It’s cheaper to make it: Jack’s Macaroni Cheese, 43p, versus supermarket ready meal, 75p.

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So today I decided to set myself a new challenge, to cook a like-for-like replica of a supermarket ready meal, but cheaper. Harder than it looks, as the ready meals are made in bulk using low priced ingredients – and I have to buy those ingredients at ‘retail’ price, not ‘wholesale’.

I decided on a basic macaroni cheese meal, 75p for a 300g single-person portion.

The ready meal ingredients were pasta, water, milk, cheddar cheese, cornflour, oil, mustard, salt, white pepper – so I attempted to replicate it as closely as I could with what I had in the cupboards and fridge…

Ingredients (serves two):

160g penne pasta
40g dried skimmed milk
50g hard strong cheese
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Scant 1/8th tsp English mustard

First bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook for around 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate small or medium sized saucepan, add the oil, flour and milk powder. Bring to a low heat and stir well with a wooden spoon – it will form a crumbly mixture like fresh breadcrumbs. (If using liquid milk instead of dried, add the flour and oil and mix together to form a thick paste, then add a splash of milk. Stir in to thin the paste and add another splash. Continue until all the milk is added and continue to the next stage.) If using the dried milk/flour/oil method, mix until it forms breadcrumbs, and measure out around 250ml water. Bring the heat up to medium. Add a splash of water to the mixture and stir in well to remove any lumps. Add the water gradually until the sauce has thinned – don’t worry if you seem to have a lot of water left, you will need it in a minute!

Grate the cheese into the sauce mixture, reserving a sprinkle if you want for the top.

Stir in the cheese and add the mustard. If the sauce starts to thicken too much (matter of personal taste to be honest!) then add extra splashes of water and stir in to thin.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and tip back into the saucepan. Pour the sauce over the top (or the pasta into the sauce pan if it is big enough) and stir to coat.

Either serve straight away, sprinkled with extra cheese, or allow to cool and keep in the fridge for two days or freezer for up to three months.

Some people like to bake their macaroni cheese for a few minutes before eating – I’m not too fussed but you can if you want to, it crisps the cheese on top and makes it a little more special…

I’ll be playing with this one tomorrow, adding extra ingredients to see what my 75p macaroni cheese would look like if I made one – but tit for tat, this isn’t bad! And in the interests of fairness, the supermarket one weighed 300g, and so did mine. (Well, mine was 310g, but I won’t gloat too much…)

So there you have it – it’s cheaper to make a ‘ready meal’ macaroni cheese dinner than to buy one from the shop – and is less than 10 minutes work. Not bad at all.

Now – what ‘ready meal’ should I tackle next? Maybe you have a favourite that you think wouldn’t be cheaper to cook from scratch? Go on, I love a challenge…

Ingredient costs (all Sainsburys or Sainsburys Basics):
160g pasta 12p (39p/500g). 40g dried skimmed milk 10p (ยฃ1.01/400g). 50g hard strong cheese 57p (ยฃ2.30/200g). 1 tbsp plain flour 2p 65p/1.5kg). 2 tbsp sunflower oil 5p (ยฃ4/3l). Scant 1/8th tsp English mustard >1p (25p/180g)

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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124 Comments »

    • I don’t factor in cooking costs because my energy tariff might be completely different to yours depending on supplier, gas or electric, type of deal you get, whether you pay by direct debit or not, etc etc.

      I do ingredient costs because I can use a supermarket as a point of reference and the ‘big ones’ tend to be quite closely price matched. Even so, 8 minutes with two hobs on medium heat (and even some additional baking time ) wouldn’t cost an extra 32p.

      • totally valid

        I just know from a friend who knuckled down to cook at home to make it cheaper then was shocked at the electricity bill from having the over on so much (Canada here electricity is more the norm than gas)

        We here a lot that Slow Cookers (Crock pots) are nice and cheap, but the power draw all day is a challenge for our low income people

      • uwbgexecdir – interesting discussion here http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=518702&highlight=slow+cooker+electricity+cost
        on how much a slow cooker costs to run.
        3.5litre slow cooker tend to be 210W, 6.5litre ones 300W
        so plugging in the figures from the thread
        If cooking a casserole in a slow cooker for 5 hours, or a typical 700W oven for 2 hours, costs for me would be
        210W/1000x5hours=1.05kWh = 12.6p
        700W/1000x2hours=1.4kWh = 16.8p
        my electricity is currently around 12p/kWh

        to complicate things of course, an electric oven is not heating all the time it is on, and the slow cooker is usually on Low once it has heated up, so wouldn’t use as much as 210W most of the time. How you calculate that I have no idea!

    • If you live in the United States, where atate sponsored health care has thus far been reserved for retirees, the disabled, and the absolute poorest of the poor, the nutritional benefits from eating “real” food do provide some health benefits. Of.course,, if you have pneumonia or a chronic condition, real food will only help you so much if you need acute care.

  1. Wouldn’t it be great if all 15/16 year olds had a cooking course, based on economical recipes like yours, as a compulsory part of their curriculum? Yes, lots of children cook at home but lots don’t. And low cost macaroni cheese would be a lot more useful to learn than the perfect victoria sponge.

    • I completely agree, my 14 year old nephewe has just chosen to do the new ‘food tech’ at school in the hope he can learn to cook decent meals in the future ๐Ÿ™‚
      Jack you should do some school talks and demo’s or even some at your local sure start maybe?

    • I was amazed (and a bit shocked) at a recent parent teacher meeting to be told my 11yr old had excellent knife skills! He was the only 11 yr old in his whole year who could peel and chop an onion. Both of my children have been helping to cook since they were toddlers and regularly make one meal each a week, it amazes me that some kids couldn’t even make themselves a sandwich!

      • Yep, my children cook too, but it’s obvious a lot of their peers don’t. It should be something we teach at home but how do you do that if you can’t cook? Making it compulsory at school would be a start.

    • Your comments make me want to weep. I used to teach ‘proper’ home economics and all my young people, boys and girls could cook and had the necessary skill to budget and keep house. So sad the authorities thought they knew better.!

    • Both my boys are good cooks. My eldest even trained as a chef before going to Uni to do law. I very rarely cook these days and only my youngest is allowed to make spag bol!

      Although when they had Food Tech classes at school they were often asked to bring in ready made pastry etc. I made them make the pastry from scratch.

      Basic cooking skills should be taught from a young age – it horrifies me that there are so many families that simply have no idea how to cook a meal. Although I am a sucker for Tesco Finest Fish Pie!

  2. You should do some soups, rather than ready meals. I had a bad and lazy habit of buying the Covent Garden and supermarket equivalent tubs of ‘posh’ soups for a while, for work, until boredom and thirstiness (LOTS of salt in them) taught me better ways. I have intentionally mimicked a few of my favourites at home and can usually generate enough for myself and both children to take for lunch – often with some to spare for the freezer, for about the same amount of money (often less) than 1 carton costs in the shop.

    Vegetable mulligatawny, spicey squash, corn chowder, cullen skink, minestrone and tuscan bean are all dead easy to knock up at home.

  3. I costed out a lasagne portion to try and stop a work colleague buying the gross ones for 80p… but the cheapest i could make it was just over ยฃ1 – what do you think?

  4. That’s great. The only thing you haven’t factored in is the cost of cooking it, which won’t be a lot here, as it’s a quick bit of cooking, still more than the cost of heating up the ready meal though, but as you’ll no doubt be acutely aware from when you were out of work, with fuel prices these days, the cost of cooking something can be a real item, especially if it’s something which takes a while like a meat & veg stew with a tasty but cheap cut of meat. As you know yourself, cooking veggie dishes helps with this, as well as with the cost of ingredients, but if you’re going to really really compare the cost, you’ll need to bear this in mind.
    I run a social enterprise company that teaches people how to cook healthy tasty food from scratch, and most of the people who we work with are from vulnerable, disadvantaged or hard-to-reach community groups, the one thing that they seem to have in common being that they have very little money to spend on feeding themselves. We used to be able to tell them confidently that it’s always cheaper to cook from scratch but with fuel prices now, we have to be more careful than before about the recipes that we teach, for this reason. It is still cheaper generally, but you do have to be a lot cannier than you used to be.
    By the way, did you know that you can cook a pan of pasta in pretty much the same time, if you turn the heat off once it comes to the boil, leave a lid on, and it will cook in the hot water, a bit like you do with noodles? Same with spuds and other veg. Apologies if you’ve already posted that tip, it’s quite commonly known I guess.
    Keep up the good work, I love your posts.

  5. Yours look much better and taster. I asked my son even he rather yours to the supermarkets (his words the other one look gooey and claggy)

  6. I make my own macaroni and frankly it’s light years ahead of even the “Finest” ready meal ranges. I put diced onion in mine, it’s fab, and I make the sauce in the saute pan with the softened onions by sprinkling plain flour over it then chucking in the milk (I just chuck it all in at once) then pile in as much grated cheese as possible! I make a massive casserole dish so it does both of us for dinner and a few lunches as well!

    How about Corned Beef Hash next? I’m veggie but it’s one of my partners favourites and I’d love to be able to cook it cheap and easily from scratch, I’ve never tried it yet!

      • I’ve done one as part of using a tin of corned beef http://thriftylesley.com/corned-beef-hash-47p-a-serving/
        made 4 portions of the hash and a 4 portion pie from 1x ยฃ1.89 tin, billy bargain
        I haven’t made a decent beef lasagna at the sub 50p level yet, would love to see one of those. I’ve got a mushroom ragu that makes a lovely lasagna, and a mixed sweet pepper one, but again, they don’t cost up less than 50p

    • I make fish pie cheaper than a ready meal by using a multi-pack of frozen pollock and smoked salmon trimmings for oomph of flavour – but even so it only works out cheaper by the end of the bulk bag of pollock.

      • A traditional cheap addition to fish pie is chopped boiled eggs, and spinach. I make mine with boiled eggs and spinach sans the fish! Don’t forget the bay leaf in the milk, it really adds something.

  7. I would say because the ingredients in theirs are probably more processed, without looking at what its made up of hard to tell… Also probably not great quality cheese used in it…

  8. Ive never been tempted to buy “ready meals” knowing that it isn’t much hassle and cheaper to cook from scratch….fortunately I had the benefit of a Mum and Granny to learn from and everyone at my Comprehensive school learnt to cook (boys included) useful recipes for feeding a family…..bring back compulsory cooking lessons and teach kids about nutrition would be a good move now.

  9. Yours looks a lot healthier! Would love to see a sweet and sour chicken recipe thats cheaper than a ready meal one or shepards pie! x

  10. Even though this is just a plain macaroni cheese yours looks so much more appetising and worth 75p than the one that actually was 75p.

    If you’re bringing the value of yours up to 75p I would add broccoli, onion and a little sprinkle of chilli flakes, now that would be tasty and I think in fact still under budget, so maybe you could add more cheese and pasta too and feed another person as well.

    As for cooking costs I really do think it’s negligible really, sure you can nuke the cheapo one in the microwave, but if you made yours in bulk and then froze them you could microwave them too and so just have the oven on once a month or so and really fill it.

  11. Never buy ready meals these days ….I was put off by the way they look incredibly unattractive, smell vile ( those that contain meat do anyway) and have awful unpleasant textures to them. I did try Amy’s Kitchen one recently and even that fell short of expectations, and they are by no means budget range!
    Any successes you have should be most welcome and going on form will taste lovely ๐Ÿ™‚ X

  12. Spaghetti carbonara is my favourite ready meal. Found one for ยฃ0.75 the other day but it was very salty. Would love a cheap recipe for this if you have time? Xx

  13. How about making some kind of pie? It’s not exactly a ready meal, but since I’m having frozen pie and loads of frozen savers veg for tea I’d be interested in if I could make one cheaper ๐Ÿ™‚ might try it myself anyway – just have to think carefully about what I could put in it to make it cheap!xx

  14. I don’t buy ready meals as I think they are disgusting and expensive.. (yes I have tried the odd one or two in the past) ….I am a cook from scratch person most of the time and I always make my own Mac n Cheese, and for a change I sometimes add chopped fried onions and pancetta or bacon, another add to it is mushrooms that have seen better days chopped and fried in a little butter before adding to to the cheese sauce.
    Love your recipes Jack, keep up the good work! And congrats on your appearance on ITV the other day, just a shame you were not given more time to put your point across :o(

  15. Would be even more interested to know what the main nutritional differences are in terms of calories, fat/sat fat and salt etc are. Great post, just goes to show all those people who say it is too expensive to cook from scratch!

  16. What about copying the Innocent Veg pots? We used to buy them for vegan daughters when they were reduced as they loved them so much and they were just the job for when they came in from school ravenous and I wasn’t home yet. Since I found out Innocent has been bought by Coca Cola I feel less inclined to pay even the reduced prices!

  17. Good going Jack. Am impressed!

    You don’t need to factor in cooking costs because the shop bought one needs cooking too.

    And I would add either cherry or sliced tomatoes for an added ‘veg’ (and yes I know, tomatoes are really a fruit!!).

    Thanks.

  18. Good going Jack. Am impressed!

    You don’t need to factor in cooking costs because the shop bought one needs cooking too.

    And I would add either cherry or sliced tomatoes for an added ‘veg’ (and yes I know, tomatoes are really a fruit!!).

    Love your blog pages.
    Thanks.

  19. Iโ€™d like to get together with a small local group of half a dozen or so: weโ€™d meet up weekly and between meetings weโ€™d try one or more recipes from your forthcoming book and then discuss the results. I might be able to get a few of us together through the local Childrenโ€™s Centre.

  20. Jack, had you used two photos here rather than one, I would have sworn that the ready meal had been lit differently to make it look less appetising! As it is, there’s no competition over which I would rather eat; yours wins hands down! Dread to think how little the supermarket actually spent on ingredients for it to look so bad!

  21. Cooking costs – in the UK gas costs about 3-4p per kilowatt hour whilst electricity costs 12-15p per kilowatt hour. A kilowatt hour is about enough to boil 10 litres of water. So, if cooking on gas the cost will usually be negligible (a few years ago we had a house with just a gas cooker and the bills were minute) but cooking with electricity is a lot more. On the other hand in winter all that heat does help warm your kitchen up.

  22. I’d love to see a version of pot noodles or 2 minute noodles. I work with people in boarding houses and a lot of people use them as a staple (often with frozen veg). I try to convince them to make their own stir fries etc but something that you can ‘just add boiling water’ would be fab!

  23. I would leave out the flour and oil (yuck) and mustard. Just use a little butter, milk and grated cheddar cheese and stir. Standard family comfort food.

    • I’m not sure why you wouldn’t use flour to make a roux for your bechamel? How else would it thicken? As for mustard, for me absolutely necessary for a little piquancy – adds the perfect bit of bite for a classic cheese sauce.

      • Just use sharp cheddar. Adding tuna can increase the protein. Decades of American children grew up learning how to make and eating this dish for family meals. Great leftovers too. The key is to stir in a little butter, a splash of whole milk and the a mound of sharp cheddar cheese. Gourmet versions use several types of more expensive cheese, but the recipe is the same.

  24. I think this is a great challenge.
    However, I’m confused. It seems as if you are comparing a 300g single portion for 75p, to your 310g double portion, making a single 43p. If it’s the same quantity of food, like for like, shouldn’t yours be 86p?
    I’m not out to catch you, just wondering. I love what you are doing.
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Have you heard of hay boxes? You heat the food up to boiling, then leave the dish in an insulated box, (originally insulated by hay, hence the name) where it gradually cooks (Like a slow slow cooker!) I believe people used to boil up something (eg. a stew) in at the beginning of the day, and come home to find it cooked, or put porridge in overnight (although a quick porridge has already been covered on your blog)
    I’m planning on making myself one, my parents have lots of boxes at theirs, and old newspaper should do the insulating okay (I read my parents Guardian, even before you were in it ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) And as I just discovered that my energy company is putting prices up soon, I’m determined to make it, although I may change energy companies first…

    I sometimes add sliced tomatoes to the top of a macaroni cheese before grilling, looks festive!

  26. I think this is a great challenge.
    However, Iโ€™m confused. It seems as if you are comparing a 300g single portion for 75p, to your 310g double portion, making a single 43p. If itโ€™s the same quantity of food, like for like, shouldnโ€™t yours be 86p?
    Iโ€™m not out to catch you, just wondering. I love what you are doing.

  27. Yes, I would say soup too…I bought an onion soup by one of the top end supermarkets as a treat and it was awful! Shocked as was ยฃ2-ยฃ3 and I was poorly so wanted something quick and wholesome. Won’t do that again!

  28. If you could achieve a homemade cheese and tomato pizza that was a similar price to the ultra crap ones they sell for peanuts in supermarkets, I’m sure a lot of students’ parents would be very grateful!

  29. This sounds lovely and I love that your recipes are quick; cooking for a toddler and getting stuff done is a challenge! This means I can make homemade stuff and I know what’s gone in. He loves the soda bread and is not generally keen on bread ๐Ÿ˜€

  30. I vote for soup too. It’s getting colder here and the nice supermarket soups are too expensive. Agree with other comments – especially how much better your macaroni looks and that it’s probably lack of cheese that makes the ready meal look bad. onions and salami would be my suggested additions.

  31. Chicken tikka masala would be wonderful. I used to make a Jamie version with homemade paste etc. it was good but not cost effective with fussy little kids to feed.

  32. I always add peas and broccoli to my macaroni cheese, but like it with some bacon or tomatoes too, yum!
    I think pasta ready meals are dodgy! Apart from the odd lasagne I don’t buy them, they’re always gloopy and the pasta has a weird texture I find!
    Although not a ready meal I would like to see a recipe for meat-free “sausages”! The ones in my local supermarket are ยฃ2+ for 6!

    • minime I’ve banged on about them on here before, but you could check out ASDA’s meat free sausage mix – costs ยฃ1. Just add water (I add less than they say, only use 8floz water or the mix is too wet), shape and fry. I also add extra seasoning as we like our bangers quite salty and herby!

  33. This is such a good idea – I hope it’ll motivate people to actually cook something instead of getting a ready meal! (and use the leftover change to throw in some veg)

  34. I make this all the time, using the butter/flour/milk bechamel sauce version, and topping with breadcrumbs and cheese. I add frozen peas for ‘health’ – the kids love it and take it to school in a thermos for lunch. Yum, I think I’ll make one tonight..
    Love the idea of replicating ready-meals, brilliant idea for the next book!

  35. As people are talking additions, we like sauteed leeks and wholegrain mustard. Or red leicester (for colour mainly) and chilli. A *little* stilton plus steamed broccoli florets is also a good combo.

  36. Well done! That’s a very clever idea! I’m sure you could make carbonara for really cheap, fish pie or bolognaise (using porkmimince as it’s probably cheaper) ๐Ÿ™‚ Or homemade chips coated in paprika, definitely cheaper than the ones you buy frozen and of course healthier and better!

  37. As has been said, the home-made one certainly looks nicer ๐Ÿ™‚

    I once got given a dirt-cheap reduced massive ready meal mac & cheese by a mate who noticed it on their big food shop (I think it was down to a few pence), and thought it tasted far nicer once I’d added some left-over chickpeas, mushrooms and onion to it, and baked it as opposed to nuking.

    Not sure about the heating costs – my attic room’s rent includes bills which is a lifesaver really.

  38. The homemade one actually looks nicer! Loads of people have said that! We heard about you in assembly today, about women making a difference – you are very inspirational! I am trying to eradicate depression, self-harm, bullying etc. so I followed in your footsteps and set up a blog! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for being so inspiring!

  39. I’d love to see you replicate anything gluten free for a decent price! Supermarket GF stuff is so overpriced and often full of complicated ingredients – if anyone can find a better way it’s you, Jack.

  40. This looks ace. I’m going to make a big vat of this and freeze in containers for individual lunches.

    A few “ready meals” I’d like to see…

    – Veggie lasagne
    – Cottage pie (I am actually veggie but I know cottage pie is popular and v easy for me to create a veg version)
    – Daufinois (sp?) Potatoes – it’s crazy people buy these ready made!!
    – Cauliflower Cheese

  41. hi ive tried making macaroni cheese a few times but your recipe is by far the best!! my children are currently tucking in to it as i type also made some of your soda bread spreading some butter and jam . No leftovers in this house, thanks

  42. How about finely grating some raw cauliflower into the white sauce when you’re making it? Add some nutmeg and even picky children (mine!) will have got some unfamiliar veg without any complaint. And cruciferous vegetables are so good for you …about a fist’s size should do in mac and cheese, I think.

    Same for mash: 3/4 potatoes and 1/4 finely grated cauliflower plus nutmeg works a treat – can you tell there’s a cauliflower glut in Switzerland?

    Thin down remaining cauli mash with water plus a (1/2-1) stock cube, reheat, top with chopped parsley. Chili flakes optional … as are Frankfurters cut into rounds (kiddie favourite, though). Bread for dunking would be good, too …

    enjoy
    r

  43. I make diy pot noodle in a plastic container with a lid . 1 portion of dry fine noodles, 2 sliced mushrooms, grated carrot, slivers of garlic and root ginger and a sprinkle of chilli flakes and 2 tsp of soy sauce. Pour boiling water just to cover noodles, put lid on and leave for five mins.Perfect for lunch at work.

  44. More great work again Jack.

    I have made a lasagne myself and instead of a white sauce I used a cream cheese as a substitute and it works really well. Give it a try.

  45. A complete no-brainer to make home-made macaaroni cheese; it’s so easy! Is powdered milk really cheaper when supermarkets like tesco frequently have 3 x 4pts fresh milk for ยฃ3! Might mean splitting a purchase with someone else, but even the Pure and Cravendale type milks that keep for weeks are not too expensive bought in larger bottles on offer.

  46. I think using dried milk is so that you don’t have to rely on having fresh in or using so much of it – theres not enough for a round tea! I have only just cottoned on to the dried milk with jacks recipe or ‘duh!’ moment with porridge.
    Dried milk is also a lot lighter than buying fresh milk, if you don’t have a car, the offer of 3 for ยฃ3 is wasted as its pretty heavy (also in my case i have a buggy to contend with)
    I think you cannot just assume something because its on offer is cheaper or even as ‘fresh’ its cheaper.

  47. Hi Jack,
    I just read your recipe and I thought you might like also the recipe for the German Cheese noodles (Spรคtzle). Super cheap and pretty easy. All you need for four portions is:

    2 eggs
    a little bit of salt…half a teaspoon or so
    250g flour
    1/8 l water
    200g swiss cheese or something like that, grated

    Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Mix the salt with the eggs well (just use a whisk or wooden spoon). Sift the flour and add to the eggs. Mix well.
    Use a little wooden board. Put a little bit of the dough on the cutting board and use a the back side of a bread knife to shave little amounts of dough directly into the boiling water. Wait until they rise to the top. Put one layer noodles in a buttered dish, add a layer of cheese. Again a layer of noodles and another layer of cheese. Repeat that until the dough and cheese is used. The cheese will melt on its own, since the noodles are hot.

    I love this recipe…It is simple, yummy and cheap. I like to serve this with a simple cucumber salad with a dressing made out of sunflower oil, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and dill.

    I don’t know if this uses too much energy to make it cost efficient, since I am not from Great Britain. But it always seems to be cheap to me….

    Love your posts!

  48. home made macaroni is so much better than ready meals/tinned ones. I always use red Leicester cheese tho, tastes better than light cheese =) i get a ยฃ2 block from iceland which i only use half of for 1 night and wrap the rest for the following macaroni monday feeds 4 and is such a cheap and easy meal to make

  49. I have a pot of sainsburys basics Parmesan cheese (dried) I have no idea what to do with it! Would it work for this recipe – or can you suggest a way for me to use it!? Xx

  50. I love this recipe! It is such a fab staple for my 3 year old, she lives cheesy pasta! Tonight I was just making the white sauce bit, when I realised my partner had used the last if the cheddar I was planning to use! I improvised with a shrivelled up end of Brie I found in the fridge, plus an equally tiny stub of a French cheese from lidl, and to make the sauce taste more cheesy I added garlic granules, some bouillon powder, some chives, salt & pepper , and the magic ingredient of a pinch of smoked paprika! It have the sauce a taste like smoked cheese, and added a tiny bit of colour so it wasn’t so white. I then topped with breadcrumbs made from a dried up old crust whizzed in the food processor with a small chunk of the reserved cheese; then baked in the oven.
    So good!

  51. Question on the English mustard: I bought your book, but I’m American, so I’m converting measurements and learning substitutes when some things are more expensive where I live. English mustard is one that has me stumped – do you use the powered version, or the pre-made version?

  52. I can beat that by quite a bit, and still have enough left over to add bacon. Although I must admit it’s a bit of a cheat because I use pre-made sauce mix, but hey, the objective is to attain the lowest cost possible, right?

    If you buy a 200g tub of cheese granules at ยฃ1.25 (just add water – no butter, flour, cheese or milk required), 2x500g packs of the cheapest value range pasta at 20p each, and a 500g pack of “cooking bacon” at 80p, by my reckoning that’s enough for 8 decent portions of “pasta and cheese and bacon”, for just 31p a portion. In fact I could probably spin out the bacon even further than that.

    Top with the breadcrumbs from a slice of value bread (47p or ~3p a slice), and bake in the oven, for a total cost of 34p a portion.

    Granted the only value pasta I could find was either penne (29p for 500g) or spaghetti (20p for 500g), so it’s more “carbonara-ish” than mac and cheese, but hey, again, it’s close enough, and way cheaper than the next cheapest alternative alternative. Even Tesco’s tins of value macaroni cheese are 40p for 395g, and that doesn’t even include the bacon and breadcrumbs, although it is 20g more pasta per portion (a negligible difference).

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