With the end of August fast approaching and the cooler days of September just around the corner, I can practically smell the pumpkin-spice everything. I’m joking. But I can hear the footsteps from the army of new freshman students starting their first year of college or university. WELCOME TO THE CLUB, freshers. You’re going to love it.
This post is for students who are living away from home for the first time and are unsure about what to be cooking to fit with the fast-paced college lifestyle. For student food to be its best it needs to fit three checkboxes: affordable, simple, and nutritious. Even though it may be tempting, lay off the nightly takeaway. I don’t care how many coupons you have, it’s always going to be more expensive than cooking your own foods! And when looking for cheap meals to make at home, eating a plant-based diet is always going to beat eating meat and dairy.
If you’re vegan already, then that’s wonderful, it’s so easy to be vegan at university! If you’re not vegan, then I definitely encourage you to consider it. That being said, here are Highland Imp’s tried and tested essential vegan food ideas for the budget student!
Tofu Scramble. Waking up after a night out and craving a greasy fry up without the cholesterol? It can be done. Tofu scramble tastes even better than scrambled eggs. It’s really simple to make, too. Just drain the tofu, and scramble it up in a pan with a bit of cooking oil, salt, and pepper. You can add other spices too if you want. Serve with some veggie sausages, fried mushrooms and hash browns for a perfect hangover breakfast.
Porridge/Oatmeal. For the days when you have lectures and need your brain to be in gear for as long as possible. Play around with the quantity of oats you use until you find the right amount to fill you up, and cook with three times the amount of water. (eg 1 cup oats = 3 cups water). Stir continuously over heat until it bubbles and thickens. Top it off with fruit, seeds, cereals, nut-butter, syrup…whatever you fancy!
Tomato-Based Sauces. Some of my favourite meals to eat are chilli and curry. Both of these require the same base ingredients, so I end up using tomatoes a lot when I’m cooking. It’s really simple. Start off by thinly slicing an onion and sauteing it (you can either add oil or a splash of water), until it goes brown. Add some garlic. Add the tomatoes. Depending on where you live, it might be cheap to buy fresh tomatoes, which gives a superior taste to tinned. But either is fine, fresh tomatoes take a little while to cook down, whereas tinned are ready to go straight away. Season your tomato base with salt and pepper. Voila! Great to add to any assorted veg or bean dish.
Soup. Okay, you can’t be a student without knowing how to make soup. You just can’t. Bought too much veg and some of it is starting to go funny? Make a soup. Need something you can freeze and eat over the week? Soup. Feeling a bit run-down? Soup is your best friend. It’s a great way to get your five a day and nutrition. If you make it with potatoes, it should keep you full for ages. Root veg soup is a winter favourite of mine.
Sweet Potato Fries. Want ‘junk food’ without eating junk? Homemade fries are the thing for you. Sweet potatoes are far superior to regular potatoes, but of course you can use either. Slice up as many as you want, and par boil to soften them up a bit. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to around 200 degrees C. Put the potatoes on baking paper, on a tray. Season with pepper, paprika, a little bit of salt… whatever takes your fancy! Put them in the oven for around thirty minutes, or until they look baked enough. ENJOY your healthy, nutritious fries!
Spinach and Chickpea burgers. Something vegan students need to be aware of is that frozen food marketed as being ‘meat-free’ often contains egg and milk products. So if you don’t want to be like me in my second semester of uni, trawling the freezer aisle of my local supermarket checking every label trying to find anything that I could just put in the oven and eat, then heed my advice now. Make your own. Homemade veggie burgers are always going to be less processed that the stuff they sell in shops, and will probably be cheaper, too! These burgers are the bomb, and only require five ingredients.
There are so many different foods a vegan student can eat, but I don’t want to go on all day! If anyone needs any recipe ideas to slip in to a busy university schedule, feel free to leave me a comment, or send me a message on one of my social medias. As someone who quite enjoys cooking, I’d be happy to give people meal suggestions!
Are you a student? What are your favourite kinds of meals to cook? Let me know in the comments!
**Special shout out to the Fox Eyed Man for his awesome vegan burger recipe! Check him out if you’re interested in vegan articles reinforced by academic, peer-reviewed sources.**