Jack Monroe has made a name for herself as the go-to source for budget cooking.

She's been blogging, tweeting and writing cookbooks for nearly a decade now, giving us genius tips for saving money and reducing food waste, including making soda bread out of sour milk, or fashioning a delicious meal out of broccoli stalks.

There's always been an audience for her cheap and delicious recipes, but with the cost-of-living crisis growing, it feels like there's more of a need than ever.

Her latest cookbook is called Thrifty Kitchen, featuring over 120 wallet-friendly recipes - including pear and cinnamon buns, potato and egg curry, corned beef chilli and mincemeat bread pudding.

We put three of her new recipes to the test - but how do they stack up in terms of ease, cost-effectiveness and deliciousness?


Lauren Taylor tried: Apple Bircher

At a time like this, you really want meals you can make with a few ingredients probably already sitting in your fridge or kitchen cupboard. I'm notorious for tucking into a breakfast pastry, and January is the perfect time to kick that habit and prepare a cheap, healthy alternative.

Jack Monroe's apple Bircher sounds like the kind of recipe I can get on board with - quick, simple and I don't even need to go to the shop to buy extra ingredients.

It really couldn't be easier. I grate a green apple and measure out some oats, yoghurt and milk (but you could totally forgo weighing scales and measuring jug and judge the consistency yourself after the first time).



A quick mix and it's good to go - I split into two portions and use small, reusable containers, but a mason jar would look far more Instagram-friendly.

The recipe suggests topping with nuts and seeds, and the only ones I can find languishing in the cupboard are chia seeds, but they'll do for some added texture (and fibre) - so I sprinkle them on top and pop them in the fridge overnight.

In the morning it's lovely to have something homemade and more exciting than box cereal waiting for me to tuck into.

It's a perfectly nice, functional breakfast for a weekday, and certainly cost-effective, but I can't help but feel it needs more texture.

Next time I'll try with homemade muesli (as Monroe suggests) or jazz it up with some crushed nuts and more fruit on top.

A drizzle of honey would really bring it to life. But that's the beauty with this simple breakfast idea - you can add whatever suits your taste and bank balance.


Claire Spreadbury tried: Veg-peel fritters

Is there anything that can make you feel smugger than saving your vegetable peel to use in a proper meal later in the week? It feels very January, but in a super-satisfying way.

I'm a big fritter fan generally, so this leftover-loving dish appeals massively to me. It's quite simple to prep - I just gathered my carrot peel, threw in some other root veg (parsnip, beetroot, sweet potato and potato), after spending a good while grating everything - mixed it all up with an egg, some flour and Cheddar and then attempted the patties.

Binding is definitely an issue with this recipe. It uses an egg and some flour, and suggests adding water to help too, but I did struggle to get my fritters to stick together, meaning the end result is not pretty. They are delicious, though. Add plenty of seasoning and serve with a fried egg for a comforting dinner that's also hugely nutritious.



Cost-wise, being able to use up old veg peel, plus a manky old carrot and too-soft potato (or whatever you have that needs using up) is a definite winner. I spent £6.55 on the rest of the ingredients at Tesco, but have two big beets, five eggs and more than half a block of cheese leftover, so it's definitely good on the purse strings. I'll happily make it again.

Prudence Wade tried: Risotto with peas and lettuce

There's no denying this meal is cheap - something many of us will welcome as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite. All it requires is rice, stock, lemon, frozen peas and lettuce - I had everything in my cupboard or freezer except for lettuce - which only cost 85p, and gave me plenty left over.

However, having such a simple meal made me feel a bit nervous. How on earth can you make a risotto without frying up a soffritto (chopped carrots, onions and celery) - or at the very least, softening some onions first to boost the flavour?



Unfortunately, my fears were realised. While the risotto was undoubtedly easy to make - all you need to do is pour in the stock and stir the rice slowly until it's absorbed, then fold in the lettuce and peas - the final product lacked a certain amount of joy. I ended up adding a whole lot of lemon, salt and pepper just to give it some flavour - something the dish was sorely lacking.

While the crunch of the lettuce provided a nice texture, I can't help but think that another type of veg would be better in terms of flavour and nutritional content. There was also a lack of creaminess in the final product - something that normally makes a risotto so delicious and moreish.

There's so much I'd change with this dish (I'd cook up a soffrito to start with, and add in lots of different types of veg). It's by no means a bad dish, but certainly not a memorable one.

January feels quite grim this year, and while I'm keen to make easy, cheap dishes (which this one certainly is), I also want my meals to be packed full of flavour.

Thrifty Kitchen by Jack Monroe is published by Bluebird, priced £19.99. Photography by Patricia Niven. Available now.