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5 ½ Healthy Make-ahead Meals on a College Budget

Chickpeas, Quinoa, and veggies prepared on a kitchen counter

At the end of a long day of classes, work, studying and trying to maintain a social life, finding the inspiration and motivation to cook can be hard. Try prepping or cooking your meals in bulk for the week during the weekend so you don’t have to cook (or spend money on takeout) every night. Here are some healthy meals tested and approved by students that make meal planning (on a budget) easier. The estimated cost is based on the variation of ingredients you might use and the servings are merely suggestions based on how hungry you are.

Most of these meals contain ingredients from the Campus Food Pantry. Walk in with your Student ID and walk out with a bag full of FREE groceries. You’ll find a mix of canned goods, dairy products, produce, snacks, frozen food and nonperishable pantry items that varies week to week. Be sure to check their hours and pick a day to stop by!

1) Stuffed bell peppers

Stuffed bell peppers

You could make this filing recipe more Mexican or Italian — both are delicious.

You’ll need:

  • 2 Bell peppers (Green are the cheapest)
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Ground beef or turkey (optional)
  • Salsa or pasta sauce
  • Cheese (optional)

While your rice and meat are cooking, slice your bell peppers in half (each half is a serving). Mix rice, beans and ground beef or turkey (optional) with salsa or pasta sauce and fill each bell pepper half. Pop it in the oven for 10-ish minutes at 350 degrees, sprinkle some cheddar cheese on those bad boys, and voila!

$2.50-3.75 per meal

Makes 2-4 servings

2) One pan chicken, rice and broccoli dish

Chicken, rice, and broccoli in a pan

This makes several meals and is packed with protein You’ll need one large pan and about 20-30 minutes of your time to make this delicious, easy make-ahead meal.

Chop up raw chicken breasts or thighs and add them to a pan with some diced onion, garlic and whatever spices you desire. When the chicken is about halfway cooked, add broccoli (frozen or fresh), one cup of rice and two cups of chicken broth. Put a lid over your pan, walk away and let it simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. That’s it! You can also top it off with chopped spinach and shredded cheese.

$2-4 per meal

Makes 6 servings


3) Quinoa salad

Quinoa salad ingredients

This salad is filling and gives you a balance of grains, protein and veggies. It’s another mix and match recipe you can easily make in bulk.

Here’s one variation:

  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Kale
  • Dried cranberries
  • Carrots
  • Feta
  • Hummus (mixed with lemon and water to make a creamy dressing)

A veggie-filled version:

  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Arugula or spinach or red leaf lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Italian dressing

$2.35-4 per meal

Makes 4-5 servings


4) Sheet pan meal

Meet and veggies on a sheet pan

This may be one of the easiest meals you can make ahead ever. Prep by cutting up all your ingredients. Here are some ingredient ideas you can mix and match:

  • Chicken sausage
  • Red onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Gnocchi
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers

Throw all your ingredients on a sheet pan, stick it in the oven for roughly 20 minutes at 400 degrees, and BOOM, you have dinner. Scoop everything into a bowl and top it off with pesto or other sauce you like.

$3.50-4.50 per meal

Makes 3 servings

5) Elevated ramen

Ramen being prepared

Tired of plain old ramen? Add some pizzazz to this simple college staple. While you boil your noodles, make this awesome sauce:

  • Put butter and garlic in a saucepan (measure with your heart) and let simmer
  • Add soy sauce (and a lil brown sugar for a sweeter flavor)
  • Add the ramen noodle to your sauce and crack an egg in it
  • Stir until the egg is cooked

Then, you can add whatever ingredients you like:

  • Frozen veggies
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Tofu
  • Chicken
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms

$2-3.75 per meal

Makes 1-2 servings

5 ½) Breakfast for dinner

Pancake, eggs, and fruit with a cup of tea

Some days you just crave the classics! Don’t worry, we won’t add veggies to this meal – you’re welcome.

$1-3 per meal

Makes 1 serving

Learn more about Campus Food Pantry

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