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Ultra cheap meal ideas? [moved from Home Cooking board]

Seeing as how a lot of young people are off to college right now, I'm looking for ultra cheap recipes to help them survive and eat somewhat healthy but cheap meals. Sure there's ramen noodles, but I don't think there's much nutrition to be had from those. Same for things like hot dogs and the like.

Any ideas?

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  1. I am eating a tortilla espanola I made last night for lunch on a crisp sourdough roll I toasted with some greens, sliced cuke. And I am in heaven!

    Kind of like a take on a bocadillo (spanish sandwich)

    All you need is potatoes, onions and eggs.

    You fry thin sliced rounds of potato (I like the white potato) with some onion in a mess of (I also add a roasted red pepper chopped up - could use pimento rinsed too) olive oil over medium - turning occasionally. Season. Cook till just tender. remove and reserve in bowl.

    Beat some eggs - pour over potato mixture - only enough to cover. Let sit 15 minutes.

    Get a small saute pan hot with some oo. Add mixture - flatten out quickly - cook over med till light brown - invert flip and cook.

    Refrigerate - tastes best at room temp.

    Best lunch I have made for myself in long time - and I am college student as well

    2 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu

      How much would you say your meal costs per serving? Ideally I'd like to try and keep it under $3. At $1.50 it would be perfect.

      Kind of reminds me of the what Tyler Florence faced on Shaq's Big Challenge when he was trying to get the schools to move away from things like pizza and chicken nuggets to something healthy and nutritious. Have to say that I really enjoyed this show, but that's getting off topic.

      1. re: bigsuff

        well, how much do you eat? eggs cost less than 50 cents a pop. Potatoes....what 79 cents a pound. onions about the same. Olive oil isnt that cheap but goes far.

        Your guess is good as mine. I take that you wont be eating these meals personally..."Help them survive." No?

    2. Tuna salad (cans are cheap, and healthy w.fat free mayo or mustard or sriracha, have college kids raid the cafe for free condiement packs) or cole slaw (bags are like a dollar and will make at least a weeks worth of servings w.vinegar+sugar and maybe raisins).

      Corn tortillas (pack of a billion for like a dollar) & cheese make good quesadillas. Add whatever meat or veggies are on sale.

      Grocery store fridge or bakery day old bagels in the oven make good pizzas.

      1. I'm sure a lot depends on the kitchen tools and cooking/food storage facilities available to the varying college crowds....I would say that those resources + TIME are limiting factors. I starting cooking for myself during sophmore year of college (without a lot of cooking, planning or budgeting skills) to save money, so I guess I'm curious if there's more specific limitations than simply "college".

        Assuming that there's access to a full kitchen, a search for "inexpensive meals" on the Home Cooking board yielded over 100 results filled with great suggestions (though there are probably plenty more!) Notably, rworange did great in-depth reports about how to eat well on $3 or less/day.


        Something that's totally microwave friendly and cheap- rice noodles with peanut sauce. (Unless the rice noodles are ridiculously overpriced in a mainstream market).

        Rice noodles just need a soak in boiling water. Peanut butter + soy sauce + finely-grated ginger root (which lasts a long time) are the basics for a peanut sauce, and soy sauce and peanut butter are often college staples (though the soy sauce has to be halfway decent- something like LaChoy ain't gonna cut it. Trust me, I tried it ;)

        .The "nice" additions (fish sauce, scallions, cilantro, vegetables, meat, etc.) can be quite diverse, and I found peanut noodles a nice way to make a lot out of a little (e.g. stretch a few chicken breast slices or random cooked vegetables into a meal).

        1. I've posted this before but it's cheap and good:

          Boil water to make spaghetti. Put the pasta in for 7 minutes. While the spaghetti is cooking, heat some good olive oil in a frying pan on med high. 2-3 Tblespoons ( I use more). When the oil is very hot, fry two eggs in the oil, taking care not to break the yolks. I like the whites to set completely and the Yolks to stay runny, but fry them as you like. When the spaghetti is done, drain it .Put a serving of the pasta in a bowl and when the eggs are done to your liking, slide them and the oil onto the pasta in your bowl. Add parm (even shaker-bottle parm) and salt and pepper. If you have good eggs, this is a wonderful meal you will have often.

          1. this thread might help...

            I'm a big fan of using a rotisserie chicken for meals. Eat some chicken- then cut up the leftovers for other meals (quesadillas, chicken salads, pizzas..)

            1. Personally, I love me some beans: cheap, versatile, healthy, and delicious. There are so many recipes out there, and many can be done with minimal effort (crock pot, on the stove, or in a pressure cooker).

              My favorites:
              1. Fry some cut-up bacon in a large pot, soften some onion and garlic in the bacon fat, add a couple of cans of black beans, bay leaf, and maybe some tobasco sauce. Let beans simmer a while and then add dried bread crumbs to thicken up.

              2. Take four cans of white beans (I use dried beans, but then again, I'm not a college student anymore), puree one in a blender w/some olive oil, garlic, maybe some sage, and white wine vinegar, and mix half the puree along with 4 oz. of shredded swiss (fontina is better) to the rest of the beans in a casserole pan. Take the other half of the puree, combine with a couple of ounces of shredded cheese and some bread crumbs, use it as a topping and bake in a 350 degree oven until the top is golden brown and bubbling.

              1 Reply
              1. re: martin1026

                Mmmmm-- what a great idea! I can't wait to try this! What's the quantity for dried beans? Maybe a 1 lb bag? I'll do it with dry and I'd love to check this out next week!

                What cheese do you use for the topping? Parm?

                I just made a bean casserole tonight: Mollie Katzen's frijoles con queso. Here's how I do it:

                This too could be done with canned beans, but I used dry. Either way, you need 4 cups of cooked pinto beans, 1 cup yogurt, 4 oz cream cheese, 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack. Mix these together (heat the beans first if using canned -- otherwise swirl the cheeses/yogurt into the hot beans when done cooking).

                In a different pan, sautee a big onion (chopped!), 3 cloves garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, some cayenne and black pepper (spicy!). Mix this into the beans -- spread in two-quart casserole dish.

                Next layer -- easy: sautee 1 zucchini, chopped, with a pinch of oregano, basil, salt pepper. Add in two chopped tomatoes. Spread this in a layer atop the beans.

                MK does a cornbread topping, but I much prefer it as is, served with good hot corn tortillas for scooping up the creamy goodness. Mmmmm. This is just delicious! Leftovers are excellent too, great reheated.

                1. re: robgm

                  The book Fast Cheap Easy is an excellent resource for those looking for cheap meal ideas. While the book is oriented toward families, it features recipes that are mostly less than $2 a serving. It has lots of common sense and is like a home economics class in a single book. I use it often when I want to cook out of my pantry staples instead of going to the store to spend more money on groceries.

                  1. re: pinkboa

                    Oops, I wrote the wrong name of the book -- It's Fast Cheap Good.

                2. Teach them how to make polenta. (Down south we called it mush; it's pretty much the same thing.) Very simplest possible recipe: mix water and corn meal in a 3:1 ratio (3 c. water, 1 c. corn meal). Add some salt (more than you think you should, really). Put it over medium heat and stir constantly till it starts to boil; then keep stirring till it's nice and thick. You can eat it just like that, warm with a little parmesan cheese or something on it. Or you can pour it into a greased dish of some sort (like a loaf pan) and put it in the refrigerator, then slice it and fry it in a little butter or olive oil.

                  At one point when I was really broke my favorite lunch was polenta fried in olive oil, topped with lentils.

                  1. I may not have recipes, but I do know how to buy cheap meat. Chicken hindquarters, ground turkey, pork steak...beef that isn't as lean may be cheaper but it's far from a good value, considering how much cooks out as fat. Buy a ham hock to flavor a pot of beans, which is probably one of the cheapest things you could ever make. High in fiber and very filling.

                      1. Send them to school with a crock-pot. My son's first cooking was chili in his dorm room when he got tired of dining hall food. A line soon formed at his door.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Querencia

                          Chili is a great idea, and to stretch it out and thicken it up, I suggest adding TVP, a great cheap alternative to meat protein source.

                          Quesadillas w/ low fat cheese and wheat tortillas

                          Lentil, bean or quinoa salads

                          Oats mixed with protein powder and microwaved or crock potted

                          Polenta squares w/ ratatouille

                          Cottage cheese with many mix-ins

                          Also, consider stopping at 99 cent stores and cooking based upon inspiration there... I found canned shiitake mushrooms, hearts of palm and marinated artichoke hearts last time and was quite inspired to a great egg white omelette. A lot of them also have a lot of fresh produce.

                        2. In college I made falafel about once a week. I bought the prepackaged mix and I didn't fry it, I just broiled or pan fried using some Pam or a brush of olive oil. Very cheap to make. super quick and easy, relatively healthy especially if you add fresh veggies on top!

                          1. my freshman and sophomore years of college in the dorm I had to share a kitchen with 50 other people and a small refrigerator with one other girl. luckily my roomate was thai so her version of cheap cooking was still interesting food to me: we kept a bag of frozen shrimp -yes, shrimp - they don't need to be pre-defrosted and the serving size works out to less than $1. this is convenient in terms of always having protein on hand that won't go bad. of course eggs work this way too. fried rice using rice from a rice steamer, onions, thai chili paste, fish sauce, shrimp, eggs, carrots or whatever. alternatively the fried rice can be seasoned with just a little salt or pepper. this is a very fast meal, especially if you put the rice on before you leave in the morning.
                            other cheap n 'fast: chick peas with a small amount of canned or fresh tomato, garlic, and parsley over pasta.
                            one of my personal favorites from the still lean years after college: aglio e olio - linguine or penne cooked al dentet with garlic, salt, pepper, and good parmesan. a little vegetable (i like broccoli rape) fried in with the garlic makes it a complete mea.
                            i advise the person to invest in a few good quality ingredients: a decent olive oil like colavita, imported parmigiano, some sea salt, maybe a pepper grinder. also the tools: a larger pot, a rice-cooker, a frying pan, and a wooden spoon. also some plates for themselves so that it feels like they're having a real meal. the rest is inconsequential. whatever's on sale with eggs/pasta/both. oh and lemon adds flavor to almost anything.

                            1. Lentil soup. My recipe goes like this, but it can easily be altered, and is very forgiving.

                              Sautee three cloves garlic and 1 large chopped onion in the bottom of a large soup pot.

                              Once the onion is translucent, add a can of tomatoes, and let this all stew together for a few minutes.

                              Add around 6 cups of chicken stock (I imagine veg. stock would work just fine here too). Add more or less stock depending on desired thickness.

                              Add the lentils (around one cup, I use brown lentils) and season the soup with salt, pepper, some cumin, and some red pepper flakes.

                              Once the lentils are tender, add some greens - you could use spinach, rapini, or any other bitter green.

                              I serve it with some good parmesan grated on top and crusty bread, but people on a budget could just toast some regular whole wheat toast and that would be yummy too.

                              - around 1.00 for garlic and onion
                              - 1.25 for can of tomatoes
                              - .75 for lentils
                              - .25 for spices
                              - 1.00 - 5.00 for stock (you can use powdered if you are really on a budget, or organic)
                              - 2.00 for greens

                              total: Max $10.25

                              Can be frozen and lasts for several days in the fridge.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Keramel

                                If you save chicken and turkey necks and other extras in your freezer (as a pinched-budget person should) you can make your own stock and save a bundle over cans of Swanson's.

                                If your locale is good for foraging, you can come up with field greens, like mustard or dandelion greens.

                                1. re: Sharuf

                                  Definitely! I just thought that college students might not be likely to make their own stock. And they might not have much freezer room to store it, if they live with roommates.

                                  1. re: Keramel

                                    College dorm fridges don't usually have room for a bunch of chicken and turkey necks. I think they'd be better off buying a small jar of chicken base. It costs about the same as three or four cans of stock but holds the equivalent of about 40.

                              2. Among my more common meals in college:
                                Fried rice (rice, eggs, chinese leftovers, garlic, frozen veg, soy sauce)
                                Herbed pasta (linguine, garlic, butter, olive oil, Italian herbs, parmesan)
                                Pork shoulder (roasted with seasoned salt, garlic, pepper, parsley, herbs or just BBQ sauce)
                                Eggs in purgatory (eggs poached in pasta sauce over bread or pasta)
                                Thai spaghetti (peanut sauce, cabbage, canned chicken, carrots, cilantro, cucumber, spaghetti)
                                Mixed adobo (chicken and pork braised in soy sauce, bay leaves, peppercorns and vinegar)
                                Cheesy rice (rice, corn, salsa, onions, garlic, carrots, green peppers, shredded cheese)
                                Roast chicken and veg (whole or quartered chicken, olive oil, garlic, salt, mustard, thyme, fennel, asparagus, potatoes)
                                Chicken "cacciatore" (spaghetti sauce, chicken quarters, green peppers, mushrooms, pasta, garlic, olive oil)
                                Black bean garlic chicken and veg (oil, garlic, black bean sauce, chicken, green beans)

                                To be sure there were a lot of hot dogs, burgers and frito casseroles during those lean years, but chicken usually was less than a $1 per pound so I ate that nearly everyday, which is why I now hate chicken (after eating every possible permutation for 4 years). Pork shoulder is usually around 89 cents/lb. for me, so I sometimes made that on Sundays for my roommate and his girlfriend. As long as you have a kitchen, you can live somewhat healthily.

                                1. Teach them how to shop smart. There is no reason they have to eat poorly. Eggs are $2/dozen -- make omelettes, quiches, fritattas. Shrimp can be had for $6/lb -- stir-fry with lots of veggies to stretch the protien. Salmon for $5/lb - with pasta and cream sauce or steamed vegetables goes a long way. Chicken thighs for $1.5/lb., bake, barbeque, fry, etc. Vegetables in season are cheap. Hamburger is $2/lb. - hamburgers, meatloaf, sloppy joes, chili, chili mac, etc. Noodles and beans are cheap. Jarred pasta sauce is cheap when on sale. It's all about putting them together in (somewhat) healthful combinations. Send them a few of the many cooking healthy cheap cookbooks out there for Asian or Mediterranean food (borders always has a bunch of close-outs), a bunch of spices, soy sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and/or ready made seasoning packets, bean soup mixes, and/or bottled spice mixes for Indian, Thai, or Chinese dishes with recipes on the back and let them experiment. Oh, and my favorite cheap and easy trick, add cut up veggies like broccoli, red peppers, zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower, etc., to boiling pasta during the last two minutes of cooking and then drain and toss with your favorite jarred sauce (white or red). This also works to boost boxed mac and cheese.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Ellen

                                    I live in southern Iowa, and around here you can find chicken hindquarters (leg and thigh still attached to each other) for .39 a pound. It was very lucky for me when I was at my poorest! lol

                                  2. I think that menu planning can be critical. The thing is, in the States, you are not likely to go shopping daily, and even if you buy the cheapest ingredients, if you end up throwing them away, you're wasting money. If there is a kitchen, then housemates could each make one soup, stew, anything freezable, one day a week and split into single serves to freeze so that there would always be something when needed. A good grocery list of things to get that don't go bad immediately might be:
                                    eggs, potatoes, canned tuna, pasta, good, sliced bread that be stuck in the freezer, olive oil, balsamic, cans of blackeyed peas, black beans, cannellini, lentils, or plum tomatoes, fresh onions, garlic, carrots, ginger, hardy greens that will last longer than others like collards, or swiss chard, a bag of apples, and from that you can make a lot! fayefood.com

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: fayehess

                                      My favorite comfort food: Eggy-Noodle. Boil some egg noodles, chuck 'em in a pan with plenty of butter and crack an egg or two over the top. Mix, cook and serve. I always keep cheap egg noodles in the cabinet for this reason.

                                      1. re: GilloD

                                        Or spread on some cottage cheese and s+p. It's Bubbi comfort food.

                                    2. Perhaps not too chow-ish other than being pretty tasty, one of my college staples was: 1 package of 'noodles and sauce', 1 block frozen spinach, 1 lb ground beef. All prepared & mixed, made a huge amount of food for a couple bucks with at least a reasonable inclusion of the food groups.

                                      1. One of my now favorites that I wish I knew about when I was in college is Thai curry. It stretches the protein you use out nicely, has plenty of fresh veggies (something you never get enough of in college), and is easier to make than Hamburger Helper. Just be sure you pick up the essential curry paste at an Asian grocery store... around here you can get a huge tub at an Asian grocery store for what the regular grocers charge for enough for one or two meals.

                                        1. I must say one of my favourite cheap foods is beans on toast. All you need is a microwave and a toaster

                                          Depending on how hungry you are you can take a full or a half can of baked beans (Heinz is best) Heat those in the microwave. Meanwhile make 2 pieces of toast. If you can afford some cheese put the cheese on the toast the second that it comes out of the toaster. Top with the hot beans and eat.

                                          This'll cost you maybe if you use very expensive bread and good cheese $1.50

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: gnaremoob

                                            this is quite close to one of my favorites, beans on a potato! Microwave for a few minutes, and yum. Best of all is black beans on a sweet potato topped with salsa, but I learned in England that "jacket potatoes" are not only common but topped with a huge variety of things- coleslaw, sausage, eggs.... A trend I would love to import...

                                            1. re: chocolatstiletto

                                              A great cheap breakfast at our house: Baked potato, with refried beans, and cottage cheese and salsa on top. We call them "Carbo-Protein bombs."

                                              1. re: chocolatstiletto

                                                im from england and the way i cook my jacket potatoes are as follows:-
                                                cook inoven until soft inside crispy outside - cut in half and scoop out the potatoe mash wth butter and cheese then put back into the potatoe push the 2 halves together and place grated cheese on top. cook in oven agen for 20mins until cheese as melted and turned golden brown. top wth heinz beans. delicious n very cheap

                                                1. re: della1973

                                                  That sounds good, apart from the beans. I might do this.

                                                  1. re: della1973

                                                    wow. I'm definitely doing this. I'm from The northeast were I ate baked beans EVERY Saturday night (and on toast for breakfast if there were any left on sunday.) I already know I will love this. Thanks for posting.

                                              2. Chicken and rice. I started making this when I was young, married and barely making ends meet. Get a package of chicken thighs (or legs or leg quarters). Skin them. Season them and brown in olive or veg oil. Remove chicken. Add shallot or diced onion and garlic to skillet and let get tender. Add I cup of rice and black pepper. Let rice just start getting toasty and add 1 can of tomatoes, 1 can of black beans (rinsed and drained) and 1/2 cup water or chicken stock. I sometime use a can or Ro-tel and up the water/stock to 1 cup). Bring to a boil, add chicken back in, cover and cook about 25 minutes. Remove lid and let thicken if necessary. For leftovers I take the meat off the bone and mix with the rice and take for lunch.

                                                1. What creative suggestions! all it takes are hunger and ingenuity and the desire to eat well anyway.

                                                  My sons each went off to college with a non stick skillet, a pan for boiling, a pyrex baking dish, and a good knife. Instead of recipes, I gave them formulas that they could adapt for whatever they had at hand. I urged them to always have onions, garlic, olive oil, canned tomatoes, assorted pastas and noodles, tuna, beans, eggs, frozen veggies, yogurt and frozen fruit (breakfast smoothies with protein powder)....as well as chicken breasts (big pack, frozen individually) and frozen shrimp and squid. They made

                                                  a, pasta or rice with tuna/tomatoes/olives/chicken/egg and bacon/shrimp/spinach/mushrooms/beans/squid, etc.

                                                  b, stir fries with the above plus leftover rice or soba cooked right in the skillet

                                                  c, baked chicken/pork chop with potato/carrot/onion/tomato/celery/spinach/mushrooms etc.

                                                  d, eggs scrambled with diced boiled potato/onion/tomato/ham/spinach/cheese/mushroom, etc.

                                                  I don't know how many variations they came up with, I'm sure some were better than others, but they are all creative and adventuresome cooks and eaters.

                                                  1. Making big batches and freezing some. This can be done with soups and stews. Onions, garlic, and stock (try Job Lot!) can be obtained relatively cheaply. Then buy one feature ingredient for the soup (carrots, eggplant, broccoli, mushroom, etc) and most college kids will have milk around for cereal anyway, or half-and-half for coffee, to make the soups creamy.

                                                    Cheap, easy creamy carrot dill soup: sautee four big carrots, sliced into thin rounds, with one onion chopped, several Tbsp fresh dill, in 2Tbsp butter for 10 mins, til onions are soft. Add one big carton broth (4 cups) and bring to boil, simmer with cover 35 mins til carrots are tender. Blend -- an immersion blender would be a cool gift for a college student (though I'm seeing soup smattering all over the ceilings!), or a regular blender (smoothies, milkshakes, etc). Serve with bread, croutons, swirl on storebought (or homemade!) pesto for some pizazz. Once blended, reheat only the portion to eat that night, and add in some milk or cream. The rest can be frozen in double-Ziploc containers, with labels, in individual portions. Pop in freezer, and take out again day you're craving soup.

                                                    Roasted eggplant soup -- cut eggplant and several plum tomatoes in half lengthwise, and quarter an onion. Roast for 40mins. Remove eggplant from skin, and toss eggplant pulp with toms and onion, add 4 cups broth, heat, blend. Also great with a little cream and some croutons. Surprisingly elegant and smoky!

                                                    1. Stew! cheap cut of meat + veggies and stock, put in a pan and boil.

                                                      Soup? Need a blender.

                                                      1. A few desperately cheap suggestions.
                                                        1. Macaroni and cheese from the box. You can add the following if you have it. A can of vienna sausages or some leftover ground beef, taco meat. You could even add some sauteed vegetables.
                                                        2. Rice with a can of soup poured over it. Don't water the soup down as much as you would for soup.
                                                        3. Tomato soup with some cooked ground beef added or you could add some veggies or maybe some pasta like bowties or rice.
                                                        4. Spaghetti noodles with pasta sauce. add ground beef or sausage if you like.
                                                        5. a crock pot stew. There are multiple recipes for this on web.
                                                        6. A can of white cannelloni beans add some chunks of ham or even spam.
                                                        7. Add the left over meat of your choice to ramen noodles.
                                                        8. Eggs are cheap. scrambled eggs and a little sausage sprinkled in is hard to beat. add cheese and put it in a flour tortilla - breakfast burritos. Beat some eggs and add it to hot spaghetti noodles. add cheese if you have it.

                                                        That ought to keep you going when you are pretty much out of money and payday isn't for 3 more days.

                                                        1. Favoite cheap eat Potato Pasta
                                                          bake 2 med potatoes-not overcooked-slice lenthwise then into 1/2 moons to cool. heat 2/3 cup evvo in saute pan place potatoes fleash side down in pan.When potatoes just start to brown and 12 or so minced garlic cloves and 1 or 2 dried chile peppers. Finish browning potatoes watch heat a bit tricky not to burn garlic-brown is fine. Pour over 3/4 pound cooked angel hair pasta mix top with parm cheese. Serve with crusty bread.


                                                          1. I once did a weeks shopping for less than £4; 20 frozen fish fingers, eggs, 20 frozen sausages, bread, and some butter.

                                                            1. Mine:
                                                              --Quesadillas (not just cheese--try canned (NOT pie filling!) pumpkin puree with green onions and pepper jack cheese, dip in green salsa with or without some avocado if on sale)

                                                              --I second corn tortillas in large packages (though still not available in every market in country--just most!), use for chiliquilies (egg, tomato sauce, salsa, shredded corn tortilla), and one of my fave ultra cheap meals:

                                                              QUICKIE FISH TACOS: Use decent-quality frozen fish sticks (wait for a sale; there's a Dr. Praeger's brand that's pretty good quality). While fish sticks heating in oven, wrap corn tortillas in small batches in foil, put in oven when fish half done. Toppings are thinly shredded cabbage (sometimes the bagged shredded cabbage is on sale for cheaper than whole cabbage!), green salsa, lime, cilantro, green onions (sometimes I heat the cabbage with salsa and a little water on the stove, just a little, to make the cabbage a bit more digestible). If avocados on sale and ripe, add those; you could also make a mix of sour cream (or mexican crema), chopped cilantro, green onion, lime, jalapenos, etc. Serve with salad or (if on sale) boxed tomato or squash soup (add a little salsa or spice, top with cilantro, roasted shelled (green) pumpkin seeds, green onions, crema, and/or shredded cheese).
                                                              If no access to oven (even toaster oven would work), buy fish fillets, cook on stovetop, and heat corn tortillas on stovetop.
                                                              Depending on what's on sale, this meal can come in under $1.60 per person!

                                                              Rice cooker is a good investment, though honestly I still make a lot of white rice on the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed stockpot I got at Ikea.
                                                              I still eat a lot of LEFTOVER RICE fried with any combo of these: green onions, eggs, corn, tofu, leftover fish, veggie chorizo or half-dried sausage, minced carrots, frozen peas, bean sprouts, black bean garlic sauce, hot sauce + soy sauce, hoisin sauce, shredded cabbage, etc. etc. etc.

                                                              I also like OKONIMIYAKI (savory pancakes) as I make them: shredded cabbage and carrot, nori sprinkles, a bit of sliced fish cake, green onions, a few peas, some mung bean sprouts, mixed into batter of egg & flour, cooked like a pancake on lightly oiled pan. Serve with sauce of a little worchestire, more ketchup, hoisin, a little honey, little vinegar, little hot sauce, to taste. Ok, I guess this is a very "acquired" taste!

                                                              GRILLED CHEESE is another quick fallback, but make it interesting by making with cheddar, thinly sliced apples, and a schmear of dijon mustard and mango chutney.

                                                              Another CABBAGE dish (cabbage is great, it's cheap and lasts a long time in the fridge):
                                                              slice into ribbons, cook in a little oil with a little minced onion and a slice or two of vegetarian "bacon" or "ham." Before it starts to brown, toss in half a cup or so of beer or broth; cover to cook on low until liquid mostly gone. Toss in thinly sliced apples and a spoonful of stoneground mustard, and some salt, pepper, and paprika. Top with some grated swiss-type cheese (greyere or emmenthaller if you live near a Trader Joe's!). If you have an oven, you can also add a bit of bread crumbs and broil a minute at the end.
                                                              Serve with flat noodles, spatzel, little boiled potatoes, or latkes.

                                                              Another CANNED PUMPKIN dish: use about half a small can, thin with milk, add some both powder and a pinch of garlic powder and paprika and cayenne and butter. Serve as a pasta sauce with fresh shredded parmesean. To make it fancier, add fried shallots and/or sage leaves.
                                                              That's enough for now!

                                                              1. Hehe. Perfect thread for me. I am a poor college student. As a junior, we have gotten very creative in how to eat cheaply. So:
                                                                1. Canned chicken is ridiculously cheap at Aldi's, and if you mix it into something, it tastes fine (tastes better if that something is cooked)
                                                                2. Ramen noodles may not be nutritous alone, but add some chopped veggies and maybe some of that canned chicken, mix, heat and enjoy! (Buy onions, garlic, celery...all pretty darn cheap)
                                                                3. Spaghetti!! (No meat, unless you're livin large...) One can either make their own sauce with small amounts of spices pilfered from mom and dads, or just buy the jarred stuff in the two for one deals...same with pasta. Get the Sunday paper and use the coupons in it.
                                                                4. Baked beans with...anything basically. They're a cheap cheap cheap sidedish. Add a packet or two of ketchup and a packet of sugar from the dining hall, and they taste like baked beans from a restaurant.
                                                                5. Soup! So cheap to buy in cans when it's on sale...and it lasts for a while **tupperware is a great investment btw**
                                                                6. I have a friend who is from puerto rico...he taught me how to make rice and beans...CHEAP. Basically, cook the rice. For the beans, dump a can of kidney beans in a pot, add a packet of Sazon, add a spoonful or two of adobo, and cook about 15-20 minutes until stewed together.
                                                                7. If you have a usable kitchen, ask friends to join and you all buy eggs together, or split a package of chicken. Buying in bulk is really cheap if done with friends.

                                                                These may not be chowhoundish, but they get the job done. :)

                                                                1. cream of mushroom soup on toast or stir a can of tuna into the soup first. Also add a can of tuna to that cheap box of mac and cheese. Another use for cream of mushroom, boil a couple of potatoes, peel and chop, add some sliced turkey or chicken weinies, some canned green beans, stir in the soup and about 1/2 can of water + a tbsp of vinegar and heat all. Will serve four people for about $3.00 depending on cost of winies and how many used. I got these recipes from a great book called the Hard times handbook which has lots and lots of super cheap recipes and also how to live very cheaply and ideas for making money without a regular job. Would be a great girt to college students. I think I pasted this site in right. Hard Times Handbook


                                                                  1. buy the college kid a slowcooker. especially if all they have in the dorm is a microwave. They can make their own bean/beef burriot mixture, chilli, rice meals with ease.

                                                                    the bean veggie beef burrito mixture seems to be a hit with a lot of kids and friends I know. I just combine pinto beans, already cooked ground beef, onion, corn,green pepper, jalopeno, cumin, salt, pepper, and other spices to taste. let sit while I'm at work and then make burritos out, or some like to just it it with toritilla chips, salsa and sour cream.

                                                                    Give them a great chili recipe. it can always be modified into the slow cooker.

                                                                    Wrap sandwiches they are easy to make and are pretty healthy

                                                                    Chicken Salad and Tuna Salad - I believe there is a recipe on the chow site for grown up tuna salad.

                                                                    Another idea for a dorm room with only a microwave is to buy a george forman grill, those things are easy and you can cook anything from panini's, grilled veggies, burgers and chicken. We used to cut up zuccini and throw them in a bag marinated with italian dressing. Then put the slices on the george forman, they were delicious.

                                                                    If they only have a microwave your best bet is to find a good cookbook about microwave cooking, amring them with knowledge will help them.

                                                                    Pasta is a great choice if they have access to a stove (I don't recommend pasta for the microwave, I've tried it, it never seems to come out right) - The kids just need to know some basic things such as how to cook the pasta, learn how to make thier own red sauce and their own cream sauce, or throw the pasta in with salad they can have fun

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                      My daughter lives for her quesadilla maker - she puts everything in a tortilla and cooks it. Eggs, meats, veggies, cheese, etc....

                                                                    2. EGGS: +1 on eggs fried in olive oil, served on pasta w/some fresh grated parmesan. Add some fresh parsley (or spinach for something extra nutritious).
                                                                      Simple omelets--filled w/cheese or mushrooms or green onions or any combination.
                                                                      Fritatta--bake 'til set w/ similar additions and some thinly sliced potatoes for extra bulk.
                                                                      Deviled eggs--mayo, a little mustard, chopped onion (+ capers or a little horseradish or chopped green onions or pickles0. again, all kinds of possibilities.
                                                                      Egg salad sandwiches, w/lettuce or spinach.

                                                                      DRIED BEANS: a pound of black beans and a few other ingredients (onion, garlic, cumin, maybe some oregano) will make a large pot of soup.
                                                                      Red beans and rice--one pound of beans, water, onion, garlic, bay leaf, pepper + rice (brown for nutrition) makes several meals. (If you want it smoky or with a bit of meaty flavor, buy a smoked ham hock or a couple of slices bacon or a link of smoked sausage to cook with the beans).
                                                                      Ditto w/white beans.
                                                                      Lentils--soups, salads, with rice.

                                                                      TORTILLAS: puree leftover red beans, add some cheese, and fresh chopped onion or green onion and roll into a tortilla for a filling "burrito."
                                                                      Tortilla "pizzas"--endless possibilities. Olive oil, cheese, spinach, cherry tomato halves, thinly sliced onion; tomato sauce, cheese (+ sliced onion, olives, capers); olive oil, cheese, mushrooms that have been sauteed w/garlic; olive oil; leftover chicken, mushrooms, parsley or spinach.
                                                                      Quesadillas--cheese (+ mushrooms or chicken or spinach or onions or olives or any combo)

                                                                      ROAST CHICKEN: even a store bought roast chicken can be very economical. After making a meal on some of the parts w/salad or rice and/or beans, leftovers can make additional meals of chicken sandwiches or chicken salad, can go into quesadillas or simple enchiladas--fill and roll tortillas; make a simple sauce by cooking onion, garlic, chopped tomatillos or green tomato, a little jalapeno, maybe some spinach, and add chicken stock or broth and puree. Pour over enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese.

                                                                      PASTA: make a simple meatless tomato sauce w/olive oil a little onion and/or garlic, canned tomatoes, pinch of basil and oregano and serve w/pasta.
                                                                      Pasta w/olive oil and garlic (and steamed broccoli for extra nutrition) and some grated parmesan--or w/sauteed mushrooms and parsley--or capers and olives.
                                                                      Baked ziti--w/meatless tomato sauce and some chunks of mozzarella. Splurge and toss in the cooked meat from inside a link or two of Italian sausage. Or leftover chicken if you have some. A pound will go a very long way.

                                                                      CANNED TUNA: sandwiches or a hearty salad made by mixing tuna w/ olive oil, a can of drained cannelini beans, some chopped red onions (and parsley and capers if you like; toss in lome leafy greens and tomatoes if you have some and or achopped, hard-boiled egg).

                                                                      WHATEVER FRESH VEGGIES ARE ON SALE: fresh asparagus are cheap right now, for instance. Pasta tossed w/ beaten egg, some parmesan, and lightly steamed or sauteed asparagus pieces is nutritious and delicious. Also eggs baked 'til barely set with asparagus and a few gratings of parm is heavenly. Asparagus stir fried with mushrooms, sliced green onion, and carrots is delicious. Served w/a rice, it's dinner.

                                                                      1. Beans and lentils are cheap and nutritious. I think getting a nutritious meal is very important, not just filling yourself with pasta. So try looking for vegan recipes, since they often make good use of beans and lentils, and also leave out other expensive items like cheese. Even if you never want to be vegan, you can get good ideas from people who want to make their restricted diet taste as good as possible.