You’ve heard of HelloFresh, Gousto, Mindful Chef and all those fancy meal prep boxes… Like me, you might have tried some of these subscriptions too. I’ve had these boxes when they have been on offer and they can be from as little as £1.16 a serving right up to £7 per meal! I decided to create my own “Recipe Box” costing £17.31 for five meals for four people. That’s just 87p per portion!

I’ve tried to create a mix of meals that all use similar bases because unlike the subscription boxes that can send out one stock cube or a small pack of meat, I have had to buy full packs of ingredients. I have tried to pick meals that to show the variety of different styles of food you can make despite using lots of the same basics. Each meal had its own unique flavour so variety with bog standard cupboard staples is absolutely possible and I hope that’s what this meal plan demonstrates.

I’ve chosen meals that we regularly make and eat so they do include meat, gluten and dairy. You can of course substitute those for ‘Free From’ alternatives to suit your dietary needs. I have also picked meals that are spicy – we love a bit of heat – but the recipes below will have ideas for tweaking them to suit your tastes. The recipes are based on portions that are fairly standard serving sizes and ones that suit us. All recipes are easy to scale up or down to suit individual needs.

So here it is, the kick start you might need to create some simple and tasty meals at home on a budget! Below is a shopping list and the recipes for: Sausage casserole with mash and veg, Chinese chicken stir fry with rice, Hidden veg meatball pasta and sauce, chilli con carne with rice and of course a fakeaway fajita chicken kebab with seasoned wedges and salad.

The Shopping List – Lidl:

  • Sausages – £1.89 for 12
  • Chicken thighs fillets (boneless/skinless) – £3.49 for 900g
  • Mince beef – £2.29 for 500g
  • Potatoes – 99p for 2.5kg
  • Carrots – 44p for 1kg
  • Broccoli frozen – 59p for 900g
  • Savoy cabbage fresh – 43p for one
  • Onions – 59p for 1kg
  • Pasta – 29p for 500g
  • Chopped tomatoes (four tins) – 28p a tin
  • Long grain rice – 79p for 1kg
  • Flat bread – 69p a pack
  • Lettuce – 47p for one
  • Beef stock cubes – 35p for a pack of 10
  • Chillies – 50p for 65g
  • Stir fry sauce (x 2) – 29p a sachet
  • Kidney beans – 30p a tin
  • Fajita seasoning – 35p a sachet
  • Baked beans – 22p a tin
  • Paprika – 59p per jar
  • Oregano – 35p per jar

As you can see from the list, these are all simple ingredients you could pick up at any supermarket. You might even have some of the items in the cupboard already meaning it costs even less!

Before I get to the recipes it is worth pointing out that you can buy cheaper herbs and spices by buying larger packs in the world food aisle of some supermarkets. I have just bought the small jars to show how it is possible to buy all items needed for a set price. If you want to read some other tips about supermarket savings, you can read THIS old post of mine full of savvy shopping ideas.

The Recipes:

Sausage Casserole with Mash and Veg

Cooking time is roughly 40 minutes including prep time.

Ingredients:

  • 8 sausages (swap to meat free for a veggie/vegan dish)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 and 1/2 beef stock cubes (use veg stock for a veggie/vegan dish)
  • 1 onion
  • 2tsps paprika
  • 1/3 cabbage
  • 600g potatoes
  • 500g broccoli
  • 400g carrots (one medium sized carrot per person)

Method:

  • Heat a large frying pan with a drizzle of oil, add the sausages and gently fry for 5 minutes.
  • Slice the onions and add to the pan of sausages. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Fry for a further 5 minutes until the sausages are browned and onions are soft.
  • Roughly chop the cabbage and put aside for later. Peel and chop the carrots then place in a pan with the frozen broccoli. Put the pan to one side until later.
  • Chop the potatoes with their skin on and add to a large saucepan. Fill with cold water so the potatoes are covered. Place on the hob on a medium heat. Bring to the boil, turn down to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Whilst the potatoes are simmering, sieve the tin of tomatoes (retain the juice for another recipe) Add the strained tomatoes to the pan of sausages along with the paprika and a pinch of pepper and sugar – you don’t need salt because of the stock cube. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • In a jug, mix up 400ml of boiling water with the beef stock cubes. Mix until dissolved then add this to the sausages in tomato sauce. Stir until combined then simmer on a medium to high heat for a further 10-15 minutes (or until the sausages are cooked through and the sauce has thickened).
  • Around 5 minutes before the potatoes are cooked, add the chopped cabbage to the pan of potatoes. Pour boiling water into the pan of carrots and broccoli and place on the hob on a medium heat. Stir and simmer for five minutes.
  • After five minutes, drain the potatoes and cabbage, season with salt and pepper then mash. You can add milk or butter for a creamier mash if you like.
  • Drain the veg and get ready to serve.

Thrifty Tip: If like me you’re cooking for two, cook half the amount of veg required and save half of the sausage casserole and mash. Both can be frozen once fully cooled. Tupperware, freezer bags or even an old ice cream tub are suitable for freezing these items. To reheat, simply defrost over night in the fridge or in the microwave on the defrost defrost setting. Always ensure food is fully defrosted and reheated to a hot temperature to ensure food safety and hygiene.

Chinese Chicken Stir Fry with Rice

Cooking time is roughly 35 minutes including prep time.

Ingredients

  • 450g chicken thighs (this is half the pack, the other half is needed for another recipe)
  • Two onions
  • 1/3 a savoy cabbage
  • 200g carrots (four medium carrots)
  • 2 chillies (swap for mushrooms if you don’t like spice)
  • 250g rice
  • 2 sachets stir fry sauce (I used sweet chilli but chow mein, Black bean, oyster and spring onion, or a DIY mix of soy sauce and honey would work too)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (gas mark 6 or 400 degrees F). Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper then lay flat on a baking tray or ovenproof dish.
  • Place in the oven for 25 minutes.
  • Whilst the chicken is cooking, peel and slice the veg into thin strips.
  • When the chicken is half cooked (after roughly 12 minutes), boil the kettle to cook the rice. Follow the instructions on your pack as timings might vary.
  • When the chicken thighs are cooked, remove from the oven then gently pull apart the meat using two forks. Add the shredded chicken and any juice to a frying pan.
  • Mix in your chosen stir fry sauce sachets, place on a low heat to warm the sauce and chicken mix on a low heat. If the sauce thickens a it too much, add a bit of the starchy water from the rice.
  • Heat some oil in a large frying pan (or wok if you have one) and add the sliced veg (retain a few slices of chilli for garish). Stir fry for 4 minutes so the veg is cooked but still crunchy.
  • Add the chicken and sauce to the veg and mix.
  • Drain the rice and add to the plate. Top with the stir fried veg and chicken then sprinkle with the leftover chilli.

Chilli Con Carne with Rice

Cooking time is roughly 60 minutes including prep time or if using a slow cooking it takes 15 minutes of prep then can be left cooking all day.

Ingredients

  • 400g beef mince (the other 100g from the 500g pack is needed for another recipe. For a veggie/vegan alternative, use Quorn mince, extra beans, lentils or chickpeas)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 chillies
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Juice from the one tin of chopped tomatoes (leftover from the sausage casserole)
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin of baked beans
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 1 beef stock cube (use veg stock for a veggie/vegan alternative)
  • 250g rice
  • Salt, pepper and sugar for seasoning

Method:

  • Heat a small amount of oil in a pan then add the mince. Season with salt and pepper gently brown over a medium heat.
  • Dice the onion into chunks and carefully chop the chillies. For a spicier chilli con carne, keep the seeds in, for a milder one, remove the seeds.
  • Drain and rinse the kidney beans in a sieve.
  • If using a slow cooker, follow step 1, 2 and 3 then add all the ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 6-8 hours. If cooking in a pan, continue to follow the steps below.
  • Add the onion to the mince with a sprinkle of salt and cook until softened.
  • Sprinkle over the paprika and diced chillies. Stir to combine.
  • Add in the tin of chopped tomatoes, the tomato juice, kidney beans, baked beans and stock cube to the mince. Sprinkle in around one tablespoon of sugar. Stir to combine.
  • Leave to simmer on a low heat for 30-60 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Fifteen minutes before serving, cook your rice according to the packet instructions. Drain the rice and serve.
  • Just before serving, taste the chilli to see if it needs any additional seasoning. Season according to taste.
  • To serve, spoon your rice onto the plate with a well in the middle, fill the well with chilli con carne.

Thrifty Tip – For bigger appetites, you could serve this with jacket potatoes or potato wedges as well as rice. Or for a healthier side dish you could serve it with broccoli or a simple salad of lettuce with grated carrot. For a veggie alternative, swap the beef stock for veg stock and in place of the mince beef, you could use lentils, chickpeas or any other kinds of beans.

Hidden Veg Meatball Pasta

Cooking time is roughly 40 minutes including prep time.

Ingredients:

  • 100g mince beef (remainder of the mince from the chilli con carne recipe)
  • 4 sausages (remainder of the pack from the sausage casserole recipe)
  • 1/5 of a cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • Half a beef stock cube
  • 3 tsps oregano
  • 400g pasta

Method:

  • Remove the skin from the raw sausages and add the meat to a bowl. Add in the raw mince.
  • Sprinkle in one tsp of oregano and season with a little bit of salt and pepper gentle mix with a fork.
  • Peel and half the onion, carrot and cabbage. Place in a food processor then blitz to a finely chopped mix. If you don’t have a food processor you can use a cheese grater.
  • Add a third of the blended veg mix to the sausage and mince meat and then continue to mix and mash using a fork. Do this until the mix is fully combined.
  • Add some oil to a large frying pan and preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (gas mark 6 or 400 degrees F).
  • When the oil is warm add the remaining two thirds of blended veg mix to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and cook on a low heat stirring occasionally.
  • Now it’s time to make your meatballs, wet your hands slightly and the pull out 30g portions of the meat and veg mix. Roll in the palms of your hand to form into a ball shape then place in an oven proof dish or tray. (You can make mini meatballs too using 15g per meatball).
  • Place the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Whilst the meatballs are cooking, add the chopped tomatoes to the veg mix along with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and sugar and crumble in half a stock cube.
  • Simmer for 5-10 minutes then blitz the sauce. (I used the food processor again but a stick blender would work too but be careful because the sauce is hot. You can just leave the sauce with a chunky texture but the smooth sauce seems more child friendly). Return the sauce to the pan of a low heat.
  • Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the sauce, simmer until ready to serve.
  • Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions. Once ready, drain and add to the meatballs and sauce. Stir gentle and leave to stand off the heat for two minutes then serve.

Thrifty Tip: If you have any leftovers you can pop then in the fridge for a couple of days or you can freeze the meatball and sauce mix. This dish would be perfect with spaghetti and a sprinkle of cheese too so easy to mix up or for bigger appetites, add a slice of garlic bread and a side salad.

Chicken Kebab with Salad and Seasoned Wedges

Cooking time is roughly 50 minutes including prep time.

Ingredients:

  • 450g Chicken thighs (the other half of the pack used for the stir fry)
  • 1 pack of fajita spice mix (you could mix your own fajita spices, use a tikka paste marinade or a BBQ rub would work if you don’t like spice)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 chili
  • 1 tsp paprika (leave out if you don’t like spice)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 lettuce
  • 800g potatoes
  • 1 pack of flatbreads (you could use pitta, wraps or naan bread)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (gas mark 6 or 400 degrees F).
  • Coat the chicken thighs in the fajita spice mix (I did this the day I opened the chicken to use for the stir fry, once seasoned I placed in an air tight bag – check the use by date and freeze/defrost if necessary.)
  • Chop the onion in to quarters then separate out the layers. Cut each chicken thigh in half. Take two skewers and place pieces of onion followed by a piece of chicken thigh. Repeat until all the chicken is used. (If you don’t have skewers you can arrange these in an oven proof dish or wrap in foil).
  • Place on a baking tray or in an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for 45 minutes turning occasionally. Ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked in the middle. (I have a meat thermometer I bought for £2.50 on eBay and it is great for things like this).
  • Once the chicken is in the oven, start making your wedges. Chop your potatoes in half (top to bottom) then slice each half into three wedges.
  • Place the wedges in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and allow to air dry in the pan for a few minutes.
  • Place some oil in an oven proof dish or oven tray. Add in the paprika and oregano along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Place the dish in the oven for 2 minute for the oil to warm through. Then add in the part cooked wedges. Swish the wedges around in the oil then pop in the oven for 30 minutes. Shake tray/dish occasionally.
  • Five minutes before serving, shred the lettuce and chop the chili for your salad (you could also add in some grated carrot).
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes. Leave the wedges in the oven but switch off the heat. Prep your flat bread or pittas by sprinkling with water and popping into the oven for a few minutes to warm them through.
  • Slice the chicken kebab and pile onto a plate or into a bowl. I found scissors worked best for cutting up the kebab.
  • Remove the flatbread and wedges from the oven. Pile up the bread and add the wedges to a bowl or plate and do the same with the salad. Serving it sharing style makes it feel like more of a family feast for sharing round the table.

Thrifty Fakeaway Tip: You could turn the salad into coleslaw by mixing with mayo or salad cream. For some takeaway style sauces you could get creative with condiments – think mayo, BBQ sauce or ketchup mixed with the diced chilli and/or paprika.

So that’s it! Five different homemade meals for under £20! I know the cooking and prep time seems long on these recipes but a lot of the cooking time is for things cooking in the oven meaning you can sit down or potter around cleaning the kitchen which is what I usually do.

I have to mention the leftover ingredients too because that’s what makes this menu even more cost effective. I have got half a bag of potatoes (roughly 1.25kg), half a bag of frozen broccoli (500g), half a bag of rice (500g), pasta (100g), roughly one quarter of a cabbage, half a lettuce, 3 carrots, oregano, paprika 6 stock cubes. I also have two portions of chilli con carne in the freezer too! These would be perfect for coming up with the next weeks meals ideas.

Tailor your shopping list around these items to come up with new meals like sausage and potato tray bake with spicy baked beans. Or perhaps a simple ham, cheese and broccoli pasta bake. You could make more of the mash potatoes from the sausage casserole but serve it with roast chicken and gravy with some peas on the side. Simple and cheap cooking that is full of flavour doesn’t have to be fancy!

I hope this has helped to inspire you in the kitchen!

Happy Cooking,

Thrifty Clair x

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