Dear Barb – Eating well on a student budget

Dear Barb;

This may not sound like a typical question for an advice column, but I really need help. I am in my first year of university and I have never lived on my own. I grew up in a European family, and understandably my mother did everything for me. I hardly even know how to cook macaroni and cheese. I wonder if you could suggest some quick and easy recipes that I would be able to prepare with my limited cooking experience. Also, I’m on a tight budget so cost is important. Thanks so much.

Catherine in Nova Scotia

Hi Catherine, your question is great and I’m sure there are many first year students who share your situation.

Learning to live as a student on on a budget is a big adjustment; however it is also important that you try to eat a balanced diet consisting of a variety of food. Consulting Canada’s Food Guide will help in choosing from the four food groups – grain products; vegetables and fruit; milk products; meat and alternatives. You can access Canada’s Food Guide online at as well as through Publications Health & Welfare Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9.

Following are a few of the easy, yet cost efficient recipes I obtained at the following websites:


Also, an excellent book, Heart Smart Cooking on a Shoestring by Julie Watson, is published in cooperation with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. It contains 60 easy recipes, as well as many tips for cutting your grocery bills. It is an older book, but still available for under $10.00. Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Breakfast Granola
2 cups whole-wheat flour
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup wheat germ
½ cup water
1 cup oil
1 cup honest or corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
1. Combine flour, oats, coconut and wheat germ in a large bowl and mix.
2. Blend water, oil, honey or corn syrup, vanilla and salt in a separate bowl and mix.
3. Add wet to dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Spread out on two greased cookie seems and bake 55 minutes. Store in covered container.
Options: use 1 cup of brown sugar instead of honey or corn syrup and heat with water, oil and sugar until not granular.

Ground Beef Layered Casserole
3 potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
½ cup uncooked rice
1 onion, sliced
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 quart canned tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp brown sugar

Layer the ingredients as listed, ending with salt and pepper. If desired sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours

Tuna Delight
2 slices whole grain toast
1 cup vegetables, such as cooked broccoli florets, mixed vegetables or canned asparagus drained 1 can (4 oz/113 g) water packed tuna, drained, or an equal amount of leftover cooked white fish or salmon

Light Cheese Sauce for Tuna Delight
2 tbsp (25 ml) grated part-skim milk
mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp (25 ml) low-fat mayonnaise
¼ cup (50 ml) skim milk

Place toast and vegetables on 2 small heatproof plates; top with tuna, then hot cheese sauce. Broil until cheese begins to brown, if desired.

Instructions for Cheese Sauce
In small saucepan, combine cheese, mayonnaise and skim milk; heat for a few seconds over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth.

Good Luck with these recipes Catherine, I hope I was able to help. Also check out this week’s column “Women You Should Know.”

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.