Without a full kitchen or a full budget, a student with little money might start to suffer nutritionally or gain weight from an overabundance of processed foods. Worse still, a starving student may prefer skipping a few meals to eating a bland bunch of cheap convenience foods day in and day out. Eating well on a starving-student budget requires creativity with both shopping and cooking techniques.
Add a few ingredients and transform budget instant ramen into a full meal. Prepare the ramen as directed but add canned chicken or tuna, sliced tofu or leftover rotisserie chicken chunks. Slice up some mushrooms and green onions, available year-round cheaply in most supermarkets, and enjoy a hearty soup. Prepare ramen in boiling water without adding the spice packet, drain and substitute for pasta with tomato sauce and sliced sausage. Serve with a green salad for an Italian dinner for one. Crumble dried ramen over salads for crunch without croutons. Stretch scrambled eggs by mixing in cooked ramen and cheese.
Clip coupons and utilize in-season ingredients to stretch your student budget. Coupons save you money on pantry staples and nonperishables, and watching for the best prices on produce helps you find the freshest ingredients since prices usually fall when produce becomes plentiful during its peak season. Mixing fresh diced tomatoes into a box mix of cajun rice and beans adds color, sweetness and vitamins. In the late summer and fall, saute apples with shredded cabbage to serve over buttered noodles and topped with crumbled bacon if desired. Springtime brings abundant asparagus that adds a bright green when tossed into pasta salads and creamed soups after blanching and chopping.
Even the most meager budget can afford some meaty main courses. Correctly prepare inexpensive cuts of meat such as London broil to make the most of their flavors and limited tenderness. Marinate London broil for several hours after scoring the surface of the meat diagonally with a sharp knife. Cook the London broil to medium rare over high heat, turning just once. Slice on the bias to serve. Blend horseradish into whipped potatoes on the side for a hearty meal suitable for a date night in. Cook inexpensive pork or beef roasts in a slow cooker, covered with broth or water to tenderize them. Add root vegetables cut into small chunks for a complete meal.
Even in the absence of a full kitchen, a student can cook and eat well. Invest in some microwave cookware and save money by purchasing fresh and frozen vegetables in large packages instead of steam-in-the-bag packaging. Cook only what you need each time. Save money by buying canned or carton gourmet soups instead of settling for a limited selection of microwave-safe tubs. Add leftover scraps of a store-bought rotisserie chicken to canned soups or microwave rice dishes to complete a meal.
- The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook; Jack Bishop
- Joslin Diabetes Center: Eating Well on a Budget
- Kansas State University Extension: Beef -- Choices, Preparation and Flavor
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