I’m in college, and never have I once eaten Ramen noodles for dinner (Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese, though, is another story . . .).
I cook most of my meals, and I’ve learned a thing or two about saving major bucks without sacrificing taste and health. Here are seven of my go-to lunches and dinners, super easy, quick and satisfying every time.
Carrot, pepper and sweet potato hash with fried eggs
A bag of shredded carrots and a couple of bell peppers and sweet potatoes will last you a few days, and eggs are the perfect source of protein on the cheap. Sautee the veggies in olive oil and your favorite seasoning on medium to high heat. When they’re about ready, fry a couple of eggs to your liking, and plate them on top of the veggies. Your meal will be so colorful, you’ll forget you’re eating on a budget. Bonus points if you puncture the egg yolk aaall over the hash.
Open-faced panini with a side of fruit or veggies
At lunchtime, I crave sandwiches. Making my own saves a lot of dough, in both senses of the word. I usually put one piece of whole wheat bread in the toaster. While it's getting crispy, I stick some sliced turkey breast (which you could totally buy at the butcher for a fraction of the cost of the packaged stuff) and a slice of cheese (usually havarti) in the microwave so the meat is heated through and the cheese is just beginning to melt. I spread some mustard on the toast, add the meat and cheese and call it a day. I’ll add a couple of slices of tomato and avocado if I have them on hand. Add some fruit or carrots to your plate, and it's meal that can kick Subway’s butt.
Whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, chicken, spinach and mushrooms
Pasta is always cheap, and a few modifications can make it more nutritious. I try to grab whole wheat pasta, but today’s options include everything from chickpea-based pasta to brown-rice pasta. While your noodles, whatever they're made of, are boiling, sautee spinach and mushrooms with garlic -- and your choice of protein, like chicken or bacon -- and add tomato sauce when they’re cooked. Throw the mix over the pasta, and consider your meal balanced.
Cauliflower fried rice with chicken
Do yourself a favor and stock up on Trader Joe’s frozen riced cauliflower, and it will come to your rescue like a valiant knight oh so many times. There are endless ways to jazz up this staple, but my most frequent one involves more veggies, chicken and soy sauce. I usually sautee the cauliflower with all TJ’s products, actually: the Healthy 8 Veggie Mix, Soyaki Sauce and either frozen or fresh chicken breast. So cheap, so delicious.
Trader Joe’s Turkey Burgers
These babies are $3 for a pack of four, and damn are they tasty. Juicy and just 180 calories each for a nice slab of protein, they are my savior. I’ve been known to crumble them up and throw them in a pile of veggies so each bite of vegetable is rescued by the far superior flavor of turkey.
There are few recipes for which I’m willing to turn on the oven, and this is one of them. You’ll likely have tomato sauce and eggs in the fridge. Next time you’re at the store, just pick up an eggplant and a can of breadcrumbs, and you’ll be ready to rock and roll -- er, lock and layer? Eggplant parm has all the fun and deliciousness of lasagna, but it’s far healthier and involves far less work. Enjoy the leftovers for a week.