Eat well for less

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  • | by Kristian Dando

As a quick peruse of charmingly-titled gastronomic horror blog will testify, cheap eats are quite often utterly dreadful and very bad for you, with kidney-jiggering salt contents and the nutritional value of an old bathroom sponge.

But with Britain officially back ‘in recession’, more and more people plan on eating less healthily due to the rising cost of living. That's the findings from building society Prudential, who quizzed 2,000 people on their eating habits and found out that one in five (about 22 per cent, actually) planned on eating less healthily because of the high cost of everyday life, with the Department of Health’s recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables ‘unachievable’ because of high prices.

The research showed that two thirds of people thought healthier foods tend to be more expensive, while one in six buying as much as they can that is ‘reduced to clear' aisle and one in ten (11 per cent) only buying foods that are on special offer. One in ten parents even said they were skipping meals so their children eat well

Well, we say that’s hogwash. Eating well doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune. In fact, using seasonal vegetables which are in abundance and inexpensive cuts of meat which need long and slow cooking to bring the best out of them can yield incredibly tasty results. Don’t believe us? Here’s a few rip-roaring recipe tips and ideas…

Return of the mackerel

Forget about those stinky tins of stuff in tomato sauce that your gran used to like - mackerel is a totally underrated fish which is chock-full of essential oils, and it tastes particularly awesome on the barbecue. Best of all, it’s a doddle to cook and really cheap.

Simply get your fishmonger to gut it (and remove the head if you don’t like your food to eyeball you while you eat it) and you’re ready to go.

Give it a bit of seasoning like salt and pepper, place a few slices of lemon or lime in the fish and wrap with foil. Then, place in a pre-heated oven (or on the barbecue) on 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes or until the mackerel is cooked through.

Serve with potato salad and dressed leaves for a perfect (and cheap) summer evening treat. Watch out for bones – if you don’t fancy picking through your fish, just get your fishmonger to fillet the mackerel for you, and then pan fry it for a few minutes each side.

Market value

Pay a trip to your local market or greengrocer for fresh fruits and veg. They may well be able to offer better deals than supermarkets, particularly at the end of the day…

Neglected cuts

You might think twice about eating an animal’s tail or cheek, but these are some of the tastiest cuts. You’ve just got to know how to cook them properly – long and slow is usually the best way to go about it, with plenty of sauce so it doesn’t dry out.

You can use a casserole dish, or even better, spend about £20 on an energy-effiicient slow cooker which you can leave on all day without worrying about. Here are some of our favourites, but don’t be afraid to ask your local butcher what neglected cuts he’s got.

Turkey legs and breast

We’re not talking gobbledegook – turkey isn't just for Christmas, it's a cheap and tasty year round staple, if you cook it properly. Available for just under £2 from some supermarkets, turkey legs have loads of rich dark meat on them, and one can easily feed a family of four. They also wouldn’t look out of place on Fred Flintstone’s table. Great for recipes like aromatic tagines. Menawhile turkey breast is nearly as cheap, and really cost-effective alternative to pricey chicken breast.

Neck of lamb

Just throw in your casserole dish with chopped leeks, potatoes, herbs, carrots, parsnips and whatever else you fancy and some stock for a delicious lamb hot pot. Ideal with a bit of crusty bread.


Fantastic in rich, tangy stews.

Pork cheek/Ox cheek

Time to ‘face up’ to these ridiculously tasty and cheap cuts. Make sure they’re well browned first and then cook them long and slow in plenty of sauce. Ridiculously delicious.

The root of healthy eating

Reckon cheap root vegetables like carrots and beetroot are boring? You’ve got it all wrong. Try roasting them and you’ll soon see what we’re talking about.


Try roasting them in a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and rosmary. Fantastic for a warm salad.


Roast your carrots with some cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, olive oil and the juice of an orange for a flavour explosion.

Got any other cheap, nutritious and easy ideas for food? Email the editor with your suggestions and you could win a prized stationery set and an autographed picture of Gio Compario, star of our award winning* ad campaign. (Promoter: Ltd)*Marketing magazine’s ‘Most Irritating Advert’ 2009/2010