AS bills continue to rocket, households are struggling to feed their families – so much so that research has found cash-strapped parents are even skipping meals so their kids can eat regularly.
Today, as part of our Squeeze Team series, we bring you budget- friendly meals from Lesley Negus — known as food blogger Thrifty Lesley — which come in at less than 40p a head.
And despite the price, they still contain the nutrients you need. Lesley says that by buying in bulk, shopping around and batch cooking you can feed yourself for just over £1 a day.
The mum 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 she left her husband.
Lesley said: “Without a roof over my head and no money at all, I learned to budget.
“I know that when you are struggling, having something nice to eat becomes even more important.
“I learned to make budget meals. When my girls were growing up, they loved vegetable crumble and I used to make them a sandwich made with carrot and cheese grated together.
“Unless you’ve known what it’s like to be poor, you’re in no position to cast judgment on others. It’s 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.
“It leaves you with very little time to focus on anything else.
“I still get a thrill out of making something out of nothing and I can’t bring myself to ever throw food away.”
Lesley began sharing recipes on her blog in 2013 and now has a huge following.
Here, she serves up some of her favourite dishes — and best of all, they will set you back no more than 40p per person.
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Meatballs with spaghetti
- Priced at Aldi, serves 5
- Total: £2 = 40p each
- 225g pork mince, £2.25/500g – £1.01
- 60g onion, chopped small, 65p/ kg – 4p
- 70g celery stick, 59p a head – 5p
- 80g carrot, grated, 46p/kg – 4p
- 40g breadcrumbs from a value loaf, 39p – 2p
- 28g cooked pearl barley (raw is one third of the weight when cooked), 60p/500g – 5p
- 2 tins of 400g tomatoes, 28p each – 56p
- 500g value spaghetti – 23p
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Chop the onion and celery very small, or whizz in a food processor.
Fry both onion and celery in water until they are transparent.
Place in a bowl and add all the other ingredients. Squish it all together with your hands or a big spoon.
Form into balls about the size of a walnut – you should get 25 from the mixture.
Place them on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Heat the tins of tomatoes in a saucepan on a medium heat with a little salt and pepper (optional).
Tip the tomatoes into the drained spaghetti and stir well. Serve and top with the meatballs.
Sardine and tomato fishcakes
- Priced at Aldi, serves 2
- Total: 68p = 34p each
- 125g tin of sardines in tomato sauce – 36p
- 1 onion, 150g, 65p/kg – 10p
- 250g potatoes, 89p – 9p
- 1 tbsp oil to fry, £1.55/litre – 2p
- 50g frozen peas, 55p/900g – 3p
- 40g broccoli, 59p/300g – 8p
METHOD: Peel, slice and dice the onion and fry in half a tablespoon of oil until cooked through.
Peel and cook the potatoes and mash them well, get all the lumps out.
Mix the onion, potato and fish together and season well with pepper.
Shape the mixture with your hands into fish cakes, coat with a little flour and fry with the remaining oil until the outside is crispy.
eanwhile, cook the broccoli and peas according to packet instructions.
Cheese and carrot sandwich
- Priced at Aldi, serves 1
- Total = 18p a sandwich
- 2 slices of white or brown bread from a 36p value loaf – 3p
- 30g Cheddar cheese £4.43/kg – 13p
- 30g carrots, 45p/kg – 1p
- ½ tsp of mayonnaise taken from a 500ml/69p bottle – 1p
METHOD: Grate the cheese and carrot, combine 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 up every scrap, you’ll save the equivalent of a week’s grocery shop every month.
Before going shopping, check your cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you already have.
Make a meal plan using what is in the cupboards before buying anything else.
Vegetable peelings make great stock for soup. Little bits of this and that can be used in pies, as pizza toppings, in a risotto or delicious fritters.
Cauliflower and broccoli stems are often thrown away but can be used in all sorts of ways – sliced and used in stir-fry, curry or just as a vegetable side.
Or they can be shredded and used as a salad veg, with or without dressing, or in a soup.
All cabbages are brilliant value and last ages. White, red and green varieties can all make coleslaw too when mixed with mayonnaise and onion.
Chicken and onion pie
- Priced at Asda, serves 4
- Total: £1.20 = 30p each
For the pastry:
- 200g self-raising flour, 55p/1.5kg – 7p
- 100ml rapeseed oil, £1.60/ litre – 16p
- 80ml water
For the filling:
- 100g cooked meat from a £3.60/1.45kg whole chicken – 66p
- 30g of dried stuffing from an Asda sage and onion stuffing mix (40p for the packet) – 7p
- 2 medium onions, 65p/kg – 12p
- Serve with 120g green beans, frozen beans, £1/kg – 12p
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.
Pastry: Put the flour in a bowl, add the oil, then the water, and stir. It will come together in a few seconds to make a soft dough.
Don’t over-mix or the pastry will toughen. If it is looking a little dry, add a little more water. If it’s too wet, add a little more flour.
Filling: Make the stuffing balls according to packet instructions.
Sauté the onion in a frying pan with a tbsp of water instead of oil on a medium/high heat until transparent.
Chop the chicken into small pieces and add to the frying pan. Chop up the stuffing balls and add them too.
Stir well. Add four tbsp water to turn the mixture into a thick gravy.
Leave to cool. Meanwhile, divide the pastry in two, with one half slightly bigger than the other.
Flour the work surface and roll out the bigger half to fit a 20cm pie tin and line the tin with it. Put the chicken and onion filling into the pie tin.
Roll out the other piece of pastry and top the pie with it.
Crimp the edges. Make a steam hole in the middle of the pastry, bake for 30 minutes until golden.
- Priced at Asda, serves 6
- Total: £1.40 = 23p each
For the topping:
- 100ml vegetable oil, £1.60/ litre – 16p
- 100g flour, 55p/1.5kg – 4p
- 75g oats, 75p/1.5kg – 6p
- 100g Asda Smart Price mature 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 overall total):
- 480g white cabbage, 80p/kg – 38p
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Mix the crumble topping ingredients together in a bowl then put to one side.
Sauté the root vegetables in a frying pan on a medium/high heat in a little oil until soft.
Cover an ovenproof dish with the base and pile with topping.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Serve alongside the cooked cabbage.