10 Cheap and Easy Meals for College Students

College students need cheap and easy meals they can make when time is limited. Read on for ten simple meal ideas and other tips to save on food costs.

portrait of Erin Treder
by Erin Treder

Published July 8, 2022

Edited by Cameren Boatner
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10 Cheap and Easy Meals for College Students
Image Credit: SolStock / E+ / Getty Images


College life is busy, and for many students, it's the first time they're living on their own. College students need easy meal ideas they can prepare quickly in between classes — or after late night study sessions.

It can be a challenge to learn how to make fast, easy, and cheap college meals if you've never had to do it before. These meal ideas are perfect for college students living on a budget who don't have much time to cook.

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10 Cheap Meals for College Students

Making cheap meals is actually easier than it sounds. These cheap meals for college students are simple and healthier than fast food.

1. Chicken and Veggie Baking Sheet

Price: $1.50 per serving

Time: 30 minutes

This recipe's ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find. Preparation is simple, only requiring a knife and a single dish. This is also a healthy option with many nutrients, perfect for a cheap college meal. You can save the leftover chicken and veggies and use them in other meals later in the week.


2. Tater Tot Casserole

Price: $2.28 per serving

Time: 50 minutes

With only ground beef, soup, tater tots, cheese, and veggies of your choice, you can easily prepare this recipe in a single dish. Pop it in the oven, and soon you'll have a hot and delicious college meal with leftovers to spare.


3. Ramen

Price: $0.25-$0.45 per serving

Time: 2 minutes

Ramen noodles may be one of the cheapest and easiest college meals. All you need to prepare them is water and a microwave. Plus, they're shelf-stable, so you can keep some on hand for a quick meal or snack.


4. Mac and Cheese

Price: $.68 per serving

Time: 15 minutes

Mac and cheese is a classic, and its ease of preparation makes it a tasty, cheap meal for busy college students. To make it, you only need a pot, milk, noodles, and butter. You can also reheat leftovers in a pinch.


5. Two Scrambled Eggs and Toast

Price: $0.78 per serving

Time: 5 minutes

There's nothing like breakfast, no matter what time of day. Eggs are a cheap and filling protein that you can combine with cheese or veggies. Include toast with butter or another topping of choice to round out this cheap college meal.


6. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Price: $1.89 per serving

Time: 10 minutes

Grilled cheese with tomato soup is a true comfort food that college students will find easy to prepare. Bread, cheese, butter, and soup are the only ingredients. Plus, it requires minimal dishes for little cleanup.


7. Baked Ravioli

Price: $1 per serving

Time: 40 minutes

Throw frozen ravioli in a pan and top it with pasta sauce and cheese for a fast, cheap meal. This meal may also leave you with leftovers you can eat throughout the week.


8. Tortilla Wraps

Price: $.20 per tortilla, filling prices may vary

Time: 5 minutes or less

Keep tortillas on hand to roll up quick wraps with deli meat, veggies, or other ingredients. Warm or cold wraps are a creative alternative to the standard sandwich.


9. Baked Potatoes

Price: $.78 per pound of white potatoes, plus toppings

Time: 12 minutes to one hour

A baked potato is a nutritious, cheap, and easy meal that requires a single dish. Just poke a few holes in a potato and put it in the microwave for 12 minutes, or in the oven for 45 minutes. Once it's cooked, top it with cheese, sour cream, meats, or other toppings.


10. Homemade Pizza

Price: $5.57 per pizza, plus extra for veggies and toppings besides cheese

Time: 15 minutes

Make your own pizza using a premade crust or pita. Add your favorite toppings, or get creative with leftover veggies and sauces you have on hand. Baking pizza at home is a quicker and potentially healthier alternative to ordering out for one.

Other Ways to Save on Food Costs in College

There are many other ways to save money on college meals. They might take a little bit of advanced planning, but they will be worth the cost savings.

Meal Prep

Meal prepping is preparing all or some of your food ahead of time so you can still eat well despite a busy schedule. If you can prepare cheap meals ahead of time, divide them into portions, and freeze them for later use, you can save even more money.

Get a Meal Plan

A college meal plan is a prepaid account that allows students to purchase meals on campus. Purchasing a meal plan allows for easy college meals with no cooking, shopping, or budgeting required. Meal plans can save you money depending on the food costs in your area. Costs vary based on options and schools.

Coupon

Plan your shopping trips in advance by making a list of what you need before you head to the store. Stick to your list so you can avoid making impulse purchases. Search for money-saving coupons and access savings apps ahead of time to find the best deals on what you need.

Visit Your College's Food Pantry

If you're having a hard time paying for your groceries, you're not alone. According to the Hope Center, 29% of students at four-year schools reported experiencing food insecurity in 2021. But there is help available. Your college may provide a food pantry you can visit for free. But if not, research local options available off campus.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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