Easy recipes for students

If you are a foreign student living in Japan, you may have experienced running out of money by the end of month due to some budgeting problems. For most instances, it’s the food expenditure that is to blame for taking most of our budget share. Well, what can we say? eating out in Japan is expensive!

For many of us foreign students in Japan, we want to have a balanced diet but don’t want to spend too much time cooking and cleaning. We would rather eat outside and face the budget problem every month than deal with the complexity that is cooking. Don’t worry though – here are some easy balanced diet recipes to your rescue.


I am not sponsoring any cereal company but I think if you want to get a balanced diet in the morning – without having to spend too much time on cooking – cereals are the best. They are packed with nutrition, with a variety to choose from. You may not like some at first but keep searching, you will definitely find the one that matches your taste. With a bowl of cereal and milk for breakfast, you don’t have to worry about being hungry until afternoon. It’s not just quick and easy to make but also gives you a great start for the rest of your day. With estimated cost per serving of less than 100 JPY, it’s a budget meal too.


If you’re like me, you would probably like to eat outside at the lunch time. The best option for you nutritionally and economically would be either canteen or even cheaper menus at ‘gyudon’ (meat bowl) restaurants like ‘sukiya’ and ‘yoshinoya’.

What if I was to tell you – you can save more than half of the money you spend on eating outside by making a quick bento in the morning before going out –  would you try it out? My favorite lists are as follows, they are quick and easy to make and tastes delicious and packed with nutritions.


Prep Time: 5 min, Cook Time: 15 min, Total time: 20 min, Estimated cost for 1 serving: 200 JPY


  • 1 onion
  • ¾ lb thinly sliced beef (¾ lb = 12 oz or 340 g)
  • 1 Tbsp neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sake
  • 2 Tbsp mirin
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 large eggs (beaten, optional)
  • 3 cups cooked Japanese short grain rice

Make a Yoshinoya-style Gyudon (beef bowl) with this easy recipe. https://norecipes.com/gyudon-beef-bowl-recipe


  1. Slice the onions, cut the green onion into thin slices (save for garnish), and cut the meat into small pieces.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat and cook the onions until tender.
  3. Add the meat and sugar and cook until no longer pink.
  4. Add sake, mirin, and soy sauce.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  6. If you like to add the egg, slowly and evenly drizzle the beaten egg over the beef. Cook covered until the egg is done. Add the green onion right before removing from the heat.
  7. Place the beef and egg on top of steamed rice, pour the desired amount of sauce


Japanese Garlic Fried Rice

Prep Time: 10 min, Cook Time: 15 min, Total time: 25 min, Estimated cost for 1 serving: 250 JPY


  • 2 rice cooker cups uncooked Japanese short grain rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3  sausages
  • ⅛ cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (30 ml)
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (15 g)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (5 ml)
  • 1 tsp syantan
  • 4 stalks spring onions – diced
  • chilli powder
  • black pepper


  1. Cook the rice in the rice cooker. Transfer to a large bowl add 2 eggs and ½ of syantan mix and set aside uncovered to remove moisture. [60 minutes added to total cook time]
  2. Add the olive oil in the large frying pan.
  3. Add in butter and swirl around to coat the pan. Add the chopped sausages and cabbage.
  4. Add the minced garlic in the same pan and stir fry until golden brown and fragrant. Add ½ of syantan  and lowly fry the thinly sliced garlic pieces until golden brown.
  5. Then add the warm steamed rice mix.
  6. Season with chilli powder, black pepper and scallion . Taste the rice and make sure it is seasoned to your liking.



In the evening you are probably tired and don’t want to do much cooking. So, it’s better to make preparations during the weekend, cover and refrigerate. Then, you can just microwave and serve as dinner during weekdays. Soups work the best for this purpose. I personally prefer miso vegetable soup. A balanced diet always consists of vegetables.

Miso Vegetable Soup:

Total:35 mins Prep:10 mins Cook:25 mins Yield:Serves 4 to 6, Estimated cost per serving: 100JPY


  • Half a pan full of water
  • Vegetables of your choice (Japanese white radish, spring onion, carrots, beat sprouts, spinach, ‘wakame’ sea weeds are commonly used)
  • Tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons miso, (see Note)
  • Japanese ‘dashi’ flavouring


  1. Fill half the pan with water and boil it with high heat.
  2. Peel the skin and cut your chosen vegetables to edible pieces
  3. Add the ‘dashi’ flavouring before anything you put anything else in the pan
  4. Add your choice of vegetables
  5. Add tofu 
  6. Add miso in to the pan – make sure to use a ladle or a large spoon to dissolve the miso first, then in to the large pan – taste it (be careful it’s hot!) until you get the flavour just right. 
  7. Let it simmer a couple more minutes and it’s ready!


Sometimes you may not have had time to prepare food for the week – it’s completely fine. I have got you some easy recipes in that situation too.

  • Ready made curry sauce ‘Mabo Tofu’ :

Total:15 mins Prep:1 mins Cook:14 mins (time taken to boil the rice) Yield:Serves 4 to 6, Estimated cost per serving: 350JPY


  • Most of the time just the curry sauce or mabo tofu you can get in grocery stores and convenience stores. 
  • Boiled rice or bread


Depending on the packaging – you can pour the sauce in to a bowl and microwave it, but it is nicer to heat up the rice or bread separately. 

Heat up your ready-made sauce before – removing it out of the package – in boiling water for however many minutes as instructed. Then, open the package and serve it on to your dish with bread or rice of your choice. 

If you do have other ingredients – you can level up your ready-made meal by adding mince meat or left over vegetables by cooking it together in a frying pan – just for it to be like a properly made meal! 



  • Canned fish/meat/flakes:

Total:15 mins Prep:1 mins Cook:14 mins (time taken to boil the rice) Yield:Serves 4 to 6, Estimated cost per serving: 150JPY


  • Canned fish
  • Boiled rice


Canned foods are easy to find and very cheap, you can get in any department stores or convini in Japan. Just move the canned fish/meat/flakes into a bowl. Microwave it and put rice on top of it and serve. Easy and economic. Tasty and nutritional too.

See how much time and money you can save by trying these easy and simple Japanese recipes? With these recipes you don’t have to sacrifice taste and nutrition either. They will help you stay healthy with a reasonable price. Enjoy your meal!