Need cheap healthy dinner ideas? Eating clean in college is never easy. Maybe you’re always rushing around and only have time to pick up McDonald’s for lunch or grab a bag of potato chips to snack on for the walk to class. By dinner, you’re probably tired and don’t want to prepare ingredients and cook a full out meal. Luckily, I’ve come up with some of the best cheap and healthy dinner ideas for the busy college student. You’ll only need to make one trip, as all of these ideas contain ingredients that can be purchased at your local Trader Joe’s. T.J.’s is my go-to when trying to maintain a mostly healthy diet. Don’t worry, you no longer need to have Ramen three times a week.
Kale Pesto Pasta
Who doesn’t love pesto? This dinner can be put together in just about 20 minutes. It’s delicious. Boil a pot of water and drop in your favorite pasta (Rigatoni tastes amazing with this). Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto is to die for and is as cheap as $3.79. It’s essential on all my friend’s grocery lists. Toss it with your pasta and feel free to add in tomatoes or grilled chicken. Top it off with a sprinkle of low-fat cheese and dig in!
If you haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for? Cauliflower crust has become super popular lately, and many pizza lovers are switching over to it. For $3.99, this crust is much lower in calories compared to regular pizza crust, yet still, taste’s so delicious. These can be as healthy as you want to make them, or indulge with buffalo chicken and ranch. My favorite is to throw on a spoonful of pizza sauce, and then go veggie-crazy. Mushrooms, onions, corn, you name it. Veggie pizza is amazing and makes you feel just a little bit better about having a slice, or three.
Cauliflower Stir Fry
I don’t know about you, but I could eat stir fry every night. Thanks to the cauliflower stir fry bags at Trader Joe’s I probably can. For only $2.99 you’ll think you’re eating a five-star meal. Simply throw the bag of cauliflower rice in a pan, and add in your choice of veggies, such as broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, and meat like shrimp, chicken, or even tofu. Mix them all with some garlic and a splash of soy sauce and you’re ready to eat!
Gnocchi is another trending food. For $2.69 a bag, Trader Joe’s sells kale gnocchi. This dinner idea is extremely filling and delicious. It doesn’t necessarily need to be paired with anything other than a little butter and low-fat cheese, making it a quick and easy cooking process. Though it might look a little funky, I highly recommend giving it a try. You’d be surprised how good kale can taste.
Though this recipe takes a bit longer than the others, it’s totally worth it. Lemon chicken is my favorite, and it’s can be served multiple ways. Eat it alone, mixed with veggies and rice, throw it in a sandwich, there are so many options for this delicious chicken. You’ll need chicken breasts, which can be purchased from T.J.’s for just $4.49 per pound. When cooking for one, you won’t need more than this. For the full recipe, click here.
Breakfast for Dinner
Ah, my favorite dinner. Ironic isn’t it? Growing up, breakfast for dinner was always a really exciting night at my house. So why not carry that on at college? This is super simple and super healthy. This can range from veggie omelets to turkey-sausage egg sandwiches, to banana peanut butter toast. My favorite is a fluffy omelet stuffed with veggies, low-fat cheese, and soy chorizo. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s a spicy meatless version of chorizo. It gives the perfect taste to any omelet or breakfast taco and costs only $2.29.
Can everyday be Taco Tuesday? I’ve seriously never met anyone who doesn’t like tacos, especially chicken tacos. For only $1.99 you can purchase a bag of small corn and wheat tortillas. Then all you need is ground chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and a dressing of your choice! Many stores now sell yogurt-based dressings, which I often use and would recommend to anyone. Guaranteed your roommates will be dying for a bite of this meal.
Sweet Potato Rounds
Just like fries, these sweet potato rounds will be extremely addictive. Buy a few large sweet potatoes (they usually cost about a dollar) and cut each into wedges. Bake for 45 minutes on 425°, making sure to season with a little olive oil and salt/pepper beforehand. These rounds are more of an appetizer or a side dish but are delicious and a great source of Vitamin C. Dip in ketchup, honey mustard, or any dipping sauce of your choice. You are for sure to love these!
Lentil salad is delicious and couldn’t be easier to prepare. This no-cook recipe is super simple. Lentils can be purchased at Trader Joe’s for $3.29. You’ll also need to choose a few more ingredients for the salad. Some examples of this can be bruschetta, feta cheese, cucumbers, onions, or tomatoes. This salad has a super fresh taste and is perfect for nights you don’t want to feel overly stuffed. Lentil salad will leave you feeling satisfied, while still feeling light.
I love pitas. I love chicken, hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, everything involved with a pita. They’re super simple to put together. Just take anything from your fridge, any leftover meat or produce, and wrap it up! For my favorite pita, wrap up lettuce, tomato, feta cheese, onion, and seasoned grilled chicken. To complete the meal, you need Trader Joe’s Tzatziki Dip that you can get for only $3.49. I usually use it as a dip for my wrap, but it’s also delicious to spread inside the pita before eating. What’s even better is you’ll have extra dip to enjoy with veggies, pretzels, or pita chips!
Looks like you need to take a trip to your local Trader Joe’s. Which recipe was your favorite? Let us know below!
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Kenley Stevenson grew up on Long Island, New York. Being a short train ride from New York City, opportunities for her to create and grow were endless. Now, she is currently a junior English/Journalism major at the University of New Hampshire. On top of Society19, she also write articles for Trill! Magazine. She has a huge passion for food, fashion, and anything related to today’s pop culture, and hopes to spend her future writing about it.