It's tempting when you get to college to eat all your meals on campus or to go out every night for dinner with friends. Not that those are bad things! A quick stop for lunch between classes and a night out every now and then can be fun and convenient. However, it can also be hell on your wallet, especially if you don't have a meal plan with the school. I found this out pretty quick, and despite not having cooked much before (read: at all), there are a few easy meals I picked up on that were quick, easy and delicious!
Now, the sides I cook tend to be either red potatoes, canned green beans, or boil-in-a-bag rice. Feel free to substitute these sides with your own favorites!
Note: most of these these do require a stove/oven, which might mean you're out of luck in a dorm room.
1. Chicken and Red Potatoes
This is the first meal I ever made myself without help, and therefore has become a staple in my diet. Rarely is there a grocery trip where chicken is not on the list. For your red potatoes, take two or three and rinse them thoroughly before cutting each into eighths (depending on the size). Add salt and pepper and some olive oil if you like, toss them in a bowl so the seasonings are well-spread, and spread them out on a pan in the oven for about 25 minutes on 450 degrees. The goal is for them to be soft and easy to pierce with a fork - if there are any left that are still a little hard, a few more minutes will fix that right up.
As for the chicken, I usually buy chicken breast that has been cut into those little fillets. Season them as you wish (I like to add lemon pepper) and then cook them on the stove on a medium-high heat for about two to four minutes on each side. As always with chicken, do be aware of cooking them all the way through.
2. Tilapia and Green Beans
The good thing about buying tilapia fillets is that you can buy them frozen for fairly cheap, and in bulk. At my grocery store, I can get a bag of nine decent-sized fillets for four dollars. Another good thing is that they don't take long to thaw - simply put them in a bowl of lukewarm water or even just in the sink and let the water run over them for five-ten minutes. Tilapia is another food that you can season to your desire. Cook them on the stove top at a medium heat (if it's numbered 1-10 I usually put mine at a 6). Each side should only take two minutes or so, unless it's a particularly thick fillet.
The green beans I buy are canned instead of frozen, as they taste way better, and instead of microwaving them I cook them on the stove too. If you like them plain, dump the can in a small pot WITH the juice and let it simmer on a medium heat for ten or so minutes until the beans are soft. Be sure to add a little bit of salt and stir them once every couple of minutes to ensure none of the beans stick to the bottom of the pot or burn.
3. Steak Tips
As a side for steak tips, I usually eat red potatoes as well. Steak is expensive, so I've come to learn that you can get the thin cut steak tips or top cuts for fairly cheap, and still have enough for two meals. I would season with salt and pepper, maybe steak seasoning if you have it, and then, like with the others, cook on the stove at a medium-high heat. Now, the cut of this steak is thin, so you shouldn't have to cook each side for more than 30 seconds, 45 seconds top. It's quick, so any side you're going to have with it, I would prepare beforehand so that the steak isn't left to cool.
4. Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
There's nothing fancy here - get your can of preferred soup, put it in a bowl, add half a can of water and heat in the microwave for about a minute and a half. Add lemon pepper if desired.
5. Totino's Triple Cheese Pizza
Follow the instructions on the packaging.
6. Ramen Noodles
If you're low on cash but not feeling fancy, ramen noddles aren't going to kill you to have once in awhile. Buy the bulk package of 24 from the store and it'll last you the whole year, unless you're eating it on the regular, in which case your body is not going to like your choices. If you want to spice them up a bit, add an egg or two and voila - egg drop ramen.
Fun fact: up until I got to college, I legitimately thought that ramen noodles came with actual meat, and were not just meat-flavored. I didn't eat them until I got to college, but the reason I thought this was because when I was still pretty young, my family didn't have much money, and at the tail end of paychecks, my mom would take a bunch of packages of ramen noodles and cook them with whatever meat was sitting in the freezer - chicken, beef, pork, you name it. She added whatever frozen vegetables there were and suddenly, there was soup (even if it was a strange looking soup). Because of this I was disappointed when I opened my first package of ramen noodles. However, I appreciate the creativity my mom used to cook on a low budget, even if I didn't always like the end result (sue me, I'm a picky eater).