Cheap meals you can make on a student budget

The honest truth is: I’m not exactly a culinary expert, and unless you’re studying to be a chef, chances are you aren’t either. When I started uni, I spent two or three months subsisting purely on toasted cheese sangas and instant noodles.

I’ll never take for granted again my mother’s ability to serve up seven different, tasty and nutritious dinners in a week, because it is hard. And when you’re doing it on a budget, it’s even harder.

I’ve come a long way since eating mi goreng for three meals in a day and so has my cooking repertoire. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still sticking to a budget when it comes to my weekly grocery bill.

So, in the interest of saving another generation of uni students from the prolonged exposure to plastic mac n cheese that I endured, I’ve collected some of my favourite frugal recipes, ranging from the just-about-gourmet to dishes you can whip up in a dorm room with nothing but an iron and a gung ho attitude. Check them out:

Baked Rigatoni

Pasta is the frugal chef’s best friend - it’s cheap, it’s versatile and at least 9.5/10 people like it. This baked rigatoni from Health is a good example of the kind of pasta dish I would happily bury my entire face in.

Serves: It doesn’t say exactly, but pasta is infinite.Total cost: $9.81

Slow Cooker Chickpea Chili

Stay at Home Mum has a bunch of great recipes for under $10 but my favourite is the slow cooker chickpea chili, because not only is it super yummy, but there’s only one step in the recipe, which is pretty much the level of skill we’re working with here. Downside: you have to own a slow cooker.

Serves: 6Total cost: $8.57

Beer Can Chicken

The Food Network has come out with the perfect option for any true student cook up - the beer can chicken. Is there anything more appetising than a barbecue chook with a can of VB shoved in unmentionable places? I think not.

Serves: 4Total cost: $10.62 - less if you’ve already got the beer (which, be honest, you do.)

Veggie-Cheese Sandwich

If you’re a fan of the classic toasted cheese sandwich (old habits die hard, and it’s a classic for a reason), then crank it up a notch with this veggie-cheese sandwich. It’s, like, the king of grilled cheeses, and you can tell your mother that you’ve consumed actual vegetables this week without flat out lying.

Serves: 4Total cost: $5

Halloumi and Veg Skewers

Halloumi is a gift straight from the Greek gods, so these halloumi and veg skewers are a no brainer. They're tasty, easy and a good vegetarian option. If they seem a little boring, break out the hot sauce and you’re good to go.

Serves: 6-8
Total cost: $11.39

Bean, Kale and Egg Stew

Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun, trendy superfoods that are basically a prerequisite to completing an arts degree. So check out bean, kale and egg stew - scrumptious, cheap, and will totally earn you points when you post it on insta.

Serves: 4Total cost: $6.66

Got a fave low-cost recipe? Help broke students everywhere and stick it in the comments.