The Frugal Foodie

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Tia Patsavas

 

College students love food, but we also love big flavors. The problem? Finding meals we love with flavors we enjoy, all on the college student budget.

Looking for an inexpensive way to a gourmet dinner? Start with a staple, prepackaged meal, and add new flavors to mix it up. Using macaroni and cheese or ramen, the opportunities to take your dinner to the next level are endless.

With a little imagination, the cheapest staples can transform into an entirely different dish. Check out these simple ways to upgrade your dinner, while not busting your wallet.

Macaroni and Cheese: Store brand, boxed-macaroni and cheese often costs a dollar or less and only requires two other ingredients, making this pasta dish a prime college-student meal.

  • Mix-In One: Breadcrumbs
    • Your boxed mac will transform into from-scratch macaroni and cheese with this recipe: once you’ve prepared the mac, pour the mixture into a small baking dish. Mix ⅓ cup breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter, and sprinkle the mixture over the mac so that the top layer is covered. Broil for a few minutes, until breadcrumbs are golden brown.
  • Mix-In Two: Hot dogs
    • Kids of all ages love this one: transform your mac by slicing up one hotdog and mixing it in with the prepared pasta. Go one step further and add mustard and relish.
  • Total Transformation: Mac and Cheese Pizza
    • Prepare your mac and cheese as usual, then add a little extra milk to make the mixture more saucy. Pour on top of a pre-made pizza crust, and sprinkle with additional shredded cheese. Bake as noted on the pizza crust package, or for 10 minutes at 450°.

Ramen: Few can deny the convenience of this product. After all, what other meals cost less than a quarter?

  • Mix-In One: Spinach
    • Just stir in 1 cup of fresh spinach to the prepared ramen for a healthier ramen noodle soup.
  • Mix-In Two: Egg
    • Fried, poached, or hard-boiled, adding an egg to your prepared ramen will make your meal more filling and provide much-needed nutrients.
  • Total Transformation: Ramen Omelet
    • Prepare ramen noodles, and drain well. In a small bowl, beat two eggs, and add ramen seasoning packet, if desired. Gently stir in the ramen with the egg mixture. In a small nonstick skillet, pour in the egg mixture, and top with your choice of vegetables (onions, spinach, mushrooms, etc.) and cheese. Cook for two minutes, then fold the omelet in half. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes on each side.