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Budget swaps that will reduce the cost of any meal

Family food shopping on a tight budget isn’t easy, but you can save money and make your food go further with these cheap ingredient swaps.

  1. Cook a whole chicken

    Packets of sliced meat are a pricey way to make sandwiches. Get much more meal mileage by buying a whole joint of meat or chicken, cooking it yourself and then chilling or freezing portions of leftovers for other meals. You only need a small amount of meat for this substantial chicken and sweetcorn risotto.

    Cook a whole chicken
  2. Be (a bit) veggie

    Going meat-free – even once a week – can save you ££ and if you substitute meat for pulses, such as chickpeas and kidney beans, you won’t be sacrificing on protein. These Jamie Oliver chickpea burgers are juicy and spicy, this chickpea curry is a hearty batch-cook, and you won’t miss meat at all in this thrifty veggie chilli.

    Be (a bit) veggie
  3. Make your mince go further

    Lentils are high in fibre and protein and a great way to bulk out recipes that contain mince to make your meal – and therefore your money – go further.
    If you’re making chilli, tacos or spaghetti Bolognese try halving the mince, to save the rest for another meal and replacing with cheaper lentils. To 250g mince, add a generous handful (around 50-60g) of uncooked lentils. Cook in with the mince and add a little more water when you add the tomatoes, as they’ll expand as they cook. You can also use tinned lentils, which don’t require additional cooking. Simply stir in a tin at the end of cooking.

    Make your mince go further
  4. Buy cheaper cuts of meat

    An economical substitution can bring down the cost of a meal without compromising taste or quality. For example, chicken thighs work just as well as chicken breasts in stir fries but are a cheaper cut. Try this classic chicken and noodle recipe. Similarly, turkey mince is inexpensive and can replace beef mince in any recipe. Choose from all our turkey mince recipes including burgers, sloppy joes and meatballs.

    Buy cheaper cuts of meat
  5. Buy frozen rather than fresh

    When it comes to berries and veg, that is. They’re just as tasty and as they can stay in the freezer until you need them, also means less waste. You can throw frozen berries in smoothies, or for a dessert treat, try this frozen berry and white chocolate bowl. A handful of frozen mixed veg can also be added to risottos or pasta dishes to help you hit your 5-a-day.

    Buy frozen rather than fresh
  6. Consider canned fish

    Recipes don’t always need fresh fish fillets, so substitute for budget-friendly tinned alternatives to tuna and mackerel in recipes that call for it. For salmon, try tinned in meals like this quick and easy salmon hash or these crispy salmon fishcakes.

    Consider canned fish
  7. Have an egg-cellent idea

    Eggs pack a protein punch but are more wallet-friendly than meat, so you can swap it for eggs in lots of stir-fry dishes – a whole fried egg tops this spiced veggie noodle dish. Use eggs and frozen instead of fresh veg in this easy and healthy veggie and egg fried rice recipe, or simply use up whatever you have in your fridge.

    Have an egg-cellent idea
  8. Pick up dried pulses

    Dried pulses such as pinto and cannellini beans and chickpeas are cheaper than canned versions, they just require a little more prep because they need soaking and cooking beforehand. But once you’ve planned ahead, they’re a versatile ingredient. Try this hearty and substantial smoked ham and lentil soup or this warming red lentil and spinach korma.

    Pick up dried pulses