Eating a healthy meal can be hard to scrape up on a student schedule. Whether you’re time poor or on that last bit of your budget, finding recipes that suit your needs—both nutritionally and financially—can be one of those things that can feel far more complicated than it needs to be.
Scouring the internet for student-friendly meals and recounting my own student days, here’s six go-to dishes and tricks to encompass more leftovers, vegetables, and healthy add-ons into your life on campus. From upgrading the humble Mi Goreng to prepping a stir-fry full of need-to-eat vegetables on the bottom of the fridge, every recipe won’t take more than 30 minutes and accommodates every dietary from vegan to gluten-free. So enjoy and master these easy recipes!
For those who have a packet, try upgrading your Mi Goreng.
Nothing screams I’m eating lazy and cheap today than a packet of Mi Goreng. While Mi Goreng can be delicious on its own, try upgrading your Mi Goreng with some eggs and spring onion. Experiment with both friend and soft boiled eggs, or leaving some broth to combine with a runny yolk to achieve that eggy glaze often done with rice. Other add-ons and combinations include:
- Kewpie Mayo: this tasty Japanese mayonnaise is much smoother on the way down, so add it on the side or mix it up. Another trick is to pop your mixture in a toastie, and jaffle it. Imagine: salty and creamy.
- Peanut Butter: I haven’t tried this but Reddit user PsychoPhilosopher says it tastes like budget satay sauce. Their advice is to cook the noodles normally, then adding to a pan, heat the sachet condiments with a heaped tablespoon of peanut butter, and add the noodles to stir-fry. You can add peas or sweetcorn too, so good luck with that.
- Sesame Oil: read this in Jamie Oliver’s voice: sesame oil is A+ with noodles, yeah.
- Canned Tuna: you could just really like canned tuna, but this meal is dirty and packed with energy. It’s an interesting combo, and can always be upgraded further with sriracha, coriander and corn.
For those who are vegan, try stuffing a sweet potato.
Potatoes are dangerously underrated when it comes to home cooking, they can literally fluff any meal into a hearty, well-thought dish. Stuffed sweet potatoes are fantastic for vegan and vegetarian students, and make for an easy meal to prep for the week. To prep, simply wash your sweet potatoes, pierce their skin with a fork 5-6 times all over and pop them in the oven until soft. When fully cooked, make a slit right down the middle. Keep the insides in or remove and mash, and try the following toppings:
- For the vegans: try vegan cheese, sauteed spinach, canned tomatoes and beans, chopped vegetables, crunchy slaws, baked beans, avocado, mushrooms, peas, grains like quinoa, brown rice, barley and couscous.
- For everyone else: cheeses, bean mixes, pulled meats, grains, crunchy salads, sour cream and chives, turkey and cranberry, cured meats or a hearty warm bolognese sauce.
For those who can’t stomach gluten or dairy, try making fried rice.
My personal holy grail of all lazy foods, I love making fried rice. Although this may be better suited for those with a rice cooker and day-old rice, using freezer vegetables, leftover meats and rice can make for a delicious and stomach-friendly meal of choice. When cooking fried rice, opt for a gluten-free soy sauce and whip your eggs beforehand to achieve that creamy texture without the diary. Some go-to fried rice recipes that can help inspire you to pick-up the spatula include:
- Kylie Kwong’s everyday fried rice recipe: a classic Chinese take on the dish, which is practical, affordable, quick and easy to make. Skip the coriander if you feel so inclined.
- The BEST fried rice: this is a simple take on fried rice that requires minimal condiments. Definitely look at this if you’ve got an oyster sauce bottle looking at you in the pantry begging to be used.
- Easy fried rice: Just like its name, this is a breeze. Think egg, bacon and rice, and a few other things. Pro tip: if you have other meats at home like your Mum’s roast, dice it and chuck it in!
For those who want something filling and hearty, don’t overlook a good serving of pasta.
With gluten-free options and different types of pasta readily available in the humble supermarket, getting a great pasta recipe on your cooking rotation is a great way to save time and money. Whether you’re cooking for one or for four, pasta recipes are a great way of diversifying your weekly meals and can be packed with protein, vegetables and much more. Some quick recipes include:
- Easy spaghetti bolognese: add extra vegetables like zucchini, mushroom, spinach, carrots and cherry tomatoes for a wholesome hit.
- Vegan carbonara: pop this one under creative and exciting ways to use tofu—oh, and don’t forget to add mushrooms if you need a little boost.
- Gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil sauce: this is a versatile sauce that you can pour over gnocchi or use on pizza.
- Three-ingredient stovetop macaroni and cheese: for when you don’t have packets to go and Netflix needs an accompaning meal.
For those who want something they can whip up in five minutes, don’t forget about the power of the toastie.
Toasties. We didn’t ask for such a pure creation yet here we are, able to indulge in them. Toasties are an incredible tool for transforming plain old ingredients like cheese and ham into a crispy, cheesy and delicious mess. Alternatively, they can also be used to transform nice ingredients into a carb-loaded delight. If you’re on the run, premake your toastie the night before and toast it on campus. Filling combinations include:
- Ham, cheese and tomato: eat with a side of BBQ sauce and garlic ailoi. Mix the sauces together though, don’t ask questions, it could change your whole toastie experience forever.
- Peanut butter, mashed banana and honey: this is a sweet breakfast toastie, which you can sweeten further with Nutella. Alternatively, you don’t even need to toastie press this—just toast your bread and spread.
- Mushroom and spinach: simply sautee your favourite mushrooms with spinach, and voila, you’ve got one healthy toastie option. This one is perfect for vegos!
- Leftover toastie: leftover roast vegatables and/or meats can be dazzled up in a toastie, just make sure you preheat the stuffing first. Other leftovers like curry and omlettes can also be used, and you’ll be surprised how hot cheese can transform these combinations.
For those who love vegatables or have a single pan to work with, make it into a stir-fry.
There’s nothing better than using those fresh or need-to-be-eaten vegetables in a stir-fry. With multiple flavours to explore and enjoy—and with minimal cooking skill needed—the humble stir-fry is a meal that can be enjoyed by anyone at any level. While you can adventure with vegetable and sauce combinations, some great recipes to try are:
- Chicken, mushroom and asparagus stir-fry: heat the wok until hot and stir in all the desired ingredients.
- Basic beef and vegetable stir-fry: with 10 minute prepping time and 10 minute cooking, save both time and money.
- Honey soy and sesame chicken stir-fry: team this with brown rice and savor the flavours.
- Veggie noodle stir-fry: nothing tastes as good as the vegetable rainbow.
Other budget and student-friendly meals to check out include: vegetable and/or meat skewers, overnight oats, smoothies or juices, fluffy and stuffed omelets, muesli, bubble and squeak, lentils, rice and other vegetable-based meals.