I’m editing and adding to my ‘fish’ chapter today, and decided to venture away from the sardines and frozen white fish fillets (and occasional bargain trout!) that I normally rely on.

I’m old enough to remember when a can of tuna was just 27p – and I also remember a few years ago the cost skyrocketed to just over £1 per can.

These days, a 185g tin of tuna from Sainsburys will set you back 80p – lower than recent years, but still a large chunk of money compared to what I’m used to spending.

From the top, all prices Sainsburys, correct at time of purchase:

Fish paste (salmon and white fish), 32p for 75g (43p/100g)

Sardines, 55p for 120g (46p/100g)

Smoked salmon trimmings, £1.50 for 120g. (£1.25/100g)

Herring roe (middle), £1.20 for 125g (96p/100g)

Seafood sticks, 89p for 150g (59p/100g)

Tuna, 80p for 185g (43p/100g)

Pilchards in tomato sauce, 95p for 425g. (22p/100g)

The large tin of pilchards in tomato sauce is by far the best value for money – with the versatile fish paste a close second…

I’m going to disappear into the kitchen now, and see what I can come up with. The herring roe looks as though it might be an interesting one!

Jack Monroe. Follow me on Twitter @MsJackMonroe.


Categories: Recipes & Food


  1. Such different food products than what I see here in the USA. Agree that fish has become significantly more expensive, and I live in a coastal area. : ( Long gone are the days when I could serve fresh fish, I moved long ago to canned sardines, canned minced clams, canned pink salmon (no longer any red-simply too expensive), canned chunk lite tuna (to stretch the albacore). I also use fzn plain fillets of salmon, whiting, perch, Haddock, Cod, Tilapia, Swai. A few times a year (usually around the holidays), I get a few bags of fzn large shrimp. I look forward to see what comes out of your kitchen.

  2. In my never ending quest to reduce the size of the weekly food bill, I have recently swapped my supermarket allegiance from Sainsburys to Aldi. On the whole I have been quite pleasantly surprised by the quality of Aldi’s own-brand items, but the fish sticks are horrible. I can’t quite describe the eating experience, but it is a bit like consuming mushy cardboard with an aftertaste of envelope glue. Very cheap, and remarkably horrible. The Sainsburys ones are much nicer.

  3. I am following your blog from all the way over on the other side of the pond (Mississauga, Canada). It’s a wonderful, well-purposed blog. Have you done a story yet on what chefs can teach us about using every bit of the food we buy to eliminate waste? Gordon Ramsay often mentions that chefs don’t waste a thing.

  4. the price of smoked salmon trimmings has gone up quite a lot, i noticed the other day as i’d not bought for a while, and it put me off. Last time i bought them they were around 90p-£1 – at tesco they were £1.50 – it can only be 6months since i bought them last so that’s a pretty big jump! (even for a salmon, har har har)

    I’m really no big fan of fish. Apart from smoked arctic char I had in Iceland in 2007 – that was amazing! Local and all that. Tesco did do it as part of their finest range a couple of years ago, i got some on offer, but it seems to have disappeared now.

    Look forward to seeing what you come up with 🙂

    • Sainsbos Basics salmon trimmings went up in the last month or so, cos the last time I bought it was about 6-8wks ago, and it was about 95p then, I remember being surprised at how cheap it was and how good it actually was. I think £1.50 is still not *too* bad if prices are going up all ’round — I’m not the kind of person who eats smoked salmon all the time anyway, more of a one-off treat for me.

      Was quite pleased to find Iceland do a kg bag of fishfingers for £2 that actually aren’t as horrid as you’d expect for the price. Taste the same as the £1-for-ten box that I was previously buying in other places.

  5. Jack, have you ever shopped for tinned goods and dry goods at Home Bargains or B&M Bargains? I can see on their website that HB have a store in Southend (Airport Retail Park) and there are a few B&M. If you can ever get a lift to one, then tins of pulses and tomatoes are 3 for £1, HB have the best tinned mackerel I’ve found anywhere (59p Waterstons brand – tin is chock full of fish). They are also good for herbs and spices and random luxury goods reduced as they are close to BBE dates.

    • i kind of worship these 2 shops 😛 – Home Bargains is the cheapest place for cat litter for my cat who is using more now she is an old lady with kidney problems, and as luck would have it B&M is right next door! I’d say they arent always consistent in the things they stock, so you can’t always rely on somethings being there, but for staple items they seem to be pretty reliable.

      *worship worship*

      • the 45p jar of cherry & lycee jam is my recent favourite (wasnt there this week tho), not much more than a value supermarket jam, but containing a high % of fruit and NO high fructose corn syrup, inverted sugar syrup & the like!

  6. I have been a huge tinned pilchards fan for quite some time. It makes a fantastic fish pate/paste – 1/2 tin, 1/2 onion, splash lemon juice then simply blitzed together. Gorgeous on sandwiches or toast for lunch. The other half a tin usually gets made into a fishy pasta bake of sorts, but you could simply freeze it for another pate/paste batch.

  7. I’d echo the advice in previous posts, Home bargains is great value for tinned fish, including name brands. If your local supermarket has a fresh fish counter, squid is very economical. I pay around £1 for 4 – 5 tubes, and stretch that to a meal for 3 hungry adults.

  8. What would be a substitute for fish paste? We don’t have that in the US. We have canned tuna, salmon, etc., but no fish paste.

  9. Really enjoying your blogs and looking forward to cooking some of your rummy recipes.


    > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ Jack Monroe (OurSouthend) posted: ” I’m editing and adding to my ‘fish’ chapter today, and decided to venture away from the sardines and frozen white fish fillets (and occasional bargain trout!) that I normally rely on. I’m old enough to remember when a can of tuna was just 27p – and I a”

  10. Make your own fish paste even cheaper. Simply mix tinned pilchards sardines or mackeral woth tinned beans. Can use as a dip a spread a sandwich filler or thinned as a sauce. Freezez and keeps. Can be jazzed up chilli lemon herbs etv

    • I like this idea a lot! Asda have Branston beans 4pack on offer at £1 at the moment, so happy to risk a tin of those on this experiment!

      • Beans not in tomato sauce might be better, as the tomato might muddy the flavour a bit. I’d drain the tomato sauce off the beans and use it for something else, and just mash the fish with the beans (and a bit of water or lemon juice if it needs thinning).

  11. What an amazing and inventive young woman you are Jack. I only heard about your wonderful recipes and lifestyle yesterday and am eager to start trying out your different meals. I raised my 3 children on my own in Southampton and money was very very tight. They are all grown now with children of their own but we all need to stretch every penny. I wish I had had your insight and determination when my children were small. I’m sure your gorgeous little boy will admire and respect you and all you have accomplished. Well done!!! I will be following your site for more inspiration.

  12. Have you considered smoked mackerel? If you get Sainsbury’s basics, it’s 79.5p/100g, and can be made into an extremely moreish pate (good enough for a starter at a dinner party) with minimal effort. Just remove skin and and any pin bones, mash with basics cream cheese using a fork, add lemon juice & (optional) pepper to taste. I think you can then freeze a portion for another week in the cream cheese tub, but I’m testing that theory right now, so don’t take my word for it. I’m looking forward to trying more of your ideas for fish, which has long struck me as one of the more challenging parts of a good diet to do on a budget. Your blog is so inspiring, so keep it up!

  13. Hi! I regularly make fish curry with tinned pilchards in tomato sauce, onion, garlic or garlic granules if I don’t have garlic, whatever spices I have, and bulked out with any veg, or leftovers, or whatever else I have lying about. It’s good and takes very little time on the hob, compared to some curries which use up loads of power because you have to cook them for so long.

    It’s really nice and one of my staples, so just wanted to share. I really like your blog.

    • Really? Last time I went it was 90p? Or do you mean the flakes? I get tuna chunks from ASDA at the moment for 61p as I’m really not a fan of the flakes unfortunately.
      The price of tuna over the last year or so has become ridiculous though, infuriating. I find Tesco has been one of the worse for price hikes on various products over the last year. Value blackcurrant squash went up from around 16p to 40p+ which just makes it not worth it. Likewise on many other products.

  14. Well done Jack I’m using your recipes and putting the same cost in a jar each time to see how much I can donate to local poverty charity or ‘living Below…’ Ta!

    • What a lovely idea JulesMP !

      I am really looking forward to seeing the outcome of the fish trials Jack, so far I am finding your recipes very appealing and inspiring and I’m someone who always thought of herself as thrifty and good at producing cheap and nourishing meals (because I am mid 50’s and learned to cook within a family who were never well off but for whom good food was important) but I have been amazed at your skills 🙂

  15. One thing you can try, and i’ve done it a few times is going by a fish mongers or a fish market stall near the end of the day and asking if they have fish off cuts.
    prices can vary but if you’re haggle willing it can help hugely.

    i once got some for free because the lovely guy said he didn’t have enough left to sell,to which i said how much do you have.. it was still enough for me to make fish pie!

    not to mention whenever i find a huge clear out of fish in tesco’s reduced section i stock up like made, i get quite allot of prawns for about 50p for 2 portions, which is just amazing

  16. I love tuna and mayo in sandwiches or in a jacket potato, but it has become much dearer the past couple of years. I now buy the 49p flakes in Tesco, which are by far the cheapest way to buy tuna now. When mashed up with mayo they’re not much different from the chunks.

    Thank you Emma for your curry recipe, I’ll be giving that a try, as all I do with tinned pilchards is have them hot on toast (yum!), but I think I need to try out more ideas with them like curries or adding them to veg, pasta, noodles etc.

  17. Don’t you ladies ever go to fish markets?
    Fishmongers sell their leftovers for practically nothing at the end of the market…
    At least here in France and in Spain, too.

    I don’t see why it should be different in the UK…

    I clean the fish and freeze it in small batches. I get sardines, salmon and even tuna occasionally…

  18. Been trying to experiment with fish more. The smell of open canned tuna still just reminds me of cats being fed unfortunately and not a fan – did try it recently. Though sure I had tuna steals before which were nice.

    I’m hoping I find sardines better – not convinced I’ve ever actually had a tin of them, I was a picky eater as a child. Discovered I like kippers recently (which are only just over a pound for boil in the bag), and like salmon.

    Noticed one of the canned fish companies is promoting lunch pouches quite a bit recently (which are cheap compared to packaged sandwiches at least).

    @Elisabeth: Keep meaning to go the fish stands in Birmingham’s main market but don’t really know where to begin when deciding what to buy 😉

  19. My grandma makes me up a goody bag of tins every year for my birthday, which was last month. I have a fair few tins of fish still to use so any ideas would be gratefully received (and a serious glut of tinned ham but that’s another story). She gave me some tinned red salmon this year which I’ve fallen in love with but tastes so good on it’s own on toast it doesn’t need to be cooked with!

  20. Hi Jack! Big fan here from Massachusetts, USA. Making your fish pie for meatless Friday tomorrow, but my toddler is allergic to eggs. Would it work without them or should I substitute something as a binder? Thanks tons!

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