18 Affordable Meal Ideas For College Students 

All students know that college life is hectic and for most students this is their first time living independently, so they may have to learn how to prepare quick, simple, and affordable college meals.

Planning affordable meals might prove to be challenging but in the long run, it is effective and inexpensive.

This article contains a well-researched list of affordable meal ideas for college students.

Affordable Meals Ideas For College Students

1.Chicken and Veggie Baking Sheet

The ingredients for this recipe are reasonably priced and accessible, and only last thirty minutes. 

The only tools needed for preparation are a knife and one dish, and the price per serving is $1.50. 

This is an affordable college meal option that is also nutrient-rich and healthy. The chicken and vegetables that are left over can be saved and used for other meals later in the week.

2. Tater Tot Casserole

College students can easily make this recipe in a single dish using only ground beef, soup, tater tots, cheese, and the vegetables of their choice. 

Put it in the oven, and in fifty minutes you’ll have a nice, delectable college supper with extra leftovers.

3. Ramen

One of the most affordable meal ideas for college students is ramen noodles. 

Water and a microwave are all that are required to prepare them. And you can keep some on hand for a fast lunch or snack because they are shelf-stable.

Even though ramen can be purchased for as little as $0.07 per packet, many students quickly get sick of it.

You don’t need to boil some water, add some noodles, and some seasoning, and call it a meal. 

You can include a few veggies like carrots or snap peas, some extra protein in the shape of chicken or shrimp, and some toasted sesame oil to finish it off. 

Alternatively, for a Thai flavor, lightly cook the noodles and then stir-fry them with peanut butter, coconut milk, and vegetables.

Although the original recipe contains a lot of unhealthy sodium, if you omit it and get inventive with your flavors, ramen can be a satisfying, reasonably priced, and nutritious meal for college students.

4. Mac and Cheese

Classic mac and cheese are simple to cook, making it a great and affordable meal idea for college students. 

It only needs a pot, milk, noodles, and butter to prepare for fifteen minutes, and leftovers can also be heated again.

5. Two Scrambled Eggs and Toast

One of the most affordable meal ideas for college students is this affordable and satisfying protein option, eggs which go with cheese and vegetables. 

To complete this inexpensive college meal, add toast with butter or another topping of your choice.

6. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

College students will find it simple to cook this comfort food grilled cheese and tomato soup. 

There are only four ingredients needed which are soup, bread, cheese, and butter. Additionally, there are not many dishes to wash up.

7. Baked Ravioli

For a quick, affordable meal, place frozen ravioli in a pan for forty minutes and top it with pasta sauce and cheese. 

You might have leftovers from this meal that you can eat all week long.

8. Tortilla Wraps

To make quick tortilla wraps with deli meat, vegetables, or other ingredients, keep tortillas on hand for about 5 minutes. 

Wraps are a unique alternative to the typical sandwich, whether they are warm or cold.

9. Baked Potatoes

A baked potato is a filling, affordable, and simple supper that only needs one dish and costs about $1.78. 

Simply pierce a few holes in a potato and cook it for 12 minutes in the microwave or 45 minutes in the oven. 

Add cheese, sour cream, meats, or other toppings once it has finished cooking.

10. Homemade Pizza

Use a readymade crust to make your pizza or you can get $5.57 for a single pizza plus additional money for extra toppings and vegetables. 

Add your preferred toppings or get creative with the sauces and leftover vegetables you already have. 

Pizza baked at home might be quicker and possibly healthier than pizza taken out.

11. Deli Sandwiches

After stocking your cabinet with healthful condiments like mustard and dill pickles, you can consider making deli sandwiches. 

In the deli section, meat eaters will discover sliced turkey, ham, pastrami, and other meat products, while vegetarians may just stock up on their preferred raw vegetables. 

For any sandwich, cheese or tuna is a fantastic source of extra protein.

A tasty and adaptable tuna salad that can be served on bread, crackers, or straight from the can with a little mayo, celery, and red onion is easy to make.

12. Beans and Rice

Compared to pre-packaged goods, you can easily get essential essentials like beans, rice, and other grains.

The dish is a simple and inexpensive method to prepare a lot of leftovers, and beans and brown rice supply the necessary proteins. 

If your diet allows, cook your beans with some onions and garlic for flavor and add some sausage if you choose. 

Just keep in mind that brown rice normally takes 45 minutes to boil and that dehydrated beans must first be soaked overnight before you can proceed.

13. Burritos

One of the most affordable meal ideas for a college student is a quick and simple burrito, and you can place them on a tortilla and top it with cheese. 

Also, add salsa for a touch of Mexican flavor, and think about picking up some fresh vegetables and chicken or beef to complete the dish.

14. Chicken Breasts and Veggies

Although pricey, chicken breasts are a fantastic, low-fat source of protein and an affordable meal idea for college students. 

You can buy frozen breasts or tenders in large quantities to save a lot of money, then roast, poach, or pan fried them with very little oil. 

You can quickly prepare a quick, wholesome, and inexpensive meal by steaming some staple vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower and cooking a small amount of rice.

15. Spaghetti

Both spaghetti noodles and canned pasta sauce are inexpensive and simple to prepare and are some affordable meal ideas for college students. 

You can get ground beef or turkey, bell peppers, onions, and garlic, and if your budget allows, you can add a little parmesan on top. 

You can find a small wedge of fresh parmesan for less money if you look in the deli section of your neighborhood grocery store.

16. Stir-fry

The best thing about stir-frying is that you can make it as nutritious and varied as you like, and it’s one of the most affordable meal ideas for college students. 

Toss a handful of your favorite vegetables with some fresh ginger and garlic in a skillet or wok that has been heated up with a little bit of oil. 

Meat eaters can also add some sliced beef or chicken before mixing in some bottled sauce.

You can create your sauce by combining soy sauce, chicken stock, and some of our favorite seasonings, like more ginger and garlic or crushed red pepper. 

Stir in a few tablespoons of cornstarch, then pour it over your stir-fry and simmer it until it thickens.

17. Frozen Meals

On leisurely days and after long study sessions, frozen dinners proves to be an affordable meal idea for college student. 

When compared to buying ingredients in bulk or fresh, the costs can add up, and many frozen dinners are high in fat and salt. 

You can get frozen dinners that are labeled healthy or designed for weight loss, and compare the number of calories, fat, and carbohydrates to the amount of fiber and protein. 

18. Fried Rice

Rice is purchased in bulk and kept on hand for the semester and can be used in many different dishes, like fried rice. 

The only preparation required is to prepare the rice, stir it with soy sauce and olive oil, add some frozen vegetables, and sometimes an egg. 

You can prepare just enough for one person or prepare more and consume it for the week.

Other Ways To Get Affordable Meals Ideas For College Students

There are various ways to reduce the cost of college meals and although this may require some planning, they are worth it.

1.Meal Prep

Meal prepping is the practice of preparing all or part of your meals in advance so that you can maintain a healthy diet despite a busy schedule.

You’ll save more money if you can prepare inexpensive meals ahead of time, portion them out, and freeze them for later use.

2. Get A Meal Plan

Students can buy meals on campus using a prepaid account known as a college meal plan. 

Getting a meal plan enables you to have simple college meals without the need for budgeting, shopping, or cooking. 

Depending on how much food costs in your location, meal planning may help you save money.  

3. Coupon

You can make a list of everything you need before you go shopping to help you organize your trips to the store. 

Ensure you follow your list to prevent making impulsive purchases and search for money-saving coupons and access savings apps to find the best prices on the things you need.

4. Visit Your College’s Food Pantry

At most four year institutions, there are groceries available and accessible, so you may have access to a free food pantry at your campus. 

You can look into off-campus opportunities in your area.


What is the best food for college students?

Fresh or dried fruit, pretzels, butter-free popcorn, rice cakes, or whole wheat crackers are examples of possible snacks. Consider serving raw vegetables with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese dip if you have a refrigerator.  

How can college students eat healthy and cheap?

  • Set a food budget.  
  • Make a grocery list/plan meals ahead of time.  
  • Buy in season.  
  • Don’t be afraid of canned or frozen foods.  
  • Skip pricey organic foods.  
  • Focus on fiber. 

How can college students afford food?

  • Go to Your Campus Food Pantry.  
  • Find Off-Campus Food Pantries.  
  • Apply for SNAP Benefits.  
  • Use Swipe Banks.  
  • Find Local Food Kitchens.

What should college students eat for lunch?

  • Lettuce Wrapped Fajitas.
  • Quinoa Greek Style Bento Box.
  • Black Bean Burrito Bowl.
  • Rainbow Lunchbox with Peanut Butter.
  • Thai Lettuce Wraps.
  • Lentil Salad with Cucumbers, Feta, and Onion.
  • Grilled Chicken with Israeli Salad.
  • Avocado Turkey Bento Boxes.

What do low income people eat?

Lower-income people consume fewer fruits and vegetables, more sugar-sweetened beverages, and have a lower quality diet overall than those with higher incomes.

What is considered poor man’s food?

The Poor Man’s Meal is a filling, affordable dish made of potatoes, onions, and hot dogs that is ideal for the tough times people had found themselves in.

What should a student eat everyday?

Lean meats, yoghurt or non-dairy yoghurt substitutes, lentils, nuts, fish, and eggs are all excellent sources of protein. Another crucial nutrient to keep an eye out for is omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for cognitive function.

What can I eat for $4 a day?

  • Buy eggs. 
  • Skip drinks.  
  • Freeze more. 
  • Slow cook.  
  • Vary your protein.  
  • Bag your own.  
  • Rescue wilted greens.

How do I get free college meals?

Depending on their circumstances, all successful bursary applicants are eligible for either the Government Free College Meals or College Bursary Meals. Free meals worth £5 are offered each timetabled day, and you can access them using your student ID card through the college’s electronic meals program.

What is a good budget for a college student?

Students who spend smoderately should prepare a 12 month budget of approximately $27,200.


College students need affordable and quick food options they can prepare in between classes or during late-night study sessions.

Various institutions provide both on and off campus to assist students who are experiencing food insecurity.

The affordable meal ideas for college students in this article are for students who are tight on cash and don’t have a lot of free time to cook.

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