This is a great collection of over 50 cheap student meal and recipe ideas. If you're cooking for yourself for the first time, these recipes will help you cook up delicious meals within your budget. You'll find meat, fish, vegetarian, and vegan student recipes. There are also tips on easy swaps and other student money-saving food ideas. These recipes are perfect for the student lifestyle, whether you're cooking on your own or in a group.
- Student Food Budgeting Tips
- How to make the recipe work for you
- Cheap Vegetarian Student Recipes
- Vegan Student Recipes
- Student Recipes with Meat
- Student Recipes with Fish
- More Student Cheap Meal Ideas
- Budget Student Snack Ideas
- Cheap Student Pizza
- Easy Ingredient Swaps
- Freezer Tips
- Common Foods you can Freeze
- Food Sharing Apps!
Student Food Budgeting Tips
- Try to plan your meals. Start with one day and go from there. If you've bought a bag of spinach for example, find several recipes where you can use it up. Just click the search icon in the top right of your screen.
- Use ingredients you already have!
- Use the freezer if you have one. You can freeze almost anything. Check out the freezer tips below.
- Cook in batches and freeze portions you don't need. Batch cooking often works out cheaper, saves on energy costs, and means you don't need to cook every night.
- Cook with others. This helps to spread the cost of your shopping bills.
- Vegetarian and vegan meals are cheaper than meat and fish-based ones so build some of these into your week.
- Don't be afraid to experiment a little. Check out the easy swaps below.
- Don't waste food! Check out these tips on how to avoid food waste.
How to make the recipe work for you
When you click on the recipe, there's a jump to button to take you straight to a recipe card - or you can read the tips, suggestions, easy swaps, etc in the post. In the recipe card, toggle 'Cook Mode' so your phone doesn't go off when you're making the recipe. All the recipes are written for 4 people, but you can easily change the number of servings. Click on number of servings and use the slider button. The quantity of ingredients will automatically change. If it says to use 1.5 onions, just use 2. This isn't baking and it will work out fine.
Cheap Vegetarian Student Recipes
Incorporating some vegetarian or vegan student recipes into your week is a great way to manage your budget.
Vegan Student Recipes
These Vegan Student Recipes are easy and use simple ingredients to help you keep to your budget. If you wouldn't normally eat a vegan meal, don't be afraid to try these.
Student Recipes with Meat
Whilst meat can be expensive, these are cheaper meat recipes perfect for students. Use more vegetables to make your portions go further. Building some vegetarian meals into your week will allow you to spend slightly more on meat dishes. It also helps you eat a healthy and sustainable diet which is good for you and the environment.
Student Recipes with Fish
Fish can be expensive, but most of these recipes can be made with tinned fish, which is much cheaper and still good for you. Buy tinned salmon and tuna and you'll always have something you can cook for dinner.
More Student Cheap Meal Ideas
There may be times when you really need to stretch your budget. Try these budget meal ideas.
- Pasta and pesto.
- Beans! Nothing wrong with beans on toast.
- Fish finger wraps. You can even add some salad!
- Noodles. Cheap and easy.
- Jacket potato. Cook for about 8 minutes in a microwave and add toppings.
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- Tuna melt (add tinned tuna to your cheese and melt under the grill)
- Omelette - great for using up leftovers. Add some cheese and finish it off under the grill. (don't put plastic pan handles under the grill)
- Soup - most vegetables can be made into a soup. Start with an onion, add some stock and other vegetables, season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer. Use potato to thicken it and put it through a blender if you have one.
Budget Student Snack Ideas
Buying snacks can easily take up lots of your budget. Try some of these cheaper options when you need something extra.
- Toasted bagel
- Tinned Rice pudding starts around 29p
- Fresh Fruit
- Raw vegetables and dip (carrots, cucumber, celery)
- Cheese and crackers
- Yoghurt and banana or other fruit or granola.
- Celery and cream cheese
- Smashed avocado on toast
- Tinned fruit in its own juice
- Hard boiled eggs
- Banana sandwiches -add peanut butter or chocolate spread
- Jelly - you need to make it in advance but it's super cheap.
- Rice Cakes -top with peanut butter
Cheap Student Pizza
Almost everyone loves pizza, but take-out pizzas are expensive. You can make your own. For the base, use one of the following. Use a little passata or tomato puree then just add toppings and cheese.
- Tortilla wraps
- Flatbread - check out this easy 3 ingredient flatbread recipe
- Baguettes cut in half longways
- Pitta Bread
- Plain naan bread
Easy Ingredient Swaps
Don't worry if you haven't got all the ingredients you need for these recipes. Most of the time, it won't matter too much. Whilst baking cakes requires precision, cooking dinner doesn't. Here are some simple student swaps you can make.
- Tomato Puree - use a tablespoon of tomato ketchup.
- Groundnut oil or other types of oil - use any vegetable, sunflower, or olive oil.
- Fresh Lemons - use bottled lemon juice and keep it in the fridge.
- Mince - Quorn mince is cheaper and can be cooked from frozen.
- Fresh herbs - use dried. As a general rule, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon of dried. Dried herbs should be cooked in however so if the fresh herbs are sprinkled on the top once the meal is cooked, just leave them out.
- Fresh garlic - use garlic paste in a tube.
- Fresh ginger - use ginger puree or minced ginger.
- Fish Stock - less common in recipes so use vegetable stock instead.
- Beef, chicken, lamb stock - just buy one of these, I recommend chicken and use it in all meat-based dishes that ask for stock.
You can freeze most foods. When you put food in the freezer, it's like pressing the pause button. Food will not go off in the freezer. If it's there for a long time, the taste and texture may change, but it will still be safe to eat. Most foods can be frozen for 3-6 months without any change. The most important freezer rule to remember is that you can only freeze food once.
For example, if you get raw chicken out of the freezer, you can cook it and then freeze the cooked chicken. You cannot refreeze the raw chicken. You can defrost a meal for 2 -3 days in the fridge. Make sure cooked food is piping hot before eating it.
Common Foods you can Freeze
Managing a student budget means avoiding foodwaste. These are some common foods you can freeze.
- Mashed potato - shape it into a ball about the size of a snooker ball and freeze it on an open tray. Once frozen, you can put your frozen balls of mash into one bag or container. Defrost them in the microwave.
- Cooked Pasta - cool the pasta and put portion sizes into zip-lock bags. Squeeze out the air. Place it in the freezer. Reheat it in boiling water for a few minutes from frozen.
- Cooked Rice - cool the rice and put portion sizes into zip-lock bags. Squeeze out the air. Place it in the freezer. Reheat it in boiling water for a few minutes from frozen. Don't leave cooked rice sitting around at room temperature as it will grow a bacteria and make you sick.
- Bananas - if your bananas are going brown, peel and chop them and place them in the freezer. Add them to smoothies or defrost and mash them up on toast.
- Bread - you'll rarely get through an entire loaf of bread before it goes off. Take a few slices out and store the rest in the freezer.
- Hard Cheese - (cheddar etc.) If you find a deal on cheese but it's too much to use at once, you can freeze it until you are ready to use it.
- Milk - if you're going away and have some milk left, pop it in the freezer.
- Eggs - break the egg into a cup and whisk the yolk and white together. Put the whisked egg in a container and freeze it.
- Vegetables - most vegetables freeze well. It's handy to have some diced peppers and onions etc in the freezer. Store in an airtight container. You can cook them from frozen.
- Cakes, biscuits - you can freeze these too.
Food Sharing Apps!
As a student, food-sharing apps can help save you money, as well as help in the general fight to reduce food waste! You buy food that would otherwise go to waste at knockdown prices from restaurants, cafes, and shops. The food is perfectly good to eat but often only available at the end of the day.
- Too Good To Go - Buy surprise bags of food at knockdown prices from shops and restaurants nearby. This is a great idea to share with flatmates and you can get some real bargains.
- Olio - another food waste-reducing app. People give food away for free they no longer need. They also now offer other items not just food.
- Karma - a bit like Too Good To Go, except you can see exactly which meals are available to buy at reduced prices from restaurants, cafes, etc nearby.