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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

30 Easy College Meals for Students or Busy Professionals

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When it comes to preparing dinner after a busy day in classes or at work, the last thing we want to do is spend hours in the kitchen to create something healthy. These easy college meals are geared specifically for students and busy professionals who are pressed for time but still want a meal that is healthy and delicious!

collage of easy college meals for students

Earlier this week, I got a comment from a reader — she’s a college student and doesn’t have much time, but wanted some healthy and easy meal ideas that she could use during the week. I thought it was a great question – and would apply to anyone who is super busy and just doesn’t have more than 15 minutes to spend in the kitchen.

photo of a bunch of vegetables

Tips for Eating Healthy and Cheap in College

When you start college or have your first apartment on your own, it is probably the first time you are buying and preparing your own meals. These helpful tips will get you started so that you can enjoy healthy meals without breaking the bank!

Shop the Sales

All of the major grocery stores come out each week with a flyer of their weekly sales. Some stores require you to sign-up for a customer card, while others do not. Be sure to sign-up, and get your card, so that you can save big!

Before going to the store, look through the weekly sales. You can also find these online if you don’t get a printed version. Make your list of groceries based on the fresh ingredients that are on sale. Usually the produce that is on sale is also the produce that is in season. This means you’re getting fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables at a discount!

You’ll also find canned foods, dairy, meat and other foods on sale. Base your recipes for the week around the ingredients you’re able to get on sale.

Shop Around

Not all grocery stores are created equal. Depending on where you shop you can end up spending A LOT more money!

My favorite discount grocery store is Aldi. They run weekly specials, but they also have excellent prices on their organic produce even when they are not on sale.

While I love Whole Foods, it is on the pricier end. So to save money at Whole Foods or higher priced retailers, focus on the sales, and find the best deals!

Prepare Your Own Meals

Preparing your own meals at home is not only much less expensive, but also much healthier.

Getting take-out on a regular basis will not only hurt your pocket book but also your waistline. Take-out foods are often made with more oils and fats then you would use at home. This increases the calories, without the nutritional value.

When you prepare your own meals at home, you’ll end up making more for less, and also have complete control over what goes into your food.

You can reduce the amount of oil, add more fresh vegetables, etc. You’ll also likely end up with leftovers that you can enjoy for lunch the next day!

Buy in Bulk

If there are particular items that you use often, consider buying them in bulk. It will save you money in the long run. For example, I buy canned beans in bulk because I know I will use them often, and they keep for an extended period in the pantry.

Also consider using the bulk section of your grocery store. This is where you can buy grains, flours, granola, nuts, seeds, and more. I love using the bulk section when I’m making a new recipe that calls for an ingredient I’m not familiar with because I only need to buy as much as I need.

For example, if you are making a recipe that calls for 1 cup of lentils, you can buy just 1 cup of lentils from the bulk section. This ends up saving you money because you only buy what you need.

Time Saving Tips for Preparing Easy College Meals

  • Chop/prep all of your produce when you buy them or when you have extra time. That way, when it comes to actually making the weeknight meals, all you have to do is throw the ingredients together.
  • Find recipes that use the same vegetables. This will save you money and prep time.
  • Create a meal plan. Take a look at your week and decide which days you will be preparing meals at home based on your schedule. Then, choose your recipes. Creating a meal plan will help prepare for the week, so that when you have a busy night, you can have leftovers to eat.
  • Make a grocery list. I know this seems obvious, but so many of us go to the grocery store without a list and just buy whatever inspires us. While this is a nice thing to do once and awhile, you’ll often find you end up spending more money, without really knowing what to do with the ingredients you buy.
photo of woman grocery shopping for easy college meals

What to Buy to Prepare Healthy Easy College Meals

  • Seasonal vegetables and fruits: When creating your weekly meal plan, consider what is on sale or in season at the grocery store, and base your meals off of those.
  • Inexpensive protein: Beans, lentils, Greek yogurt, and eggs are all excellent sources of protein that are also inexpensive. They can also be prepared quickly, and are full of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Whole Grains: In order to create a well balanced meal, you’ll also need to incorporate whole grains into your meals. This can include whole grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta to name a few.

Easy College Meals for Students on the Go

How do you eat cheap and healthy when in college?

Prepare your meals at home, and use fresh seasonal ingredients when planning your recipes. Saving money on your grocery bill means you’ll need to shop the sales, and avoid getting take-out.

What should college students eat for dinner?

You need brain food when you’re studying. That means preparing fresh meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables, high protein, and whole grains.

30 Easy College Meals for Students and Busy Professionals

These are my favorite easy meals that are perfect for college students and busy professionals. One of the challenges when you’re a student or busy professional is that you may only be cooking for one. These recipes allow you to have some leftovers for breakfast of lunch, making meal time even easier!

Tacos, Burritos, and Quesadillas

When you get a craving for Mexican take-out, try one of these simple and easy college meals! You’ll find tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that are so quick and easy to make, yet less expensive than take-out, and full of healthy vitamins and nutrients!

sweet potato tacos with black beans and a spicy yogurt sauce served on a wooden cutting board
Sweet Potato Tacos with a Spicy Yogurt Sauce
These hearty sweet potato tacos are loaded with refried black beans, veggies, and topped with a spicy Greek Yogurt taco sauce. They're gluten-free, easily made vegan, healthy, delicious and super family-friendly! The best part? They're ready in just 30 minutes!
View this recipe
avocado quesadillas with poblanos mangos and black beans stacked on a wooden cutting board
Grilled Quesadillas with Poblanos, Mangos, and Black Beans
Easy, crispy, satisfying Grilled Quesadillas are filled with creamy avocados, protein-packed black beans, gooey cheese, spicy poblanos, and sweet mango. Ready in 30 minutes and the perfect weeknight meal!
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vegetarian burrito bowl with black beans, tortilla chips, corn, cheese and lime
Veggie Burrito Bowl (Chipotle Copycat!)
This healthy and easy Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with black beans is packed with goodness and awesome flavors! Inspired by Chipotle's veggie bowl, it’s loaded with jalapeno peppers, black beans, onions, peppers, warm spices, hearty brown rice, sweet corn, and a secret ingredient that makes it extra filling and satisfying!
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Vegan black bean tacos with beans, avocado, veggies, and cilantro, served on a white plate.
Vegan Black Bean Tacos
These healthy and delicious vegan black bean tacos are great for an easy weeknight meal. Packed with beans, veggies, spices, and toppings of your choice, they’re full of flavor, ready in 30 minutes, and perfect for the whole family!
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Mexican Pizza Taco Bell Recipe
This vegetarian copycat Mexican Pizza Taco Bell recipe is a real treat, and you wouldn't guess that it's healthy! Low in calories, made with whole foods, and ready in less than 30 minutes!
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Chipotle copycat sofritas in a cast iron skillet topped with cilantro and lime wedges.
Sofritas (Chipotle Copycat Recipe!)
These Chipotle copycat Sofritas are a healthy, vegan-friendly protein alternative with tons of flavor. They’re low sugar, low sodium, spicy, and great for adding to tacos or veggie bowls! 
View this recipe
bbq jackfruit served in a white bowl with burrito fixings
BBQ Jackfruit Burrito Bowls
This pulled BBQ jackfruit burrito recipe in a bowl is simply incredible and bold in flavor. Made with tender jackfruit, hearty beans, rice, fresh vegetables, and comforting spices, this recipe is the perfect healthy option for meatless weeknight dinners!
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veggie quesadilla recipe - vegetarian black beans tomato corn quesadilla served with cold beer salsa and yogurt dip sause on dark wooden background.
Veggie Quesadilla Recipe
These easy healthy veggie quesadillas are packed with black beans, gooey cheese, and crunchy veggies, and are ready in under 30 minutes!
View this recipe
vegetarian fajitas in a corn tortilla topped with cheese, avocado and cilantro, served in a blue bowl
Smoky & Healthy Vegetarian Fajitas
The aroma of these Smoky Vegetarian Fajitas will make you smack your lips and your stomach growl. Every bite is filled with lots of caramelized vegetables, spicy seasonings, protein-packed black beans, gooey Mexican cheese, and a crispy corn tortilla. 
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Loaded veggie nachos piled with veggies, jalapenos, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, olives served on a white platter.
Loaded Veggie Nachos
Making loaded veggie nachos has never been easier! Layers of chips, melty cheeses, and the best toppings come together to make the perfect side dish or main dish. These nachos are easily customizable making them great for the whole family. Enjoy them for cinco de mayo, game day, or movie nights – this no meat nacho recipe is delicious any time of year!
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Healthy Homemade Pizzas

What college student doesn’t love pizza! These healthy pizzas and flatbreads are so easy to make at home, and WAY healthier than take-out. They key is to use whole wheat pizza dough, lots of veggies, and lighten up on the cheese!

closeup of Mushroom Flatbread with Roasted Vegetables
Mushroom Flatbread Pizza Recipe
A crispy whole wheat crust is topped with melty mozzarella and fresh pesto to create this mushroom flatbread pizza that makes for a family friendly meal any day of the week! It's a truly authentic artisan flatbread pizza, that rivals anything you'd order in a restaurant!
View this recipe
top view of margherita flatbread with basil and tomatoes
Healthy Margherita Flatbread
This easy and healthy Margherita Flatbread is a delicious take on the classic pizza! Topped with fresh tomatoes and basil and drizzled with balsamic vinegar, it's a family friendly meal!
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goat cheese pizza recipe with caramelized onions and arugula cut into slices
Goat Cheese Pizza With Caramelized Onions
This Goat Cheese Pizza with caramelized onions is a restaurant-quality meal you can make at home with ease! The crisp crust paired with creamy and tangy goat cheese and sweet caramelized onions is a match made in heaven made for sharing with friends and family.
View this recipe
Yeast free vegan flatbread stacked on a cutting board.
Vegan Flatbread
This vegan flatbread recipe is soft and fluffy, simple to make, and versatile too! With just five ingredients and no yeast, it's made with pantry staples and dairy-free milk. Enjoy it as the base for pizza, to mop up stews and curries, or as a satisfying snack.
View this recipe
Veggie supreme pizza, cut into slices, on a cutting board lined with parchment paper.
Veggie Supreme Pizza
This veggie supreme pizza is as easy as it gets! Made with gooey mozzarella, fresh basil, and tasty vegetables like green bell pepper, roma tomatoes, and kalamata olives, this savory pizza will instantly become your new favorite recipe. The best part? In just 30 minutes, you can have the most delicious pizza to serve as an appetizer or for hosting pizza night!
View this recipe
BBQ Flatbread (Black Bean Pizza)
This healthy, flavorful BBQ Flatbread pizza with corn, black beans and red peppers is easy to make at home and is low in calories. Loaded with fresh veggies, this black bean pizza recipe is a fun twist on traditional pizza and keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days!
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pear gorgonzola pizza served on a wooden cutting board
Pear Gorgonzola Pizza
With just five easy ingredients, this Pear Gorgonzola Pizza with Walnuts is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser! Gooey fontina cheese, fresh pears, savory gorgonzola cheese, and crunchy walnuts all on top of whole-wheat pizza dough makes for a mind-blowing delicious meal! 
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healthy homemade pita pizza / pita bread pizza with veggies as toppings on a cutting board
Easy Pita Pizza Recipe
This amazingly easy, pita bread pizza recipe is healthy comfort food that can be thrown together in just 15 minutes!
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Stir-Fries and Bowl Recipes

Stir-fries are a great way to get a balanced and healthy meal in a hurry. With a combination of brown rice or quinoa, with vegetables, and protein, these recipes take minutes to make, but are big on flavor. The best part is the leftovers taste even better the next day!

vegan tofu fried rice with vegetables, served on a white plate
Vegan Tofu Fried Rice
Vegan Tofu Fried Rice is super satisfying, healthy and flavorful. It's packed with nutrients, and it’s a one-pot meal that can be thrown together in around 20 minutes! Family-friendly and kid-approved!
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Lemon-Ginger Vegetable Stir Fry Sauce
This healthy vegetable stir fry sauce tossed with fresh veggies, tofu and quinoa is a quick and easy vegan weeknight meal. It's loaded with flavor from lemon and ginger, and is ready in just 15 minutes!
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Meatless low carb vegetarian egg roll in a bowl, served in a white bowl, garnished with green onions.
Vegetarian Egg Roll in a Bowl
We took out the insides of an egg roll, and put them in a bowl! It's easy to make, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly, and is ready in just 30 minutes. This vegetarian egg roll in a bowl recipe is a flavorful, healthy one-pan meal that the whole family will love!
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healthy easy vegan thai green curry recipe served with quinoa in a bowl
Vegan Thai Green Curry
This delicious and hearty Vegan Thai Green Curry with chickpeas is slightly spicy and super filling. It makes great leftovers too!
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sweet and sour tofu with veggies, served on a white plate with chopsticks
Sweet and Sour Tofu with Vegetables
Sweet and Sour takeout flavors without the excess fat and other ingredients. You won’t miss the price of takeout once you make this healthy tofu version at home.
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thai sweet potato soup with poblano peppers served in a white bowl, top view
Poblano Soup with Sweet Potatoes
This spicy Poblano Soup with Sweet Potatoes combines the flavors of a traditional curry with some unconventional spices and seasoning for a rich and healthy soup with a real depth of flavor.
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Healthy Sandwiches, and Wraps

When it comes to simple and easy meal ideas, sandwiches and wraps are where it’s at! These healthy sandwich and wrap recipes are perfect for one to two people, and taste like a sandwich you’d get at your favorite take-out place!

goat cheese grilled cheese with arugula and pear
Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese with Pear and Arugula
This mouth-watering goat cheese grilled cheese sandwich is the perfect lunch or light dinner! Creamy goat cheese is the star of the show, and it goes beautifully with freshly sliced pears and a drizzle of honey. Ready in less than 20 minutes, you can’t help but fall head over heels in love with this sandwich. 
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Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe on a white plate
Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe
I love sneaking veggies into traditionally “comfort food” type dishes, and this panini is no exception. The fontina cheese oozes out of the sandwich, the bread is warm and crispy, and the sautéed kale and caramelized onions add some much needed lightness to the dish.
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Homemade easy falafel wrap recipe on a white plate.
Falafel Wrap Recipe
This delicious falafel wrap recipe is healthy comfort food at its best! These crispy falafel patties are baked instead of fried, then wrapped in a whole wheat pita and topped with spinach, tomato, and a creamy hummus sauce. Vegan, easy to make gluten free, and totally family-friendly!
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top view of garlic bread grilled cheese on a wooden cutting board
Gooey Garlic Bread Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This Garlic Bread Grilled Cheese with French Onions is the ultimate gooey cheesy indulgent sandwich with a healthy twist. Packed with flavor and done in minutes, it's comfort food at its best!
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Healthy vegan shawarma wraps with tofu served on blue plates topped with vegan tzatziki sauce.
Vegan Shawarma
This vegan shawarma is stuffed with crispy savory tofu, fresh veggies, and a super creamy vegan yogurt sauce. Everything is tightly tucked into a soft and pliable whole wheat pita bread warmed to perfection. The perfect recipe to make for an easy lunch, or for a busy weeknight dinner!
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Sourdough grilled cheese sandwich with apple and brie cut and stacked on a plate with fresh herbs.
Sourdough Grilled Cheese
This irresistibly delicious sourdough grilled cheese is ready in just 10 minutes. Melted brie, thinly sliced apple, and honey are layered between two slices of sourdough, then grilled until golden. This is guaranteed to be the best sourdough sandwich you'll ever eat! 
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Gourmet Banana Peanut Butter Sandwich
Who said that the peanut butter sandwich had to be 1) boring 2) just for kids and 3) the same every time? Sometimes reinventing a classic is just what you need to get out of a rut.
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Quick and Easy Healthy Pasta Recipes

Pasta is always a super simple to pull together. It keeps well in the pantry, and it’s extremely versatile. Add your favorite sauce and protein, and you have a quick and easy meal. The key to keeping pasta healthy is portion control, and using whole grain or legume based pasta. Load up on the vegetables, and keep the sauce light but flavorful!

garlic pasta with veggies in a white bowl with parmesan cheese
Garlic Veggie Pasta with Parmesan
This flavorful Garlic Pasta is made with fresh broccoli, zucchini, red onions, seasonings, whole wheat spaghetti, and is topped with parmesan cheese. This easy Italian dish is a delicious, guilt-free solution to healthy eating.
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vegetarian pesto pasta with spinach and herbs, served on a white plate
Vegetarian Pesto with Linguine
This Vegetarian Pesto Pasta made with spinach, herbs and whole wheat linguine is a quick and easy dinner recipe that comes together in 30 minutes. Every bite is bursting with flavor!
Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce with whole wheat pasta, served in a black bowl with basil on top
Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce with Whole Wheat Pasta
This easy and delicious Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce with hidden fresh veggies, served over whole wheat pasta, makes for a quick and satisfying meal.
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Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Feta
A few simple substitutions makes this pasta recipe healthier than the traditional version, without losing any of the flavor and deliciousness of
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Vegan bolognese with lentils on top of penne pasta, on a white plate with a parsley garnish.
Vegan Bolognese
This hearty vegan bolognese has a meaty texture from the lentils, walnuts, and celery! It's simple to make, family-friendly, and ready in less than 30 minutes. Scoop it onto your favorite pasta for an easy weeknight meal. 
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spinach ravioli with roasted tomatoes and basil in a blue bowl
Spinach and Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil
Dressed up with a delicious roasted tomato sauce and fresh herbs, this store bought spinach ravioli feels like a gourmet Italian meal you can enjoy on a weeknight!
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whole wheat pasta recipe topped with spinach, pasta sauce, parmesan cheese on a white plate, with a fork
Whole Wheat Pasta Recipe
This easy, tasty, healthy Whole Wheat Pasta Recipe is easy to make when you're in a hurry! Full of flavor and loaded with veggies, this family friendly supper will be a sure fire hit!
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Vegetarian pesto pasta recipe with spinach, basil and pine nuts on a white plate.
Vegetarian Pesto Pasta
This healthy vegetarian pesto pasta recipe is easy to make and perfect for a fuss-free weeknight meal. Ricotta gives this sauce a creamy texture, fresh basil provides a bold flavor, and the added pine nuts gives it a nice crunch! Tossed with frozen spinach, this pesto veg pasta is ready in just 30 minutes, and makes a quick dinner recipe for the whole family!
View this recipe
pesto without pine nuts in a glass jar
Pesto Without Pine Nuts
This healthy pesto without pine nuts is the perfect pasta sauce for a quick and easy weeknight meal. This walnut and sage pesto is packed full of earthy flavors and is lower in fat and calories than its store bought counterparts!
View this recipe

I hope this post helped you navigate the world of cooking for yourself when you’re needing an easy, budget-friendly way to make recipes for 1-2 people!

Check Out These Other Helpful Healthy Round-Up Posts!

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Plant Based Recipes ·

Healthy, plant based recipes don’t have to be boring or tasteless! These recipes are all vegetarian and plant based, but also happen to be totally satisfying, tasty and delicious!

We have got you covered with made-over comfort food classics like this alfredo sauce without heavy cream, our healthy cornbread, this low calorie omelette and this hearty vegan white bean chili.

You’ll also find tasty cuisine from all over the world, to healthy baby food to student snacks and quick meals! All of these plant based recipes are delicious & nutritious, perfect for the whole family (picky eaters included!) to enjoy.

Following a special diet or cooking for someone who has one? Try my gluten-freevegan, vegetarian, baby food, or kid-friendly recipes. They are all easy to adapt to fit your family’s needs – without sacrificing flavor or quality. Easy suggestions and swaps can help you create meals for everyone.

43 responses to “30 Easy College Meals for Students or Busy Professionals”

  1. Oh, my! There are so many wonderful recipes here that I don’t know which one to try first. Hmmm…. definitely the Chipotle Sofritas first. And, the Avocado Quesadillas. Wow, you’ve put together some winners here. Thank you.5 stars

  2. I love this collection of recipes! I can’t wait to try some of them!! I especially appreciate the time saving tips — even though I’m out of college I never have time to cook!5 stars

  3. What a great roundup of delicious recipes! These are not only great for college students, but for working parents on busy weeknights! Excited to give these a try!5 stars

  4. Where was this guide when i was in college? hahaha. I’m sharing this with my cousins since they’ll probably get a lot of use out of it too.5 stars

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