Hundreds and hundreds of entries have provided a

Hundreds and hundreds of entries have provided a wealth of good, bad and downright disgusting cheap meals

17 January 2012

After being inundated with many hundreds of entries from around the globe, the RSC has been able to compile a banquet of cheap, nutritious eats, following the success of its reinvention of Mrs Beeton's classic toast sandwich.

With the offer of £200 to the first person to come up with a more economical lunchtime meal, an enthusiastic public filled our inboxes and stomachs with delicious - and some not so delicious - suggestions.

With letters, phone calls, emails and tweets flying in almost immediately after the story featured on the Today programme, 5 Live and BBC Breakfast, it was just impossible to rule who had 'been the first' to get in touch with us. We had no idea it would be so popular.

So to decide the winner we've taken all the qualifying entries - those who demonstrated their suggestion was more economical and edible, of which we received around a hundred - and pick a winner at random from those entries.

And that winner is:

Elizabeth Tilley, a student of zoology at the University of Nottingham!

Congratulations Elizabeth: your recipe for Peanut Butter Bannocks, little oat cakes, hit the spot in terms of cost and nutritional value. And we dare say probably have a little more going on in the taste department than dear Mrs B's toast sandwich, too.

Of course this is all a light-hearted way of pointing to the importance of a proper balanced diet and the role that chemists play in helping us maintain that diet, especially in difficult times. Fresh fruit and vegetables, packed with vitamins and minerals, are especially important.

But it would be a great disservice to our hundreds of correspondents to share just one of the many good, bad and downright revolting cheap meal suggestions we were sent. Here's a few of our favourites.

  • A Scout leader from Edinburgh told us of a traditional campfire classic, the Dough Twist. A rough dough of flour and water, twisted around a stick and baked on an open fire. He stresses that's not what they make the Scouts eat all through the camp. just the 'survival day'. Not sure that matches the toast in terms of nutrition, but definitely cheap!
  • Student Tom sent in a 'spinach rice' recipe, which definitely gives an interesting mix of nutrients and has a bit of flavour too.
  • Edward sent an imaginative Pitta Gravy Sandwich idea - it is as it sounds. Cover a pitta with gravy, then put that in another pitta. Cheap and calorific.
  • A few people, including Greg from East Anglia, wrote in with 'Fisherman's Sop', which we don't think would be as nutritionally useful as the toast sandwich. or as tasty. Two slices of mouldy bread (yes, mouldy) with hot water poured over, mixed into a sort of paste. Cheap? We don't doubt it. Edible? We'll let you decide.
  • Perhaps taking the title for lowest calorific content is 'Kettle Broth' submitted by, among others, Josh Mynott. Boiled water with salt and pepper.
  • Sheila Carpenter's mother used to make mashed potato and Oxo cube sandwiches during the war. That's actually a sandwich we can get on board with. Might not be quite as cheap as the toast sandwich but definitely tasty.
  • Neil Olsson's rather abstemious banana sandwiches were definitely cheap, if a little light on the banana aspect - he reckons just a quarter of a banana per sandwich. Tasty and cheap, and bananas definitely have great things going on in terms of nutrition, but you'll want another in half an hour, we're sure.
  • Among the many, many people who suggested porridge were the good doctors Fiona Comrie and Gillian Purdon, and Anne Milne, from the Food Standards Agency in Scotland. Expert opinion indeed! They admit their porridge formulation has less calorific content but is also lower in salt, and appears in their 'eatwell week' report. 

Thanks again to everyone who sent in suggestions!

Here's Elizabeth's 'Peanut Butter Bannocks' recipe:

Overall cost = £0.07 per serving

Overall calories = 365


50g of oats

15g of peanut Butter

10g of Beef dripping

Boiling water


Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat beforehand

Melt the dripping (in the microwave) and add the peanut butter, mixing together.  Then add to the oats, adding enough boiling water to make a thick paste (work quickly as the mixture stiffens as it cools).  Next halve the mixture and roll each half into balls.  Finally add each ball in turn to the non-stick pan, and flatten until about half a cm to a cm thick.  Cook until browned on both sides.

Nutrition and pricing

Tesco Crunchy Peanut Butter 340g - £0.52

15g serving = 2p 

Energy per 15g serving 

95 calories

3.2g protein

2.2g carbohydrates

0.9g sugars

7.7g fat

1.4g saturates

0.9g fibre

trace sodium

Tesco Value Oats 1kg - £0.75

50g serving = 3.75p

Energy per 50g serving 

180 calories

5.5g protein

30.2g carbohydrates

0.8g sugars

4.1g fat

0.8g saturates

4.3g fibre

trace sodium

Britannia Beef Dripping 500g from Tesco - £0.72p

10g serving = 1p

Energy per 10g serving 

90 calories

0.0g protein

0.0g carbohydrates

0.0g sugar

10g fat

0.0g fibre

0.0g sodium