Preparing simple, budget and nutritious meals: A comprehensive guide for students

Student life can be demanding and overwhelming, and preparing quick, affordable, and nutritious meals may seem elusive to the average overworked student. Nonetheless, with the right strategies, including creative use of basic appliances, a good understanding of food and nutrition, and a few quick recipes on hand, meal prep can become less daunting and more achievable!


First things first, let’s talk appliances. Before you start, it’s helpful to consider the type of appliances that suit your circumstances and needs. If you have your own kitchen, they increase convenience and efficiency.

Nonetheless, if you’re staying in a dorm and only have access to minimal appliances, with some creativity, it’s still possible to put together affordable, tasty, convenient and nutritious meals. Here are some appliances that will make preparing meals a breeze!


It might seem like a no-brainer, but a microwave is one of the most efficient tools for quick and easy meal prep. It is handy for cooking vegetables and frozen cooked foods – and that opens up the door to a wide range of food, depending on what is available at your supermarket – and even for “baking” mug cakes! One of my favourite tips is to

add a small bowl of water (or sprinkle some water on your food) before you start the microwave (covered, preferably), so that the steam produced helps to cook the food and prevent it from drying out. Of course, the microwave is most handy when it comes to heating up leftover or meal-prepped foods as well!

Air Fryer

Air fryers have been all the rage in recent years. Hailed for their capability to make healthy yet tasty food, they function almost identically to ovens but cook food quicker due to their ability to circulate heated air. From meats and vegetables to frozen cooked food – the air fryer does it all. There are plenty of air fryer recipes available on the internet for you to reference. If an air fryer is all you’ve got, it’s pretty nifty for reheating leftovers, too!

Rice Cooker

Last, but certainly not least, is rice cookers. During my student days when I was renting a room, my trusty ol’ rice cooker was what kept me alive (quite literally). Sure, it may be called a rice cooker, but it can cook various other things such as vegetables, soups, and even cakes! A rice cooker recipe that went viral was the Japanese curry rice cooker recipe, where the rice cooker is used to cook Japanese curry with meat, vegetables and the curry roux, no actual cooking required! Rice cooker meals and recipes are some of the most popular dorm-friendly meal ideas available on the internet.


Moving on to ingredients, this will vary based on your preferences, budget, supermarket offerings, and nutrition goals.


In Asian countries like Singapore, rice and noodles are your common budget-friendly staples. Another common ingredient you will find in your local supermarkets are eggs, an egg-cellent source of protein and other nutrients, and that’s wallet-friendly and versatile – from scrambled eggs to soft boiled eggs, there are countless ways to incorporate them into your meals. Varieties of mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables can also be found at very affordable prices. Some of my favourite ingredients are raw salad leaves and cucumber, silken tofu, and broccoli. Depending on the appliances you have, these ingredients can be pretty simple to prepare. For instance, broccoli can be air-fried, steamed in the rice cooker or in the microwave too!

Canned foods

Cooking for one often poses challenges as fresh ingredients may not keep well for long. Moreover, you probably don’t want to eat the same thing for a week or more. An option is canned foods with their long shelf lives and reasonable prices, that require little to no cooking (or heating up). From canned tuna to canned beans, and canned vegetables, there are many options you can easily incorporate into rice and noodles, salads, wraps, and more! My favourites are canned tuna chunks which is an excellent source of protein, as well as chickpeas and corn, which can be eaten as a healthy snack or tossed with a salad.

Frozen foods

Another convenient option is frozen foods, though these tend to be costlier than canned or fresh foods. Nonetheless, frozen vegetables keep longer, reduce prep time, and retain their nutritional value. From frozen steamed chicken breast to edamame and berries to vegetables, my favourite frozen foods have really made preparing meals more accessible and less daunting, especially if you’re a student with a tight schedule. If you have an airfryer, frozen foods also give you a healthier and cheaper way to occasionally indulge in fried foods such as nuggets, fries or popcorn chicken.

Sauces and condiments

Lastly, for a tasty meal, stock up on sauces and seasonings such as soy sauce, tomato paste, cayenne pepper, and so on. Even if all you have to eat for the next ten days is the same meal that you prepared, switching flavours can be a game-changer. Chicken and vegetables with soy sauce one day, and Thai sweet chilli sauce the next, will feel like two completely different meals, which can motivate you to eat the meals you have prepared!


To end off, here are some simple recipes online that will hopefully inspire you to get started too!

5-ingredient rice cooker oyakodon

With just rice, chicken, onions, eggs, and mentsuyu, you can make a tasty Oyakodon at home with a rice cooker.

20-minute scallion oil noodles

Apart from boiling the noodles, everything else here such as the aromatics and chicken can be cooked in the microwave!

10-minute airfryer recipe


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Toss a wrap, some eggs, vegetables and cheese, and voilà! Your meal is ready!

These days, with access to the internet and social media, finding creative ideas and cooking “hacks” is not all too difficult a task anymore! Eating healthy meals doesn’t have to look like salads everyday — there are many healthy food ideas out there that are more catered to the Asian palette as well. The internet is your oyster — with some experimentation and effort, you’ll be a pro at making affordable, delicious, and nutritious meals in no time! All the best!


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