10 cheap and easy recipes for students

Elizabeth Tan on 15 September 2017
Fall in love with cooking with these cheap and easy meals

It's so easy to fall into the expensive takeaway and ready meal trap, so here are some cheap and easy meals for a student budget.

Homemade pizza

Buying pizzas can be costly in the long term so making your own is a budget-friendly way to have one of your favourite dishes. Making a pizza base doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process with this recipe!


Serves: 1 Average cost: £3.10

  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 60ml milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Sprinkle mixed herbs
  • Any toppings you like! (pepperoni, ham, peppers, onions, mushrooms, chicken, pineapple etc)
  • Cheese, grated


Preheat the Oven to 200℃/ Fan 180℃/ Gas Mark 6. Prepare your toppings (e.g. Cut up the ham, grate the cheese). In a large bowl or mixing bowl, add the self-raising flour, milk and oil. Mix with your hands to form the dough.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a circle. Roll to the thickness of roughly two pound coins. Place on a baking tray. Spoon on your chopped tomatoes and spread near the edges of the dough. Sprinkle your mixed herbs on top. Add your toppings and cheese. Bake on the top shelf for 20 minutes.

Roast sausages and vegetables

If you’re not a fan of chopping and frying for hours then this recipe is the one-tray wonder you’re looking for. This easy weeknight recipe can also use lots of your leftover vegetables and herbs so feel free to experiment with timings when cooking those.


Serves: 3-4 Average Cost: £3.99

  • Pack of large sausages
  • 500g sweet potatoes, chopped
  • One broccoli head
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 3 mixed peppers, chopped
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Sprinkle mixed herbs


Preheat oven to 200℃/ Fan 180℃/ Gas Mark 6. Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into a roasting or baking tray and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the sweet potatoes and mixed peppers. Place the sausages, sweet potatoes and peppers on the baking tray. Toss in the oil and roast for 15 minutes.

Add the sliced red onions to the tray with a sprinkle of mixed herbs. Toss with the sausages and veg and roast for a further 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the broccoli in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and serve with the sausages and veg.

Classic lasagne

If you want something filling and tasty, then a classic lasagne is the one for you. It’s a cheap and easy recipe, fantastic for batch cooking and/or freezing.


Serves: 4 Average Cost: £5.40

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 450g beef mince
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Sprinkle mixed herbs
  • 4 Lasagne Sheets
  • Cheese, grated (optional)
  • Salad bag (optional)
  • Knob of Butter
  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 250ml Milk (plus extra)


Preheat the oven to 180℃. Fry the onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil in a hot frying pan until soft. Add in the mince and break it up into small bits with a spatula or spoon that you’re using to stir. Once the mince is brown all over, add in the chopped tomatoes and mixed herbs and stir thoroughly. Boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally so the mince doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan melt the knob of butter. Add in the flour and half the milk. Stir constantly on medium heat to prevent lumps. The mixture will look yellow and thicken as you keep stirring so keep adding milk until the white sauce becomes white and to the thickness you desire. Turn the heat off.

Place a lasagne sheet on the bottom of an ovenproof dish and then a large spoonful of the mince. Layer another lasagne sheet and add more mince. Repeat until all the mince is used up. Add a lasagne sheet on top and pour the white sauce on. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve with salad and cheese.

Stir-fry chicken, rice and peas

This recipe is very simple and super quick. Once you master this recipe then you’ll have no trouble cooking other stir-fry recipes. For fluffy rice, cook the rice in advance, completely cool, and keep it in the fridge (but not too long). We recommend having a small bottle of light soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce at hand to serve with.


Serves: 2-3 Average Cost: £2.70

  • 2 Chicken Breasts, diced
  • 3-4 Spring Onions, finely sliced
  • 100g Frozen Peas
  • 150g Cooked Rice
  • 2 Eggs


Cook the rice in a pan or rice cooker and cool completely. In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of sunflower oil or sesame oil and fry the diced chicken. Add in spring onions and peas to cook.

Add in rice and break it up with the spoon or spatula you are using. Stir until everything is hot and crack in eggs. Mix thoroughly until the eggs are cooked. Serve with light soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.

Spaghetti bolognese

This recipe is perfect for batch cooking. You’ll have lots of leftovers which means you don’t have to spend loads on meals because they’ll already have been made! To make chilli con carne, follow this same recipe but replace spaghetti with rice and add in diced chilli, a can of kidney beans and cumin/paprika instead of herbs.


Serves: 4 Average Cost: £4.10

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 450g beef mince
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Mixed herbs
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • Half a packet of spaghetti
  • Cheese (optional)
  • Rocket salad


Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add in the beef mince and break it up with the spatula or spoon you are using. Fry until brown. Add in the onions and fry until soft. Add in the mushrooms. Fry until soft and add in the garlic.

Add in the chopped tomatoes and stir thoroughly. Stir in the herbs and (optional) Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and serve with the bolognese. Sprinkle with cheese, black pepper and serve with a salad.

Homemade pot noodle

Paying for your meals is quick and easy but it also costs a lot in the long term. Instead of being tempted to buy loads of salty pot noodles, why not make your own? That way, you can decide how much filling you will have instead of having a packet decide for you. Use up your leftovers in this recipe to ensure you get all of your money’s worth of grocery shopping and decrease the chance of food going off.


Serves: 1 Average Cost: 90p

  • 1 nest of noodles
  • 50g frozen peas and/or veg
  • Half a fresh chilli, finely chopped or a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3-4 small tomatoes
  • Any finely chopped leftovers (cooked chicken, mushrooms, cabbage)
  • Enough boiling water to cover the content


Put all the ingredients in a bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let rest for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.


You can also put all the dry ingredients in a tall Tupperware container, take them to work or uni and add boiling water when it’s lunchtime!

Homemade pasta sauce

No need to buy any of those convenience bottled pasta sauces. You can make a batch full of pasta sauce which can store in your fridge for days and can even be frozen for months. It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s healthy.


Serves: 2 Average Cost: 90p

  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable stock
  • Sprinkle of mixed herbs
  • Cooked pasta
  • Cheese (optional)


In a small saucepan, heat the Olive Oil. Add in the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and add the vegetable stock and mixed herbs.

Stir until hot and add in cooked pasta. Stir until all the pasta is covered and if you want, sprinkle with cheese. Serve.

Fajitas & guacamole

Fajitas don’t require a lot of ingredients so they’re perfect if you don’t want to buy too many things to cook. They also make lots of leftovers so you don’t have to cook every day to have tasty meals. You can have the fajitas on their own but having homemade Guacamole will blow your tastebuds away!


Serves: 2 Average Cost: £3.32 + £1.54 for Guacamole

For the Fajitas:

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 mixed peppers, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • A packet of tortilla wraps

For the guacamole:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lime
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of chilli flakes or 1 tsp chilli powder


For the Guacamole, use a fork to soften the avocados in a bowl or Tupperware box until they become almost like a paste. Mix in the onions. Use the same fork to help you squeeze the juice of one lime into the bowl or box. Mix and add in the salt and chilli to taste.

Store in the fridge for later use. If you put the avocado pit in there with it, the guac won't go brown as quickly.

For the Fajitas, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the chicken until nearly cooked all the way through. Add in the peppers and onions and fry until soft. Add in garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add in chilli powder, cumin and paprika and stir thoroughly.

Serve in tortilla wraps and top with guacamole.

Burgers, chips & salad

This classic recipe can bring a taste of home flooding back. Although it’s nice to have a burger and chips when you’re out, you can bring this meal into your home and have it for half the price!


Serves: 2 Average Cost: £4.65

  • As many chips as you please
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 4 beef burgers
  • 4 burger buns, toasted
  • 1 Large Tomato, sliced
  • 1 salad bag
  • Half an avocado (optional)
  • Mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • Cheese (optional)


Follow the packet instructions to bake your chips.

Halfway through the cooking time, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the burgers on medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until brown all over.

Serve in the toasted burger buns with the sliced tomato, salad bag, any other optional toppings, chips and sauces.

Twice-baked potato

If you want something that’s filling and easy to make, this recipe is the one for you. Although it may take a little while to cook, there are no complicated steps involved. Leave it to bake while you're studying. It’s tasty, punchy and oh-so-filling!


Serves: 2 Average Cost: £2.58

  • 4 Large Baking Potatoes
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 6 Spring Onions, sliced
  • 100g Bacon Lardons
  • 50g Unsalted butter
  • Salt and Pepper


Preheat the oven to 200℃/ Fan 180℃/ Gas Mark 6. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork, then rub half of the oil, salt and pepper onto the potatoes. Oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Fry the spring onion and bacon in the remaining olive oil. Once cooked, place on kitchen paper to slightly dry off. Half the potatoes lengthways (Caution! They will be hot) and scoop out the potato and place in a bowl.

Mix the potato with the spring onions, bacon and butter. Scoop the mixture back into the potato skins. Top with cheese or butter and bake in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. Serve.

What lifehacks do you use to save money in the kitchen? Join our student panel and let us know. You'll get 1000 reward points for signing up.

Elizabeth Tan
Elizabeth Tan on 15 September 2017