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Old school food hacks that will work today

It can be hard to find ways to save money and make food go further. Here ae our favourite old school food hacks that you can use today.

Bulking with Beans and Lentils

Adding lentils or beans to dishes can bulk them out massively - making them cheaper, more filling and go much further. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Add tinned red or green lentils to mince to make meatballs (as they are already soft/soaked)

  2. Add beans to a pasta sauce (even baked beans!)

  3. Butter beans in soup

  4. A few handfuls of red red lentils in a slow cooked curry, bolognese or chilli

  5. Black beans with peppers and onions in tortilla mix for burritos or fajitas

Cooking Bacon and Offal

Adding flavour to meals on a budget can be hard. But there are ways to add rich meaty flavours with very cheap ingredients.

Offal was more commonly eaten in Britain decades ago, but has been making more of a come back in recent years. Price-wise if you compared pork liver in Tesco vs pork chop or loin you are looking at around £4 per kg LESS for the liver.

Bacon isn't as cheap, for cured back bacon, but you can save loads using cooking bacon - just £1.75/kg - less than £1 for a 500g pack. Cooking bacon tends to have more fat on it, and can be a bit random in shape and size, but for chopping into tiny bits to add to a dish this is not an issue.

Adding a bit of fried chopped up liver or bacon to a bolognese, curry, veggie based pasta sauce will add a huge depth of flavour and make it all the more satisfying.

Big tray bakes and oven dishes

A big tray bake/pasta bake or roasting tin dish can be a real homely family centrepiece. If you are entertaining and can't afford anything extra, creating a pasta bake with some cheese and breadcrumbs on top is one way to make people feel at home. Having a huge steaming dish placed in the middle of the table is not only comforting, but everyone can dive in and for a moment you can pretend you are one of those families from a cookery show. Until you start arguing over the extra cheesy-crispy bit!

Making a tray bake can be hugely cost-effective. You can almost use half the amount of sauce you would use if you were serving up rice or pasta in a dish straight to the plate.

For some real big dish inspiration you could try one of these tried and tested books:

Humble Vegetable Pies

A wartime favourite - simple yet effective. You can pack some real goodness inside some shortcrust pastry, add a bit of gravy and you have a heartwarming dish for the whole family. If you have some veg-averse children, try homity pie as its lighter on the green and colorful veggies!

Homity pie is a classic - cheese, potato and onion in a wholemeal pastry.

Grated Vegetables

Used as a way to hide veg from fussy eaters - but is also a great way to bulk out mince or other dishes with something fairly inexpensive. Try carrots, cauliflower, courgette (you can peel first to hide the green). A similar theory to bulking with lentils or beans.

Store cupboard dinners - waste not, want not

Having a good cupboard clear out can not only make you feel a bit more organised but it really can make you look at what you have and be a little inventive!

Pull all your tins and packets out onto the kitchen side - find a box or basket for them and if you have space just leave them there. You will hopefully find uses for random odds and end in your cupboard and overall reduce wastage - win win!

Why not challenge your family to a ready steady cook type scenario where they need to make something out of the stuff you have in the kitchen.

Eat down the fridge

This is similar to emptying your store cupboards. Every now and again it is worth going into 'holiday mode' where you may eat down the contents of your fridge or freezer when you are about to go away. This forces you to be inventive and creative as well as using up old bits that have been hanging around in the freezer or fridge for a while.

It is the food version of a serious spring clean. Using every little last tomato or half a carrot alongside some of your store cupboard items can make some really great meals.

Eggs wonderful eggs

Allergies aside, for most eggs are an easy go to for dinner. You can make eggs into more of a meal by cooking a Spanish omelette (boil potatoes and add these alongside whatever you have in the fridge). Tinned potatoes are amazing in this scenario as you don't have to boil or peel them! This can work very well with a fridge eat down. Cheese is a very good addition to an omelette or scrambled eggs. Here's a few ideas of odds and sods to add to eggs to make them sing (so to speak);

  • Paprika

  • Cheese

  • Peppers

  • Onions or spring onion

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Tomatoes

  • Potato


Making your own from the bones of a roast is an amazingly cheap way of creating something that you can add to any dish to increase flavour.

If you don't have roast leftovers then a stock cube is absolutely fine - add to rice, pasta sauces or most dishes for some extra tastiness. Also this option is nearly free if you made it from bones you would otherwise throw away!

If you have any amazing thrifty food hacks to add - just get in touch by sending to


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