Recipes for Under a Pound

After the fun and frivolity of Christmas comes the frugality of the New Year – but you don’t have to taste the difference.  Here’s how…

It’s a tale that goes back generations, when even oranges were rare, exotic festive treats and not for everyday consumption.  In recent decades, the importance of ‘a healthier lifestyle’ as a New Year’s resolution led to calorie-denying diets.  But most commonly, our desire to spend a little more in December has most likely led to a need to watch the pennies in January.

Add in a Cost of Living Crisis and the need to ‘tighten our belts’ becomes even more keenly felt.  In recent years, there’s been a significant movement for making quality meals for surprisingly little – often less than a pound per head.  As we head into 2023, with the financial challenges it brings, how can we all eat well, for less?

Perhaps the best-known advocate is Jack Monroe.  Once described as “the poster girl for Austerity Britain”, her recipes fuse classical cuisine with ultra-cheap, widely-available ingredients, batch preparation and energy-efficient cooking.  Every recipe on her website is costed (per head) with the price and source of each ingredient shown.

A great ‘winter warmer’ is her Vegan Moussaka, costed at 31p (in 2018). 

As she explains the ‘hacks’ required to replace traditional ingredients, you always have the option to reverse them and try the non-vegan, non-vegetarian lamb version – which should still come in at under a pound a head.

250g dried green or brown lentils     57p (£1.15/500g, Sainsburys)

2 small onions     12p (90p/1,5kg, Sainsburys Basics)

6 fat cloves of garlic     9p (35p/2 bulbs, Sainsburys Basics)

2 tbsp oil     3p (£3/3l, vegetable or sunflower oil, Sainsburys)

400g chopped tomatoes     35p (35p/400g, Sainsburys Basics)

50ml red wine     23p (£3.50/750ml, Basic table wine)

1 tsp dried thyme or other herbs     <1p (80p/100g thyme, Natco brand)

¼ tsp each salt and pepper     <1p

1 tsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar     1p (£1.15/500ml, Sainsburys RWV)

1 large aubergine     75p (75p each, Sainsburys)

1 slice bread, grated into breadcrumbs*     2p (45p/22 slice loaf, Sainsburys Basics)

For the white sauce:

1 tbsp flour*      <1p (55p/1.5kg plain flour, Sainsburys Basics)

1 tbsp oil     2p (£3/3l vegetable or sunflower oil, Sainsburys)

250ml cashew or soya milk     25p (25p/1l, Sainsburys)

½ tsp mustard     <1p (45p/180g, Sainsburys Basics mustard)

*to make gluten free, simply omit these or use your favourite gluten free bread or breadcrumb mix

Here’s the recipe in full:  Moussaka, 31p [VG/V/DF/GF*]

Jack Monroe’s ‘Cooking On A Bootstrap’ website is full of ideas and advice across a wide range of cuisines and dietary preferences, with a wealth of similar ‘under a pound’ recipe ideas. 

It should also be noted that it’s much easier to bring down the ‘per head’ cost when cooking for larger numbers, spreading the overall cost over more servings.  If you’re cooking for one or even two, in order to keep ‘per-head’ costs down, it’s likely you’ll need to cook for more and batch and freeze the remainder, to eat at a later date.

We all like different things – and we can quickly tire of eating the same thing, even when we like it – so here’s a handy list of helpful websites to give you some inspiration.  It’s also a great way to sample dishes that you might not otherwise have considered. 

Even if you’re a fussy eater, there’s loads to choose from  Alternatively – as you may already have heard – Try it – you might like it!

BBC Food – Great family dinners for under £1 a head

Jamie Oliver – Jamie’s £1 Wonders & more budget-friendly cooking tips

Tesco – Cooking On A Budget | Budget Recipes

Good To Know – Cheap family meals: Budget recipes under £1 per head

More Than A Mummy – 34 cheap family meals costing as little as £1 a head