Quick meals for busy students
When classes are running full speed ahead, after a busy day it can feel daunting to jump in the kitchen and cook a full meal. It’s easy to forget how much money can be saved by cooking at home when the convenience of fast food and on-demand delivery apps removes the time & effort (for added fees, of course).
Here are some quick, easy-to-make meals that can save you money with simple ingredients along with minimal prep time. Some of them work well if you like to meal prep for the week, as well as an added slow cooker recipe you can setup before leaving for class so it will be ready when you arrive back home.
Ramen Noodle Upgrade – Mad Hungry
(photo courtesy of madhungry.com)
Starting off with a very fast dish, if you like ramen and peanut butter this recipe makes a simplified Thai peanut sauce that can be fully prepped before the noodles finish boiling.
- 1 package Ramen noodles plus the included flavoring packet
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons chili sauce (like Sriracha)
- (Optional) ½ scallion or green onion, thinly sliced
- Boil noodles with flavor pack and drain off most liquid. Toss with soy sauce, peanut butter, and Sriracha. Garnish with scallion.
- For a faster prep, thoroughly mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, and Sriracha together in the serving bowl while the noodles cook.
- Add a bit of the pasta water to help thin out the peanut sauce for easier mixing.
- (Optional) If you want more flavor from the flavor packet, mix the flavor packet into the peanut sauce while the noodles boil in the pot.
Done, that’s it! Ready to eat.
Greek Chicken Salad – Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen
(photo courtesy of carriesexperimentalkitchen.com)
A quick chicken salad with a delicious, fresh taste. It calls for a food processor or blender to “smooth” the chicken but if you lack those tools a simple alternative is to just shred the chicken with forks for a different texture that works great.
- 2 cups diced cooked chicken*
- 1 plum (or small) tomato, diced small
- ¼ cup cucumber, peeled and diced small
- 12 pitted kalamata olives
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (or dried oregano)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Pulse chicken in a food processor or blender until smooth; then place in a bowl.
- Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, Feta cheese, mayonnaise, oregano, and lemon juice and combine. Season with salt and pepper
- *A 16oz can of cooked diced chicken in water works great for speeding up this recipe, just make sure to drain out the water beforehand.
Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables – Budget Bytes
(photo courtesy of budgetbytes.com)
This delicious Pesto Chicken and Vegetables recipe has a bit more prep time and makes 4+ servings making it a great dish for meal prepping that you can cook on Sunday and have a homemade lunch ready to eat for the week.
- 1-1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- ½ red onion
- 1 cup frozen green beans
- 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
- ⅓ cup pesto*
- ⅛ teaspoon salt*
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper*
- 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan*
- Chop the bell pepper, yellow squash, and zucchini, and slice the red onion.
- Cube the chicken breasts into ½-inch pieces.
- Add the cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high. Add the chicken and sauté until the chicken pieces are opaque (3-5 minutes – the chicken will continue to cook as you add vegetables).
- Add the green beans to the skillet and sauté for 1-2 minutes more, or just until thawed.
- Add the bell pepper and red onion to the skillet. Sauté for 1-2 minutes more. If water begins to pool in the skillet, turn the heat up slightly. It should be hot enough that the water released from the vegetables evaporates quickly.
- Add the yellow squash and zucchini to the skillet and continue to sauté 2-3 minutes more, or just until the squash softens slightly.
- Turn the heat off, add the pesto to the skillet, and stir until everything is coated. Give the vegetables a taste and add salt, pepper, or more pesto if desired. Top with a light sprinkle of Parmesan just before serving.
- * Each of these ingredients can be adjusted based on the size of your vegetables and to your personal taste.
- This dish can be eaten by itself or with rice, orzo, or quinoa to stretch it into even more meals.
- Budget Bytes recommends other vegetables you can add as well such as broccoli, carrots, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh corn, asparagus, and spinach.
Pastina – Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen
(photo courtesy of carriesexperimentalkitchen.com)
It doesn’t get much faster than this! Pasta comes in many different forms, shapes, and sizes. Pastina is simply tiny balls of pasta. this recipe is great for those evenings you might be feeling under the weather when the last thing you want to do is put on an apron.
- 2 cups water
- 1 cube Chicken bouillon
- 1 cup pastina
- 1 Tablespoon whipped* butter
- Bring the water and bouillon cube to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Next, add the pastina and cook until all the liquid has evaporated; then add the butter. Serve hot.
- * The official recipe calls for “whipped butter”, but regular butter works just fine if you soften it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds first.
Five Ingredient Tex Mex Crockpot Chicken – Hello Spoonful
(photo courtesy of hellospoonful.com)
This slow cooker chicken recipe is beyond easy with just 5 ingredients and almost zero prep work other than rinsing and draining a can of black beans! Pour it all into the pot and give it a little stir before letting the slow cooker do its work. It’s flexible for your schedule with both cooking settings, either Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours and is delicious by itself or with your choice of toppings and additions like a salad or tortillas.
- 1 lb boneless skinless Chicken Breast
- 1 Tablespoon Taco seasoning
- 8-10 oz Salsa
- 15 oz Black Beans rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen Corn
- Place all ingredients in the slow cooker.
- Stir, making sure there’s some sauce underneath the chicken so it doesn’t end up sticking to the bottom.
- Cook on LOW for 8 hours (or on HIGH for 4 hours)
- Shred with a fork and serve.
- Goes great with taco shells, rice, over a salad, in a burrito bowl, or as a topping for nachos.
- From Hello Spoonful they have suggested mixing it with melted cheese (after it’s cooked and ready to serve) to turn it into a dip for chips.
One last recommendation is to think about the foods and ingredients you personally enjoy. Each of the recipes above can be customized to your preference; do you have a particular brand of sauce or peanut butter you love? Grab it. Not a fan of zucchini? Try using carrots instead. The possibilities are endless and if you shop for ingredients you enjoy, it will encourage you to cook something delicious you can look forward to after a long day.
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