Cheap & Easy College-Friendly Recipes: Part I

Cafeteria food is known for not tasting great, but many college students don’t think they can afford buying groceries out of pocket. However, there are plenty of cheap and easy college-friendly recipes for students, even without access to a kitchen!

Don’t have access to a kitchen? Here are a few cheap college-friendly recipes you can make in your dorm.

Beans and Rice

What tools you’ll need: a can opener, a rice cooker, a microwave, and a glass or ceramic bowl.

  • Ingredients: a can of black beans, a cup of uncooked rice, a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of dried minced onions, shredded cheese, and hot sauce (optional).
  • Directions:
    • Follow the rice cooker’s instructions to cook the rice.
    • Drain the can of beans and then pour them into a glass or ceramic bowl with cumin, salt, and minced onions.
    • Heat a can of beans in the microwave.
    • When the rice and beans are done, top with shredded cheese and hot sauce.

Rice bowls

What tools you’ll need: a rice cooker.

  • Ingredients: I like to keep my ingredients as simple as possible to cut down on costs, so I prefer either beans, salsa, corn, and shredded cheese or curry sauce, peanuts, and corn in my rice bowls. However, there are so many styles and possibilities for rice bowls, so do some research and be creative!
  • Directions: This one is simple. Cook the rice and add whatever toppings you like!

Mac and Cheese

What tools you’ll need: a glass or ceramic bowl and a microwave.

  • Ingredients: a box of single-serving mac and cheese.
  • Directions:
    • Cover the pasta in water until there’s about an inch more water than there is pasta.
    • Cook the pasta in a glass or ceramic bowl in the microwave starting at 6 minutes on 50% power.
    • Depending on the strength of your microwave, it could take longer to cook the pasta completely, so feel or taste pasta to ensure it is done!
    • Important: Make sure you turn your microwave’s power to 50% or the water will overflow and create a big gooey mess. This happened to me too many times!
    • Mix cheese packet with about a teaspoon of water or milk (I prefer milk). Remember, you need less water or milk than you think you need! I have poured too much water or milk so many times, creating a very liquidy cheese sauce.
    • It may take a while to completely mix the water or milk and cheese powder so be patient.
    • Drain the pasta then mix it with the cheese and enjoy!

Cans of soup

What tools you’ll need: a can opener, a microwaveable bowl, and a microwave.

  • Ingredients: A can of your favorite soup.
  • Directions: Heat up soup to the desired temperature! Start out with thirty or forty seconds.


What tools you’ll need: a microwaveable bowl and a microwave.

  • Ingredients: oatmeal, milk or water, and your favorite toppings.
  • Directions:
    • Cook oatmeal in the microwave on 50% power (this is important) for about 3 minutes then top with whatever you like!
    • I like the maple and brown sugar-flavored oatmeal packages, but you could also flavor your oatmeal with fruit or nuts!

Here are some of my favorite sandwich options:

  • Peanut butter and banana
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Egg sandwich (Try adding tomatoes or avocados!)
  • Grilled cheese (tomatoes and avocados taste amazing in grilled cheese, as well!)
  • White bean and arugula
  • Tuna or egg salad sandwich. You could also eat these salads on their own or with crackers.

And this is just the beginning, having access to a kitchen greatly increases your food options. Find out more about what college-friendly recipes you can make in a kitchen as well as other money-saving tips!

Katelyn is an editorial intern at Potential magazine and a senior at Faulkner University where she studies English. She enjoys writing and she is excited to work with Potential to share her experience and research about college life, self-improvement, budgeting, etc.

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