Back To Uni: Easy Student Meals

Recipes For Students

So far in the Back To Uni series we’ve taken a look at (amongst other things) College/Work life balance, How to shop on a budget and and Ultimate guide to productivity, health and finances. In this post I thought we’d take a look at something a bit more practical: How to cook.

For some students, when they get to university, it’s their first time away from home and they may not have had much experience (if any) in cooking for themselves – certainly within a tight budget.

In this post I’m going to step away from my usual type of advice and give you a few ideas of cheap and quick meals you can make in your halls of residence (or at home as well). For regular readers you may not realise that I’m into cooking but I actually started a cooking blog back in 1999 (WTF?!) although it wasn’t really classed as a blog waaaaaay back then! That blog is long gone but if you’re interested in some of my cooking adventures you should check out my Instagram Feed. Anyway, on with the recipies!

For help with conversions from metric to er… not metric check out The Metric Kitchen – and don’t moan I haven’t converted them myself, I have do deal with “cups” which don’t relate to any cups I own so I’m getting my own back!

Tuna Bake

I’m starting off with this one and I can’t believe I’ve not take a photo of it! Well, actually I can. I doesnt’ look very nice but it’s really yummy and also riduculously cheap and easy to make. This is my go-to meal when I want something filling, relatively healthy and cheap

The following recipe makes enough for approximately 4 servings.

[tabby title=”Ingredients”]

  • 3 tins of tuna
  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 2 packets plain crisps (or use breadcrumbs if you’re feeling posh)
  • 1 pint cheese sauce (packet, granules or homemade – granules are cheapest and work just as well)
  • 300g (approx) grated cheese – enough to cover the bowl you’re using to a depth of around 0.5cm
  • additional items: add tomatoes and/or cooked pasta to bulk out the dish even more

[tabby title=”Method”]

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200° (190° for fan assisted ovens)
  2. Open and drain the tins of tuna and tin of sweetcorn. Place in a large oven proof dish
  3. Make your cheese sauce and pour onto the tuna/sweetcorn. Add a handfull of grated cheese and stir. If you’re adding pasta, add it to the bowl at this point
  4. Pierce a hole in the crisp packets and using a heavy object (like a rolling pin) smash the crisps until they’re broken into small pieces
  5. Sprinkle the crisps over the top of the tuna/sweetcorn evenly
  6. Cover the top of the dish evenly with the cheese – you can also top with sliced tomato at this point if you want it to look really posh
  7. Place in the centre of the over for 25 – 30 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown slightly
  8. Remove from oven and serve – you can serve with a side salad too for extra healthy goodness!


Stuffed Peppers

This photo shows the stuffed peppers as a side dish to some poached tuna, but they’re great as a main meal on their own.

[tabby title=”Ingredients”]

  • Bell Pepper – Red is best as it has a middling flavour (not to bitter, not too sweet)
  • Stock cube – vegetable or chicken are best
  • Cous Cous – around 35 grams per pepper (I think – depends on the size of the pepper and how much other stuff you’re putting it in!)
  • Cheese (feta or haloumi are best)
  • Extra ingredients: Mushrooms, Ham, Peas, tuna – anything you want that’ll fit in the pepper basically!

[tabby title=”Method”]

  1. De-seed the pepper buy cutting the top off, slicing down the middle and then clearing the seeds out. Place under a medium grill for around 5 – 8 minutes, until they’re starting to soften.
  2. Meanwhile make up the stock as per the instructions (usally one cube per 190ml water – this is enough for around 70 – 100gms of cous cous)
  3. Add the warm stock to the cous cous, stir and leave for around 5 minutes to settle and soak in.
  4. Add your extra ingredients to the cous cous (cooked of course!) then stir in the half of the cheese
  5. When the pepper are soft, remove from the grill and add your cous couse mix, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and place back under the grill for around 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted
  6. Serve with a rocket side-salad with some balsamic vinegar drizzled over it.


Moroccan Style Stew

#latergram of my Moroccan stew with some added dumplings #katycooks A photo posted by Katy Whitton (@katy_whitton) on

This stew is a great use of left-overs. You can use pretty much any meat, or vegetables to make a filling meal.

[tabby title=”Ingredients”]

  • Olive/Sunflower Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic – crushed (optional)
  • Left over meat (lamb, beef, pork or chicken) – you can use fresh meat but make sure to cook it through first.
  • 1 tin of vegetable soup
  • 1 tin potatoes (or cooked new potatoes – 400g approx)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP Tomato puree
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, parika and cayenne pepper (both are optional if you don’t like it spicy
  • Dumplings – frozen (such as Aunt Bessie’s in the UK) or make your own with suet (optional but they do bulk out the meal)

[tabby title=”Method”]
This is assuming that your meat/veg base for the stew is already cooked, if not cook it all now before you follow the rest of the instructions!

  1. Put the oil in a pan and heat it up for a bit. Add the onion and garlic and fry until soft
  2. Add the meat, turn the heat down to low and warm it through slowly
  3. Add your seasoning, stir well and the add the tomato puree, soup and tinned tomatoes
  4. Simmer on the hob for 30 – 45 minutes until the liquid has reduced and thickened. In the meantime, make your dumplings (if using)
  5. Serve in a bowl with the dumplings on top – if not using dumplings put crusty bread on the side for a filling accompniment


Ham and Pea Carbonara

This is a great, simple and quick meal that doesn’t need a lot of skill. The advantage is you can also substitute the ham for tuna, chicken, courgettes or anything else you can come up with!

[tabby title=”Ingredients”]

  • 80 grams pasta per person – for this recipe spaghetti is used but any other pasta is fine
  • 70 grams frozen peas per person
  • 2 spring onions finely chopped
  • small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 30-40 grams cubed ham, flaked tuna etc. per person
  • 45 grams half-fat creme fraiche per person
  • 10 grams grated parmesan (or cheddar) cheese per person
  • Splash of lemon juice (optional)

[tabby title=”Method”]

  1. Bring a large pan of water with a couple of pinches of salt in it to the boil
  2. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions (usually 8 – 10 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile put the peas in a sieve and run under some hot/boling water.
  4. Put a little oil in a non-stick pan and cook the spring onion and garlic on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. When the onions have started to soften, add the peas and ham. Keep on the heat (stiring occasionally until the past is done).
  5. While waiting for the pasta, put the creme fraiche, grated cheese (leaving some to garnish) and lemon juice in a bowl and stir well
  6. When the pasta is cooked, drain, return to the pan and then stir in the ham and pea mixture, then the creme fraiche mix.
  7. Place on a warm plate and garnish with the remaining cheese to serve


Tuna Mackerel Salad

Tinned fish can be quite cheap, but it’s also full of really good fatty acids and omega 3 oils to keep your brain ticking over on those long study periods. This recipe uses mackerel but you could swap it out for anchovies, tuna, salmon or sardines.

[tabby title=”Ingredients”]

  • 75 grams of Penne Pasta (although any pasta will do)
  • 1 Pepper (red or green) deseeded and sliced
  • 4 cherry tomatoes halved (or larger tomatoes cut into small chunks)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tin (125gms) mackerel, drained and flaked (keep around 3 tsbp of the fish oil for the dressing)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Black olives to garnish (optional)

[tabby title=”Method”]

  1. Cook the pasta per the packet’s instructions
  2. Drain the pasta an run under cold water. Drain it again and put it in a mixing bowl
  3. Add the fish, pepper, spring onion and olives to the pasta an mix.
  4. To make the dressing, in a separate bowl mix the reserved fish oil, lemon juice and black pepper (you can also add a littel parmesan cheese if you have it)
  5. Serve the pasta in a bowl and pour over the dressing or serve on the side


Sticky Sausages

Sweet and sticky sausages, served on a bed of watercress and radish salad. #katycooks

A photo posted by Katy Whitton (@katy_whitton) on

This recipe is great as it can use meaty or veggie sausages – and tastes fantastic

[tabby title=”Ingredients”]

  • 125 grams new potatoes (halved) or a small tin of potatoes
  • 3 sausages (pork or veggie)
  • Half an eating apple cut into wedges
  • Half a red onion cut into wedges
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard (or similar)
  • 40 grams large salad watercress (or whatever salad you prefer)
  • 40 grams radishes sliced finely
  • For The Dressing: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp cider vinegar 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard

[tabby title=”Method”]

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C
  2. Cook your potatoes for around 5 minutes so that they’re starting to soften and then drain
  3. Place the potatoes, apples, onion and sausages in an oven-proof dish. Drizzle over the olive oil and then toss so everything is coated in a little oil
  4. Pop the sausages etc. in the oven for 30 minutes, turning the sausages every 5 minutes to make sure they cook evenly on all sides
  5. After 30 minutes, pour over the honey and mustard, stir and then cook for another 15 minutes
  6. While you’re waiting, mix the dressing ingredients adding a little salt and black pepper to taste
  7. Arrange your watercress and radishes on a plate, pour over the dressing and then top with the sticky sausages



Pancakes…. Only 80 calories per serving apparently! Shame I ate 900 of them! #katycooks A photo posted by Katy Whitton (@katy_whitton) on

Well, we have to have a fun dish, don’t we? These pancakes will make a few. I can’t say how many as it depends on the size and thickness you make them (I usally get around 8)! Rest assured though, the recipe’s enough to cure your pancake craving!

[tabby title=”Ingredients”]

  • 110 grams plain flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 Large free range eggs
  • 200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
  • Some oil or melted butter for the pan

[tabby title=”Method”]

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl and then add in the salt
  2. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and crack the eggs into it
  3. Smoosh the eggs with a fork so the yolks are broken, start whisking and then slowly fold in the flour
  4. Slowly add in the milk/water mixture stirring constanly. When all of the milk has been added, start whisking hard until the mixtures has no lumps and you can see small bubbles forming on the top
  5. Heat the oil or butter in a pan and when it’s quite hot, add the pancake mix. How much you add will depend on the size of the pan or how thick you want it.
  6. Cook the pancake on one side for 2-3 minutes, you can then turn it with a spatuala or, if you’re feeling brave, flip it in the air!
  7. If you’re making multiple pancakes, you can keep the cooked pancakes warm on a plate in the oven
  8. To serve, top with lemon juice & sugar, honey & banana or lots of other toppings


Over To You

Do you have a favourite cheap dish? I can think of a few more I may include in another post but I’d love to hear from you – let us know in the comments what you like to cook on a budget.

Featured Image By Katy Whitton
Filed Under:

Subscribe to our mailing list

Join Hundreds of readers who have access to exclusive downloads and content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.