The thought of suddenly having to fend for yourself can be daunting for some students and it’s easy to fall into a routine of ordering takeaways. But the sooner you gain confidence in the kitchen, the more enjoyable cooking for yourself becomes…and you’ll save money too.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, try these five easy recipes.
- Stuffed sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are nutritious and can be cooked in an oven or microwave to create a delicious alternative to your usual baked potato.
Method: Carefully prick your sweet potato with a fork, then bake at 180°C in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked, or cook in a microwave for 8 minutes.
For a tasty topping, add a mixture of cooked black beans, roasted peppers, tomatoes, paprika, cumin and avocado.
- Vegan shepherd’s pie
Meat can be expensive, and plant-based meals can be just as filling and tasty, so sometimes it’s worth swapping meat for pulses such as beans or lentils.
Jess Ross, a student at the University of Melbourne, recommends this vegan shepherd’s pie by the Minimalist Baker.
Ingredients: One onion, two cloves of minced garlic, 250g of brown or green lentils, vegetable stock, dried or fresh thyme, 250g frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans and corn), one kilogram of white potatoes, salt and pepper.
Method: You can follow the recipe here.
Jess recommends joining student groups for new budget-friendly recipes. “I’d say to get involved with student clubs as not only do you meet lots of like minded people but lots of clubs and the student union have free food,” she says.
- Chilli con carne
This is a favourite among students because it can easily be adapted to suit different diets and tastes.
Ingredients: an onion, 250g beef mince, one can of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree, two cloves of minced garlic, chilli powder, paprika, one red pepper, one can of kidney beans and beef stock.
Method: Heat some oil in a pan, add the beef mince and cook until the meat is browned, before adding the chopped onion and garlic.
Add the chopped tomatoes, the chopped red pepper and the tomato puree, then stir in the spices.
Add the kidney beans and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Chicken curry
Nina Surugue, also a student, recommends her chicken curry recipe.
Ingredients: Potatoes, two chicken breasts, tomato paste, one can of chopped tomatoes, one can of chickpeas, one can of coconut milk, two cloves of minced garlic, one piece of ginger, chili powder, turmeric, curry powder, salt, pepper and olive oil.
Method: First, cut and boil the potatoes until cooked, then drain and set aside.
Heat up olive oil in a large pot, cut the chicken in bite-sized pieces and fry.
Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, garlic and the spices (around a teaspoon of each).
Add chickpeas and potatoes and cook for 20 minutes.
- Falafel burgers
Everyone loves a burger, and these are easy and delicious.
Ingredients (makes four burgers): One can of chickpeas, one garlic clove (minced), one red onion, one grated carrot, a tablespoon of plain flour, salt, pepper, olive oil and one teaspoon each of dried parsley, paprika, curry powder and cumin.
Method: Mash the chickpeas until you have a paste, then add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly, before frying.
Serve in a pitta or bread roll or with salad.
How to eat well on a budget
There are lots of tips and tricks to help you eat well on a student budget. For example, adding chickpeas and lentils to a stew or curry is a cheaper way to make it stretch to last a few meals and add fibre.
Instead of buying meat, cheaper sources of protein include tinned tuna and fresh eggs. Frozen vegetables are also a good way to get nutrients and vitamins without overspending on fresh produce.
Adding dried herbs and spices is also an inexpensive way to add flavour. Packets of spices are cheaper than jars – but if you buy jars initially, remember to keep them and refill with the packet variety.
Even if you’re cooking in a small, shared kitchen, it’s definitely possible to eat well with a little forward planning and organisation.
Once you’ve got the hang of some simple recipes, you can become more adventurous, too. Bon Appetit!