How to eat healthily (and even lose weight) for £26 a week

Skirt steak and chips
Xanthe Clay reveals her full week's meal plan of simple and delicious dishes - Andrew Crowley for the Telegraph

Can you afford to eat healthily? With so many of us feeling overstretched at the moment, it’s a valid question. Eating fresh foods has increasingly become a luxury. A report last year by the Food Foundation found that healthy food costs £10 per 1,000 calories, a pound more than in 2022. Meanwhile less healthy choices come in at £4.50 per 1,000 calories.

No wonder that, according to a BBC Good Food Nation survey, one in four of us is eating less healthily to save money, while obesity rates soar thanks to our love affair with junk food.

So how can we get the weekly shop in on budget, without blowing our diet or waistline on cheap processed junk?

We’ve put together a full week’s meal plan of simple and delicious dishes, complete with a shopping list that comes in at £26 per person (£30 if you include buying store cupboard staples like spices and olive oil), including healthy balanced portions that will help you stay trim, or even lose weight, if you have a tendency to overload your plate. And the best thing about it? You can still eat fresh meat and your five-a-day without breaking the bank.

“These recipes incorporate plenty of lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates and a range of essential micronutrients. By focusing on making food from scratch, reducing ultra-processed foods and sticking to sensible portion sizes, you’ll be better nourished and could even lose a few pounds too,” says Telegraph nutritionist Sam Rice.

Read on for the full recipes.

Skip to the recipes



An ultra-simple loaf that anyone can make, with a nutty flavour and fairly dense texture; you can make it a bit lighter by using half and half white and wholemeal flour. Invented by the health campaigner Doris Grant during the Second World War, there’s no kneading required. If you have enough tins you can save fuel by tripling the quantities and baking three loaves at the same time, freezing the extra loaves. Enjoy slices of it toasted with boiled eggs for breakfast or with lunches or dinners through the week.


Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 30-60 minutes to prove

Cook time: 40 minutes


Makes 1 loaf


  • 500g strong wholemeal bread flour (or use half and half white and wholemeal, or other flours)

  • ½ sachet (1 tsp) easy-blend yeast

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp caster sugar or honey

  • Butter, for greasing the tin


50p per loaf


  1. Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar or honey in a large bowl with 350ml warm water – your hands are best for this. Make sure all the flour is well incorporated.

  2. Line a 1lb loaf tin with a sheet of baking parchment, pressing it well into the corners of the tin. Grease the paper well with butter, too.

  3. Scrape the sticky, sloppy dough into the lined tin and smooth the top.

  4. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 30-60 minutes, until the dough is within a couple of centimetres of the top of the tin: it won’t rise any more in the oven, but if you allow it to over-rise before baking it will be crumbly.

  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.

  6. Bake the loaf for 35 minutes then tip it out of the tin and give it another 5 minutes in the oven, placing it directly on the shelf, just to crisp up the crust.

  7. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Organic yoghurt becomes easily affordable if made from scratch – an example of how rediscovering old-fashioned cooking skills can help us eat healthily and save money. How much you make at a time will be limited by the size of your container, but it’s simple to do. 

Heat 500ml organic milk in a pan on the hob to 86C (the surface will be steaming but not bubbling). Leave to cool to 45C (bearable to put your finger in but too hot for a bath). Stir in 2 tbsp live yoghurt (shop-bought or from your last batch). Rinse a 600ml Thermos flask or two 300ml insulated travel coffee mugs with boiling water to warm them. Pour in the milk and put the lid(s) on. Leave in a warm spot, away from draughts, for 12 hours, by which time the yoghurt should be set. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge to enjoy with overnight oats or the turkey tzatziki wraps below.

Overnight oats
Overnight oats - Andrew Crowley

A simple breakfast, packed with goodness. Use whatever frozen fruit you like, and eat this at home or grab a jar and go.


Prep time: 5 minutes, plus overnight chilling




  • 160g rolled oats

  • 400ml water (or milk)

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 320g frozen fruit

  • 200ml plain natural yoghurt

  • Honey, to serve (optional)


46p per person


  1. Divide the oats between 4 glass jars, each with a volume of at least 300ml.

  2. Stir in the water/milk along with the cinnamon.

  3. Top with the frozen fruit and then a layer of yoghurt.

  4. Put the lids on and refrigerate for up to two days.

  5. Eat for breakfast with a trickle of honey if you need it.


The cost of higher-welfare meat is wince-making if you’re on a tight budget. Get round this by using an overlooked cut: turkey leg. For free range, check the National Farmers Union’s Turkey Finder list of local farms (I’m a fan of Herb Fed Poultry which sells two free range turkey legs for £6.20); supermarket legs won’t be free range and the flavour will be less gamey, more chicken-like.

The day before you’re eating, put 1.5-2kg turkey leg(s) in a roasting tin and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Cover and refrigerate. The next day, preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas mark 3. Rinse off the salt and pat the legs dry. Return to the rinsed-out roasting tin. Slice a lemon and arrange around the leg, along with 4 cloves of unpeeled garlic, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary if you have them, plus 200ml water. Cover with foil.

Roast for 1½ hours until tender. Uncover, raise the temperature to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6, and cook until browned and crisp (about 20 minutes). At the same time, chop a packet of cooked beetroot into chunks, toss in olive oil and put to cook in a dish on a shelf under the turkey. Serve the turkey with the beetroot, cooked brown rice and peas.

Afterwards: strip any leftover meat from the bones – keep scrappy bits for soup and chunks for salads, curries or tzatziki wraps. Use the bones and any bits of skin to make stock.

Put 2-3 litres of turkey stock in a pan with a cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground cinnamon and a star anise if you have them. Boil down to about 1.5 litres. Remove 300ml for the spicy tofu recipe (see below) and season the rest with salt, pepper and soy sauce. Add 350g sliced carrots and simmer until tender, then stir in a handful of frozen peas plus any leftover scraps of turkey. Cook 250g wholewheat noodles according to the packet directions and divide between four bowls. Ladle over the hot broth, peas and carrots. Serve with finely sliced spring onion. Some fresh coriander leaves to scatter on top would be nice if you have them.

Baked potato with lentils
Baked potato with lentils - Andrew Crowley

You’ll only use half the lentils for this dish but it makes sense to cook them all and keep the rest for another day or another dish. They’ll last for four days in the fridge and at least two months in the freezer. I like to keep the onion and carrot peelings in a box in the freezer to use in future stocks.


Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes




  • 500g dried speckled puy style lentils (lentilles vertes)

  • 2 garlic cloves, left unpeeled

  • 4 baking potatoes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 medium onion (about 160g), finely chopped

  • 200g carrots (about 2 medium carrots), finely chopped

  • ½ tsp cumin seeds

  • A dash of chilli sauce

  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

  • 4-8 tbsp plain natural yoghurt


65p per person


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.

  2. Rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with the cloves of garlic.

  3. Cover generously with water, add a fat pinch of salt and simmer until just tender but not collapsing (about 25-30 minutes), then drain and keep to one side.

  4. Meanwhile, pierce the potatoes a few times all over and place them in the microwave. Cook on full power for 10 minutes then transfer to the oven, placing them directly on the shelf, to cook for 20-30 minutes to crisp up the skin. If you don’t have a microwave, bake in the oven for an hour until tender inside with a crisp skin.

  5. While the potatoes and lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion, carrot and cumin seeds. Cook gently for 10 minutes until tender and beginning to colour.

  6. Add a dash of chilli sauce and the tomatoes and simmer gently for 5 minutes before mixing in half the lentils (squeeze the garlic puree out of the skins and add that too).

  7. Keep the rest of the lentils in the fridge or freezer to use in the minestrone or braised red cabbage for dinner.

  8. Serve the potatoes topped with the lentils and a dollop of yoghurt.

Mackerel salad
Mackerel salad - Andrew Crowley


Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes




  • 5 eggs

  • 320g frozen peas

  • 1 spring onion, white part finely chopped (save the green part for making stock or another dish)

  • 400g baby new potatoes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tsp

  • 320g tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes), peeled if you like

  • 1 tsp English or Dijon mustard (optional)

  • 200ml vegetable oil

  • Squeeze of lemon juice, to taste (optional)

  • 4 x 125g tins mackerel, in oil or brine

  • ¼ garlic clove, peeled (optional)


£1.84 per person

I like to peel the tomatoes first by covering them with boiling water, leaving for 30 seconds then draining. The skins should slip off fairly easily. It’s extra faff but does make the salad feel more special.


  1. Put 4 of the eggs in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid, turn off the heat and leave to cook in the residual heat for 8 minutes. Peel and quarter the eggs.

  2. Put the peas in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes then drain and mix with a pinch of salt and the chopped spring onion.

  3. Meanwhile, slice the potatoes and cook in boiling water until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain and mix with 1 tsp of olive oil.

  4. Slice the tomatoes.

  5. Break the remaining egg into a small blender, add a pinch of salt and, if you have them, the mustard and garlic.

  6. Set the machine running and drizzle in the vegetable oil gradually until it comes together to make a creamy mayonnaise.

  7. Stir in a tablespoonful of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you have any. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice.

  8. Drain the mackerel and mix it gently, without breaking up the pieces too much, with 2 tbsp of the mayonnaise.

  9. Arrange the mackerel with the boiled egg quarters, peas, potatoes and tomato slices on plates. Trickle a few more spoonfuls of mayo over the salad and serve.

Roasted Mediterranean vegetables with feta and warm grains
Roasted Mediterranean vegetables - Andrew Crowley

A generous, hearty salad. Any leftovers are good cold the next day.


Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes




  • 1 x 500g bag frozen Mediterranean vegetables, defrosted

  • 3 red onions, peeled and cut into eight wedges through the root

  • 3 carrots, halved lengthways then cut into 3cm pieces (about 350g total)

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • 250g pearl barley or other whole grain, or leftover lentils, cooked (you should have about 500g when cooked)

  • 200g feta or feta-style cheese, crumbled

  • ½ lemon

  • ½ bunch fresh mint


97p per person


  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7.

  2. Mix the Mediterranean vegetables, onion wedges and carrot sticks with the olive oil and some salt and black pepper.

  3. Spread out on a roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes or until tinged with brown.

  4. Remove from the oven and tip the cooked grains and crumbled feta onto the veg in the hot roasting tin. Toss together gently.

  5. Season again with salt, pepper and some lemon juice, plus a little grated lemon zest. Rip over the fresh mint.

To make the wraps from scratch, mix 200g plain flour with 120ml yoghurt or milk, ½ tsp salt and 2 tbsp melted butter. Add a little water if it is too dry. Knead until you have a smooth dough then wrap in a plastic bag and leave to rest in the fridge.

For the filling, cut a small cucumber in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Cut the rest into small dice and mix with 8 tbsp yoghurt and half a small bunch of mint, chopped. Fold in chopped cooked turkey – about 400g for four people, but less is fine – and season.

Divide the dough into 4 and roll out each portion into a thin 20cm-circle. Heat a dry frying pan and cook each circle until browned on each side, flipping once. Allow to cool slightly then use to wrap the turkey and cucumber filling. If you have some lettuce or spinach leaves, add them to the wrap too.

Shakshuka - Andrew Crowley

A hearty breakfast, brunch or lunch that really packs in the veg. Eat it with slices of toasted Doris Grant loaf.


Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes




  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1 x 500g bag sliced mixed peppers

  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

  • A dash of chilli sauce or pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

  • 8 cubes frozen whole-leaf spinach (not chopped), defrosted (optional)

  • 8 eggs


£1.06 per person


  1. Heat the oil in a large, shallow pan about 30cm across (one with a lid).

  2. Cook the onion until tender and just beginning to colour.

  3. Add the garlic and cumin, cook for another minute, then stir in the peppers.

  4. Continue to cook until the peppers are well softened and cooked through.

  5. Stir in the tomatoes along with a dash of chilli sauce or flakes, if you like, and a pinch of salt. Simmer until the sauce is thick, about 5-10 minutes.

  6. Scatter the spinach leaves (if using) around the pan, then make 8 wells in the mixture. Break an egg into each.

  7. Sprinkle the whole thing with a pinch of salt then cover and cook gently for 5 minutes or until the whites of the eggs are set.


Puree a drained 400g tin of chickpeas (or the leftover cooked chickpeas from your chana dal recipe, below) in a food processor with 1 clove of garlic and enough water to make a thick, creamy texture. Add 1 tbsp tahini if you have it. Season with salt, pepper, chilli sauce and lemon juice. Serve in a shallow bowl drizzled with olive oil.

The quantities for this are very loose: chop 1 onion, 2 sticks of celery and a carrot into pea-sized chunks and fry in olive oil until tender. Add a tin of plum tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, along with 500ml water or stock and any odds and ends of hard herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay leaf), chopped potatoes, cooked beans or lentils, or other chopped vegetables such as cabbage or beetroot. Simmer until tender, taste and season well. At this point you can add some broken up spaghetti and simmer again until cooked, as well as tender vegetables like spinach or broccoli. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, grated cheese if you have it, and chopped soft herbs like parsley, coriander, basil or dill.

Cut 500g silken tofu into cubes (any tofu left in the packet will be used in the chana dal dish below). Half-fill a bowl with boiling water and add in the tofu; leave to one side. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan then add 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger and 2 tbsp grated garlic. Stir for 10 seconds then add 2 tbsp tomato puree and a dash of chilli sauce. Cook for another minute, then lift the tofu out of the water with a slotted spoon and add to the pan, along with 300ml water or turkey stock. Simmer for 5 minutes, then mix 2 tsp cornflour (or flour) with 2 tbsp water and stir this gently into the pan. Cook until thickened (another 5 minutes), then serve scattered with thinly sliced spring onions, alongside brown rice, steamed pak choi or other greens sprinkled with soy sauce.

Put 500g rinsed chana dal (split chickpeas) in a pan with 1.25 litres water, two 5mm slices of fresh ginger and 1 tsp salt. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.

Scoop out a quarter of the chickpeas with a little of their liquid. Store these in the fridge or freezer to make homemade hummus.

To the rest of the chickpeas in the pan add 1 tsp ground turmeric and 400ml coconut milk. Simmer for a further 30 minutes. Season well with salt.

Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan and add 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, and ¼ tsp chilli powder or a dash of chilli sauce. Sizzle until fragrant and then tip over the dal and serve.

For the spiced cauliflower, heat 1 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp butter in a large pan. Add 1 tbsp grated ginger and 1 tbsp grated garlic. Stir, then add 2 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp ground turmeric. Add the florets from a whole cauliflower and 300g defrosted frozen leaf spinach, along with any tofu left over from making the spicy tofu. Toss to coat well then cover and cook until tender. Serve with a few ripped mint leaves or chopped coriander; some flatbreads to accompany (such as those made for the turkey tzatziki wraps) would be good.

Skirt steak and chips
Skirt steak and chips - Andrew Crowley

A proper steak supper, using one of my favourite cuts, the skirt. It’s got a great flavour, is very lean and is tender as long as it’s not overcooked and is sliced across the grain. The chip recipe is based on one by the food writer Barney Desmazery. Adding lemon juice or vinegar to the cooking water gelatinises the starch, making for a crisper chip.


Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 5 minutes




  • 450g skirt steak

  • 1kg floury potatoes

  • 1 lemon

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil, plus a little extra for the steak

  • 1 tbsp cornflour (or ordinary flour)

  • 320g red cabbage (about ½ a cabbage)

  • 3 spring onions, thinly sliced

  • 2 carrots, grated

  • 4 tbsp olive oil


£1.60 per person


  1. Sprinkle the steak with a pinch or two of salt and place, uncovered, in the fridge while you make the rest of the meal.

  2. Wash the potatoes and cut them into fat chips about 2cm thick. Put them in a saucepan, add enough water to just cover along with a squeeze of lemon juice (more juice and the zest will be used in the slaw) and a fat pinch of salt.

  3. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes or until almost tender, but not falling apart. Drain well.

  4. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 8, putting in a roasting tin to heat up. Add the vegetable oil to the roasting tin and give it 5 minutes in the oven to get hot.

  5. Meanwhile, toss the chips in the cornflour or flour. Add them to the tin and line them up in rows, turning them over in the oil. Bake for 20 minutes then turn carefully and cook for a further 20 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper.

  6. While the potatoes are cooking, make the coleslaw. Slice the cabbage very finely (use a mandolin if you have one).

  7. Rub the spring onion slices between your fingers to separate the rings. Mix together with the grated carrot and cabbage and grate in the zest of half the lemon.

  8. For the dressing, mix 1 tbsp lemon juice with ½ tsp salt, then whisk in 4 tbsp olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt if it needs it.

  9. Take the steak out of the fridge and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Rub all over with a trickle of vegetable oil.

  10. Heat a sturdy frying pan (not non-stick, ideally) and add the steak. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, just enough to brown it well. Take the steak out of the pan and allow it to rest for 5 minutes on a board.

  11. Slice across the grain (the long fibres of meat) into strips no more than 1cm thick.

  12. Serve the steak trickled with any juices that have accumulated on the board, with the chips and slaw.

Slice half a red cabbage and 1 red onion finely. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and a crushed clove of garlic. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and 100ml water or wine (red or white). Cover and cook very gently for an hour, until tender.

Meanwhile, cook the livers. Trim 400g organic chicken livers, cutting off any greenish bits. Toss in 2 tbsp flour mixed with ½ tsp salt, lots of ground pepper and 1 tsp cayenne pepper or chilli flakes if you have them. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a pan and cook 3 sliced onions and a slice of red chilli until the onion is browned and caramelised, about 20 minutes. Add 500g cooked lentils, stir well and season, then tip into a bowl to keep warm. Melt 2 tbsp butter in the same pan. Add the livers and cook until browned on the outside but still pink inside.

When the cabbage is tender, raise the heat and boil off any excess liquid. Season and stir in the chopped green tops of some spring onions. Divide the lentils between 4 warmed plates and top with the livers. Add 2 tbsp water, a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice to the pan the livers cooked in and give a good stir; pour this over the livers and serve with a scattering of parsley if you have it, and a dollop of yoghurt.

Pasta with sardines
Pasta with sardines - Andrew Crowley

Tinned sardines are a health-food hero: cheap, sustainable, convenient and packed with healthy omega-3s as well as calcium. They are delicious cooked into a sauce that’s more savoury than fishy, and topped with crunchy fried crumbs, aka pangrattato, which are the Italian “poor man’s Parmesan”.


Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes




  • 2 x 120g tins of sardines in olive oil

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)

  • 3-4 leeks (about 400g), thinly sliced and washed

  • 5 large sticks of celery (about 350g), very thinly sliced

  • Olive oil, for cooking, if needed

  • Squeeze of lemon juice

  • 250g dried wholemeal pasta (I like spaghetti or tagliatelle for this)

For the crunchy crumbs:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 thick slice old bread, crusts removed, whizzed to crumbs in a food processor

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

  • Grated zest of ½ lemon

  • A few feathery green leaves from the celery, finely chopped (optional)


£1.06 per person


  1. Tip the sardines and their oil into a pan. Add the garlic and the fennel seeds, if using, and cook over a medium heat, breaking up the sardines with a spoon to a mush.

  2. Add the leek and celery to the pan and keep cooking until the vegetables are beginning to pick up a bit of colour. Add a bit more olive oil if it seems too dry. Season with lots of pepper and salt if it needs it.

  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente, then drain, keeping a cup of the cooking water aside.

  4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest and chopped celery leaves (if you’re using them), plus a pinch of salt and pepper. Fry until the crumbs are golden and crisp.

  5. Mix the pasta with the sardines and vegetables, and enough of the pasta cooking water to make a sauce.

  6. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and serve with the scattered crumbs on top.

Baked beans
Baked beans - Andrew Crowley

This makes a big pan of beans, plenty for six or even eight people, so it’s great for a kitchen supper with friends. It tastes best made a day ahead, and the beans need soaking the day before that. Eat with greens – buttered cabbage is good – and toasted slices of Doris Grant loaf. Fancy more meat? Grilled pork chops or preservative-free sausages will go down a treat.


Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 40 minutes




  • 500g dried haricot beans, soaked overnight

  • 5 rashers streaky bacon (about 75g), chopped

  • 2 onions, chopped

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 tbsp English mustard

  • 375ml chicken/turkey/pork stock or use the bean cooking water

  • 5 tbsp tomato ketchup

  • 3 tbsp molasses, black treacle or muscovado sugar

  • A dash of chilli sauce

  • 1 thick slice of bread, made into breadcrumbs

  • 1 tbsp olive oil


56p per person if feeding 8


  1. Drain the soaked beans and cover with cold water again. Add 1 tsp salt and bring to the boil. Simmer until really tender, about an hour (the exact time depends how old the beans are).

  2. Drain the beans, keeping the cooking water in a jug.

  3. Heat the same pan and add the bacon. Cook over a medium heat until the fat runs, then add the onion. It’ll seem a bit dry, and you can add some oil if you like, but it should be fine without. Fry gently for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is tinged with gold.

  4. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the beans, mustard and stock or cooking water.

  5. Simmer until slightly creamy, then stir in the ketchup, molasses, treacle or sugar, and the chilli sauce. Season and allow to cool and chill (or freeze) until you’re ready to eat.

  6. To serve, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.

  7. Tip the beans into an ovenproof dish and scatter with breadcrumbs. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes, until the crumb crust is golden.