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Topic: Cheap meals for students...that don't involve ramen?  (Read 11519 times)
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The Paper Alchemist
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« on: September 03, 2010 04:17:00 PM »

....so, I'm a student, but my food budget has been severely *fuct* up.  I blame gifts for a wedding, planning on being a bridesmaid, and general craziness.  (Also, yarn addiction...)

So...any tips?

I have access to a full kitchen with an oven.  I'm also bringing a rice cooker, and a decent pot of rice.  (I also have peanut butter at the moment...so my first month is going to be interesting...)

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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2010 05:00:04 PM »

This is one of my go to low budget meals.

Taco Soup

2C chicken broth (or water w/ bullion)
1C salsa
1 can refried beans
1 can corn
pack of taco seasoning
cubed or shredded chicken if you have it

Bring the water and salsa to a boil mix in the refried beans (they'll be clumpy at first, but will eventually mix in).  Stir in the seasoning, corn and chicken.  Simmer for a bit. It's good served with sour cream and shredded cheese on top.  Cornbread or corn chips go well with it too.

You might be able to make it in the rice cooker depending on the model you have.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2010 05:03:12 PM by KristyDi » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2010 06:54:35 PM »

Sandwiches and salad are quick and easy to make.

Peanut and jelly sandwich.
Ham Sandwich - Ham, mayo, ketchup, lettuce
Egg salad or sandwich - simplest is chopped hard-boiled eggs mix with mayo (you may add pickles, chopped onions, salt and pepper, whatever you desire)
Mixed greens salad with chicken fingers.

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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2010 07:22:46 AM »

Ohhh I've been poortown before.

Proteins are the most expensive items (i.e. chicken, beef, sadly bacon...) so if you do buy them, see if you can't stretch them. Buy a whole chicken (usually go for $5ish), then you can have roast chicken one night then you can make soup to have the next/freeze for a cold day. Same applies with beef, get something with the bone in if you can find it and same thing. Stir-fries are cheap and that's one way to use up any extra meat you didn't eat the night before. You have a rice cooker, try adding some boullion cubes to the water next time you make rice. Beans are cheap as well, could make a 3-bean chilie, chick peas are also very hearty, fill you up fast. You could cook those down in the liquid from your chicken soup that you made, add garlic, parsley, maybe some curry, some honey, whatever you fancy. Spices are cheap too, and a little will go a long way! Pasta and tomato sauce goes a long way, you can also make olive oil sauces just by adding some garlic, dried herbs, spices... possibilities are endless. Best ideas are keep an eye out for specials at the grocery store, stock up when they're cheap and freezers are your best friend.

Just because you're poor, doesn't mean you have to eat bland food! Maybe have a cooking day with friends where you all cook a week's worth of dinners and freeze them. I find planning meals will also help save a buck or two...

Just my $0.02.

Spice *IS* the spice of life.
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2010 08:26:25 AM »

Thanks, you all!  I tended to eat out a lot, but it felt kind of dirty paying for my Korean food with a credit card.

I'm also bringing a chest freezer in, so I can decently shop for myself in the cheap sections.


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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2010 10:24:49 AM »

Just remembered The Hillbilly Housewife!  When DH and I were 1st married and really poor I used a lot of her recipes as starting points. Nothing's wrong with them as they are, I just can't seem to make a recipe as written.  I always have to play with it.

Here's a link http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/category/recipes
« Last Edit: September 04, 2010 10:26:06 AM by KristyDi » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2010 09:11:29 AM »

    Try thinking of ways to use a meal in several ways. If you cook up a bunch of rice you could add milk, sugar, raisins, almonds, coconut and / or cinnamon to make a breakfast or dessert. You could also fry some of the left over rice with butter and add onions, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, peppers and / or other veggies for a quick meal. You could do the same with left over red potatoes.
   I tend to keep certain items around for variety. If you have access to a Costco or some other bulk food store, you could keep a huge jar of sundried tomatoes and / or artichoke hearts in the fridge for quick meals. They are great for pasta dishes and placing on premade pizza shells especially if you could splurge on some feta cheese. stock up on tuna eggs and canned chicken. When things are tight try to think of tuna and eggs as "extend-a-meals" instead of as a dish onto themselves. A single egg fried doesn't seem like much but when you add it to mac and cheese or ramon noodles it adds a lot more. Instead of making tuna salad that will last only a short while, you could again add it to mac and cheese or make a different tuna noodle cassarole with wide noodles and mushroom soup. I've even added tuna and frozen veggies to instant potatoes to make a quick and dirty meal.
   Stapples for the kitchen: fresh carrots, fresh onions, fresh potatoes - red and brown, canned tuna, canned chicken, jar of bulk sun dried tomatoes, jar of bulk artichoak hearts, garlic, rice, varieties of pastas (speggeti, wide noodles, thin noodles, and macaroni at least) dried lentles, cans of chick peas, cans of black beans, cans of kidney beans, cans of veggies of choice, variety of pastas, dried herbs and spices. Ive made some interesting sauces from mayo and / or mustard or itallian dressing these can be used to flavor meats and then you can add meat and sauces over rice or pasta.
   Here are some tidbits of knowledge that are invaluable. To tell if eggs are fresh enough to eat place in water to see if they float, if they float don't eat, if it sinks or just stands up you will be fine. Sulpher gasses are released into the egg as it ages making the egg float eventually. If you cannot remember try it with an egg you just bought from the store, that will give you a visual as to how it should look. Keep potatoes and onions seprate they tend to make each other rot faster. Neither need to be refrigorated and can be stored in metal hanging baskets or in seperate dark storage. Fresh fruits and fruity vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant) make non fruity vegtables rot faster when stored together.  If you can find large jars with tight lids store dried goods in to prevent bugs and in the event that there is regular extermination in your dorm or apartment you will keep your food safer from the poisons. 
   Um, I think I got a bit carried away, but I hope this helps.

« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2010 10:18:03 AM »

I've heard ramen isn't too bad a meal so long as you don't use the seasoning packet, which is full of sodium and chemicals.  That means you can use the noodles (which by themselves aren't nutritionally bad).  Add some chopped fresh or frozen veggies, and that aforementioned $5 chicken.  Use the bones of the chicken to create some low sodium broth, and there you go!
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2010 02:13:25 PM »

I understand you perfectly, being a broke-as-hell student myself. Here's

Instant noodles don't have to be boring, I use those noodles everywhere I'd use "standard" ones! with tomato juice, melted mozzarella cheese, and mushrooms sauted in garlic, or more traditionally, served in a miso broth (or a bit of soy sauce), a hard boiled egg, chopped seaweed and green onions, cubed tofu and mushrooms, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Plus, they're great in a stir-fry.

Also, for protein, I started looking into less "pleasant" types, such as pork liver and tofu. Both, when correctly prepared with a good marinade made with cheap stuff such as soy sauce, ketchup, sriracha sauce, salt, pepper  and lemon juice, are great when served warm & sliced with sauted zucchinis and mushrooms on a bed of rice seasoned with a bit of sesame oil and rice vinegar. Sesame oil may seem expensive, but believe me when I say a little goes a long way. One of the most usefull things I have in my pantry.

Or try making salmon burgers; a can of salmon mixed with lemon juice, salt&pepper, an egg or two and lots of crumbled bread or crackers to thicken up the mixture and make the portion more substantial. Add some basil or italian seasoning, make some patties, roll 'em in flour and fry 'em in a bit of olive oil. When served with mayo, cucumbers and tomatoes on toasted bread, it makes for a great meal.

Oh, and that peanut butter? when you're tired of eating it in PB&J sandwiches, melt it with a bit of sesame oil, curry powder and coconut milk. It makes a great sauce for all kind of meats, pasta & veggies.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2010 02:19:05 PM by ars_anima » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2010 05:22:15 PM »

My favorite, cheap & not at all fancy meals is Veggie Quesadillas!
All you need are:
1 can refried beans, 1 package tortillas, 1 package taco seasoning, ANY veggies you like or have on hand, salsa -- the great thing is this will feed one person like 5x and an open can of beans stays good in the fridge for over a week.
- Mix refried beans with taco seasoning to taste - I use about 1/4 of a packet for 1 can of beans.
- Spread seasoned beans on a tortilla & fold in half.
- Cook until brown in either a well heated cast iron skillet or a lightly oiled skillet
- Cut into two wedges, pile chopped veggies & salsa on top & enjoy!

If I have things like mushrooms, broccoli, or potatoes on hand I cook them up ahead of time & put them inside the tortilla with the beans. And as weird as it sounds I really do put any veggies I have in/on these and it's all yummy.
PS I don't know about yours, but my dollar store has a good selection of frozen foods, it's a great place to shop when you're broke!

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« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2010 06:51:41 PM »

If you can:

- Buy various herbs/spices you can use for many dishes.
- Shop at a farmer's market, co-op, and/or CSA.
- Grow a few plants/herbs in small pots.
- Learn about wild edibles.
- Barter.

Here are some links:
Eat Wild
Local Foods
Nourished Kitchen Recipes
« Last Edit: October 25, 2010 07:53:35 AM by Strutter » THIS ROCKS   Logged
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2010 08:16:27 AM »

Do you have a freezer? I'm no longer in college but I'm a teacher (and we all know teachers do not make much of a salary!) live alone, and am always trying to save food and money!!  So I will make a soup such as vegetable soup or casserole dish such as chicken spaghetti and freeze most of it in several small containers (so when I defrost it's just enough for a couple of days).  Also, when I was in college, for lunch I would roll up sandwhich sliced turkey in a tortilla with cheese and green chiles and pop it in the microwave. Yummy, cheap, and healthy!
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2010 09:23:50 AM »

You can try Dollar Tree if there's a store near you. Some of their stores even have a frozen food section. You can get frozen veges & even diary products. There are also canned tuna, cookies, etc.

Also, you can try shopping at Farmer's Market, if there's one near you. We've bought fingerling potatoes and a box of brown button mushrooms at $1 each.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2010 09:39:17 AM by MissCraftyFingers » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2010 09:10:08 PM »

I'm in the exact same boat as you.

I love this thread! so helpful...

First for ramen, like the other people said there are sooo many ways to make it more interesting. Get cheap ground beef (it is actually pretty cheap), and make meatballs, mix in some cheap spaghetti sauce (mix in spices too!) and cook the noodles and you've got a pretty easy cheap meal. Save the flavor packets which will make a great broth for a soup. You can boil water, mix in soup packets till you get a good flavor, then throw in some veggies (canned, frozen, or fresh! Fresh take the longest to cook on the stove, canned the shortest) and some chopped up chicken breast if you can afford it (it shouldn't be too expensive) and you've got a lovely soup.

My favorite thing ever is the dollar store.
Mine has little cans of franks, mushrooms, beans, etc. that are great for throwing together to make a quick meal. Crumbling up cheap crackers is also a great way to make a soup more filling, or you could even add noodles or rice to a soup. I like getting the cheap cans of campbells mushroom or cream of whatever broths, adding some cheap canned veggies, rice, beans, and a little bit of hot sauce.

Also if you can get some cheap lunch meat, you can chop it up, throw it in some scrambled eggs with again veggies and spices and make a great meal.

Further, try to compose meals of two important things: spices/sauces and protein/fiber. The protein or fiber will make it filling and seem like a meal, while the spices and sauces will make it interesting, varied, and flavorful. For the flavor, make sure you gather spices. They last a long time (I've had the same $2 canister of garlic powder for about 8 months) and they go a long way to make things interesting. I get mine at the dollar store and big lots, but check your local grocery store... I once wandered to the spice section of my local store and they had all these great steak spices and rubs on sale from $4.50 a bottle to $1.39 a bottle. I nearly bought them out! I got Kansas City Style, New Orleans Cajun, Sweet N Tangy BBQ, Mango Lime fish seasoning etc.

also most grocery stores carry big bottles of lemon juice for pretty cheap, and again, a little goes a long way. You only need a couple table spoons of the stuff to cover a whole pan of chicken.

If you have an Aldi near you, check them too-you can get some great deals there!
I got a 5lb bag of Whiting Fillet for about $2.50 there, which makes quite a few nice meals with the right seasonings, a little lemon juice, and rice.

I hope people keep posting in this thread, I'm always on the look out for frugal cooking tips.
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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2010 02:27:34 PM »

soup! buy whatever veg are cheap, make batches of soup, freeze in individual portions
got me through 3 years of university student-hood
soup in the freezer is great cause you just defrost and re-heat whatever type you feel like, add any fresh stuff you have (the occasional nice bread or bit of meat)

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« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2010 07:47:39 PM »

my fav student meal (eep that was 10 years ago... )was chicken soup made from those pre cooked roasted chickens. (the kind in the deli section)  We'd eat some of the chicken for lunch, then supper, then made soup from the bones and left over meat and frozen veggies the next day. (they go quite a ways for a student) Since you are getting a small freezer, you could get one of the huge as bags of frozen veg. they are like 10$ here and last my fam of 4 (non mush food eating people)  for months, so you'd be set with 10$ on veg for at least 3-6 months.  Bulk is your friend if you can be sure it wont spoil. 
Ramen noodles are okay, but check out your asian section in the grocery.  There are Vermicelli noodles (rice noodles) that are way tastier, and have a way nicer texture and take the same 3 minutes to cook.  We generally eat them with a stir fry.  Sesame oil is gold.  (as previously mentioned) I've just started using it, and mmm boy does it ever punch up a bowl of noodles and stirfry.  If you can find rice paper, you can also make fresh rolls.  if those sound interesting to you I can give you the how to.

There are lots of easy/cheap solutions  you just need to not be afraid of being creative!  Good luck with your classes!

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« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2010 06:45:42 PM »

Instant Noodles can be made healthy by adding an egg and chopped veggies like carrots, green peas, corn, or celery.  You don't have to use all the seasoning packet.  Just add as you taste.

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« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2010 01:34:20 AM »

Ohh my gosh. This is my life. Tongue I get by on breakfast for dinner. Atleaaast 4 nights a week. Everything breakfasty is soooo delicious and so cheap. Pancaked, french toast, omelettes, cereal, yuuuum. Plus a ton of stirfrys, and my number one favourite, mushroom soup over rice.

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« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2010 11:35:37 PM »

I eat a lot of eggs. It's normally around $1.50 for a dozen and last from a week to two weeks. Also, I've been making my meals stretch with a lot of onions lately. I'm not sure what type of area you are in but it pays to look around at each local market. My partner and I both walk to the supermarkets and totally ignored our local Vons which just across the street (though not very noticeable since we used to shop at midnight) We ventured in one day out of curiosity and were blown away at how much cheaper it was than our local Ralph's. If you are lucky some supermarkets have discounted areas for food that is about to go bad or maybe even day old bread. I've bought day old cakes before for $2 for my broke birthdays.

The recipes listed in here sound really yummy btw.

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« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2010 07:43:33 PM »

I'm also a broke student, I feel your pain Tongue

I've found that ground beef is usually really cheap, the Walmart near me sells it in packs of 5 1lb. tubes for like $10 I think. So what I do is buy a few of those and keep them in the freezer. You can use it for a lot of things- meatloaf, burgers, nachos, pizza, sloppy joes, etc.

Also, potatoes and apples are cheap and versatile. You can do ANYTHING with potatoes.
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« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2010 02:23:09 PM »

Yay Cheap Eats! I'm also a student and though I've recently managed to claw my way out of the "rice and beans every single day" phase - I still feel better paying as little as possible for food.

My favorites are:

Ghetto Stroganoff - Make a big pot of mashed potatoes. Then fry up 1lb of ground beef or turkey (whatever is on sale) and add two cans of cream of mushroom soup. This will least at least three dinners.

Fried Roots - Chop and boil your favorite roots (carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, etc) for about ten minutes. Heat some butter or oil in a pan and toss in your drained roots. Fry until crispy and delicious and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sooo tasty.

Faux Eggplant Parm - Take one eggplant, hollow out and chop the middle. In a bowl mix your chopped eggplant innards with diced tomatoes, diced onions and carrots and a bunch of breadcrumbs with your favorite Italian spices. Re-fill the eggplant halves with your mixture and sprinkle with grated cheese. Pop the halves on a baking sheet and bake for 30 min. Yummy and impressive if you have guests over...

Enjoy! Cooking on a micro-budget is so challenging - but it can be tasty too!


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« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2010 12:25:10 AM »

I'm Uber lucky - I live at a juncture of a discount grocery store and a dollar tree. If you can swing it, beg/bargain/cajole your way into cheap fresh produce! Slices of red bell pepper (2/$1 at Grocery Outlet) roasted at 350 for thirty five minutes is better than veggie candy over rice - it sates my unfeedable boyfriend AND my insatiable female appetite, at least. Actually, ANY veggie, fresh or frozen, is unbearable great roasted. It takes time, but it's worth it.

Frozen peas, peanut butter, and chopped garlic - calories, fiber, veggies, protein, YES. It tastes like cheap thai food. The highest complement I can give frozen peas? I think so!

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« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2010 06:09:41 PM »

I'm Uber lucky - I live at a juncture of a discount grocery store and a dollar tree. If you can swing it, beg/bargain/cajole your way into cheap fresh produce! Slices of red bell pepper (2/$1 at Grocery Outlet) roasted at 350 for thirty five minutes is better than veggie candy over rice - it sates my unfeedable boyfriend AND my insatiable female appetite, at least. Actually, ANY veggie, fresh or frozen, is unbearable great roasted. It takes time, but it's worth it.

Frozen peas, peanut butter, and chopped garlic - calories, fiber, veggies, protein, YES. It tastes like cheap thai food. The highest complement I can give frozen peas? I think so!


You have a store that sells 2 red bell peppers for a DOLLAR?

JEALOUS!!!!! Angry

Lucky for you though, because they are delicious and very healthy. And they kick up the flavor and crunchiness to just about everything.
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« Reply #23 on: October 19, 2010 06:31:09 PM »

I feel your pain. I was a super poor student barely getting by. Check out your local grocery stores for GOOD sales. Buying in bulk can be your friend.
Cheap Meals
- PP&J
- Omlettes
- Rice and beans
- Spaghetti & jarred sauce w/ toast
- Baked ziti (make a large casserole dish of it...great for leftovers for the nights you have to study!!)
- Breakfast for dinner! (eggs, french toast, cereal w/ berries, etc.)
- Salads
- Stir-fry (left over rice, any veggies, 1 egg & a bit of soy sauce)

If you have access to Costco you can get a 3lb. bag of a salad mixture for $2.79. Get a bottle of your favorite dressing and that'll last you for days!!

These are GOOD recipes that only require a few ingredients. I lived off this stuff when I was in school.  Wink

Homemade Mac & Cheese
1 Onion, chopped
1 bag shredded cheese of your choice (I like cheddar)
Chopped ham or spam (optional)
1/2c Milk
S&P to taste

Boil macaroni until al dente and drain. Layer macaroni, chopped onion, ham or spam, shredded cheese of your choice and S&P to taste in a casserole dish. Repeat to make 2 more layers. Drizzle milk on top. Bake at 375 for 30 mins covered. Remove cover and bake for additional 10 mins. until brown.

For my rediculios sweet tooth...
Dump Cake
21 oz can pie filling (I like cherry)
15 oz can of pineapple, crushed
18.25 oz package yellow cake mix
1c butter

Lightly grease a Bundt pan. Preheat oven to 325. Pour pie filling into bottom of cake pan, and on top of that pour the pineapple. Pour dry cake mix on top of pineapple. Slice butter or margarine over cake mix. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

Baked Taco Chicken
1c all-purpose flour
2 - 1.25oz packages taco seasoning
1/2t salt
2 eggs
2T milk
Chicken breasts

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, taco seasoning and salt. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs and milk. Dip chicken pieces in egg mixture, then place in bag and shake to coat. Place bone side down in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until juices run clear. Serve with rice and salsa.

If you have a slow cooker...
BBQ Ribs
Rack of baby back ribs
BBQ sauce of your choice

Preheat oven to 400. Season ribs with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow baking pan. Brown in oven 15 minutes. Turn over, and brown another 15 minutes; drain fat. Place ribs in slow cooker. Pour BBQ sauce over ribs, and turn to coat. Cover, and cook on Low 6 to 8 hours, or until ribs are tender.

If you like butternut squash...
Butternut Squash Fries
Butternut Squash
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 425. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut away the peel from the squash. Cut the squash into sticks like French fries. Arrange squash pieces on a baking sheet and season with salt. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, turning the fries over halfway through baking. Fries are done when they are starting to brown on the edges and become crispy.

I'll come back and post more if I think of anymore I use to do.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2010 06:36:46 PM by craft and bake » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2010 04:22:14 PM »

Craft and Bake, those recipes look amazing! I wish I had seen your post before I cooked the spaghetti squash last night. I'll have to remember it next time since squash is in season and cheap right now.

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« Reply #25 on: August 16, 2011 12:45:37 AM »

Baked potatoes.  They are awesome alone, with butter, sour cream, salt, pepper... I actually can't think of anything I don't like on baked potatoes.  And, it only takes a little bit of extra stuff to change it up.  And you can always twice-bake them to make things interesting (And if you use cheese). 

Fried rice.  An egg, old rice (Or make rice and freeze it for an hour) and oil.  You can also add veggies, meats, pretty much whatever.

Pot pies.  If you make it all from scratch, a pretty good pie can be pretty cheap.  This is one of those things that you buy things for other things, eventually look at what you've got left over and are like "Hey!"  I personally use http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Chicken-Pot-Pie-VII/Detail.aspx and use freezer veggies to bulk it up and a can of chicken broth instead, then thicken it with milk and flour.  It makes a little more gravy, and I love saucy foods.  I make some in a bigger muffin pan for freezing (Only bake until they start to brown and can hold their own shape) and they make a good snack on their own or work well with a little salad or something for a lunch.  I also use the same recipe for chicken noodle soup.  You can make it cheaper by making your own broth.  You can also lose the meat and use veggie broth instead to change things up.

Rice balls.  Super easy to make.  Super portable.  Super yummy.  Add seasonings while you're cooking the rice.  Add veggies while you cook the rice.  Play with fillings.  It's all very fun and easy to change up.

Bean soup.  I like ham better than turkey so I tend to have ham on all of the holidays.  Keep the bone, boil it for ages and you'll have your soup base.  Add beans (If you buy them in the bags and soak them over night it's cheaper than canned) and let it cook for all of forever.  This will usually make a -lot- so don't be afraid to freeze it.  Only thing is, if you intend to freeze it, don't let the beans cook all the way.  You'll want to take out all but what you want to eat for the next few days before the beans are good to eat otherwise they get mushy.  You can also add things to this, I like to eat it with lots of yellow mustard.

I haven't tried it yet, but there was a recipe for egg drop soup posted, and that sounded pretty easy/cheap.  Another of those things that you seem to slowly accumulate the ingredients for.  It was corn starch, chicken broth, a beat egg, soy sauce and sliced green onion if you want.  Sounds yummy, decently cheap and freezable to me.

Any gravy on rice or mashed potatoes.

And, a spoonful of peanut butter is great to give you an energy boost and put something in your tummy if you're pressed for time.  Also nice if you can't eat a lot in the mornings or just don't feel like making anything.  (Yes, I am so lazy at times that even spreading that peanut butter on bread is a daunting task.)

I live in a tiny town and our grocery stores are Fred Meyer and Safeway.  In this situation, I like to go to the Safeway site and add their coupons to my Safeway card (Fred Meyer is crazy-expensive, even with coupons) and also check the ads out before I go shopping.  This way, it takes about 10 extra minutes to go shopping and I save a considerable amount for 10 extra minutes of work.  Plus, with all of the coupons on your card it doesn't take extra time to scan all of them.  It's nice when you're on an extreme budget.  Try to see if your store had a card system like that.  I've even managed to get the boyfriend to start shopping smarter (Even though that involves him randomly calling me to see whats on sale and what coupons are on the card) with the card.  It's really simple.

As for kitchen staples... For me, I guess that would be rice, chicken, chicken broth, frozen veggies, flour, Crisco, tomato sauce, cream of mushroom soup, eggs and assorted seasonings (Your favorites).  As long as I have those I can make plenty of things that I won't get bored for a decent time.  In any case, good luck and itadakimasu!

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« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2011 07:08:43 PM »

Picadillo, its real easy and cheap.

1 lb hamburger
1 can veggie mix
1 can chopped tomatoes

brown hamburger in skillet, when browned, add tomatoes, fry until most of liquid is absorbed, add salt and pepper and can of veggies. cook for six more minutes, serve with tortillas.

« Reply #27 on: September 01, 2011 07:14:17 AM »

If you can buy boxes or cans of stock or broth when on sale you can add anything to them to make soup.
1/2 box of stock simmer some frozen of fresh veggies. Thicken with a sprinkle of instant potato flakes. add what ever spices you like.  Or start with a can of diced tomatoes add more veggies & simmer a small amount of diced chiken till cooed through.
« Reply #28 on: September 02, 2011 04:18:37 PM »

I just graduated from college in May so holla for being in that boat! And waiting for my loan money to come in... NOT fun having 10 dollars in my bank account. (Now I'm in grad school and waiting for a paycheck... unexpectedly similar... le sigh.) ANYWAYS. The local supermarket in undergrad was right off campus. My boyfriend and I found that if we went grocery shopping at around 10 pm (the store closed at midnight), the meat section (PROTEIN!) was heavily HEAVILY discounted. I highly suggest shopping for meat after the meat counter closes for the night. (not the deli meat counter... the fresh meat counter). That way, my bf and I could stock up on meat for the week for really cheap. Then meals consisted of meat plus veggies (frozen are usually cheaper, and depending on the brand, you can get amazing deals!) plus tiny amt of oil plus salt n peppa. I know cooking in college kinda sucks sometimes because the most easily available food is campus food, but it is totally worth it! I lost weight once I started eating at home instead of on campus because campus food is pretty much always too greasy and fatty, and portion control is easier when you are cooking for yourself. May not be an issue for you but it's something that my bf and I consider all the time. NOT to mention campus food is ALWAYS overpriced (no matter where you are -- we are poor college kids! why do they overcharge us???).  Hope this helps and good luck with your classes :]

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« Reply #29 on: September 02, 2011 05:13:28 PM »

This was a family favorite.

Saute a pound of ground beef, turkey or chicken.
Add a can of Campbell's Alphabet Soup and a half cup of sour cream.
Serve over egg noodles. 

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« Reply #30 on: September 03, 2011 05:24:40 AM »

I second baked potatoes. I bake them for 2 hours so they go very hard and crisp on the outside. Then slice them in half, scoop out the potato, mix it with tuna and mayo and then scoop it back in. It is delicious and super cheap. To mix it up, you can also make baked sweet potatoes with sour cream and chive.

Another good cheap food, which might sound weird but I swear tastes amazing is cup-a-soup pasta. Buy the chicken and vegetable cup-a-soups (buying the off-brand can help save money) and any kind of noodles you like. Boil the noodles and drain. Mix the cup of soup with only 1/2 the recommended hot water and it turns into a nice creamy consistancy which makes an awesome and delicious pasta sauce. If you've got the funds, it tastes great with some chopped bacon added to it as well.

Egg fried rice is another favourite. Boil your rice up and spread it out on a plate to dry out while you scramble an egg. In the pan, add in the cooked, dried rice to the egg. Then add a few tsp of soy sauce and oyster sauce to taste and some chopped spring onion and fry it all together for a few minutes while continuously mixing. I also like adding some fried tofu for texture.

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« Reply #31 on: September 03, 2011 05:51:43 AM »

Oh I miss these days. I have a couple tips first:

1) Make a list before you go to the grocery store. Plan out meals where you can make left overs and stick to your list. Throwing little things like, oh say cookies, into the cart spontaneously can really push up the cost of your bill at the checkout. I always used to ask myself "Do I NEED this?" and usually the answer was no.

2) I used to find it really useful to make enough food for leftovers. Then if I was really busy with classes and homework and work the next day and didn't have time to make a lunch or dinner I could just throw something in the microwave. Otherwise I'd end up eating out or in the dining lounge which are both expensive.

Soo things I liked to cook for cheap?

Pasta. I lived on pasta. And you can always get all your veggies and proteins in too. You usually have some vegetable you've been meaning to eat and will go bad shortly that will go great in a pasta. IF you watch out for pasta sauce to go on sale and stock up thats your best bet. Every now and then the grocery store would do $1 a jar which is really good.

Pitas. I would buy those half pita shells and mix myself up a big salad in a bowl and stuff the pitas full. I'd do a couple at a time and wrap them up in the fridge for convenience. Im a pita fiend and its so much cheaper than going to Pita Hut, and to be honest more tastier.

On that front. If you like salads buy your own ingredients, don't buy the bagged salad. If you eat enough of it so it doesn't go bad you can stretch the ingredients much farther. Problem with fresh produce is you really have to make sure you can eat it all on your own before it goes bad. I often used to make the mistake of buying too much.

If your school is in a city which has a fresh farmers market that can be a great place to save some money. Be familiar with what you pay at the grocery store so you can determine if you are getting a good deal.

Back to meals... I used to use potatos a lot. Those 5lb bags are pretty cheap and will last a while. I'd make mashed potatos, scalloped potatos, steamed potatos, baked potatos, potato wedges, the list goes on.
People think potatos are just a bunch of filler. But potatos have a LOT of nutrients, stuff other veggies only have in small quantities. There are 2 problems:
1. Potatos keep their nutrients near the skin or DONT peel them before cooking.
2. Potatos have a lot of carbs, so does pasta. So if you are struggling with your weight at school it might be better to not eat as many as I did.

I agree with the poster who said proteins are most expensive and watch for stuff on sale. Theres a couple things you can depend on to be cheaper - usually ground beef (thought not lately) which can be used in all sorts of things from tacos to pasta to sloppy joes to home made hamburgers. Also CHICKEN THIGHS, I've consistently found they are the cheapest form of chicken - try to get deboned and deskined, the price is usually the same for chicken thighs - where as chicken breast is ridiculously more expensive. I also agree that buying a whole chicken is typicly cheaper than buying the individual parts because you have to do a little more work yourself.

I also used to find that pork ribs go on sale pretty consistently but they take a bit of work to prepare. I have an amazing recipe and used to make home-made ribs fairly often in college. IF you are interested I can send it over to you. When I went to college my mom made my a recipe book with all my favourites of her time-honoured recipes, so I could cook instead of eating in the dining hall. It made a world of difference in my life. If you are interested PM me and I can type it up for you. It was so helpful!



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« Reply #32 on: September 03, 2011 08:16:54 AM »

ALSO -- WORD to the chicken thighs thing previous poster^! they are the cheapest and actually really tender! for me, this was a recent discovery.

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« Reply #33 on: September 04, 2011 04:08:24 AM »

I have two recipes.One healthy and one not so healthy.
Healthy one: Spanish Mac and Cheese
1 tblsp oil
2 cps Mac Noodles
1/2 of an 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cp diced onion(optional)
Garlic salt and salt to preferred taste
1-2 cups CUBED CHEDDAR cheese
Put oil in a sauce pan on medium heat.Add onion and noodles.Stir until noodles get slightly brown.Add tomato sauce,as much water as you want for a soup cinsistency(sp?), garlic salt and salt.Bring to a boil and boil for as long as package directs.Like 8-10 minutes.Turn off heat.Stir in 1/2 the cheese.Top with remaining cheese.This also melds well over night in the fridge.
You can also do the same with rice with out the cheese.Yummy.
Not so healthy:
3 Ingredient Ghetto Taco Pie
Bag of Doritos or other nacho cheese tortilla chip
1 can chilli beans
Shredded cheddar cheese
In a medium bowl layer the chip,beans and cheese until the bowl is almost full.Microwave until hot.Eat it up.This also melds the flavors well in the fridge over night.
Hope this helps

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« Reply #34 on: October 25, 2011 09:36:45 AM »

Over the summer I made something that is completely strange but yummy. Seafood soup. I took some canned fish with mustard sauce (the type with a peal off top you find at discount stores) canned smoked oysters and smoked mussels (found at the same place) canned veggies - corn, green beans, potatoes (use the liquid as well), some dried mushrooms, and some dry white wine and cooked it all up together. I cannot remember if I added rice or noodles. It was one of the most surprisingly good meals I ever had. I'm sure you could do something similar with any left over seafood that was not breaded but you could even try to see how it turns out if it is breaded.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2011 09:39:27 AM by tomico » THIS ROCKS   Logged
« Reply #35 on: December 04, 2011 11:58:24 AM »

1 box mac-n-cheese
1 can cheapest-chili-you-can-find

Make mac-n-cheese as directed. Pour in chili. Stir.
This probably makes 3 separate meals for me...

so mac-n-cheese - .40
chili - 1.00
milk/butter - .10 (i'm guessing)
1.50/3 = .50/meal

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« Reply #36 on: December 15, 2011 03:18:02 PM »

It's probably already on here, but can be super cheap & changed up as you like it. Veggie Pasta salad. Cook pasta elbows or mini shells al dente rise quickly & drain very well. Mix with any frozen veggies, diced fresh veggies, diced cheese or meat & add italian or ranch dressing. good as a side dish ir can  a meal too if you add a little meat. A great way to use up left overs & little bitss of this & that.
« Reply #37 on: January 15, 2012 04:45:01 AM »

Things I always have on hand:

- Indomie mi goreng (seriously, better than ramen)
- rice
- frozen vegetables
- eggs

That way I can have omelettes, fried rice, normal rice, noodles, noodles with eggs, noodles with vegetables... and shake it up by adding seasonal vegetables like asparagus or pumpkin, and proteins like tofu or meat.  Frozen veggies also tend to be cheaper than normal vegetables, last longer, taste about the same, and take a quarter of the time to prepare/cook all very important when you're a busy college kid!  Wink

Things I learnt from my mother:

- buy a metric bieberton of meat when you can get it for cheap and freeze whatever you're not using (only duh, don't defrost it and then put it back in the freezer)
- stir-fries are cheap and quick
- chop up your bacon before adding to rice/omelettes, it makes it go a little further
« Reply #38 on: February 27, 2012 06:46:53 PM »

I have been and am still in poor town and here are my tips.

Always used powdered milk in a recipe because it is cheaper than the other stuff and last a long time.

Canned Chicken/Tuna is cheaper than the meat section.

Canned or frozen veggies and fruit.

Coupons and deals are your BESTEST friend ever.

Use rice to stretch just about anything

Go to the Grocery store early in the AM to get deals on meat and throw those cheap bits into the freezer.

Buy a stand up shredder and shred your own cheese and potatoes with it.

My all time fave cheap dish is this and you can change it up a million different ways.

Serves about 8 people
1lb ground hamburger or turkey or chicken whatever is on sale
2cups rice
1 can corn
1 can black beans (or whatever beans you have)
1 can tomatoes
Taco seasoning (or Chili powder onion powder and Garlic powder with black pepper and salt)
Shredded cheese (optional)
Sour Cream (optional)

Make the meat like the taco seasoning pkg says to then add rice and water to the pan. Drain corn and beans and add to the pan. add in tomatoes when rice is finished cooking serve and add cheese to the top.

You can make this without the meat as well.

I pretty much make everything with rice because rice is cheap and stretches a meal further.

Another one pan dish is this
1 or 2 boneless skinless chicken breast
Mc donalds honey mustard or 2 tbs honey mustard I always seem to have Mc donald's honey mustard on hand because of  people giving it to me.
1 pkg frozen broccoli and cheese
2 cups of rice

marinate the chicken in the honey mustard and then cook in a pan  once cooked chop the chicken into chunks and place back into the pan with water rice and the broccoli. Place lid over pan and wait for the rice to be done. Serves 6-8 people

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« Reply #39 on: February 28, 2012 06:56:10 PM »

You can either freeze the liquids from the cans for soup stock later or use it to replace some of the water in a recipe. It's better than throwing out the vitamins and minerals that seep into the liquids from the canned food.

« Reply #40 on: March 02, 2012 09:59:13 AM »

Most of the time, it can't be both cheap and worthy to be called a meal. You can always go for sausages though. A lot of ways to prepare them.

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« Reply #41 on: March 25, 2012 06:32:26 PM »

Buy a massive bag of corn flour and one of the big round things of salt, and non-sticking plastic (The giant cheap zipper bags usually work well.)  Mix some flour with water and salt, (I'm not 100% on measurements, I just slowly add water until it seems right) then roll it out between two pieces of plastic as thin as you can get it.  Heat up a flat pan on medium high/7.  Carefully peel the corn flour mush off of the plastic and cook it about 50 seconds on each side.  You've now got corn tortillas!  They are good by themselves, cut up and fried/baked into chips or for soft tacos.  Realistically, you can roll whatever you want up in your tortillas... But, it's a lot cheaper than buying them pre-made, they are always fresh and delicious and they hardly take any time.

I think Ragdollpirate's first recipe would be pretty tasty heaped into a couple of these!  And, if you're pressed for time, you can always make a bunch up and freeze them. (With wax paper between so they don't stick, or in individual servings)

I was just checking for new posts and Ragdollpirate's first recipe reminded me of these. xD  Flour tortillas are also good, but a little harder to make and a little more ingredient-intensive needing solid fats (Lard, butter etc.) in addition to the water, flour and salt.

One of my favorite snacks/treats is whatever kind of flat bread (tortillas count as flatbread, as do wheat wraps) we have in the house and some sort of spreadable cheese.  Right now we have laughing cow cheese wedges (Which are nice, but not the most budget-friendly) and those are good, or you could just use store-brand cream cheese/neufchatel with some herbs/seasonings/jam/whatever.  If I have pre-seasoned (Like laughing cow) cheese I'll just heap it in the middle, fold the flat bread over and smoosh it until the cheese covers the whole thing thinly.  If not I mix whatever I'm mixing with the cheese, heap it in the middle and smoosh it around. I like this 'cause I can do it half asleep and it still tastes good.

Tomato soup is pretty easy to make from a can of tomato sauce.  (Tomato soup is prolly around 90cents on average here, and I can almost always get canned tomato sauce (Not pasta sauce, just boiled to death tomato in a can) for 50-70 cents)  Just pour the tomato sauce in a pan, add some sugar (More or less to your taste), add a nice dollop of sour cream and a little water until you get a consistency that you like, then season to taste.  I like a bit of sweet basil, some garlic, some salt and some pepper in mine.

I'll come back when I think of more XD

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