Image: Bridget Coady
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Recipes for busy students

Student life comes with a number of challenges: busy schedules, financial management, balancing school with a social life, and just generally coming into your own as an ‘adult.’ With so much to balance, cooking and nutrition take a position on the back burner for many university students — understandably so.   

For lots of post-secondary students living on their own for the first time, choosing what meals to make can often depends on two things: how quickly can it be made, and how cheap are the ingredients? 

Recently, inflation has made grocery runs far more stressful for many Canadians. As of October 2022, CBC reported a 12.9 per cent increase in the prices of fresh fruit and significant increases to produce as a whole.

On Oct. 3, Statistics Canada released a report indicating that the second quarter of 2022 saw an all-time high in income inequality “since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with average disposable income declining for households with the lowest income (-5.7%) and the youngest age group (-2.6%).” 

This “youngest age group” category includes everyone age 35 and under.

It is under these circumstances that we bring to you the first edition of the Fulcrum’s student cookbook. This is intended to be a series of features with recipes suited to the realities of student life. Enjoy our first instalment, where fulcrum employees share their go-to meals.  

Bridget’s adaptable tofu scramble

In my fourth and (dear god please let it be my—) final year of studies, I have started eating breakfast consistently. Despite having been online for a large portion of my degree, attending class from my bedroom and steps from my kitchen, I skipped the most important meal of the day more often than not.

It was a habit left over from my high school days: electing to get an extra ten minutes of sleep instead of making and eating breakfast. But over the last six months, I have followed a morning routine that revolves around getting out of bed to eat breakfast. Even so, for busy days with early starts, I might settle for toast or a granola bar.

On days without classes — when I am not in a rush to get to campus — I frequently make a tofu scramble. This has been a great, go-to breakfast, as it is easy to adapt and get a different flavour each time. It can also be eaten as a breakfast wrap if you add it to a tortilla. I’ve included optional additions that I’ve experimented with. 

To make a tofu scramble you’ll need: 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 block of firm tofu
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Optional additions:

  • 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Vegetables: tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, spinach
  • Spices: chilli powder, onion powder, paprika, 
  • Liquids: ½ tbsp Lemon juice, 2 tbsp oat milk

Optional toppings:

  • Avocado
  • Chives
  • Hot sauce

Heat oil on a non-stick pan, sauté vegetables (if applicable), drain and add tofu block to pan, mash tofu block with fork, add nutritional yeast along with spices and salt, cook until extra liquid evaporates (about 5-7 minutes). Serve and enjoy!

Desirée’s pan-fried steak

When my sister first started university, my mom would buy her these pan-fried steaks. I used to laugh because they were so thin and closely resembled those plastic steaks that come in a children’s play kitchen set. We’d ask her what she had for dinner, she would say she made a steak, and I’d make fun of her because plastic steak should not count as dinner.

This is my official public apology to my sister: those steaks are delicious and so easy to make. I get it and I’m sorry. 

Steak is the one meal that’s always on the top of my list when I go back home, because it’s difficult to make yourself and can get expensive to order at a restaurant. These pan-fried steaks, though, are honestly so yummy and so quick to make. This recipe is for all my carnivores. It takes about ten minutes to make, and there are different ways to enjoy it. Sometimes I’ll get a handful of fries, or I’ll cut up the steak and have it in my salad.

Here’s all you need to make a pan-fried steak:

  • Thin-cut sirloin steak (You can buy these pre-packaged or ask someone in the meat department to pack a couple of slices for you. I usually keep a few in the freezer and take them out to thaw whenever I want to have it for dinner)
  • Oil or butter (You can use whatever you prefer)
  • Salt and pepper, at your own discretion
  • Montreal steak seasoning or Greek Seasoning (I use the Greek seasoning when I put the steak in a salad)

Start by putting your stove on high heat, and add your oil or butter. On a plate, add whatever seasoning you’d like to the steak (both sides). Once you’re done, you can add it to the pan and just let it cook. Since these steaks are thinner than most, it won’t take long to cook – which is a plus for any student wanting to eat something yummy that won’t cut into their study time.


Kai’s lactose-free cheesy lazy wraps

Two things that make this recipe make sense: I am a spinach fan through and through, but more importantly than that, my body treats lactose as a threat. I made this concoction when I was in need of quick lunches and looking for a cheap, warm, comfortable meal to throw together between classes and work. 

To make this wrap you’ll need:

  • A spinach tortilla
  • Lactose-free cream cheese
  • Lactose-free mozzarella
  • Spinach (I use frozen spinach)
  • Garlic powder
  • Dill

I microwave my frozen spinach and drain the liquid, put the ingredients in the wrap, and warm it up in the microwave. 

Victoria’s one-pot chicken penne

If you were to look at my search history, you’d see a lot of results for “easy student meals,” “30-minute dinners,” and “one-pot dinner.” I consider myself somewhat of an expert in the field of making dinner in as little time as possible. 

This is my go-to dinner for two reasons. One: you can make it with one pot (fewer dishes). Two: it makes a big batch, so you can save it and microwave as needed. I’ll usually make this one night and eat it for lunch and/or dinner for the next few days. I’ve reheated this when I only have ten minutes to eat, and I’ve brought it to campus to reheat (provided I can find a microwave). 


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1–2 chicken breasts, cut into ½–1-inch pieces
  • Garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste
  • ½ an onion, diced
  • 2–3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup marinara
  • 3 cups of penne
  • ¼ cups mozzarella
  • A handful of grated parmesan

This is a one-pan recipe. That fact is important. Remember it.

First, cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and grill on a large skillet until just cooked. Remove chicken and set aside. 

Add a dash more olive oil to the skillet, then add onions and garlic. Let simmer for a few minutes until onions start to brown.

Add water and marinara. Let it boil. Add penne to boiling water. Once most of the water evaporates from the pasta and the pasta is cooked, mix in the chicken and turn down heat. After a few minutes, add mozzarella and parmesan. Mix until the cheese has melted. Finally, enjoy.