How to make a student food budget

When school’s in session, weekends are for fun and the occasional splurge. But on weeknights it’s time to hunker down, save coin, and reserve as much time as possible for homework, activities and ideally, lots of sleep!

If you’re a first time post secondary student, it can be tricky to simultaneously master cooking on your own and manage a very frugal student food budget. Here are a few student approved weeknight dinners that cook up quick, and won’t cost a lot of cash.

Soup: The Spendthrift’s Best Friend

This is easily the best low-cost food on the planet. You can take whatever leftovers are in the fridge, or veggies from the discount rack, and make a main dish that only requires bread, perhaps a small salad, and you’re done. For most soups, start with an onion and garlic in oil or butter and add from there. Use a vegetable or chicken bouillon cube for extra flavour. Use a single vegetable like cauliflower or broccoli (finish by pureeing the soup and adding a dash of milk and cheese). Or use a can of tomatoes and spike with more veggies, a can of navy beans and even some pasta. Always salt your soups and use fresh garlic or they’ll lack flavour.

Pinch a Penny With Pasta

If I eat another plate of pasta with red, store-bought sauce on it, I’m gonna lose it. Fortunately, there’s no need – you can craft a homemade sauce for less at home. Cut up a fresh tomato and add basil and garlic and toss your hot pasta into this fresh sauce with Parmesan cheese. Or, grill up a lot of vegetables and toss with some olive oil and cheese. Even some dry spices and a dash of butter and grated cheese on pasta makes for a simple side dish — tastier than those you can get from a package.

A Whole Chicken Packs a Punch For Lunch

If you don’t have the skill to cook a whole chicken, the precooked ones from the grocery story offer a great deal. They can play the main dish in a dinner with a homemade pasta side dish (see above) and steamed vegetables. Then, keep it well covered in the fridge to make sandwiches for lunch, the topping for a meal-sized salad, or chicken for fajitas. Then, when things are almost done, submerge the whole thing in a pot of salted water. Strain, and build a soup using the broth. Flake off the rest of the good meat and throw it into the soup with some frozen peas and some pasta for a very hearty chicken noodle soup.

Make Your Own Pita Pizzas

Tossing a frozen pizza in the oven is a tempting way to whip dinner up in a flash – but store bought versions are totally overpriced. Instead, grab a pack of pita break, some No Name Pizza and a stick of mozzarella cheese for plate-sized pizzas you can pop right onto the broiler.