First semester, UW-Madison students eat their way up and down State Street. Starting at Forage Kitchen to Graze and back, these meals are not exactly cheap but sure are enjoyable. While this provides all the love and care a chronic food baby needs to thrive, bank accounts, on the other hand, take a beating.

Now, second semester is speeding by and you have no money, no cooking skills and NO desire to eat at Gordon’s Dining Hall. No worries, here are 5 cheap, diverse, hearty and healthy meals in Madison for when you’re ballin’ on a budget.

1. Luang Prabang Thai Food Cart

juice, lime, lemonade
Sami Elfus

While Luang Prabang Thai Food may be an unfamiliar name, this first meal is undoubtedly a recognizable one. Avocado spring rolls, ringing in at $2.50 a piece, can be ordered spicy or mild and are roughly the size of your head. These enlarged Thai classics are packed with vegetables and their sheer mass is bound to leave you feeling satisfied.

Got a couple extra pennies in the piggy bank? Luang Prabang’s menu also has fresh smoothies and all the basics of Thai cooking from Pad Thai to Squash Curry. The whole cart is price-capped at $10. 

2. Estacion Inka

bun, cilantro, sandwich
Krystal Du

This relatively new traditional Peruvian restaurant is located on University Avenue in a little, but lively, storefront. Their chicken oriented menu serves heaping portions at a reasonable price (a WHOLE rotisserie chicken meal for $12.50) and their late night weekend hours make it a hidden gem for a hungry night-owl.

However, the real bang for your buck at Estacion Inka is their rice and beans sides; $2.50 or $4.00 for the pair.

3. Sunroom Cafe

Sunroom Cafe is known as a top contender in the brunch community around campus. They also have diverse breakfast, lunch and dinner menus that range from pancakes to pizza and fried rice, just a little bit of anything and everything.

Sunroom is overall reasonably priced and offers penny pinching options such as an eggs, toast and breakfast potatoes plate for under $5.00. 

4. Sushi Express

Located right next to our Peruvian friends at Estacion Inka, Sushi express offers an extensive menu from yet another part of the globe. This Japanese eatery has an extensive menu of sushi, sashimi, teriyaki and lo mein as well as bento boxes for the hungry traveler.

While the majority of the menu is averagely priced, find a friend who is also scraping the bottom of the barrel and take advantage of the 2 roll combo, any two rolls for just under $9. Add a little Venmo action and you are each weighing in only $4.50 lighter

5. Pizza Di Roma

While not exactly a "diverse, hearty and healthy" meal as promised, pizza IS the answer to everything. Pizza Di Roma is often overshadowed by Ian's Pizza. However, the prices are lower, and I swear the pizza is just as good. Basic pizza slices or a salad ring up at just $2.95 and a bump up to more exciting za only adds an extra dollar.

Got friends? PDR graciously offers a 20 inch, 1 topping pizza for $14.60 so you don't have to be poor, hungry AND alone.  

Don't end your food bender just because you're broke. Find two pennies to rub together, grab some friends and explore these diverse options for when you're young, broke, and hungry.