Most people would rather go out to eat rather than to stay at home and cook a homemade meal. As a result, students find themselves spending more than they should on fast-food.
For the same price as a full meal at a fast-food place, students can make food that is larger in quantity, tastes better, and sometimes even cost you less.
While some students, like political science major Kyler Harshman, spend $7 or $8 twice a week eating in the cafeteria, other students spend drastically more. Ponciano Avila, a behavioral psychology major, says he spends around $60 a week eating out.
There is an alternative to dining out frequently and spending excessively. Students on a budget can cook at home for a fraction of the price and can still have enough to bring leftovers to school the next day.
Many college students prefer the “fast-food” method because it is just that–fast. However, cooking at home doesn’t have to be a hassle or time consuming.
There are several options when it comes to cooking on a budget. First and foremost, you have to buy your ingredients.
Depending on your taste, ingredients will vary from person to person, but culinary arts major Chloe El-Amine stressed that all ingredients should be bought fresh.
“Processed foods tend to be more expensive, and it’s not that good for you,” El-Amine advised.
Where you get your ingredients is up to you as well. There are a variety of grocery stores where you can get your produce. If you live near a Safeway or Raley’s, that will suffice.
However, if you’re looking for more healthy options, there is a Sprouts Farmers Market located by the intersection of Greenback Lane and Sunrise Boulevard.
Not only should ingredients be bought fresh, but they need to be used up. Food and money are wasted when ingredients are left to rot.
El-Amine recommended that dishes be focused on vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions.
“(They are) the basic building blocks of everything,” she said.
When it comes to cooking on a budget, pasta is a go-to dish, because the pasta itself is cheap and you can create a variety of sauces and ingredients to give it a different flavor every time.
Culinary arts professor Raymond Salladarre and El-Amine agree.
When Salladarre was a college student, he would cook pasta dishes, sausage and homemade burgers.
One of the greatest tools for cooking on a budget is a slow cooker, which come in sizes ranging from three to seven quarts.
Students who spend six to 10 hours at school a day can easily prepare meat, vegetables and seasonings in the slow cooker before leaving for the day and arrive home to a hot, ready-to-eat meal, with leftovers for the next day.
If creating recipes isn’t your thing, plenty can be found with the click of a mouse. The website budgetbytes.com has dozens of recipes that can be made on a miniscule budget.
Individual prices for each ingredient are listed along with the price for each recipe as a whole.
With the help of online recipe books, not only will students save money, but they will do it with a full stomach.
Salladarre has a simple outlook on food.
“My philosophy is that since we need to eat to feed our body,” he said, “we should eat fresh, tasty and comforting dishes to also feed our soul.”
Salladarre provided three recipes that are low on budget and delicious to make.
Quesadilla (Serves 4)
1/2 medium red or green sweet pepper, seeded and cut into bite-size strips
1/2 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 fresh serrano pepper, halved, seeded, and cut into thin strips*
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 six-inch white corn tortillas
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces)
2 thin slices tomato, halved crosswise
1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro
Light dairy sour cream (optional)
Cilantro and lime wedges (optional)
1. In a large skillet cook sweet pepper, onion, and serrano pepper in hot oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Remove from heat.
2. Lightly coat one side of each tortilla with cooking spray. On the uncoated side of two of the tortillas, divide half of the cheese. Top with onion mixture, tomato slices, the 1 tablespoon cilantro, and the remaining cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, coated sides up.
3. Heat a very large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook quesadillas for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cheese melts and tortillas are lightly browned. Cut each quesadilla into four wedges. Serve warm and, if desired, with sour cream, additional cilantro and lime
Baked Ziti (Serves 8)
1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
2. In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
4. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.
Enchiladas (Serves 4)
12 corn tortillas
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of salsa (Mild prepared salsa or make your own using cooked or canned tomatoes, roasted green chiles, onions, cilantro, oil and vinegar. Do not use salsa made with fresh, uncooked tomatoes for this dish.)
3 Tbsp of tomato paste
1 cup water
1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)
1 lb of jack cheese, mild cheddar or longhorn or any mild yellow cheese, grated
A handful of cilantro
1 cup of sour cream
Half a head of iceberg lettuce
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large fry pan at medium-high heat add 3 Tbsp of canola oil. Add a tortilla to the pan. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift again, both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath. Repeat the process with all the tortillas, adding a little more oil if needed. This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat. You do this process to develop the flavor of the tortillas. As the tortillas brown a little, remove from the pan one by one to rest on a paper towel, which absorbs any excess fat.
3. Sauté up the chopped onion and garlic, then turn off the heat. Add 1 cup of salsa. Dissolve 3 Tbsp of tomato paste into 1 cup of water, add to pan. Add 1 cup of crushed fire roasted canned tomatoes. Taste. If the sauce tastes too vinegary, add a teaspoon of sugar.
4. Put some olive oil on the bottom of a large casserole pan. Take a tortilla, cover 2/3 of it lightly with the shredded cheese, then roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan. Continue until all tortillas are filled and rolled. Add sauce to the top of the tortillas in the the casserole pan. Make sure all are covered with the sauce. If not, add a little water. Cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese. Put the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.
5. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream. Serve with sliced iceberg lettuce that has been dressed only with vinegar and salt.