Simple, Fast Meal Ideas on a Budget
I've been a vegan for about two years and when I first started, I was able to do it right and I even lost about 20 pounds!
Recently I moved provinces out of my parents' house to go to school. I'm completely alone here and don't drive so I rely on transit and walking to get around. Anyway I've been here about two months and I am finding it so hard to make quick easy meals and I've been gaining weight. I can't find a good balance, so I end up eating super processed or sugary crap that just makes me feel awful.
My question is to ask for some suggestions of simple meals that are healthy and hopefully even low fat. I have been searching all over and I found lots of stuff that says its simple but it requires a lot of ingredients or is hard to cook or the ingredients are expensive or hard to find.
Anyway I was just hoping you had some suggestions for SUPER simple, very few ingredient meals that might make life a little easier for me and less overwhelming. I don't really have a passion for cooking or the ability to multitask. Any help or advice you have would be so helpful and appreciated! Thanks so much!
It might seem like you are the only one dealing with this problem, but this is actually a really common problem. There are thousands of students who are just like you; they're out on their own for the first time and they want to eat healthy, but they don't have time, energy, or the tools to be able to do heavy cooking. There's a reason why people always joke about Ramen noodles and spaghetti O's as the diet of college students.
When I was in college, I did cook for myself, even though I had really limited kitchens. I did not cook all the time, and I did rely quite heavily on noodles and other cheap things like that, but I also didn't really know better.
Looking back, I did some things right and other things wrong. Here are my best tips for college students who want to eat healthy, both tips I used and those I wish I knew at the time:
- Canned beans are the new best friend you met on your dorm floor. They are very cheap and give you a nice shot of protein for a few meals. They also keep forever, so you don't have to worry about using them right away.
- If you do have access to a hot pot or a stovetop, dried beans are your BFF. They are even cheaper than canned beans and you can make a massive quantity that you store in the fridge and freezer and it saves you a ton of time.
- In that same pot, you can make a plethora of whole grains that will keep you stuffed throughout the day and leftovers can be stored in tupperware in the fridge until you are ready to eat them.
- If you have a freezer, I highly recommend buying frozen vegetables. Second to fresh vegetables, frozen ones retain the most nutrients and flavors, and they're the easiest to store without worrying about spoilage.
- 1+2+3= The quickest, most filling, tasty meal for college students. Take a big scoop of your quinoa, brown rice, barley, or whatever grain you have in the fridge, add a scoop of beans, and then load it up with a bunch of your vegetables. Reheat the whole thing and top it off with your favorite spices or sauce and it's an instant, healthy meal. Get creative by trying different beans, grains, and vegetables for a completely different meal every time.
- Opt for whole grain pastas. Though they might cost a few more pennies than regular white pasta, they keep you full longer, which means you don't need to binge eat on a bunch of junk.
- I love dried fruit and nuts for snacks. I know packages of nuts and dried fruit seems like it's expensive, but you don't need more than a small handful to regain any lost energy, so that snack actually lasts much longer and is cheaper than a bag of chips, candy bar, or any soda.
- Do a quick internet search for the closest farmers markets to your school. My senior year I actually found a Saturday market that was right down the street from my house and could get fresh vegetables and fruit much cheaper than anywhere else on campus.
- College campuses always have cheap food nearby, and often you can actually find really good vegan food as well. I used to go to a place with huge burritos that were stuffed with beans and veggies and wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla, and it fed me twice. At probably $5-6 for the burrito, each meal was $2.50 or $3. Not bad. Keep your eyes open for coupons, student discounts, and specials.
If you have access to a slightly larger kitchen and want more ideas for sandwiches, soups, salads, snacks, breakfasts, and even vegan desserts, check out my new ebook, Vegan Cooking for Beginners.
It's got 75 of my easiest vegan recipes that anyone can make.
Hope that helps! College can be a hard time to maintain eating healthy food, but it's worth it.