The budget of a college student is stereotypically small for one reason or another, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck eating ramen noodles and Kraft Mac N Cheese.
- Chicken Tacos: 1 lb chicken* cooked
- Beef Tacos: 1 lb ground beef cooked
- Taco shells or tortillas
- Sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. if you want
Tacos are one of my favorite meals because they’re hearty and delicious, but very cheap. If you want to go the extra mile, you can make your own tortillas. White Wings makes a tortilla mix that you just add water to – it’s very easy, just roll the dough, flatten it and pan fry.
*What kind of chicken? Light or dark meat, bone in or out, it only matters for amount of prep. If you want to get bone-in chicken, you can boil it til it’s almost done and then peel the meat off. White meat shreds better than dark meat. I pan fry it with seasonings and butter or olive oil.
Who needs cable when you can watch all your TV online – for free? I know I sure don’t (I do however pay for basic cable because it’s cheaper because of bundling). There are plenty of ways to catch up on your favorite TV shows without being a slave to their schedules or shell out a small fortune.
1. Hulu has a large number of TV shows and movies, as well as video clips. It’s missing a lot of episodes and series/movies, but it has most of the popular ones.
2. Surf the Channel is a similar website that has pretty much the same content, but it does have a few that Hulu does not.
3. Most of the major networks have their recent episodes available for online viewing.
4. Torrents. Because I don’t want the MPAA cracking down on me, I’m not saying that I do this. It’s just one possibility.
5. YouTube, which is not supposed to have copyrighted content, actually has plenty of it. There are a lot of series uploaded to YouTube. This is how I watched season four of Grey’s Anatomy actually.
Months ago I promised a few of my cheap recipes, but I never actually got around to posting any. So I’m starting. Here’s my penne pasta casserole. It costs a few dollars to make and feeds me and my boyfriend twice.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 bag of penne pasta
- spaghetti sauce (I use Prego)
- Boil the pasta until it is almost cooked. You want it just a little undercooked, where it’s soft, but not quite done.
- Brown the ground beef. Again, don’t completely cook. You don’t want it to be red, a little pink is okay.
- Pour pasta, ground beef and spaghetti sauce into big dish.
- Sprinkle cheese on the top. If you want it extra cheesy, put cheese throughout as well.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Note: This “recipe” doesn’t count on exact amounts. Pasta, beef, sauce and cheese all depends on your liking. We like a lot of meat and cheese. Some people like more pasta. You can’t really mess this up. Also, you can substitute the pasta for another kind if you’d like. Macaroni noodles work fine.
Living on a tight budget means cutting back on a lot of things and food is high up on the list. It’s hard to be creative when trying to eat on a few dollars per meal. Ramen noodles get tiring. I’m by no means a great cook, but I do all right. For me and my boyfriend, we have a budget of $300 for food each month, which averages out to about $5 a day for each of us. And because we eat really cheap food (Ramen noodles, that cup of soup stuff, etc.) for lunch, it helps average out when we want nicer meals. Our local H-E-B Plus grocery store is very helpful with coupons. It seems as if there’s a coupon on half the items you see, including what they call meal deals, where if you buy the main thing, usually the meat, you get all the extras free (ketchup, buns, pickles, etc. if it was for hot dogs) and those are great.
One of my suggestions is to always use coupons. Also, make a list before you go to the store of necessary items for the week and stick to it. This is our biggest problem. I have a list, but we definitely don’t stick to it. I’m also starting to make a list of meals for the week. We really only plan a meal for dinner because lunch is usually Ramen or a PB&J.
Cheap Dinner Ideas
- hot dogs/chili dogs
- baked fish (we live by the coast so seafood is way cheap)
- frozen pizza
- store brand TV dinners
- frozen stir-fry
- jambalaya or dirty rice (ground meat is cheap, we get sausage on sale)
- tacos (ground beef or chicken are cheaper than steak)
- grilled cheese
- if you find porkchops on sale, add mushroom soup
- macaroni and hot dog wieners
- frito pie
- Spaghetti-o’s or other Chef Boy-R-D canned foods
- homemade stroganoff (I will post my recipe at some point, but you can find them online)
I’m trying to come up with more ideas, but being creative on a budget is tough. I’ve been searching for other websites that have helpful tips, but I haven’t come across very many good ones. I’m currently working on some inexpensive recipes to better food than frito pie and hot dogs.