Jack Monroe, ‘Chef For Less’: Echo & Gazette 31st Jan

After a day spent cooking for the Telegraph, I sit down to relax with my local rag and…


“I have a tiny kitchen and a tiny budget, and a tiny boys mouth to feed on a daily basis. I grow herbs on my window sill (currently coriander, rosemary, parsley, thyme and mint, wedged in rusty loaf tins) where they topple off when I turn the tap on in my sink to do the washing up.

I spent a year unemployed from 2011-2012, and with a budget of around £10 per week for food for myself and Small Boy.

As phrases like ‘double dip recession’ ‘austerity’ and ‘fiscal cliff’ graced the news headlines and hit the wallets of the nations, I moved from shopping online and having swanky organic fruit and vegetables delivered in a recyclable cardboard box, to living out of the orange and white livery of the Basics range at my local supermarket.

The ardent foodie in me was utterly miserable. Cheap processed ready meals and a lack of fruit and vegetables led to poor sleep patterns, a constantly hungry child, and for the first time in my life, my skin broke out in big angry spots. Something bad was going in, and nothing good was coming out of it.

I decided to dust off my gingham apron and cook meals from scratch, as cheaply as I possibly could. I cut down on meat and dairy products, out of necessity, and fell in love with home cooked food again.

The results were, and continue to be, surprising. I have found that my £10 a week budget extends to home baked breads for breakfast, thick wholesome protein-packed soups, winter warming casseroles and curries and stews, home made burgers and piles of fruit and vegetables.

Small Boy and I are healthier, happier, still a bit soft around the edges, with three meals a day and a supply of bread and snacks as and when we want them. Cooking for one and a half people used to feel pointless and laborious; now it’s quick, delightful, with minimal preparation and washing up. All my recipes listed can be made easily for one hungry person, or one person and a child, or in multiples thereof.

Being a single parent means I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen, so most of my recipes are quick and simple. There’s no tarting about, no fancy expensive ingredients, but still, when I call my friends and invite them over for dinner, I manage to fill a table and they manage to clear their plates with compliments and smiles and disbelief that I do it so cheaply. In January 2013, my Pasta Alla Genovese cost just 19 pence per portion to make, when a leading restaurant would charge £15 for the same.”

(Accompanied by recipes for Pasta Alla Genovese at 19p per portion, and Tomato And Haricot Bean Soup at 15p per portion. Also pictured is my Mandarin And Poppy Seed Loaf at 38p per loaf.)

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe


  1. Good for you! you are right you can ive on a lot less than you think! I am going to have a bash at some of these recipies! you deserve an award!

  2. We’ve been Eating With Jack and the Small Boy for a few weeks now and really enjoying it. You’ve encouraged us too try new things – I made soup for the first time last week. Bread may follow. Your recipes are great – really tasty – as well as cheap ;). Thank you for sharing them. Really appreciate it.

  3. i am also following you,love your blog,thank you,such great inspiring recipes!and really frugal i love how you mention your little Boy all the time,that is gorgeous!cheer’s from Carol in Australia

    • Hi Carol in Australia! I was really chuffed to read your comment, feel like I’ve gone international 🙂 Glad you enjoy my blog, apologies for the odd mix of food and politics! 🙂 Small Boy is my best critic, if he doesn’t like something, it doesn’t make it onto the blog! Jx

  4. Following you from Boston….in the middle of a blizzard! You are very creative and epitomize the ‘new’ make do and mend. Keep cooking, keep writing and keep shouting about what’s important.

  5. Just wanted to say huge well done you doing fab job.I can empathise with cooking for kids and myself as hubby works long hours.Will be trying your recipes.

  6. 🙂 now you’ve gone very international! we live in Djibouti (East AFrica!) i am really keen to try out some of your recipes – albeit the ones I can get ingredients for easily/cheaply here! really well done 🙂 and thanks for your blog!

  7. Made your Jardaloo Ma Murghi (Curry With Apricots, well mine was with pineapple as I forgot the apricots!) this evening and it was awesome; the first curry I’ve ever made from scratch that’s tasted any good. Also made the breakfast buns, delicious. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes with us; I’m going to try all the vegan ones. I am actually enjoying cooking. Cheap, nutritious, no wastage meals that are quick to prepare. You are amazing!

  8. Hi Jack. Love your blog! Bought my son up for many years on a benefit (he’s 29 now) and I felt very nostalgic reading about your life with your wee boy. I too had to be very frugal and cook almost all of our food from scratch. It meant that we were very healthy and one of the loveliest things that my son has said to me as an adult was “Mum, when I was young I never felt poor”. I’m following your blog from NZ.

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