I don’t know whether this is even a thing but I I SWEAR I’m poorer now than when I was a student. Although I suppose being in a minimum wage job with bills the same size as my rent going out every month doesn’t help either. Anyhow, I’m not the kind of person who can just eat tinned tomato soup for the last 2 weeks of every month as food is one of my true loves (yes, I comfort eat, but that’s a whole other ball game). So one of the challenges for me, on a monthly basis, is finding recipes that not only can be made in big batches to last a few days, but ones that are also filling and yummy. On top of that, I’m a vegetarian, so that narrows it down even more.
I thought I’d write a blog post with one of my go-to super cheap recipes as it might help some other people out there, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to cook on a very tight budget. I’m lucky in the respect that, as I live alone, I can stretch my meals that bit more, and I appreciate that £5 for 3 portions may not seem particularly frugal to some bigger families.
I’ve picked Macaroni Cheese to talk about today, as I only learnt how to make my own cheese sauce earlier this year. I feel a bit more accomplished if I make this on a weekday night than if I were to dump a jar of pasta sauce into a saucepan. Not to mention that all those tomato sauces started giving me major heartburn in the evenings, which wasn’t fun.
If this goes down fairly well, I might make this a regular thing? Let me know if this post is helpful/interesting or not in the comments!
*All prices given are estimates and based on Sainsburys pricing – I’m sure Asda/Aldi would be cheaper, but I just don’t have one near me!
Honestly, this is my absolute go-to for most of the weekdays because I can make enough to take to work for the next two days, which means my evening meals can then be something mega cheap like salad or toast. Also, it’s so filling and tastes SO GOOD. Don’t be put off by the thought of making your own cheese sauce – it’s a lot easier than it sounds. The main thing is just not to put too much flour in at once (as I did this evening) because the sauce goes lumpy. Which I don’t personally mind too much, but if you’re catering for other people, they might! Macaroni cheese has always been my absolute favourite food, and I’m so happy I learnt how to cook it from scratch in 2018!
Pasta (56p per bag, lasts for up to 10 meals)
Milk (50p per half pint)
Plain flour (under £1)
- I’m gonna go right ahead and presume you know how to cook pasta. Put pasta on to boil. You now have 10 minutes to make the sauce.
- Slowly melt a big chunk of a butter in a stainless steel saucepan (the black ones tend to make black bits appear in the sauce). Whilst the butter is melting, grate about half of a block of cheese (or less, according to your like of cheese. I like cheese.)
- When all the butter as melted, add half of the 1/2 pint of milk to the butter saucepan. Turn up the heat just a little and slowly simmer until the mixture is hot but not quite boiling. Whisk frequently, but not continuously.
- When sauce mixture is hot, add a little bits of flour at a time, continuously whisking the mixture as you go. I wouldn’t say there’s an exact science to this, but do be careful. If you add too much flour too quickly, your sauce will go lumpy, and there’s no recovering it after that point. So, add little bits of flour at a time, until the sauce begins to thicken.
- Whisk continuously for another 2-3 minutes until sauce is thick and smooth.
- Then add the cheese to the sauce, a little bit at a time. Continue whisking continuously so that the cheese melts and is evenly distributed.
- Drain pasta. Add cheese sauce. Maybe add more grated cheese as a garnish. Voila.
I admit, I do eat pasta probably 3-4 days of the week and that’s not for everyone but it happens to be my favourite food, so it works well for me. Other pasta variations I make are pasta with pesto (£1.50ish) and pasta with own-brand Philadelphia cheese (usually £1). Again, I make large batches with I can take in for my work lunches in a Tupperware, or for my dinner over the next few days.
And there you have it, one of my favourite cheap and easy dinners. It doesn’t hurt the bank and it tastes pretty darn good too!