Easy Student Meals for One That You Can Cook on a Budget
The idea of cooking student meals for the first time can be daunting, especially if you’ve never cooked before – outside of boiling pasta! Meal planning for one gets easier with time, as you get to know the flavours you love, and build up a trusty bank of go-to recipes and staple ingredients.
All of the dishes in our upcoming cookbook, Pinch of Nom: Express, are quick to cook or quick to prep, so you’ll always be able to make meals that fit your schedule from freshers’ week to graduation.
It’s out on December 7th, and you can pre-order your copy today!
This post contains affiliate links. Find out what this means.
Why bother cooking student meals for one?
When you’re cooking for one it can be easier to lose motivation, but carving out the time to cook is one of the best ways to look after yourself – and your brain!
The trick is to keep things simple by organising your week around easy-prep student meals with minimal washing-up. The recipes we’ve listed below will never steer you wrong, from nourishing breakfasts that’ll energise you for morning lectures, to dinners and snacks that’ll help power you through long study sessions.
Before you plan meals, you’ll want to bear freezer space in mind. It’s always good to make room for extra portions of budget-friendly favourites!
Many of our website recipes serve 4 by default, but the instructions card at the bottom of our web pages saves you buckets of time with adjustable serving size arrows. Increase or decrease the number of mouths to feed, and the ingredients will be re-calculated too.
Easy breakfasts that’ll wake you up for lectures
When you know you’ve got an early start to look forward to, prepping tasty breakfast recipes in advance can be a life-saver. Our Breakfast Muffins are great for making ahead of schedule, ready to grab from the fridge on your way out of the front door.
There’s no need to scoff them all in one go; tuck them away in airtight tupperware, and they’ll keep nicely to nibble as fluffy and delicious snacking fuel for a long day on campus.
They’re ideal if you’re cooking for one, because you can save just the right amount for a few days in the fridge, and stash the rest in the freezer for a rainy day.
Best of all, they’re so versatile that they never get boring! Our recipe combines bacon, courgette, mushroom and onion, but you can put your own stamp on them with different combinations of ingredients to suit your tastes and budget.
If you’re not an early bird, our Biscoff and Banana Porridge will soothe the pain of 9am lectures. Biscoff for breakfast feels like such a treat, especially when it’s mixed with a thick, warm and creamy bowl of cinnamon and vanilla-infused oats.
You’ll only need a short list of affordable ingredients to rustle it up, making it an easy student meal, and it’s batch-cook friendly so leftover portions will never go to waste.
To turn one jar of smooth Biscoff spread into lots of different treats, have a look through our roundup of spiced-caramel recipes.
Love or hate Marmite, our Marmite Mushrooms on Toast always feels like an indulgent breakfast, even if it’s quick to make and low in calories.
Our wholesome recipe serves one by default, so there’s no need to adjust the serving size arrows on our recipe card – unless you’re looking to make extra portions to impress your flatmates!
Lunch and dinner ideas to suit your timetable
There’s no reason a busy schedule has to mean relying on quick-fix takeaways or microwave meals. Our Chinese Style Chicken Noodle Soup might look like a lot of effort, but it’s actually far simpler to make than you’d think.
Even if you don’t have time to prepare a batch or two in advance, it goes from saucepan to bowl in 15 minutes, so you can make it from scratch no matter what your timetable looks like.
Slurp it up when you’re in need of a nutritious reset after a long week of studying…or socialising!
When you fancy a crunchy, cheesy pick-me-up, look no further than our Cheese and Onion Bakes. Inspired by the beloved bakery treat, we’ve brought the cost and the calories down by using sandwich thins as our ‘pastry’.
Try them as a speedy snack, or tuck into them for lunch with a mixed salad – you can even turn them into a hearty dinner with a side of oven chips.
If you’re in the mood for a meatier option, try our Steak Bakes instead.
The humble baked potato is a beginner’s best friend in the kitchen. No matter your budget, you can create a filling lunch that’s piled high with your favourite flavours, for minimum effort.
You can test that your jacket spuds are ready with a sharp knife – it will take around 50 minutes before they’re crispy on the outside with a tender centre.
Stretch the same bag of sweet potatoes even further by getting a pot of our warming Sweet Potato Chilli on the go for dinner. This low-maintenance dish only needs around 10 minutes of your attention for prep, before it can be left to simmer on the hob.
Using trusty herbs, spices and store cupboard staples, we’ve recreated the warmth of a bowl of chilli with high-protein kidney beans and lentils instead of pricier minced meat.
Find the full recipe on pages 108-109 in Pinch of Nom: Comfort Food for an easy student meal.
Whether you’re a first-time chef or not, fajitas are a quick win if you’re after a midweek meal that’s packed with flavour. Our Chicken Fajita Pasta replaces wraps and makes the most of whichever pasta shapes you’ve already got at home.
To cool things down a bit, add a dollop of chilli spiced fat-free yoghurt on top right before serving.
When the temptation to splurge on a takeaway is strong, it’s good to know our Prawn and Spinach Curry is ready in a hurry. Our recipe gets the most value for money by using frozen prawns, since they last longer and they’re usually cheaper than fresh.
Our speedy, mildly-spiced curry sauce also tastes incredible with chicken, if you’re not a fan of seafood or you’re looking to mix things up a bit.
Far better for you and your monthly food budget than the fast-food favourite we’ve taken inspiration from, they’re a cheap student meal you can make time and time again.
Our recipe even includes how to prepare your very own not-so-secret burger sauce – trust us, you’ll want to add it to everything!
Quick snack ideas…for peckish study breaks!
When you’re hunkering down for a long night of studying, sustenance is key. Everyone’s better off if they take a break from time to time, and if that involves a light snack and a cosy, hot drink – even better!
To curb sweet cravings, having a batch of Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars on standby is always a good idea. It only takes 5 minutes to assemble the layers of chocolatey rice snap cereal, melted milk chocolate and peanut butter drizzle, before they’re ready to set.
Keep your crispy squares in an airtight container for around a week’s worth of study breaks – if you can resist gobbling the lot!
Good news if your stomach is rumbling for a savoury bite…our Bacon and Cheese Turnovers are ready in a heartbeat, and they’re made with ingredients you’re likely to have on your weekly shopping list by default.
Instead of pastry, we’ve used low-calorie tortilla wraps to bundle up our bacon medallions and finely grated reduced-fat Cheddar cheese.
Try frying off leftover veggies with your bacon, to add some new flavours to your filling and reduce food waste.
Forget about plain old cheese on toast! The bold flavours in our tangy-topped Viking Toast recipe are perfect when you’re in the mood for a crunchy, gooey treat. It went down a storm on our Instagram and TikTok when we first shared a sneak peek!
You’ll need to turn to pages 34-35 of your copy of Pinch of Nom: Enjoy for the full recipe.
Feel ready to cook up a storm in your student halls?
You can do it! Don’t be afraid to share your photos with us, we’d absolutely love to help you on your cooking journey. Tag us in your story on Instagram (@pinchofnom) or share snaps of your creations in our friendly Facebook group; there’s almost 1 million community members waiting to encourage you, or answer any questions you might have.
Taking a look through our Gallery is a great way to find out what everyone else is cooking at the minute. You’ll want to sign up to a free website account to upload and share your photos (it’s really easy, and we’ve got a step-by-step guide you can follow!).
If you liked this article, there’s more where that came from. Explore our blog to browse for recipe ideas, kitchen equipment recommendations, money-saving tips and more.