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No money? No Time? No problem: Easy meals for off-campus living

The simple (and cheap!) ingredients for Maggie's signature mac and cottage cheese.

Residence hall life is easy. 

Well, in terms of food, at least. 

Living on-campus means daily trips to the dining halls and few trips to the kitchen. Your dorm room might be decked out with a microwave and more packs of ramen than is recommended for a single person, but let’s face it — you’re no master chef. 

The real fun comes when you move off-campus. You have to deal with rent, utilities, roommates, neighbors, cleaning, furniture, landlords … oh, and on top of all that you have to feed yourself. 

Students are often strapped for time and cash as they make their way through college classes and maintain a social life. That’s the case for me, and as I enter my first year of off-campus living, I’ve thought a lot about the tedious process of grocery shopping.  

Some of these recipes may seem a little odd (I’m looking at you, Mac and Cottage Cheese), but give them a try. Your wallet and taste buds might thank you later. 

All prices come directly from Kroger and are the cost of the whole item. 

Mac and Cottage Cheese: $3.15

Time: 15 minutes


There are no specific measurements associated with this dish

  • Macaroni ($1.00)

  • Cottage cheese ($1.40)

  • Tomato sauce ($.75)

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  1. Boil some water in a small pot. Don’t forget to add a pinch of salt, you unseasoned heathens

  2. Once the water is boiling, add the macaroni (add either the serving size on the box, or however much you want to eat — there’s no specific amount)

  3. Cook pasta for 8-10 minutes or until it is soft/to your desired texture. Drain pasta in a colander and put back into pot

  4. Plate your pasta, put a couple spoonfuls of cottage cheese on top, then add a couple spoonfuls of tomato sauce on top of everything

  5. Mix it all together and behold the strange yet beautiful taste of noodles, cheese and tomato!

Chicken Casserole: $14.21

Time: 45 minutes


  • 3, 10 oz. cans of cooked chicken ($5.97)

  • 2, 10.5 oz. cans of cream of chicken soup ($1.50)

  • 10 oz. of sour cream ($1.25)

  • 1 ½ stacks of ritz crackers, crushed ($2.99)

  • 4 T. (tablespoons) of melted butter ($2.50)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°

  2. Drain and shred 3 cans of chicken 

  3. In a bowl, mix the chicken with the cream of chicken soup and sour cream

  4. Mix ¾ of the crushed crackers with the melted butter, then add to the chicken mix

  5. Add everything to a greased casserole dish 

  6. Top the mixture with the rest of the cracker crumbs

  7. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes

  8. Allow to sit for five minutes, then enjoy! 

Rice, Beans and Tajín: $5.02

Time: 25 minutes


  • 2 cups long grain, white rice ($1.69)

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 can black beans ($.69)

  • 1 can whole corn ($.65)

  • Tajín seasoning ($1.99)

  • Optional add-ins: 

    • Bell peppers 

    • Peas

    • Tomatoes 

    • Avocado 

    • Soy sauce


  1. Place 2 cups rice, 4 cups water, a splash of vegetable oil (optional) and a pinch of salt (optional) into a casserole dish. Cook in the microwave for 20 minutes. 

    1. You can also cook your rice however you want with a rice cooker.

  2. While the rice cooks, you can chop up whatever vegetables you want to add (bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, etc…).

  3. After the rice is done cooking, drain the beans and toss them with Tajín seasoning to taste. Then heat up the corn.

  4. Add rice to a plate, then add whatever toppings you want. You can also add more Tajín or mix with soy sauce. Make it your own! 

Bonus — Strawberries and cream with a twist: $5.44

Time: 5 minutes


There are no specific measurements.

  • Strawberries ($2.50)

  • Sour cream ($1.25)

  • Brown sugar ($1.69)


  1. Clean and cut the strawberries (Yes, seriously. They are consistently at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list)

  2. Scoop a pile of sour cream and a pile of brown sugar onto a plate (you will need less of the sour cream than the brown sugar)

  3. Dip the strawberries in the sour cream, then in the brown sugar

  4. Enjoy this easy and cheap dessert! 

The best part about these meals is that most of them can be made for one person or will provide leftovers for many days. They may not be the world’s healthiest meals, but they’ll save you a buck and might just remind you of home. 

Well, at least for me because all of these meals came straight from my childhood. Thanks, Mom!