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Cheap student meals to try


Sarah Marsh - November 25, 2020

Student meals should be cheap, nourishing, and quick to make in your student accommodation

If you’re looking for cheap recipes to add to your repertoire, look no further. We’ve found the best student meals you can make for less than £3 per serving.

Sweet potato and chickpea curry

This Jamie Oliver recipe should be a staple for every student. Packed with nutrients and simple to make, you can freeze what’s left for meals throughout the week. This curry can freeze for up to 3 months, so it’s really handy for days you’re too busy to cook.

Cost per serving: £2.17

Servings: 6 people (great for freezing leftovers)

What you’ll need:

  • olive oil
  • 2 red onions
  • 3 tablespoons rogan josh paste
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 3cm piece of ginger
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander
  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400ml tin light coconut milk
  • 400g spinach

Here’s how you make it:
Heat up some oil in a large saucepan (medium heat will do).

Chop the onions and add to the pan, along with your curry paste. Allow these to cook for around 10 minutes (until the onions are soft) and stir every so often.

Prepare the veg for the curry. Chop the chilli into thin pieces and grate the ginger. Chop the coriander stalks, removing the leaves for later. Cut the sweet potatoes into small chunks. Drain the can of chickpeas.

Add all the above to the saucepan (bar the coriander leaves) and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the can of chopped tomatoes, plus 200ml of water. Bring to boil.

Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the cover and cook for 15 more minutes, or until the sweet potato is cooked through.

Add the coconut milk and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in your spinach until it wilts.

Serve up with coriander leaves scattered on top. This curry works well with rice and poppadoms.

Tuna and broccoli pasta bake

Pasta bakes are ideal for students. They’re incredibly cheap and easy to make, with the option to save leftovers for another time. Plus, you can tweak the recipe to use up whatever ingredients are already in your fridge.

We’ve found this brilliant BBC good food recipe to get you started.

Cost per serving: £2.17

Servings: 4

What you’ll need:

  • 2 x 185g cans tuna in olive oil
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomato with garlic and herbs
  • 350g dried pasta
  • 300g broccoli
  • 200g pack light soft cheese
  • 100g cheddar, finely grated
  • 25g breadcrumb

Here’s how you make it:
Drain the can of tuna and save the olive oil. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan and add the tomatoes, plus 200ml water. Allow this to simmer while you cook your pasta in a separate saucepan.

Chop your broccoli into small florets

Add the broccoli to the cooking pasta for the final 3 minutes. Drain once cooked and save some of the cooking water.

Turn on your grill. Add the soft cheese into the tomato mix until it melts, then mix with the pasta, broccoli, and drained tuna (plus a bit of the reserved pasta water if the sauce looks too thick). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the cheddar and breadcrumbs over the top. Grill the bake for about 5 minutes, until it looks golden and bubbling.

Chicken noodle stir-fry

Tasty, satisfying, and cheap to make. This chicken noodle stir-fry is a winning student recipe that ticks all the boxes. And with plenty of protein and vegetables, this hearty meal could help stave off the dreaded freshers flu.

Another Jamie Oliver favourite, this recipe is ideal for students.

Cost per serving: £1.86

Serves: 4

What you’ll need:

  • ½ a bunch of fresh coriander
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 5 cm piece of ginger
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 lime
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2  chicken breasts
  • 250g medium egg noodles
  • 50g unsalted cashew nuts
  • vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

Here’s how you make it:
Prepare the veg. Pick the coriander leaves off and chop the stalks. Peel and finely slice the garlic and ginger, and thinly slice the spring onions. Deseed the chilli and cut the lime into wedges. Trim, peel, and thinly slice the carrots. Cut the broccoli into small florets.

Slice the chicken into thin 1cm strips.

Cook the egg noodles as per packet instructions, then drain and quickly rinse under cold water. Drain the water and add a splash of oil, and put to one side.

Lightly toast the cashew nuts by frying them in a pan until golden. Tip them on a plate and put to one side.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan. Season the chicken strips with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Fry the chicken for around 3 minutes, or until golden.

Add the coriander stalks, garlic, and ginger, and fry for another minute.

Add the spring onion, carrots, and broccoli and fry for another 2 minutes. Then add the cooked noodles and fry until the noodles are warm and the chicken completely cooked through.

Stir in the soy sauce and fish sauce, then take off the heat.

Serve up, with the cashew nuts and coriander leaves sprinkled on top. Squeeze the wedge of lime over the noodles to taste.

Veggie chilli and nachos

Vegetarian-friendly and packed with flavour, this hearty recipe is perfect for any spice-loving student. Once you’ve bought all the necessary herbs and spices, they’ll last you for ages – meaning you can make this recipe again for much less.

This delicious menu is incredibly simple and cheap to make.

Cost per serving: £1.63

Serves: 6

What you’ll need:

  • Olive or sunflower oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 mixed bell peppers
  • 2 dried ancho chillies, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then roughly chopped
  • two tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, sliced
  • 460g passata
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 500ml vegetable stock, hot
  • 400g can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Bunch fresh coriander
  • Juice ½ lime, plus wedges to serve
  • 200g bag tortilla chips
  • 100g strong cheddar or vegetarian alternative, grated
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 3 pickled jalapeños from a jar, chopped

Here’s how you make it:
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7.

Prepare the veg. Roughly chop the onion and slice the peppers. Finely chop the coriander stalks and leaves.

Heat some oil in a large pan or casserole dish and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another 10 minutes.

Add the ancho chillies, spices, oregano, and garlic. Fry for around 3 minutes.

Stir in passata, red wine vinegar, palm sugar, and vegetable stock. Bring to boil.

Once it’s at boiling point, reduce to medium heat and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the black beans, coriander stalks, and lime juice to the mixture on the hob. Cook for another 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Cover the chilli mix with grated cheese and layers of tortilla chips. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.

Serve up with coriander leaves, jalapenos, and chopped spring onions. Squeeze a wedge of lime over to taste.

Bacon and pea risotto

If you’re looking for a cheap but hearty dish, risotto is perfect. Risotto is simple to make and leaves you feeling full and satisfied.

This BBC goodfood recipe is a failproof recipe for any student looking to try a simple risotto dish. With just a handful of basic ingredients, students can whip up this meal without any fuss. Ideal for batch cooking, you can share this dish with your roommates or freeze the leftovers for later.

Cost per serving: £1.95

Serves: 4

What you’ll need:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • knob of butter
  • 6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1l hot vegetable stock
  • 100g frozen peas
  • grated parmesan

Meals:
Finely chop the onion.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan. Add the onions and fry until they’re soft and lightly browned.

Next place the bacon in the pan and fry for another 5 minutes, until it’s crispy.

Mix in the risotto rice, stir, then add vegetable stock. Bring to the boil.

Once it’s reach boiling point, stir well, then reduce the heat. Cook for around 15-20 minutes, until the rice is nearly cooked through.

Add the frozen peas and cook for another 3-5 minutes until they’re soft.

Serve up with black pepper and parmesan cheese.

Tips to eat for less as a student

Cooking as a student doesn’t have to be expensive. Follow our savvy student tips to make sure you’re eating for less and buying some great meals.

Make group meals

If your roommates are happy to share, you can all save money. As many recipes are designed to serve 4-6 people, you could all chip in for the ingredients for one meal. Not only could this save you money, but cooking together can be a great bonding experience.

Batch cook meals

Don’t fancy sharing? Instead of splitting a dish between your roommates, you can simply freeze/refrigerate the leftovers to eat another time. As you’re only buying the ingredients for one dish, it helps you keep costs low. Plus, this is great tactic for saving time throughout the week.

Freeze meat and bread

Meat and bread have short expiry dates. If your groceries are going off before you get chance to use them, it can be incredibly wasteful. To avoid this, simply freeze any groceries you can.

Buy own-brand

Being a student means you’ll want to save as much money as possible at the shops. A simple way to do this is to avoid brands and stick to the own-brand version. These are nearly always cheaper and there’s often little difference in taste.

Plan your meals in advance

Mapping out your meals in advance can help you stick to your budget. As you already know which ingredients to buy, you’ll avoid reaching for items which could tip your budget over the edge.

Buy online

An online food shop is great when you’re on a strict budget. You’ll be able to see the total cost totting up as you go, and you won’t be as tempted by impulse purchases.