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5 Delicious credit-crunch meals

10 min read

5 Delicious credit-crunch meals
Money is tight. Although inflation has fallen slightly, food costs are still a staggering 19.1% higher than this time last year. Many people have mouths to feed, so it’s imperative to find delicious and easy meals to make that don’t cost an arm and a leg.  
Just a few years ago I was a broke student who graduated mid-pandemic. I was unemployed for many months and made redundant twice in the space of just a few short months. So, I really had to make my money work for me, making it go as far as possible. 
Now, three years post-graduation, I still need to make my cash go as far as I can. Food prices, of course, have soared – but so has everything else. My rent, bills and getting the bus have all increased rapidly. Like many people, I’ve found it hard to navigate. But, as a keen cook, I am determined to find meals that fill bellies without emptying bank accounts. 
Here are my top 5 delicious credit-crunch meals. 

1. Sardine Spaghetti 

Sardines are a rich and delicious fish. This recipe is not only low-cost, but makes it easy to get an oily, omega-3 packed meal into your week. I make this different every time, depending on what I have lying around in the fridge – but it has the same few base ingredients. 
You’ll need:  
  • A pack of spaghetti 
  • 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 onion (brown or red, whichever you like!) 
  • 2x tins sardines (or tuna, if you’d prefer – I find sardines cheaper) 
  • Cheese (to sprinkle over so it goes all melty and delish) 
It’s a quick meal to make and can be made in advance and reheated later. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Whilst this is cooking, fry off the onion in a pan. At this stage, I usually add a bit of garlic, some carrots, mushrooms, or whatever veg you have that needs to be used. Courgettes and tinned sweetcorn work well, too. 
When the onion and vegetables have browned and softened, add your tins of sardines and give it a good mix. You’ll need to break up the sardines, but this can be done easily with a spoon. Then, add your tins of tomatoes and stir. When it’s all heated through, you’re ready to serve up! 

2. Sausage and egg bake 

My housemate, Liv, introduced me to this dish. She found it in a student cookery book – Nosh for Students – and I’ll admit, to begin with, I was unsure. But when she served it up to me, I was immediately won over. It’s cheap, filling, and can be made without the egg if you prefer. The sausages could be swapped out for a veggie or vegan alternative, too. 
You’ll need: 
  • Sausages (2 per person usually works!) 
  • 1 tin cannellini or butter beans 
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 onion 
  • Eggs (1 per person) 
  • Seasoning of your choice – I like dried basil, paprika and salt and pepper 
Firstly, fry your sausages in a pan. Once browned, set aside and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. In the same pan, fry off your onion and garlic, then add your cannellini or butter beans, your chopped tomatoes and any seasoning you’d like. Sometimes I like to put in chilli flakes to spice it up a little. 
Once heated through, chop up your sausages into bite-sized pieces, and put into the tomato mix. Give it a good stir. Once the sausages are heated again, transfer the mix to a baking dish. With the back of a wooden spoon, create little wells evenly throughout the mix. Crack the eggs into these wells and put in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes or so, or until the eggs are set. You can have them as runny or hard as you’d like. 
Dish up and enjoy! 

3. Cheesy vegetable bake 

Anything with cheese in is just totally delicious, right? This mouth-watering cheesy vegetable bake is easy, quick, and will please all the family. You can use either fresh or frozen veg for this, and you can easily make it in bulk and have it for a few days. 
You can also either make a cheese sauce from scratch or use a packet. Sometimes I find a packet more cost-effective, as I use less cheese and milk from the fridge. Have you seen how much a block of cheese costs these days?! Anyway, I digress. 
You’ll need: 
  •  Veg of your choice – I like to use broccoli, carrots and cauliflower (both fresh and frozen!) 
  • A few large potatoes – maybe 5 or 6 for good measure, depending on how many you plan to feed 
  • A block of cheese 
  • For the cheese sauce – as I said, either make it from scratch with flour, butter and milk, or get a packet – you'll need milk for most packet mixes, too 
  • A tub of soft cheese – I get the cheapest own brand one and it’s just as yummy 
  • Seasoning – dried herbs, salt and pepper 
Firstly, make sure that the veg, if frozen, is thawed. If you are using fresh veg, chop it up however big or small you’d like and par-boil it. Then, make a big batch of cheese sauce. You can find easy-to-follow recipes online to make this from scratch. I always add a tub of cream cheese, as I just find it gives it that extra creaminess. Mix the vegetables into the sauce and set aside. 
Then, peel your potatoes and slice them thinly. I slice them to about the thickness of a one-pound coin. Get a baking dish, and layer some of the cheesy vegetable mix into the bottom. Place a layer of potatoes over this, so it’s all covered. Then, add more of the cheese mix on top, and cover again with potatoes. Repeat this until the baking dish is full. Almost like layering a lasagne, but with potatoes! 
Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top, whack it in the oven at 200 degrees for 25 mins or so, or until the potato is cooked. Serve up, and enjoy that creamy, cheesy goodness. You could also put some breadcrumbs on top, to give it some crispiness. 

4. Baked bean lasagne 

Now hear me out. This may sound kind of weird, but it’s actually pretty good. It’s also easy to make in bulk. I love a good lasagne, but sometimes lately, I just can’t justify the cost of mince. Sometimes I can budget for it, sometimes I can’t. For the times I can’t afford it, I will opt for baked beans instead. Plus, it’s way less time consuming than and traditional lasagne. 
You’ll need: 
  • 2x tins baked beans 
  • Lasagne sheets 
  • White lasagne or bechamel sauce (I will get a pre-made jar!) 
  • Cheese to sprinkle on top 
If you’ve made a lasagne before, you’ll know how to make this without much explanation. For those who haven’t, you’ll be able to do this with your eyes closed regardless.  
In a baking dish, put a layer of baked beans on the bottom. Pour over some bechamel sauce, then place some lasagne sheets over the mix so it’s covered. Layer more beans over the lasagne sheets, followed by bechamel sauce, then more lasagne sheets. Repeat this until your lasagne is complete. Cover with cheese, and put it in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the pasta sheets are cooked. Serve and enjoy! 

5. Liver and onions 

I may only be in my 20s, but that won’t stop me from exploring old-fashioned recipes. My grandparents will make me hearty dishes like these – cheap, cheerful and filling. Very easy to make and it won’t break the bank. The livers are inexpensive and rich in iron. 
You’ll need: 
  •  1 400g pack livers (chicken, lamb or pork) 
  • 1 onion 
  • 4 rashers of bacon (smoked is preferred) 
  • Beef stock 
  • Ketchup 
  • Flour 
  • Seasoning – I use salt, pepper and dried sage 
Firstly, season your flour with some salt, pepper and herbs of your choice. Dust this over the liver. Chop up and fry your bacon in a pan until crisp. Remove it, then add your livers to the pan, browning them on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside. 
Slice your onion however you’d like, then add this to the pan. Once softened, pour in 300ml of beef stock and a few squirts of ketchup, and give it a good mix. Let it bubble for a few minutes. Add the livers into the mix and leave them until they are cooked through. Sprinkle over the bacon and enjoy.  
I like to have mine with some mash for a real hearty, warming meal. I sometimes also add other veg, such as carrots or peas, just to pad it out. Give it a go! 

Written by Isobel Lawrance, money content writer at MoneyMagpie 
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