Student Starving in a Garrett...can't cook

Joined Feb 26, 2007
That got your attention!

A friend of my daughter at college is living independently from his family (remote area) on a verrrrry tight budget. Oh and he has just learned to cook rice.

What I am looking for is suggestions for a young growing lad who hasn't a clue in the kitchen on a very tight budget is - what did/do you do/what would you do for meals in this situation?

His storecupboard will probably run along these lines, budget wise (we are trying to help him out - he's just admitted he's often been only having a meal a day...its not good, but his parents can't afford more and he's working all the hours he can)

I'm pretty sure he has access to a stove, griller, toaster & oven. But I reckon stove top would be the limit of what he can do, at the moment.

White rice
ramen noodles
red lentils
cheese (maybe)
eggs (maybe)
Canned sardines
tinned tomatoes
tinned corn kernels
Baked beans in tomato sauce
S&P (maybe curry powder)
dried packet soups - chicken noodle, french onion soup
Cup of Soup dried soup packs - chicken, tomato, mushroom
Sausages/sausage meat
Frozen veg - beans, peas, mixed veg
apples (they're cheap and in season now)

That's probably about it - but I reckon with a bit of guidance, that'll give him a start.
There's a few things we've suggested already he thinks he can handle, but he really needs to walk for a while before he thinks about running, cooking wise. And time wise - between study and work - theres not much time.

Any input would be greatly appreciated :)

Joined Jul 16, 2009
When you're starving, you will definitely figure out something to eat. It's survival in the end, isn't it?!

I'm just kiddin :blush: ...

What does he do for work? I've always been working at restaurants and found that they keep me well fed!! That's always an option for when you are busy all the time either studying or working or going to class, when you are at work you can eat something at least, right?!

Looking at your list though, there are hundreds of things he could eat using those items. How about boiling some pasta and mixing it with some baked beans in tomato sauce!!?
Simmer some red lentils with the canned tomato (maybe a little water depending how much liquid there is) and adding some frozen vegetables near the end when the lentils are cooked. That sounds like a healthy delicious dinner to me!! Could add some sausage meat in there too.. Tonnes of things to be made there.
Joined Jan 2, 2007
The first thing I learned on having to look after myself was how to make a basic tomato sauce. That gave me the basis for endless pasta dishes depending on what I added to the sauce. Some turned out well, some not so well, but all were edible. In fact, to this day one of my favourite dishes is that sauce with a handful of parm and some spaghetti.
Next I moved on to soups and stews. I'm sure he could start off with a simple soup or stew? Add a hunk of crusty bread and you have a meal everyone loves.
Joined Jul 16, 2009
One more thing, I take it he isn't into cooking much himself?! Or he doesn't want to try to learn?!
Just because .. It's quite simple to google a recipe and make something to eat when you are "starving", you know?
I get the idea that you guys are just very worried for him and are trying to help.. Which is totally fine, but I know from experience it's pretty hard to try to teach/get some people to cook for themselves when they don't really care to know how to cook, you know what I'm trying to say?!

A close friend of mine is a university student herself, and I really have been trying to teach her how to cook for the past year or so because when she is starving she will go ahead and make a box of Kraft Dinner's Macaroni & Cheese!
That stuff is rancid!
And I know that she knows how to cook, I've been trying to teach her! But if she is on her own, she still won't make anything good ... Order in, fast food or KD!:confused:

[EDIT]I'm not trying to be negative about this or anything, I want to help these type of people too!!:([EDIT]
Joined Feb 24, 2009
when I was in school I ate anything that could be microwaved as that was all they allowed in the dorm for cooking impliments. TV dinners may taste terrible out of a microwave but at least i survived and i discovered there are at least 100 meals you can make out of ramin noodles .

my husband would make a makeshift egg drop soup with ramin and an egg ...
Joined Feb 8, 2009
Teach him how to fish and he will be able to feed his family and eat for life....I bet he will survive, we don't have many collage kids that die of starvation...Isn't it funny that we have kids leaving high school and they no nothing about cooking, balancing a check book and banking, investing, grocery shopping and how to read a can label.
Go to any 3rd world county and I bet they would love to balance a check book if they had money, or read the label on a can if they could read and had money. invest in their future if they had a future. We have raised a generation of kids that grew up with working parents that gave them everything they wanted. The only thing they didn't give them are the things they need......................Bill
Joined Oct 18, 2007
Long before I could cook, I "cooked" this.

Thaw frozen vegetables (asian style is best) under cold running water.
Prepare a couple of packages of ramen according to directions, omitting seasoning packets.
Just before ramen is done, pour a couple of scrambled eggs into the boiling water, stirring with a fork as you pour.
Add frozen vegetables, stir until heated.
Drain off water, add a little soy/sesame oil, or teriyaki.
If you have leftover rotisserie chicken that you bought at the store the other day, pick that and add to it.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
1. Basic knife skills.
  • They should know how to chop an onion, carrots and celery. With that knowledge, most any vegetable can be managed.
  • Butchering--you can save money by knowing how to trim out larger cuts but sadly it's not really in their interest at this point. How to cut a chicken into parts IS worth knowing and all those parts will get used. It's fairly fast and saves money.
  • Sharpening. They need this even if they think they don't. A cheap crock stick system is easy to use and will improve the edge even if not to a level acceptable to us.
2. Stock. They should make it as it's perfect way to use up scraps and save money and improve all their cooking. But they won't do it. Help them find a quality base. Better Than Bouillion makes a low sodium organic base I like quite well.
  • Soup. With a stock now available, they can use leftovers to build soups that cook without monitoring and can freeze for quick use later on.
3 Roux. I think this is overlooked but will provide a lot of options for a beginner cook to produce homey foods they would otherwise think too difficult.
  • White sauce. With a basic white sauce they have the base for the gravy for biscuits and gravy, many casseroles, cheese sauce for mac and cheese. No need for the over salted glop of condensed cream of X soups.
  • Primitive pan sauce/gravy Now teach them to toast the roux for more color and a different flavor. They can use that stock or base and deglaze a pan and make a simple home-style gravy for that chicken.
4 Vegetables
  • Boil potatoes or other root vegetables
  • Steam fresh or frozen vegetables
  • Bake potatoes or roast vegetables--always bake extra potatoes. Takes no more time and they are useful leftovers
5 Vinaigrette Versatile technique for accenting salads and other dishes. Emphasize its use beyond salad. Inexpensive too.

6. Integrating leftovers. Show how menu planning to cook say a whole chicken on Sunday creates leftovers for casseroles, hash, sandwiches, salads and soup from the carcass. That chicken can create meals for a week in different guises with little additional effort.
  • Fritatta-- A simple dish that uses up leftovers easily and good hot or cold.
  • Hash Those extra baked potatoes make this a simple and fast dish of leftovers.
Joined Jun 16, 2007
Plain beans, whether bought dried or canned, are a good source of protein and also a vegetable. They're filling, cheap, healthy and versatile.
Joined Mar 21, 2008
Some type of slow cooker is a must for a college student. Soups, chili, stews etc are all easy to make that way.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Thanks for the tips everyone.

Just Jim and Chef Adam - those are the sort of ideas I reckon he could cope with. We're looking at setting up a set of cards for him with simple ideas, just so he can get some variety.

Yes, its a matter of learning to survive because you must. I get a feeling cooking hasn't been part of his lifestyle much - but there is hope in sight.

He works part time as a dishwasher in a restaurant, which is where many of us started our cooking lives. Hopefully thru association and exposure to the environment he will pick up ideas (and hopefully some food along the way).

For sure we are concerned about his welfare, poor kid looks like he's starving. Just trying to advise him what cheap stuff he can utilise to get his belly full, hopefully with a fair balance. It's middle of winter here, so that's the line of cooking we're looking at.

It's funny :) , my daughter and I went grocery shopping the other night. THere was a big display of ramen, and she immediately said, "Student food!"

Thanks again for your input.
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