University life can sometimes make healthy eating tricky; cost, resources, time and convenience are huge factors affecting the types of food you eat while at uni. However, it is absolutely possible to eat a good quality, balanced and nutritious diet on a limited budget – and you needn’t compromise on taste! We’re here to bring you our top 5 student recipes that are not only full of flavour, but packed with protein and essential nutrients your body needs to function at its best! These recipes are also super cheap and freezable so you can make them in bulk and freeze into portions so you have a freezer stocked full of healthy and delicious meals to save you time and money in the future!
Mixed bean and roasted pepper chili: Serves 8 (Vegan)
Nutrition per serving – kcal: 368, Protein: 19g, Carbs: 48g, Fat: 5gThis chili is so versatile and can be served in the form of many different meals such as with rice, as a burrito/fajita filling, in an unreal chili mac n cheese, used as the filling of a ‘chili pie’ topped with mashed sweet potato and baked, filled into tortillas, topped with cheese and baked to make enchiladas, as a filling for a jacket/sweet potato, served with tortilla chips, guacamole and sour crème – the possibilities are endless! This freezes like a dream too so portion up and you’ve got a whole host of tasty meal options you can prepare in under 30 minutes!
- 1 400g tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 400g tin of refried beans
- 2x 200g tins of sweetcorn
- 2x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes,
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 2 celery stick, finely chopped
- 2 yellow or orange peppers, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil or rapeseed oil
- 2x 460g jars of roasted red peppers
- 2 tbsp chipotle paste
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder or 1 square of dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Heat the oil over a low heat in a large heavy based saucepan or casserole dish, add the onions, chopped peppers and celery and fry until soft but not coloured.
- Drain the jarred roasted peppers over a bowl to save the juices. Put ¼ of the peppers into a food processor (or blitz the ingredients using a hand blender in a jug/deep bowl) with the chipotle paste, red wine vinegar, cocoa, dried herbs and spices. Pulse into a puree, stir into the softened veggies and cook for a few minutes.
- Stir in the refried beans, tinned tomatoes, 1 of the tomato cans filled with water and the jarred pepper juices saved from earlier. Simmer for an hour until the chili is thickened, tastes rich and smoky and the chunks of tomato have broken down into a smoother consistency sauce.
- If you are making the chili ahead, you can leave the sauce to cool at this stage. If not, add all of the drained beans, sweetcorn and the remaining drained roasted peppers (cut into small chunks) and reheat. Once bubbling and the beans are heated through, season to taste and serve.
Tip – this makes a LARGE batch, so once the sauce is ready (before adding the beans, sweetcorn and remaining pepper) it might be easier (and less messy) to divide the sauce between two large pans before adding the remaining beans etc.
Green pesto, pea and sausage lasagna: Serves 8
Nutrition per serving – kcal: 644, Protein: 32g, Carbs: 53g, Fat: 23gLike no lasagna you’ve had before, this delicious dish is packed with veggies as well as protein and can be made healthier by substituting the mascarpone for low fat crème fraiche or lighter cream cheese (a combination of these two works well too). Opt for low fat/lean sausages to shave off even more calories and fat. Yet another freezer-friendly dish, this reheats a treat and is a lovely winter warmer without being too heavy! You could also make this vegetarian by substituting the sausages for sliced cooked veggie sausages instead!
- 12 lasagna sheets
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 good quality lean sausages (squeeze the sausage meat into small (Swedish size) meatballs)
- Small head of broccoli (around 400g) cut into small pieces
- 200g frozen peas
- 400g cherry/baby plum tomatoes
- 400g mascarpone (or low-fat crème fraiche/lighter cream cheese works fine)
- 150g low fat pesto
- Large bunch fresh basil, chopped
- 50ml milk
- 20g pine nuts
- 100g grated or thinly sliced mozzarella
- 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with half of the olive oil, season well and roast for 10 minutes until just softening then leave to cool.
- In a large pan, heat half of the olive oil, add the sausage meatballs and fry for 5-10 minutes, rolling around until browned on all sides.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes until tender, drain well.
- Stir the broccoli, frozen peas, pesto, half the mascarpone and fresh basil into the sausage meatballs. Cook for a few minutes until you have a smooth, saucy consistency then season to taste.
- In a large casserole dish (if you don’t have a casserole dish, loaf tins will work but you may need to do a few batches) add a third of the mixture from the pan. Top with a third of the roasted tomatoes, then arrange three lasagna sheets on top. Continue this layering process (finishing with sheets on top) until you run out of sheets – reserve a few tomatoes to top with.
- Mix the milk with the remaining mascarpone to create a smooth white sauce consistency. Pour this over the top of the pasta sheets and top with the mozzarella, parmesan, pine nuts and the reserved tomatoes. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
- Serve with a big leafy green salad for extra goodness and nutrients! This one is definitely worth getting in your repertoire!
Tip – If it looks like the lasagna is getting too dark in the oven, cover it with tinfoil and continue cooking.
Golden shepherds pie: Serves 8
Nutrition per serving – kcal: 418, Protein: 28g, Carbs: 61g, Fat: 15g
A classic for a reason! Shepherd’s pie is proper comfort food and couldn’t be simpler to make, it’s also super healthy, perfect for bulk cooking and freezing. Portion into separate servings so you only need to defrost what you need. You can make this veggie by substituting the lamb mince for veggie ‘mince’ or tinned lentils. Top with mashed sweet potato instead of white potato to add towards your 5-a-day and get an added hit of nutrients. This recipe makes a large quantity so you may have to make it in batches if you are low on pans or just halve the quantities below to make it more manageable for 4 instead of 8.
- 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 4 large carrots (roughly 600g) diced
- 6-8 sprigs of thyme, chopped
- 500g lean minced lamb
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder (or veg stock cube) made up with boiling water to make 700ml stock.
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2x 400g tins green lentils, drained
- 1.8 kg of potatoes roughly chopped (can also use sweet potato or half of each)
- 2 tbsp milk
- 4 tbsp low fat crème fraiche
- In a very large, deep pan heat the oil. Add the diced onion and thyme and fry for 2-3 minutes, add the carrots then continue to fry together for a further 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until starting to brown.
- Stir in the mince and break apart, fry for 2-4 minutes until the meat is no longer pink.
- Add the flour and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan in case the mince sticks, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and stir until thickened. Add the tinned tomatoes, puree, drained lentils and Worcestershire sauce and season with black pepper.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, covered with a lid, for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While this is cooking, prepare the pie topping by adding all of your chopped potatoes into boiling water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 12-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Drain well and add back to the pan. With a potato masher (or ricer if you have one) mash until smooth and beat in the milk and crème fraiche with a large spoon until the potatoes are light and fluffy. Season to taste.
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6
- Spoon the meat mixture into a very large 3 litre pie dish (or in 2 1.5 litre/smaller individual dishes) and remove the thyme sprigs. Top the meat with the mashed potato and smooth over. Use a fork to make a ridged pattern on top. If you want this pie to be even more comforting you can add a handful of grated cheese on top and sprinkle with a little extra Worcester sauce before baking – delicious!
- Place the dish on a baking tray and bake for around 20-25 minutes until golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges. If your pie isn’t golden enough, put it under the grill for 5 minutes on a high heat until the mash is crisp and the colour is to your liking. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and serve with extra veggies such as green beans or broccoli for extra goodness – so tasty!
Tip – if you are freezing your pie, portion up before baking and freeze so they will be perfect and ready for baking when you defrost them!
Big-batch beef ragu Bolognese: Serves 12
Nutrition per serving – kcal: 610, Protein: 59g, Carbs: 72g, Fat: 12gA fail-safe crowd pleaser. This is perfect meal-prep material as the number of portions per batch means you can feed all your housemates and still have enough portions available to freeze for future fuss-free dinners. This also makes a great filling for a baked jacket/sweet potato topped with cheese!
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 6 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
- 4 onions, finely chopped
- 3 carrots, finely chopped
- 4 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 500g mushrooms, sliced
- 8 garlic cloves, crushed or very finely chopped
- 2 tbsp dried mixed herbs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ kg lean minced beef
- 6x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- 6 tsp tomato puree
- 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 large glass red wine (optional)
- Grated parmesan cheese to serve
- Spaghetti or pasta of your choice to serve
- Heat the oil in your largest saucepan (this makes A LOT). Gently cook the onions, bacon, carrots and celery for 20 minutes until golden. Then add the garlic, herbs, mushrooms, bay leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Heat a large frying pan over a high heat, add just enough mince to cover the base of the pan, cook until browned then add to the veg. Continue to fry mince in batches until it has all been browned.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree in with the mince and veg. Rinse out the tomato tins with the red wine (if using) or a little water, then add this to the pan with the vinegar and sugar. Season the mixture generously and bring to a simmer. Simmer slowly on a low heat for one hour until thickened, saucy and the mince is tender.
- If freezing, allow to cool and portion up in freezable containers. Otherwise, serve this delicious ragu with your choice of pasta or spiralized vegetables such as courgetti for extra nutrients. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan and enjoy – Bellissima!
Chicken, leek and mushroom pie: Serves 6
Nutrition per serving – kcal: 402, Protein: 29g, Carbs: 25g, Fat: 23gYou can prepare this deliciously satisfying pie in advance, just make the pie to the last stage before baking, cover and freeze until you’re ready to bake it. You can also portion this out before freezing/baking into individual mini pies in smaller containers. Throw in any leftover cooked bacon or a handful of frozen peas when making the filling if you fancy!
- 1.4kg Chicken
- 250g mushrooms, chopped into slices or chunks – whatever your preference
- 1 carrot
- 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 onion
- 50g butter
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- Grated zest of one lemon
- Bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 tbsp crème fraiche
- 250g ready-made puff pastry
- 1 beaten egg or milk to glaze the pastry
- Mix your stock cube with water as instructed on the pack. Leave to cool.
- Put the chicken in a large pan that it fits in snugly with enough room to cover with liquid.
- Roughly chop the carrot, celery and onion and place around the chicken in the pan
- Pour over the cooled stock and add extra water if necessary, until the liquid comes up to just over half way up the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and any extra additions of your choice such as dried tarragon or dried chili for example – this is just an optional addition.
- Bring to the boil and once bubbling, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and gently simmer for 1-1¼ hours, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
- Carefully remove the chicken from the pan straight onto a board lined with kitchen roll or a tea towel to absorb any liquid that leaks out.
- Strain the remaining stock, throw away the veggies, and measure 500ml stock into a jug. If there is any extra stock you can cool and freeze this for another time.
- Remove all of the meat from the chicken, throwing away any skin and bones. Cut the meat into large chunks and transfer to a large 1-litre pie dish or into individual oven-proof dishes or containers.
- In a large pan, melt the butter, add the sliced leeks and fry until they start to soften.
- Add the flour to the pan and cook for one minute, gradually stir in the stock and cook until the sauce is glossy and smooth.
- Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest, parsley and crème fraiche. Season to taste and pour the sauce over the chicken and leave to cool.
- Roll out your pastry and trim to 5cm larger than the edge of the pie dish. Brush the edge of the pie dish with water then lay the pastry over the pie, tuck in the edges to make a double layer around the rim and press the edges to seal it. You can make decorations with any trimmings if you wish or use/freeze for another recipe.
- Brush the pastry with egg or milk and bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is lovely and golden. Allow to cool and dig in! This one is a comfort in a dish, serve with mashed potatoes and greens such as broccoli for extra nutrients – yum!