We've found 16 cheap and easy recipes to help you eat better for less. These flexitarian delights are great if you're trying to eat less meat. Most are perfect for vegetarians and vegans too with a couple of easy twists.
1. Cheap scramble recipe
One for the student in you. This quick idea for the ultimate scrambled egg takes only a few minutes to prepare and leaves just one saucepan to wash up.
Ingredients for vegetarian scramble:
- Eggs (or an egg substitute for vegans)
- Basil (fresh or dried – optional if the budget won't allow)
Get cooking the ultimate scrambled egg:
Sauté the mushrooms in a saucepan with oil or butter. Add the chopped vegetables, basil if used, and an egg or 3. Milk in your scrambled egg? It's your choice. You could even add some leftover cream to make an indulgent vegetarian egg dish.
Stir with a wooden spoon and you’ll end up with a great scrambled egg brunch with some added veggie goodness.
If this doesn’t appeal, an omelette is another great budget meal for all the family. For omelette, don’t stir your egg mix, just fill with anything from cheese to mushrooms to mint (use plenty of mint for a taste sensation).
Vegetarian recipe from Juliet Chaplin
2. Easy pasta with roasted vegetables recipe
Cheap and sustainable meals don’t come easier than this budget family-sized dish.
Ingredients for easy pasta:
- One large mushroom
- Half an onion
- Half a tomato
- Green, red and yellow peppers (one piece of each)
- A couple of handfuls of pasta
Get cooking simple vegan-friendly pasta
Put your peppers and mushroom on a baking tray with a little oil and cook on gas mark 6 for 20 minutes for a perfect, soft, roasted pepper sauce.
After cooking your pasta, drain it and add the vegetables, a ready-made pasta sauce or, for something even healthier, a tin of chopped tomatoes heated with fried garlic, salt, pepper and chilli (if you’re feeling spicy).
Recipe from Juliet Chaplin
3. "Phil’s Ferrocity" healthy brunch recipe
Great for a snack, light meal or starter, this iron-rich toast is climate-friendly and great for your health. Plus, it's completely vegan! Phil says: "My motivation for creating this snack was that I wanted something that was rich in iron, quick to prepare, and of course tasty. I discovered that pumpkin seeds are high in iron (the ferric part) and that red pepper is very high in vitamin C, which helps absorption of the iron."
Ingredients for a tasty brunch:
- Bread for toasting (decide how many slices you need to fill you up)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Half a red pepper (other colours are fine, but lower in vitamin C)
Get cooking this healthy toast snack:
Heat a frying pan on a medium heat (no oil) and sprinkle enough pumpkin seeds into it to cover the surface of the toast as densely as you want. Lightly roast them for a couple of minutes and lower the heat as they start to brown.
While the pumpkin seeds are roasting, toast your bread and then cut a red pepper lengthways into small slices, removing the pith and seeds.
When the toast is done, butter it, then spread with hummus. Now the trick is to get the order right - sprinkle the roasted pumpkin seeds onto the hummus and embed them as a pebble-dash, before laying the pepper slices over the top – as densely as you like (or can afford). In the other order the seeds are likely to fall off.
And that’s it – Phil’s Ferrocity.
A good way to add more flavour is to sprinkle on some Worcester sauce or balsamic vinegar before you lay on the pepper slices or even add horseradish sauce or Tabasco for a spicy kick.
If pumpkin seeds float your boat, it is easier and more economical to roast larger quantities of them, in an oven if possible. Add salt or your spice preference before roasting.
By the way, if you have it with a cup of tea it will inhibit absorption of the iron, so resist the temptation until later. Enjoy.
Recipe from Philip Williams
4. Fancy porridge on a budget recipe
Whether you're veggie, vegan, or just having a bacon-free breakfast, Judith recommends an old favourite for cheap and comforting winter grub. This porridge is great for a warming breakfast – or a filling snack any time of day or night. She says: "My student staple dish was porridge, and it’s still a favourite dish – quick, warming and nourishing. Microwaves also make for minimal washing up – something that was not around when I was a student!"
A quick porridge ingredients list:
- Oats (about 25 g per person) – mix it up a bit by mixing a variety of grains like rye, barley or quinoa in with your porridge oats
- 350 ml milk or water
- Fruit (whatever takes your fancy)
Get cooking posh porridge:
Put the oats/grains and milk or water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally – or if using a microwave, cook for 5 minutes and stir halfway through.
Add some fruit for extra taste, and serve however you fancy. If you want breakfast on the move, pour into a jam jar to eat later (it’s great cold). Or try experimenting with Bircher muesli – that’s cold porridge with added grated apple and lemon juice to you and me.
Recipe from Judith Russenberger
5. Topped vegetable mash recipe
Chayley became a veggie as a student, and still loves her cheap and easy root vegetable mainstay. This sweet mash is great for kids too.
Ingredients for mash:
- A variety of root vegetables (try sweet potato, swede or parsnips alongside your regular carrots and potatoes)
- An onion or leek (or both)
- Some cheese (look out for great vegan cheese substitutes in the shops)
Get cooking some winter veg mash:
Boil up a pot of water and add your root veg, peeled and roughly chopped. At the same time, chop and fry your onion or leek, and grate your cheese.
When the veg is soft, drain and mash with a bit of butter. Then top with your fried veg and sprinkle with cheese. Delicious.
Recipe from Chayley
6. Savoury cheese pudding recipe
Delicious hot or cold with sauce or chutney – we're not sure if these are cheese muffins, cheese scones or cheese puddings. But they certainly are cheesy. Patsy’s grandson is already trying this one out at home!
Ingredients for cheap cheese pudding:
- ½ loaf bread (you could use mashed potato instead of some of the bread, if you have some left over)
- ½ lb cheddar cheese (this recipe is pretty dairy heavy, so might be best left to the vegetarians)
- 2 eggs
- Milk (amount depends on freshness of the bread)
- Seeds eg sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, if desired.
Get cooking a savoury cheese appetiser:
Crumble the bread in a mixing bowl. Add enough milk to make it fairly soft.
Add eggs, grated cheese and seasoning, and mix well until it’s the consistency of mashed potato.
Put in a greased baking dish and sprinkle with seeds and a little cheese.
Cook in a medium oven for about 1 hour til crunchy on top.
This meat-free recipe is from Patsy.
7. Easy stuffed potatoes recipe
This easy recipe is a variation on a traditional baked potato. It was a war-time favourite, and is a great way to use up some leftovers.
- Large potatoes
- Leftover mince (or Quorn mince)
- Leftover vegetables, chopped
- Onion, chopped
- Baked beans (or gravy).
Get cooking cheap stuffed potatoes:
Peel the potatoes and slice off the end so they can stand upright. Scoop out the insides, leaving a well about 2.5cm thick (keep the insides to use as mash or to thicken soup).
Fry the onion, then add any leftover meat or Quorn and vegetables to warm through. Season and thicken with gravy (or baked beans).
Add the mix to the hollow potatoes, piling up above the top.
Oil the potatoes, then put on a baking tray and roast them in a hot oven for 30-40 minutes. Add a little cheese if you fancy.
Recipe from Patsy.
8. Mum's standby oatflake fritters recipe
These filling and easy fritters are great for a healthy brunch. They come highly recommended by members of the University of the Third Age. Wiebina says: "these are cheap, easy and delicious. Even meat lovers like them."
Ingredients (for a two-person serving):
- 30 g porridge oats
- 30 g cheese or vegan cheese
- 1 egg or a large spoonful of chickpea (gram) flour)
- Onion pieces
- A spoonful of some fluid, such as milk, veggie stock or apple juice (the slight acidity of the apple is actually great with cheese)
- Some oil (try to avoid vegetable oil that contains soya from deforested areas)
- Seasoning – pepper, salt, and any spice that takes your fancy, like cumin seeds.
Get cooking money-saving fritters:
Mix everything into a batter with a sticky consistency.
Heat a frying pan greased with a very small quantity of oil, until a drop of the batter starts sizzling. Lower the heat and fry large spoonfuls of the batter until they begin to brown, then turn them to cook the other side.
Recipe from Wiebina Heesterman
9. Budget potato, onion and bacon hotpot
This is a versatile meal for vegans, veggies and meat-eaters alike. You can choose to add more leftover bacon, or leave it out and add other veggies if you wish. Liz remembers this as a great family money saver and one which she still cooks today.
- Some potatoes
- A couple of onions
- Plain flour
- Grated cheese, if you want
- A bit of bacon or ham, if you want.
Get cooking a quick hotpot today:
Slice several potatoes finely. Chop several onions. Chop some bacon or ham if you’re using it. Layer all of this up in a casserole dish, ending with the potato.
Make some white sauce by gently melting some butter in a pan, and adding 1-2 tablespoons of flour. Cook together for a few minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken. Gradually add milk and stir until you have a fairly thick (or however you like it) sauce. Add salt, pepper and grated cheese if using.
Pour the sauce over the potatoes and tap the dish several times on the work surface to mix the sauce with the vegetables. Cook for about an hour and a quarter in a moderate oven until golden brown.
Recipe from Liz Swinden
10. Easy veggie chilli
Shane’s favourite, easy meal is vegetarian chilli. You can make it in a slow cooker, but it's just as easy in a pan, and a big enough pot can last several meals. If you want a vegan option, watch out as Quorn mince contains egg – look out for animal-product free brands in the supermarket. If you love this recipe, try our ultimate vegetarian chilli too.
- Quorn or supermarket veggie mince, fried in a little oil
- Some tinned tomatoes
- Rinsed tinned kidney beans
- Salt, oregano, dried chilli, and cumin to suit your taste
- Any veg you like – chopped chillies, peppers, mushrooms and chopped celery are great.
Get cooking the world's cheapest chilli:
Fry your mince in a little bit of oil, then add the tinned tomatoes, rinsed tinned kidney beans, and salt, oregano, dried chilli, and cumin.
Stir in the rest of your veg and cook for about 40 minutes in a pan on the hob, or several hours in a slow cooker.
Serve with boiled rice, or some pockets of pitta bread, to scoop it all up.
Recipe from Shane Stone
11. Migas (that means 'crumbs' to you and me)
Michael sent us this great recipe for preventing bread waste – he discovered it via Sarah Beattie, who picked it up from an old Spanish recipe developed by thrifty Spanish shepherds. This one is a money saver with a long history, and it's vegan too.
Ingredients for migas:
- a pinch of saffron
- ½ tsp crushed dried red chillies
- 90 ml very hot water
- 350 g big dry breadcrumbs – see above
- 1 large red onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 long thin green peppers – the espelette ones or similar, with just a hint of spiciness about them
- 6 sundried tomatoes
- 3 vegetarian or vegan sausages (check out our top meat-free sausage picks)
- 125 g chestnut or oyster mushrooms
- 6 tbs olive oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika.
Get cooking with your leftover bread:
Put the saffron and crushed chillies in a small bowl. Pour on the water and leave to infuse.
Slice the onion, garlic, deseeded peppers, sundried tomatoes, vegetarian sausages and mushrooms.
Pour the saffron water all over the breadcrumbs and mix well.
Heat 4 tbs of the oil in the pan. Stir fry the onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, vegetarian sausages and mushrooms. When nicely browning, stir in the smoked paprika, cooking a minute more. Remove to a different pan, using a slotted spoon, and keep warm.
Add the rest of the oil and get it hot. Then add the crumbs and stir fry until the bread is browned. Add the vegetables back in and cook, stirring, until all is mixed together and hot. Serve.
12. Chestnut and mushroom casserole
Are you looking for a cheap and easy starter that will impress all your dinner party guests? Created to mark the 150th anniversary of the local church, and served in a rustic bread roll, this warming vegan casserole is something special. You could add a few leftover meat scraps if you're feeding flexitarians too.
- 400g vacuum-packed chestnuts
- 400g portobellini mushrooms (sliced)
- 500g carrots (peeled and chopped)
- 500g celeriac (peeled and diced)
- 3 onions (sliced)
- 6 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes
- 2 tins baked beans
- 100g pearl barley
- 100g prunes
- Oil (olive/ oil seed rape)
- 12 or so peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon each ground allspice and cinnamon
- Pinch salt
Get cooking a cheap winter casserole:
Heat oil in a large casserole dish and soften sliced onions and garlic. Add mushrooms. Add remaining vegetables and spices. Cook for a few minutes.
Add tomatoes, beans, pearl barley and prunes. Add water as necessary to ensure most of the ingredients are covered.
Place lid on the casserole dish and bake in the oven at 160C for about 1½-2 hours. Or cook in a slow cooker for 4-5 hours. So simple.
By Judith Russenberger.
13. Vegan fig and apple pudding
This family recipe was created to commemorate the day a church tower fell down. The crumbly pudding is filled with a "rubble" of apple, figs and sugar, and is apt to fall apart when tipped out. Serves 4.
Ingredients for the budget pastry:
- 4 tablespoons of self-raising flour
- 2 tablespoons vegetarian suet (wondering where to find vegetarian or gluten-free suet?)
Mix with water to make suet pastry. Roll out and line a 2 pint pudding bowl, keeping back enough to make the lid of the pudding.
Ingredients for the apple and fig filling:
- 5 or 6 dried figs
- 1 large cooking apple
- zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 3 tablespoons molasses sugar
- 30g diced butter or margarine
How to become a master baker:
Chop dried figs and apple into pieces. Mix with the zest and juice of lemon, mixed spice, sugar and butter or margarine. Use to fill pudding and cover with a pastry lid, pinching together the edges to seal.
Cover bowl tightly with tin foil, place in a pan of water and steam for 1 hour. Tip out on to a plate and serve with ice cream or custard.
By Judith Russenberger.
14. Cheap butternut squash risotto
Butternut squash is a beautiful ingredient, but how can you find new ways to get root vegetables like squash into family meals? This risotto is a great idea. Kids will love the sweet taste and you'll love the cheap, healthy ingredients to this budget twist on a classic.
Vegetarian root veg risotto ingredients:
- 1 butternut squash roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons oil of your choice
- 1 small chili
- 3 sprigs thyme or the dried equivalent
- 50g of butter
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 300g Arborio rice
- 150ml white wine (cheap cooking wine is great, or use the last of wine that's past it's best)
- 1 litre of vegetable stock
- 50g of parmesan/hard cheese
Get cooking the ultimate cheap risotto:
Place the butternut squash, chili, oil and 2/3 of the thyme in a roasting tray and cook until soft and golden. Heat the butter in a pan and soften the onions and garlic. Add all of the rice to the pot and stir until all the ingredients are mixed together. Pour the wine over the rice, stir, and cook until all the moisture has evaporated. Introduce the stock one ladle at a time while stirring on a low heat. Once the squash is cooked, roughly mash it and add to the risotto. At this point you can add the remaining thyme, and any additional seasoning to taste.
By Rachel Kennerley
15. Gluten-free vegetarian lasagne
Cooking for wheat-free or gluten-free friends? If you're struggling to find a vegetarian option that works for everyone on a budget, why not have a go at this take on a veggie lasagne?
Veggie lasagne ingredients:
- Ingredients for a stir-fry, eg onion, garlic, tomato, courgette, mushrooms, seafood (optional).
- Crème fraiche
- Cheese, thinly sliced
How to make your 10 minute cheat's lasagne:
Turn on grill. Slice the vegetables thinly and stir-fry, with seafood if used.
Remove from heat, allow to cool a little. Season to taste. Stir in crème fraiche, cover with sliced cheese and brown under the grill. Serve.
By Glynnis Chapman.
16. Vegan bean and vegetable stew with herb dumplings
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 500g leeks, sliced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 250g mushrooms, sliced
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 150ml vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon each of tomato puree, paprika and soy sauce
- 400g can red kidney beans, drained
- Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetarian dumpling ingredients:
- 125g self-raising flour, sifted
- 60g vegetable suet
- 2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs
- 5 tablespoons cold water
Stew and dumplings on a budget:
Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the garlic, leeks, carrot and mushrooms and sauté until just tender.
Add the tomatoes with their juice, tomato puree, paprika, soy sauce and vegetable stock. Add more water if needed, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile make the dumplings. Mix the flour, suet and herbs together and gradually add just enough cold water to make a firm dough. Divide into 8 balls.
Now add the kidney beans to the stew and season to taste, then arrange the dumplings on top. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the dumplings are light and fluffy. Serve as soon as possible.
Adapted from a recipe in "Vegetarian Suppers” by Jane Suthering, by Glynnis Chapman.
... and don’t forget to experiment
Lesley says "I start with the 'if it's' principle: If it's freely or cheaply available it can be made delicious." Check out Lesley’s top tips:
- Almost any veg can be chopped and turned into stir-fry or steamed
- Add leftover veg to rice for risotto, or tomato sauce and pasta for Bolognese
- Peanut butter makes a great addition to curry (you need to put it in with the oil, before adding water so it goes smooth, not lumpy)
- Put your stir fry mix in puff pastry for a savoury bake, or use pie pastry with eggs on top for quiche
- No pastry? Then eggs straight on top of chopped veg and then baked will give you a soufflé, and fried gives you an omelette. Make this vegan with an egg substitute.
- Lentils are a great addition to your cupboard – they add cheap and quick protein, and take on whatever flavour you put in.
- Tofu and nuts last for ages, and can be added to anything from noodles to salad. They’re worth stocking up on when finance comes in – if you won't be tempted to eat them all at once.
Recipe tips from Lesley Grahame