Old, dry pasta encrusts bowls and pans heaped in the sink, while spaghetti splinters litter the ground. Boxes of angel hair and tri-color rotini and jars of Alfredo and pesto sauces cram the pantries. Oh, and don’t forget the blue-box-orange-powder 36 packs of Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese from Walmart that someone pushed to the back of the cupboard God knows how long ago.
The limited permutations of pastas and sauces for five-minute pasta creations characterize most off-campus dinner menus. But after college, the monotonous “pasta al studente” will lose its rustic charm and your stomach will want you to branch out without breaking the bank.
But it’s easier and cheaper than you think to whip up Thai curries, power up with healthy quinoa bowls, spice up your chicken ‘n’ rice dinners, and have leftovers.
The recipes below include prices for the individual ingredients, but bear in mind that these ingredients last longer than just one recipe, particularly ingredients like rice, quinoa, minced garlic, soy sauce, honey, curry paste, and sriracha. Pro tip: Walmart’s frozen produce, like frozen grilled chicken strips and vegetable medleys, is the best friend of college students with irregular cooking habits.
Thai Red Curry with Chicken Vegetables
If you can’t get your Coffee Cup curry fix, this easy Thai red curry recipe is budget-friendly and the ingredients go a long way. There are enough vegetables and chicken to double this recipe, at least. Don’t have access to an Asian food market? Not an excuse, because you can find all of it at Walmart. With the frozen chicken and vegetables, you eliminate the chopping and slicing prep time and these keep longer than fresh ingredients, which is convenient if you don’t cook dinner frequently enough to use up fresh produce. The recipe below is a very basic version of curry, but if you want to add more zest (and have more ingredients at your disposal) throw in a handful of chopped cilantro and 2 tsp. of lime juice, sprinkle red pepper flakes, or add sriracha sauce to taste.
Total cook time: 20 minutes | Serves: 4 servings
- 1 can of Imperial Dragon Coconut Milk, $1.98
- 3 cups of frozen Birds Eye Thai stir-fry vegetables, 1 bag is $5.98
- 2 cups frozen Grilled & Ready Tyson Grilled and Ready Breast Strips, 1 bag is $6.28
- 2 tbsp. Asian Creations Thai Kitchen Red Curry paste, 1 bottle is $2.42
- 2 tsp. minced garlic, 1 jar is $1.98
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 bottle is $1.98
- ½ c. water
- Salt to taste
- Cooked white or jasmine rice for serving
Pour all the contents of the can of coconut milk into a medium saucepan and add red curry paste and water; heat on medium heat until the mixture is well-incorporated. Add chicken and stir-fry vegetables and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan or a rice cooker, make the amount of rice you plan on consuming, remembering the 1:2 ratio of rice to water. The curry will make about four servings.
Quinoa and Raisin Power Bowl with Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
The brainchild of throwing random combinations of sweet and savory together, this quinoa power bowl will satisfy your sweet tooth while also filling you up with protein. Sweet potatoes are a popular super food, and the cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins will bring out their natural sweetness. While quinoa, another protein-packed superfood, is a bit of an investment, you only need ¼ cup for a serving, and a container with 15 servings of quinoa at $7 at Walmart brings you to around 50 cents a serving. The raisins will plump up while cooking, adding a burst of juice and chewiness to balance out your chicken and quinoa — and you can keep them around for healthy snacking alternatives.
Total cook time: 30 minutes | Serves: 2 servings
- 1 c. frozen Grilled & Ready Tyson Grilled and Ready Breast Strips, 1 bag is $6.28
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed, a bag of sweet potatoes is $2.54
- ½ tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ½ c. raisins
- Cooked quinoa for serving, a large plastic container with 15 servings is $7
- Vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Lightly toss potatoes in oil and add cinnamon to baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the amount of quinoa you’d like to eat according to directions in a rice cooker or medium sauce pan. Since this recipe will make two servings, you can make two servings of quinoa and save it along with the leftover chicken. This should take about the same amount of time roasting the potatoes and cooking the chicken will.
- Five minutes before taking out the sweet potatoes, begin cooking the chicken in a medium sauce pan with a dash of oil, the brown sugar, and the raisins. Take the potatoes out and add them to the chicken and cook until everything is well-incorporated.
Honey Sriracha Chicken with White Rice
Inspired by a Bon Apetite meal, this sweet and spicy Chinese recipe will add a honeyed kick to your bland-but-cheap chicken and rice dinner. Remember that the measurements for sriracha and honey are to taste. If you like it spicier, just add more sriracha, but if you want to take spiciness down a notch, opt for one instead of two tablespoons and omit the red pepper flakes. Again, all of these ingredients are easy to find at Walmart. If you have it, use one tsp. of cornstarch to thicken up the sauce, but otherwise, don’t sweat it! For a more balanced meal, add two cups of a frozen stir-fry vegetable blend. Dress up this recipe with a flourish of sesame seeds for a nuttier taste and added texture and visual effect.
Total cook time: 20 minutes | Serves: 2 servings
- 2 c. frozen frozen Grilled & Ready Tyson Grilled and Ready Breast Strips, 1 bag is $6.28
- ½ c. water
- 1-2 tbsp. Sriracha sauce, a small bottle is $1.74
- 3 tbsp. Great Value Soy Sauce, 1 bottle is $1.98
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1-2 tbsp. honey, 1 small honey bear is $2.98
- 1 tbsp. Garlic Select Minced Garlic, 1 jar is $1.98
- Ppt. crushed red pepper flakes, 1 shaker is $2.68
- Cooked rice for serving
- In a medium sauce pan, combine the water, sriracha, soy sauce, garlic, sugar, and honey and stir. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Add chicken and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle with crushed pepper flakes or sesame seeds if desired and serve over warm rice.