Budget-Friendly Meal Prep Ideas for Students

Meal prep ideas for students are a great source of inspiration for students looking to get better at cooking and those who are living on a budget. Learning how to cook as a student is vital. It prepares you for your life ahead, teaches you brand-new skills, and helps you learn how to budget.

Learning how to meal prep

Girl cooking in the kitchen

There are a few different things that come under the umbrella of food prep. If you are cooking for yourself for the first time in your life, this might be the best way to get stuck into cooking, practice different dishes and see what you like to cook and eat. Last but not least it will get you better acquainted with cooking within a budget.

Batch cooking for later

The first idea of meal prep is to cook entire meals to be kept in your fridge or freezer for a later date. That way, you can cook up large pans of chilli, Bolognese or other meals that are easy to cook in large quantities, portion them into single meals (in Tupperware) to be stored in batches and re-heated later when you want to eat that dish.

Make-ahead meals

Make one meal the night before, or even in the morning, and put it away in the fridge to keep it. When it comes to lunch or tea-time, you can just take it out of the fridge and reheat it.

Prep just your ingredients

Another option is to tackle the ingredient preparation for the dishes you plan to cook over the coming days. Cutting up onions, garlic, carrots, preparing stock, and other simple ingredients, then storing them away, makes it easier and faster to cook your food and serve it when the time comes.

Plan ahead

Write down a list of what meals you’d like to cook for the week ahead. This will help you create a shopping list to buy the specific ingredients for each meal you want to make. At this point, you should also consider buying a certain number of Tupperware boxes and sandwich bags that are the right shape and secure enough to securely hold the dishes you cook.

Types of meals to prep

Girl cooking on stove for meal prep

To be successful in prepping your meals you should consider what type of recipes are best for the type of meal prep you want to do. You should also consider the cost of ingredients and what can stretch further depending on what type of dishes you cook in advance, as well as dishes and recipes you like and want to try out. Meal prep ideas for students include chicken and rice meals, pasta dishes, curry, breakfast dishes, stir-fry recipes and more.

3 Budget-friendly meal ideas for students

For some specific meal prep ideas for students, here are some tasty dishes:

  1. Big batch Bolognese

Bolognese dish

A quick, easy, and nutritious meal that you can cook as big a batch as you want to freeze away for the future, a Bolognese should be a staple recipe on every student cooking list! You can easily switch out meat for veggie alternatives with this dish too.


  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil/vegetable oil
  • 3 grated carrots
  • 4 bacon rashers, chopped
  • 4 brown onions, chopped
  • 4 celery sticks, chopped
  • 6 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of mixed Italian dried herbs
  • 1kg of lean minced beef
  • Large glass of red wine (or smallest bottle of red wine you can find 25cl)
  • 3 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan (or any type of cheese to serve as this is a budget-friendly recipe)

Cooking method

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the bacon, onions, carrots, and celery for a few minutes until they begin to brown. Add the 25cl of wine, covering the vegetables and cook until 3 quarters of the wine has cooked out.
  • In a separate pan, add the garlic and the mince beef and cook until browned.
  • Add all the vegetable into the pan with the cooked mince beef and garlic, adding the tinned chopped tomatoes and mixing together well. Rinse out the tins of tomatoes with water, adding a little more to the pan. Season generously and bring to a simmer.
  • The longer you leave the Bolognese on a low heat, the better and thicker it will become. This is all to your taste, but a minimum of an hour should be good.
  • Serve with pasta and parmesan (or other cheese of choice)
  1. Tuna and sweetcorn fishcakes

Sweetcorn and tuna fishcakes with garnish

Simple to make, healthy, and can be frozen for a later date.


  • 450g quartered potatoes
  • 1 x drained 200g tin of sweetcorn
  • 2 x 185g drained tins of tuna
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 100g dried breadcrumbs
  • Sunflower oil
  • Salad of your choosing

Cooking method:

  • Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and steam-dry in a colander. Season and mash, stirring in the tuna, sweetcorn, and mayonnaise. Shape into 4 cakes and then chill until they are cold and firm in shape.
  • Once firm and holding shape, dip each cake into the egg, then coat in the breadcrumbs. Chill for a further 15 minutes.
  • Heat some oil in a pan and gently fry the cakes for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are golden. It might be better to cook in batches, you can keep them warm in a low oven.
  • Serve with salad and extra mayonnaise.
  1. Veggie fajitas

Veggie fajitas with chickpeas

Simple, fast, tasty fajitas for you and your friends.


  • 400g tin of drained black beans
  • Finely chopped coriander
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 1 sliced avocado
  • 2 tablespoons of soured cream
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 red onion cut into wedges
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli powder
  • Half a teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Half a teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Juice of 1 lime


Cooking method:

  • Take two or three strips of each colour pepper and chop them finely, setting them aside. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and remaining strips of pepper until soft.
  • Mix in the chopped raw peppers, adding the garlic to cook for a further minute before adding the spices and stirring thoroughly.
  • Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the lime juice and seasoning. Transfer everything to a dish and keep warm.
  • Tip the black beans into the same pan, add remaining lime juice and stir to warm them through and to absorb the mixture. Stir through the coriander.
  • Warm the tortillas in a low oven or in the microwave. Serve with the fajita mix, beans, avocado and soured cream, so everyone around the table can make their own fajitas up.


There are some great budget-friendly meal prep ideas for students, as you can see above. Learning how to shop and cook on a budget and learning how to meal-prep to cook larger batches, are great skills to have as an adult. It will help you become self-sufficient and grow as a human, throughout your student days and into adulthood proper.

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