"If You Have This Ingredient, You Can Never Starve": People Are Sharing The Struggle Meals You Can Never Go Wrong With

Maybe your grocery shopping budget is tight these days, or perhaps you just don't have much time on your hands to cook. Whatever the case, you don't need fancy ingredients or endless time to make a comforting meal. Redditor u/treedamage asked, "What's your 'my kid won't starve in college' meal?" People, including members of the BuzzFeed Community, chimed in with a ton of low-cost, minimal-effort meals that they swear by (no cooking skills or fancy kitchen gadgets required).

1."The classic 'spag bol,' which is the British version of a spaghetti bolognese. It's basically onions, mushrooms, beef mince (ground beef), carrots, leeks, tomato-y sauce. I rarely make it these days but it was a staple back then and the one thing 90% of people in my halls seemed able to cook."

Plate of spaghetti with meat sauce and a sprinkle of cheese, chopsticks and a fork on the side

2."I do a low-budget chicken parmesan with frozen chicken patties, marinara, spaghetti noodles, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. Pop the chicken patties in the oven, and put as much seasoning and cheese in the sauce as you like before warming it up on the stove. Make the chicken patty a little crispier than you normally would, and then put it on top of the pasta after it’s done. There are usually 10-12 chicken patties in a bag, so it’ll last a while. I've been making it since college and still make it for nostalgia’s sake."

Plate with spaghetti, tomato sauce, breaded cutlets, and grated cheese

3."Couscous is a great meal base: It doesn't require refrigeration, doesn't require a kitchen, and is easy to cook for one person. My favorite 'just add water' meal is to put some couscous in a bowl with hot water. Cover it with a plate for five minutes while you chop up vegetables like red onion, peppers, avocado, tomato, and any pre-cooked or canned meat you have. After five minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork and dump the chopped veggies/protein into the bowl. Drizzle it with sauce or salad dressing, and you've got a couscous salad. You can also make a large batch and refrigerate the leftovers."

A bowl of mixed grain salad with a dollop of hummus on top, next to a spoon

4."I make congee with brown rice, lentils, barley, and chicken stock. I cook it overnight in a rice cooker and then use the keep warm setting so I have hot congee for breakfast. I have the ingredients organized so it only takes two minutes to prepare in the evening."


5."A really, really basic one was beans on toast. British-style baked beans (in a sweetish tomato sauce) from a tin (can) plonked on top of toast."

A plate with toast covered in baked beans

6."Cheater's risotto. Make rice, mix it with a bit of butter or olive oil, and add some cooked frozen peas and a load of Parmesan. Salt and pepper. Microwave a tiny bit until the cheese is mixed in. It's very comforting!"


7."Start with a staple: Tortillas. For breakfast tacos, heat flour tortillas, cook whatever else you've got (bacon, sausage, veggies, chorizo, beans, etc.), crack eggs into it and scramble. Boom. Tired of breakfast? Learn to cook fajitas with chicken, potatoes, or ground beef. Feeling totally lazy? Toss some cheese in a tortilla and you got a quesadilla. You can't starve if you have tortillas."

Hand holding two tacos filled with grilled chicken and bell peppers, with lime wedges on the side

8."Mujadara! It’s literally just crispy fried onions, lentils and rice, but it’s so damn good! You can keep it simple if you want, but I really like it with some spices like ras el hanout, cumin, and cinnamon. I made a big batch a few days ago and froze most of it in single servings. It’s also a really delicious filling for stuffed flatbread, which I also make in large batches and then freeze."

A plate of cooked grains topped with crispy fried onions

9."Chicken thighs in the Crock-Pot with mushroom soup. I add a little milk, a little butter, salt, and pepper. I think this was an '80s staple dinner (at least in the Midwest) that my mom always made for me. It's cheap and delicious."

Creamy chicken and mushroom sauce over rice served in a bowl

10."Cowboy Caviar, which is like pico de gallo, but you can experiment with different ingredients. It's easy to make, mostly made from canned stuff, and tastes great on chips, tortillas, or pita. I even eat it by itself like a salad."

A bowl of mixed salad with various vegetables and beans, being stirred with a spoon

11."I showed my little brother how to scramble an egg in a mug in the microwave. When he later went to college, he said he was a god among his roommates. They were all incredibly grateful to learn how to make this easy meal."


12."Bean burritos were always our go-to's. A big pack of burrito-sized tortillas was a couple of bucks. A can of beans (we'd get refried and black then mix them ) is about a buck. Rice. An onion. Some cotija cheese. The whole list might be $6 and would make 6-8 burritos. Add some Cholula and you're good."

A burrito cut in half, revealing rice, beans, and avocado

13."Tomato and mayo sandwich, on any kind of bread — Harriet the Spy-style girl dinner, at least a few times a month for me. Thanks, Nickelodeon."

Jane Dough

14."I call it hamburger gravy. Browned ground beef and a big can of cream of chicken soup are mixed into a meaty gravy and served on mashed potatoes, with canned French-style green beans on the side. I made this as a college kid, and I still consider it comfort food 50 years later."


15."Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Can add tuna or ham to the sandwich to stretch it further.'"

A bowl of tomato soup next to a grilled cheese sandwich with ham on a plate

16."A tuna melt is my favorite. Grab a can of tuna (in brine, not oil), drain it, and mix it with some mayo. Generously spread it on toasted bread and add a slice of cheese (Kraft is just so nice and gooey). Add another slice of toasted bread on top and pop it into the microwave for a minute."

A tuna melt sandwich on a plate with a crispy crust and melted cheese visible

17."One of my faves is to heat up some cream of mushroom soup, add in some onion and garlic, and then mix in some cooked ground meat. Serve over toast or biscuits and a side of veggies. So yummy."


18."Sweet potatoes are so versatile and pretty darn good for you! I love roasting them and topping them with canned chili, or a with crumbled veggie burger and BBQ sauce."

A bowl of sweet potato nachos topped with avocado slices and a sprinkle of herbs

19."A go-to is a 90-second microwavable rice pouch mixed with a can of shredded chicken and a steamer bag of frozen veggies. Season with salt and pepper, add a little butter, and maybe a sprinkle of cheese on top. It takes less than 10 minutes, and it's healthy, tasty and inexpensive!"


20."Mine is a can of tuna mixed with gochujang, kimchi, sriracha, spices, and mayo, eaten with rice and wrapped in roasted seaweed."

Plate with rice, tuna, avocado, seaweed, and soy sauce, arranged for DIY sushi

21."Toasted flatbread, hummus, zaatar, and feta. It's filling and comforting and requires basically no effort. In the summer, some sliced tomatoes are a good addition."


22."My grandma used to make me white rice, two eggs over easy, and sweet plantains. It's simple, delicious, and inexpensive."

Bowl with rice, a fried egg on top, avocado slices, and fried plantains on the side

23."A huge staple for me in college was Annie's white cheddar mac 'n' cheese with fresh spinach, fresh garlic, and raw bell pepper mixed right in! So good, and it actually felt like a real meal!"


24."A staple of mine that lasted throughout college and now as a single mom of two toddlers is bowtie pasta, chicken, broccoli, and parmesan cheese. Just dump it all together, and you're good."

Plate with pasta, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, and topped with shredded cheese and basil

I'd love to hear about your favorite low-budget, low-effort meals you make when you're time-pressed, stressed out, or stretching your groceries until the next paycheck. Comment with your go-to's or add them to this anonymous form.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.