Saturday, 5 October 2013

Cheap eats; thrifty recipes for end of the month

I've been thinking a lot about Jamie Oliver's approach to cheap meals recently and I think he has a good point.  A roast can yield a lot of meals, cheap cuts can be really tasty.  What disappointed me though was when I saw his interpretation of 'cheap'.  Many of his recipes are aimed at £2 a head.  Yeah, cheap if you buy ready meals but not cheap if you're on jobseekers allowance, what's more when MSN tested it, they couldn't make them as cheaply.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a religiously cheap cook but I do believe in thrift.  My parents brought me up this way, not to be wasteful.  They grew all their own fruit and vegetables and when you've invested that much time, it's worth respecting them.  As I said in my post about Jamie Oliver's approach it's not just about overall cost, sometimes when you pay less for something you respect it less.

It doesn't have to be this way though.  I would say that one of the cheapest, most filling ingredients there is, lentils, is impossible to cook without respecting it.  They take 20-45 minutes to cook.  Ok, not quick but sometimes slow is good, slow makes you think about what you're eating and, let's face it, it's not that slow, it's not necessarily food you have to be stood over poking and prodding for the whole time!

So in answer to the £2 a head meal, I've costed out some recipes for you for the price of an adult portion.  Remember even if my recipe says "serves 2" and you're cooking for one it might be worth making the full amount (or even doubling it) to have some left over for lunchtime, freezing can give you some variety so you grab something from the freezer and head out.  It's so easy to spend £3 on lunch in even a subsidised canteen in the workplace or more in a coffee shop.  Over a year if you reduced that cost to £1, you could save £500 a year!

I've used Sainsbury's to calculate the cost of the recipes, partly to be consistent with the review of the above recipes but also then you may be able to shop around and get slightly better prices.  All prices were correct at time of writing as shown on the "mysupermarket" website.

Where I have used less than a pack I've priced it as the recipe quantity.  There are no weird or wacky ingredients here which would stay in your cupboard or fridge for months untouched (at least not in mine) and several are dried, can be frozen or keep fresh for a long time so waste is unlikely but of course that's always a risk.  I've not included cooking costs but if you look at the recipes I frequently suggest ways to keep this down, e.g. by avoiding use of the oven.

Toad in the Hole for 3 portions

(Priced without gravy) likely costs of the recipe £1.06 per portion for 3

Vegetarian Lasagne for approx 3 portions

Actual likely costs of the recipe £1.09 per portion for 3

Mushroom Pasta Bake for 2 portions

Actual likely costs of the recipe 94p per portion

Actual likely costs of the recipe 26p per portion.

Lentil and Bacon soup for 2 portions

Actual likely costs of the recipe if you exclude the low salt stock cube (which I normally do), 32p per portion.

Gazpacho for 2 portions

Actual likely costs of the recipe 85p per portion.


Approx 15p per portion

I hope I've convinced you that eating cheaply doesn't necessarily mean eating badly.  By the standards of Jamie Oliver, many of my other recipes would be easy to make for less than £2 a portion but the above represent some of the super cheap ways to pad out a small salary.  Have a look around and see if there's anything else you like the look of and remember that thrift doesn't have to mean anything other than delicious, reasonably healthy and very cheerful.

(Disclaimer:  I have not been endorsed in any way for this post and my mentioning of brands and sites does not imply I support or use them.)


  1. I agree with you. Jamie Oliver's idea of cheap and my idea of cheap are very different! I am currently aiming to feed my family of 5 for less than £5 per day (thou there is 1 baby, 1 toddler and 1 pre-schooler so not 5 adult portions!) Will be adding your sweetcorn fritters to my next meal plan :)


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