This post contains lots of Easy College Dinner Recipes with a Printable Weekly Meal Plan and Shopping List(at the end of this post)for the beginner college cook.
One of my boys is living off campus this year and will be off the meal plan. Like most college students who are no longer on the meal plan, he will have to prepare all his own meals and stay within abudget. Breakfast and lunch are easy (he makes oatmeal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch), but cooking dinner is going to be a challenge.He needs easy college dinner recipes.
My son has four requirements for cooking dinner. He will only prepare meals where: (1) no cutting is needed; (2)only a few ingredients are required; (3) minimal dishes need to be washed; (4) a healthy portion of protein is included. There will be no measuring of ingredients either.
I spent last week coming up with easy college dinner ideas that meet these four requirements. Fortunately, there are many spice/herb/seasoning mixes, marinades and simmer sauces available in supermarkets that can make easy meals for college students.
One pot meals and food that can be prepared in large batches and transformed into multiple other meals will be key to my son’s ability to meet his criteria for easy college dinners while eatinghealthy.
Basic College Kitchen Equipment
In a previous post, I laid out what I thought were essential equipment and supplies for a college kitchen . I have to admit looking back at this list that this was a list of what I would have liked in my first college kitchen (my specialty dish in college was Kung Pao Chicken ). Here is a very streamlined list of kitchen essentials for college students like my son who are only interested incooking very simple meals.
Basic College Pantry Items
Basic College Groceries
Purchases That Will Save Time
Cooking healthy college dinners can take less time if you buy some prepared foods to supplement your meal. Prepared foods are almost always more expensive than cooking it from scratch yourself, but sometimes it is worth the extra expense when you’re short on time.
Cooking Gifts for College Students (Nice To Haves)
Cooking Large Batches Saves Time
You can save a lot of time cooking healthy college dinners by cooking in large batches before the school week begins.
Five Ways to Stretch Your Dollar
Cooking healthy college dinners doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In addition to buying items on sale, choosing cheaper cuts of meat and including less expensive sources of protein like beans and eggs at dinnertime can stretch your dollar.
Three Healthier Food ChoicesFor College Students
Three Easy Vegetable Ideas For Dinner
Budget-Friendly Ground Meat Recipes
Ground meat (e.g., ground turkey, chicken, beef) is one of the cheapest forms of meat you can buy at the supermarket and is super versatile.
Ground meat can be made into burgers and seasoned with your favorite spice/herb mix. Form them into square patties and serve on toasted whole grain bread if you like (a slice of melted cheese on top would be nice too).
Almost everyone loves chili, pasta with meat sauce and tacos. The ground meat is cooked the same for all three of these recipes. Simply heat a little oil in a large skillet and saute the ground meat of your choice until browned (if you have chopped onion or garlic, this is a great time to add some). Then it can be used in one of the following ground meat recipes. I recommendmaking a double batch of chili and pasta meat sauce, and freezing it.
Turkey Bolognese Sauce Served Over Gluten-Free Pasta
Budget-Friendly Chicken Recipes
Chicken is a college student’s best friend. It’s relatively inexpensive, healthy and a great source of lean protein.
One of the simplest one dish meals that can be made in large quantities if this
Easy Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
Packaged simmer sauces are also a great way to make dinner in very little time using chicken. I scoured the ethnic section of our grocery store and found a number of wonderful Indian and Asian simmer sauces. You just place chicken in a pot with the simmer sauce and cook. Alternatively, you canbake chicken with the sauces (I think this method would work better if you’re using chicken on the bone).
Grilling boneless chicken (or fish) on a panini press is one of the easiest college dinner ideas. Mom and Dad – this is a great gift for your college student. Simply season a batch of boneless chicken with your favorite spice/herb mix, drizzle with olive oil and grill. Since the panini press cooks both sides of the chicken at the same time, it only takes about 10-15 minutes on the high setting to cook boneless chicken breast.
6 Easy College Dinner Recipes Using Leftover Chicken
Leftover cooked chicken (grilled, roasted or store-bought rotisserie chicken) is really versatile and can be transformed into many new easy college dinners throughout the week:
Baked Pasta with Chicken and Vegetables – Mix together cooked whole grain pasta, cut-up cooked chicken, and cooked vegetables of your choice in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with shredded cheese or grated Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Alternatively, you can put everything in a microwaveable bowl and cook 3-4 minutes until heated through.
Easy Chicken Parmesan – Top grilled chicken breast with some pasta sauce and shredded cheese; bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is warmed through and cheese is melted. Alternatively, you can heat this up in the microwave for 2-3 minutes (The Lekue Steam Case would work for this; if you don’t one just make sure to cover the dish so it doesn’t splatter).
Mexican Rice Bowl – Topa scoop of warm rice with chopped cooked chicken, canned black beans, shredded cheese, lettuce greens and salsa. Guacamole (you can buy prepared guacamole in individual portions) and Greek yogurt or sour cream are nice extras.
Chicken-Veggie Quesadillas – Place whole grain tortilla in a skillet; sprinkle with some shredded cheese, and chopped cooked chicken (grilled/roasted chicken or taco meat) and leftover cooked vegetables. Cook until cheese is melted; flip and continue to cook until meat is heated through.
Chicken Vegetable Fried Rice – Heat a little oil in a large pan. Add cooked brown rice and toss until hot. Push the rice to the sides of the pan and add a few whisked eggs. Once eggs are firm, mix with rice and add chopped cooked chicken and leftover cooked vegetables. Season with soy sauce.
Hearty Ramen Noodle Soup – Cook ramen noodles according to package,adding leftover cooked vegetables, chopped cooked chicken and an egg (crack open into the pot).
Weekly College Dinner Meal Planner
I came up with an easy college dinner menu for the week to get you started. It costs about $35for groceries or just $5/dinner based on prices I found on Peapod.com.
Here’s the gameplan:
Print out this
College Dinner Meal Plan #1
Shopping List #1
More Easy College Dinner Recipes
For the more adventurous college student who is willing to do a little extra work, here are additional dinner recipes you might want to try:
Easy Herb Spiced Roasted Chicken
Roast Chicken with Cumin and Cilantro Scallion Salsa
Mexican Taco Nacho Mac and Cheese
Mexican Turkey Taco Meatloaf Muffins
Turkey Taco Nacho Casserole
Turkey Taco Pizza
Tomato Paste Pasta
Pasta Puttanesca (stir in a can of tuna for extra protein)
If you liked this post, you might also want to read:
Essential Equipment and Supples for the First College Apartment Kitchen
30+ Easy Healthy College Dorm Room Snack Recipes
Source: Jeanette’s Healthy Living