything. Cheat by tossing fresh cooked pasta with jarred marinara or alfredo sauce, or ramp things up a bit by tossing it with vegetables, cooked chicken or cheese. Pick up a salad from a grocery store salad bar for an easy, complete meal.
3. Everything fried rice
Fried rice is an excellent way to put your leftovers to good use! Toss cold, cooked white rice in a wok or large skillet along with leftover meat, vegetables, eggs or just about anything else your little heart desires. Season with a little soy sauce and (if you have it) a drizzle of sesame oil for a tasty meal in minutes.
4. Peanut butter bliss
PB&J might just be the perfect meal: It is cheap, easy and full of protein and fiber (assuming you choose a good quality whole grain bread). This standby never really goes out of style, but you can always update it by playing with different nut butters and accompaniments, like almond butter, honey or fresh banana.
5. Anything sandwich
Have you noticed almost anything works on bread? Leftover meatballs? Toss them on some bread and enjoy a meatball sandwich. Extra chicken? Make some chicken salad. Sandwiches are affordable and you don't have to be a culinary student to make a tasty combo. They're portable, too!
6. Simmer down
We admit that simmering soups and stews can take some time, but very little of it is hands-on. Toss some meat, veggies and/or beans with some stock for a simple, heart-warming dish. Cheater recipe: 2 cans of white beans, browned Italian sausage, spinach (or kale) and chicken broth. Easy peasy.
7. Half baked pizza
Store-bought pizza crusts (either the half-baked type or the uncooked dough) make for a speedy, student-approved dinner. Top it with whatever you like (or whatever you have), toss it in the oven and kiss your delivery guy goodbye.
8. Roll with it
You know how we said almost anything works on bread? That goes double if you have a tortilla. Throw leftover meat, beans and cheese on, roll it up, and you're set. Another great option: Eggs, bacon and either beans or potatoes. Make a dozen and freeze them for a super speedy weeknight meal down the road.
9. Go fish
Seafood has a reputation for being expensive and difficult to prepare, but it is entirely unearned. Some varieties, like tilapia or cod, are very economical, and most are very easy to make -- just drizzle with olive oil and sear in a skillet until it flakes easily (flipping once). Jazz things up with a touch of fresh lemon juice or jarred Cajun seasoning.
10. The musical fruit
It seems every culinary profile has its version of beans and rice, and with good reason: When combined, rice and beans form a cheap and easy complete protein that warms the spirit. Cheaters can use canned beans, but dry are more economical and have a better texture. Favorites include Cuban-style black beans and rice or Cajun red beans and rice.
College cooking: Work smarter, not harder
Kiss prepared foods goodbye! The best way to ensure you always have a fast, healthy meal on stand-by is to simply get in the habit of making more than you need and freezing the leftovers. If you are truly clueless in the kitchen, check and see if there is a make-and-take style cooking store in your area. These snazzy shops provide you with ingredients and recipes for freezer-friendly meals -- make several to stock up.