Food costs have soared in recent months, but cutting back on more expensive ingredients when cooking doesn’t have to mean missing out on flavour.

If you’re looking for tasty meal ideas that won’t cost the earth, why not give these recipes a go?

Budget breakfast

While a quick bowl of cereal might stave off your early morning hunger for a little while, there are plenty of often more nutritious options that don’t cost the earth.

Apple and cinnamon porridge

This recipe only takes minutes to whip up and costs less than 40p per portion. Porridge makes a great breakfast and this will not only keep you full until lunch but it also counts as two of your five a day. Inspired by a BBC Good Food recipe, here’s what you’ll need for one portion:


  • 40g oats
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 30g raisins
  • 100ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 100ml water
  • 1 small apple, grated.


  • Small saucepan
  • Grater
  • Wooden spoon or spatula


Start by mixing the oats, salt, cinnamon and raisins together into a small saucepan, until the cinnamon is well distributed throughout. Mixing them together without the milk and water helps the cinnamon to combine more easily when you add the wet ingredients. 

Once that’s all mixed, add the milk and water, stirring well to combine.

Take your pan over to the hob and set the pan on a high heat, making sure to stir the porridge frequently with a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it from sticking. 

The porridge will start to bubble and thicken and once you’re happy with the consistency, turn off the heat and add half of your grated apple. Adding it at this stage gives your porridge a natural sweetness, so there’s no need for honey or sugar.

Once everything is warmed through, tip your porridge into a bowl, top with the rest of the grated apple and enjoy!

Budget dinners

Kitchen cupboard pasta alla vodka

This is a recipe for when you can’t be bothered to spend ages cooking or feel like there’s nothing much in the fridge you can do anything with. Before you reach for a takeaway menu, take a look in your cupboards, because you’ve probably got most of the ingredients for this quick pasta dish.

Pasta alla vodka is a popular Italian American recipe, and while plenty of recipes will tell you theirs is the “right way” to make it, it’s actually a pretty flexible dish. If you don’t have certain ingredients it’s easy enough to substitute in others, which we explain below.

Here’s what you’ll need for two portions:


1 tsp any oil – preferably olive

½ red onion – diced

3 cloves garlic – minced

Pinch of chilli flakes

1 tbsp tomato puree

40ml vodka

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

100ml double cream

20g parmesan finely grated

200g penne

A few basil leaves chopped into ribbons


Large frying pan

Large saucepan

Fine grater

Sharp knife


Set a large frying pan on a low heat and drizzle in a little oil. Add the onion and gently cook for about 10 minutes until they’ve softened. Don’t worry if they get a little bit of colour, it will add flavour.

Once the onions have cooked down, put your pasta on to boil, following the instructions on the packet. 

Whilst the pasta cooks, add the garlic, chilli flakes and tomato puree to the pan with your onions, and cook for a minute or two, allowing the tomato puree to slightly darken.

Turn up the heat for the frying pan and pour in your vodka, it will sizzle loudly. Cook this for a couple of minutes until the strong alcohol smell has cooked off.

You can then add your chopped tomatoes, keeping the heat high to reduce the sauce. This will take around five minutes, but make sure to stir it frequently to stop it from burning. Once it’s reduced, turn the heat off and add your cream, stirring to combine.

Now your pasta should be cooked, so drain it, reserving a couple of spoonfuls of pasta water. 

Add two-thirds of the cheese and the cooked pasta to the frying pan with your sauce, turn the heat down and mix well. Add as much pasta water as you need to loosen the sauce. You want to coat the pasta, but you don’t want it swimming in the sauce. 

Once you’ve reached a consistency you’re happy with, you can serve your pasta. Divide between two bowls and top with the rest of the cheese and your basil.

A note on substitutions

If you don’t have some of the ingredients we’ve listed here, then it’s really easy to swap them out for other ingredients. Here are some substitutions that work well:

Original ingredientSubstitution 
Red onionAny type of onion, including white, spring (use a couple) or a shallot.
Fresh GarlicGranulated garlic – swap 1 clove for ¼ tsp.
Tomato puree and chopped tomatoesIf you don’t have one or the other of these, using just one of them will do. If you have neither then you could use fresh tomatoes instead.
VodkaOther neutral spirits like unflavoured schnapps, white rum or gin will work, but if you don’t have any spirits, white or red wine also make good substitutes.
ParmesanBest alternatives would be grana padano or pecorino, but any hard cheese would work.
CreamCreme fraiche, cream cheese or greek yoghurt can also be used.

49p veggie burgers

These burgers are a cheap and delicious option for dinner, and at 49p per portion, you can feed four people for less than £2.

It’s a recipe based on Jack Monroe’s Carrot, Cumin & Kidney Bean Burger with a few tweaks and extras, but you can see the original recipe here.

Here’s what you’ll need for four portions.


For the burger patties

1 x 400g tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 onion, finely diced

1 carrot, grated

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 heaped teaspoon of plain flour



To assemble

4 x burger buns

50g cheese, sliced or grated

2 tbsp mayonnaise

2 salad tomatoes, thinly sliced

4 Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and torn in half widthways


Medium-sized saucepan


Sharp knife

Frying pan


Start by cooking your kidney beans. Tip the rinsed beans into a medium-sized saucepan and cover with cold water. Set the saucepan on the hob on a high heat and once it’s boiling, boil the beans for 10 minutes until they have softened slightly.

While the beans cook, drizzle one tablespoon of oil into a large frying pan and set it on a low heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook down for about 10 minutes until they’re softened and lightly golden, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from catching.

While the carrot and onion cooks, your beans should be done, so drain them well and tip them back into the saucepan you cooked them in. Grab a fork and mash the beans against the side of the pan until you have a coarse paste-like texture.

When the carrot and onion mixture has cooked down, tip the mashed beans into the frying pan and mix well. Then add the cumin, coriander, flour, salt and pepper, again mixing well and cooking for a couple of minutes to cook out any raw flavours in the flour and spices.

Once that’s all combined, turn off the heat and set the burger mixture aside to cool.

While the burger mixture cools, you can prep your burger toppings. We like to toast the burger buns in a dry hot pan for a couple of minutes as this helps give some extra structure to the burgers. Get these prepped and set aside while you make the burger patties.

With the toppings prepped, take the cooled burger mixture and separate it into four parts and shape them into patties. 

Put a drizzle of oil in a frying pan, either using the pan you cooked the burger mixture in, or a new clean one, and set it on a medium heat. Place the burger patties into the pan, pressing them down gently as you do so they spread a little and let them cook for two or three minutes before flipping them over and cooking for another two to three minutes on the other side. Be careful when flipping the patties as they can be fragile, but don’t worry if they break, just push them back together. You’re looking for a nice golden colour on each side. 

When the patties are cooked, you can assemble the burgers. They’re great either by themselves or with a side of home-cooked chips or salad.

Odds and ends pesto

This pesto recipe is a great option for using up any odds and ends you might have in the kitchen, but particularly for any fresh herbs or greens that need using up.

While traditional pesto is made with basil, switching it out for other greens and herbs and changing the nuts you use can make completely different, but equally delicious, kinds of pesto.

Use the following recipe as a guide, but feel free to replace ingredients with things you already have in your cupboards and change the ratios to your taste. For example, if you don’t have the nuts we’ve listed then use any other nuts or seeds you have instead.

Here’s the recipe for the pesto we made. It makes about 6 – 8 portions:


1 garlic clove roughly sliced

85ml olive oil

85g nuts (half smoked almonds, half walnuts)

4 large handfuls of chopped curly kale – raw or cooked and cooled

Juice of 1 lemon

40g Grana Padano finely grated
Pinch of salt



Sharp knife

Small blender or food processor


Put the garlic, olive oil, nuts, kale and half the lemon juice in a blender or food processor and blend to a paste.

Add the cheese and blend again for 10 – 20 seconds, or until combined.

You can then enjoy it with pasta, spread on toast and topped with an egg, or any other way you fancy!

If your pesto is too thick, you can either add more olive oil or you can add a splash of water to loosen it.

You can then enjoy it with pasta, or any other way you fancy!

A note on using other ingredients

As we’ve said, you can switch out the nuts and greens for other combinations so do try anything you think would work, but some ideas include:

  • Watercress and walnut
  • Rocket and pine nut
  • Cavolo nero and pistachio
  • Pea, mint and pine nut

You can also experiment with different hard cheeses, like parmesan or pecorino for a slightly different flavour. If you want your pesto to be a bit hotter, adding more garlic or chilli will achieve this, whereas if you want it more mellow, you could add more nuts or cheese. Adding breadcrumbs can make it go further too.

Rest Less Money is on Instagram! Check out our account and give us a follow @rest_less_uk_money for all the latest Money News, updated daily.