Dinner for less: 3 low cost recipes

With the cost of living increasing, many families are finding it difficult to enjoy tasty, healthy food on a budget. We’ve put together three recipes that prove you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy delicious food at home - why not give them a try this week? For general tips on cooking cheaply, see our guide to cooking on a budget. All the below recipes serve 4.

Macaroni Cheese - £4.94

This is perfect comfort food, and great for kids.


50g butter, plus extra for greasing

2 leeks, washed and sliced (try washing after you slice them, as dirt gets trapped between the layers)

50g plain flour

1 pint milk

250g cheddar cheese, grated

1 tsp turmeric, for colour

250g macaroni or other pasta shapes

100g breadcrumbs or a packet of plain crisps, crushed

4 rashers of bacon, chopped (optional)


  • Heat up the butter in a large deep pan. Add the leeks (and bacon if you’re using it) and fry for 5 minutes or until soft
  • Stir in about three quarters of the flour, until the leeks are well coated. Take the pan off the heat and add three quarters of the milk. Whisk immediately
  • Return to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking constantly. The sauce should thicken - if it looks too thin, add a little more flour and repeat the process. When the consistency looks good, reduce the heat and simmer gently
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the macaroni and a pinch of salt. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or according to packet instructions
  • Stir most of the cheese into the sauce and allow to melt, and add the turmeric. If the sauce now feels too thick, stir in the remaining milk
  • Preheat the grill. Thoroughly grease a deep oven-proof dish with butter and prepare your breadcrumbs or crisps
  • When the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauce and stir well. Pour everything into the dish, and cover with the breadcrumbs/crisps and remaining cheese. Note: if you’re using crisps, make sure they are underneath the layer of cheese so they don’t burn
  • Place under the hot grill for 10 minutes or until golden brown, crispy and bubbling

Spicy Cottage Pie - £7.88

An exciting twist on a classic!


400g minced beef - the leaner the better, but get what you can afford - or vegetarian mince

A generous knob of butter, plus extra for mash

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tbsp your favourite curry paste

1 tsp crushed dried chillies - add more if you like it spicy!

1 red pepper, sliced

1 yellow pepper, sliced

1 tin chopped tomatoes

700g potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 small bunch fresh coriander

A drizzle of olive oil


  • Melt the butter in a large, deep frying pan, and add the onions, garlic and mince. Tip: if you’re using cheaper mince, chop it up finely before cooking for a nicer texture
  • Fry over a moderate heat until the onions are soft and the mince is browned. Add the curry paste, peppers and dried chillies, and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Stir in the chopped tomatoes and simmer gently for 15 minutes
  • Meanwhile: bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until very soft. Separate the coriander leaves from the stalks. Finely chop the stalks and place the leaves to one side
  • Preheat the grill
  • When the potatoes are cooked, drain thoroughly and return to the pan. Add butter, the coriander stalks and a little olive oil, and mash until smooth
  • Roughly chop the coriander leaves and stir into the meat. Pour the mixture into an oven-proof dish and spoon the mash on top. Spread with a spatula for even coverage, and gently make ridges in the potato with the back of a fork
  • Drizzle with a little olive oil and place under the grill for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy

Mediterranean Ratatouille - £7.52

Let some delicious vegetables take centre stage - or add pancetta for a bit of luxury. Feel free to add different vegetables according to taste!


1 onion, finely chopped

150g pancetta cubes (optional)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 courgettes, cut into chunks

2 red peppers, thickly chopped

1 aubergine, cut into chunks

4 large fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1tbsp tomato puree

1tsp dried oregano

1 small bunch fresh basil leaves

Parmesan cheese (or other cheese you have to hand) and rice or pasta to serve

Olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C. Heat the oil in a large, deep pan, add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until soft. If you’re using pancetta cubes, add these now. Add the garlic and fry for another 2 minutes
  • Meanwhile, spread out the vegetables - except the tomatoes - on a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until just soft
  • Add the tomatoes to the onions and garlic, and fry for a few minutes until soft. When the vegetables are ready, add them to the pan, along with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and oregano
  • Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. If the sauce looks a little watery, remove the lid and continue cooking until it has reduced
  • Just before serving, tear up the basil leaves and stir in
  • Serve with boiled rice or pasta, and top with parmesan cheese

All prices calculated based on cost per ingredient in own brand range of a leading UK supermarket

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