As bills continue to soar, households are struggling to feed their families – so much so that research has found cash-strapped parents are even skipping meals so their children can eat regularly.
Today, as part of our Squeeze Team series, we’re bringing you budget meals from Lesley Negus – known as food blogger Thrifty Lesley – that cost less than 40p a head.
And despite the price, they still contain the nutrients you need. Lesley says that by buying in bulk, shopping and cooking in batches, you can feed yourself for just over £1 a day.
The mother-of-two became interested in all things frugal when she and her daughters Tracey Hibbett, now 53, and Sam Morley, 51, became homeless between 1971 and 1975 after leaving her husband.
Lesley said, “With no roof over my head and no money at all, I learned how to budget.
“I know that when you’re struggling, having something good to eat becomes even more important.
“I learned how to make meals on a budget. When my daughters were growing up, they loved veggie crumble and I used to make them a carrot and grated cheese sandwich together.
“Unless you know what it is to be poor, you are not in a position to pass judgment on others. It is very, very difficult to break the cycle.
“If you’ve never worried about money, you can’t understand how it consumes every aspect of your waking moments.
“That leaves you very little time to focus on anything else.
“I still get a thrill from making something out of nothing and can’t bring myself to throw food away.”
Lesley started sharing recipes on her blog in 2013 and now has a huge following.
Here she serves up some of her favorite dishes – and best of all, they won’t cost you more than 40p a head.
Meatballs with spaghetti
- At the price of Aldi, for 5 people
- Total: £2 = 40p each
- 225g minced pork, £2.25/500g – £1.01
- 60g onion, finely chopped, 65p/ kg – 4p
- 70g celery stick, 59p per head – 5p
- 80g carrot, grated, 46p/kg – 4p
- 40g breadcrumbs from a value loaf, 39p – 2p
- 28g cooked pearl barley (raw represents one third of the weight when cooked), 60p/500g – 5p
- 2 x 400g tins of tomatoes, 28p each – 56p
- Spaghetti value 500g – 23p
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Chop the onion and celery into very small pieces, or blend them in a food processor.
Saute onion and celery in water until translucent.
Put in a bowl and add all the other ingredients. Crush everything with your hands or a large spoon.
Shape into walnut-sized balls – you should get 25 of the mixture.
Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Heat the cans of tomatoes in a saucepan over medium heat with a little salt and pepper (optional).
Pour the tomatoes into the drained spaghetti and mix well. Serve and garnish with meatballs.
Fish cakes with sardines and tomato
- At the price of Aldi, for 2 people
- Total: 68p = 34p each
- 125g tin of sardines in tomato sauce – 36p
- 1 onion, 150g, 65p/kg – 10p
- 250g potatoes, 89p – 9p
- 1 tbsp frying oil, £1.55/litre – 2p
- 50g frozen peas, 55p/900g – 3p
- 40g broccoli, 59p/300g – 8p
METHOD: Peel, thinly slice and dice the onion and sauté in half a tablespoon of oil until cooked through.
Peel and cook the potatoes and mash them well, removing any lumps.
Mix the onion, potato and fish and season well with pepper.
Shape the mixture with your hands into fish cakes, coat them in a little flour and fry them in the remaining oil until the outside is crispy.
Meanwhile, cook broccoli and peas according to package directions.
Cheese and Carrot Sandwich
- At Aldi’s price, for 1
- Total = 18p a sandwich
- 2 slices of white or brown bread from a loaf worth 36p – 3p
- 30g Cheddar cheese £4.43/kg – 13p
- 30g carrots, 45p/kg – 1p
- ½ tsp mayonnaise from a 500ml bottle / 69p – 1p
METHOD: Grate the cheese and the carrot, mix with the mayonnaise and put the mixture between the slices of bread.
Tips from Leslie
THE average family wastes more than a third of all the groceries they buy.
So if you use every scrap, you’ll save the equivalent of a week’s worth of groceries each month.
Before shopping, check your cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you already have.
Make a meal plan using what’s in the cupboards before buying anything else.
Vegetable peelings make an excellent broth for soup. Small pieces of this and that can be used in pies, as pizza toppings, in risotto or delicious donuts.
Cauliflower and broccoli stalks are often thrown away, but can be used in all sorts of ways – sliced and used in stir fries, curries or simply as a side dish to vegetables.
Or they can be grated and used as salad vegetables, with or without dressing, or in a soup.
All puffs are brilliant value and long lasting. The white, red, and green varieties can also make coleslaw when mixed with mayonnaise and onion.
Chicken and onion pie
- At Asda price, for 4 people
- Total: £1.20 = 30 pence each
For the pastry:
- 200g self-rising flour, 55p/1.5kg – 7p
- 100ml rapeseed oil, £1.60/litre – 16p
- 80ml water
For the filling:
- 100g cooked meat from a whole chicken £3.60 / 1.45kg – 66p
- 30g dried stuffing of Asda Sage & Onion Stuffing Mix (40p for packet) – 7p
- 2 medium onions, 65p/kg – 12p
- Served with 120g green beans, frozen beans, £1/kg – 12p
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/thermostat 6.
Pastry shop: Put the flour in a bowl, add the oil, then the water and stir. It will come together in seconds to form a soft dough.
Do not overmix otherwise the batter will harden. If it seems a little dry, add a little more water. If it’s too wet, add a little flour.
Filling: Make stuffing balls according to package instructions.
Sauté the onion in a pan with a tablespoon of water instead of oil over medium/high heat until translucent.
Cut the chicken into small pieces and add it to the pan. Chop the stuffing balls and add them too.
Mix well. Add four tablespoons of water to turn the mixture into a thick sauce.
Let cool. Meanwhile, divide the dough in half, one half slightly larger than the other.
Flour the work surface and roll out the larger half to hold a 20cm tart tin and line the tin with it. Put the chicken and onion filling in the pie pan.
Roll out the other piece of dough and cover the pie with it.
Pinch the edges. Make a steam hole in the middle of the dough, bake for 30 minutes until golden.
Crumble From Vegetables
- At Asda price, for 6 people
- Total: £1.40 = 23p each
For garnish :
- 100ml vegetable oil, £1.60/litre – 16p
- 100g flour, 55p/1.5kg – 4p
- 75g oats, 75p/1.5kg – 6p
- 100g Asda Smart Price Ripe Cheddar, £3.65/kg – 36p
- 50g Asda Smart Price Salted Peanuts, 46p/200g – 11p
For the base:
- 340g maris piper potatoes, 48p/kg – 16p
- 340g carrots, 43p/kg –15p
- 100g onion, chopped, 65p/kg – 6p
- 400g tinned tomatoes – 30p
- To serve (this is not included in the grand total):
- 480g of white cabbage, 80p/kg – 38p
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200 C/180 C fan/thermostat 6. Combine the ingredients for the crumble topping in a bowl, then set aside.
Sauté the root vegetables in a skillet over medium/high heat in a little oil until tender.
Cover a baking dish with the bottom and garnish with topping.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Serve with cooked cabbage.