Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes from Owens, Oct. 16, 2018.

Ramen is roughly 33 cents per meal. There are multiple flavors of the college classic, and it takes the intellect of a chimpanzee to make it — though I’m positive it’s the cause of multiple dorm room fire alarms. Sure, ramen noodles are good, but if you’re ridiculously cheap and constantly need a quick bite all of the time, ramen can become gross really, really quickly.

Also, do you ever wonder how much sodium you put inside your body when you eat instant ramen? If you really don’t want to know, don’t go to the product’s website. In comparison, one serving of ramen is equivalent to almost an entire frozen pizza worth of sodium.

What if I told you that you can live off of something much healthier and cheaper? Though potatoes are just a starch, they’re better for your body than instant ramen. At Kroger, you can buy a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes for around $3. That’s roughly 12 to 15 potatoes, which equates to approximately 20 cents per potato, or per meal. Like I said, we are not currently experiencing a potato famine at all, and at this time of year, potatoes are cheaper than the dirt they’re planted in.

Potatoes are a superfood, loaded with stomach-lining starch and can be used in thousands of recipes. They are a great companion for just about every meal, from breakfast to dinner. If you have taken my advice and spent $3 on a boatload of potatoes, here are a few attainable recipes that every college student can make and enjoy. For the more experienced cooks, higher quality recipes will be provided in the links.

Homemade potato chips

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20–30 minutes

This is one of the easiest snacks you can make with your newly acquired bag of potatoes. First, wash your potatoes — they are probably covered in dirt. Repeat this step for all the recipes listed in this article. Afterward, use a kitchen knife to cut the potatoes width-wise into thin slices (or to your own preferred thickness). Arrange the slices on an oiled baking sheet and bake or broil for about half an hour, or until golden brown.

These homemade potato chips are a perfect snack for those who are starving and looking for an easy way to kickstart their cooking skills. They definitely taste softer than commercial chips, but they will do just fine for 20 cents a meal.

Classic boiled potatoes

Prep time: 0 minutes

Boil time: 30 minutes

Why spend an entire hour of your time preparing and waiting for a baked potato? According to modern economics, if the opportunity cost of the action is greater than the benefit, don’t do the action.

This recipe is as easy as the title was to write. Take potatoes and put them in boiling water. Cook the potatoes for roughly half an hour, or until fork tender. This means that you should be able to stick a fork through the center of the potato with ease.

Personally, I believe that boiled potatoes are best enjoyed in a gigantic pot with corn and crab legs, but we’re college students and live in the mountains — a dash of butter and a little Old Bay seasoning will suffice.

Easy mashed potatoes

 Boil time: 20 minutes

Mash time: 20 minutes

Mashed potatoes are ridiculously easy and cheap to make. Every time I see instant mashed potatoes in the grocery store selling for nearly $5, I try not to think about why this is a meal for some people.

To prep this meal, boil potatoes exactly the same way as mentioned in the previous recipe. Then put your desired quantity in a bowl and smash them until they are of your desired consistency, constantly adding milk, salt, butter and (if you so desire) cheese. Herbs and a little garlic salt are also encouraged to give the potatoes an enjoyable aroma.

Hash browns

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Have you ever been to a Denny’s or a Waffle House just for some quality hash browns? Well, you can make these relatively easy hash browns at home with your cheap bag of potatoes. This is also my own recipe, which means Old Bay is non-negotiable if you want them to taste good.

Disclaimer: This recipe is probably one of the unhealthiest things you can make with potatoes — ever. 

Boil the potatoes the same way as mentioned before, but only boil them to the point where they are still relatively firm, which will probably take 10 to 15 minutes. Take the potatoes out and let them cool to the point where you can hold them comfortably. Using a cheese grater, grate the potatoes into hash brown strips.

Put your starchy mess on a large well-oiled skillet, preferably cast iron, on medium to high heat. Use a spatula to constantly flip and press the potatoes to the heat, browning them. The secret of this recipe is to constantly, and I mean constantly, over-season them with butter, salt, Old Bay and cracked pepper.

You should keep cooking the potatoes until they are mostly brown, constantly flipping them. If you’re a Gordon Ramsay yourself, try and make hash brown patties by letting one side cook for a long time and then flipping them like a burger.

Now we have four easy ways to utilize your newfound interest in cooking potatoes, so what are you waiting for? If you have $3 and a little bit of down time, make sure to try out these methods for surviving college on a ramen-noodle budget.

Recommended Stories