Cheap ways to get your five-a-day

How to feed four people for a tenner and keep it healthy too

Updated: 
sausage lentils casserole

If you're looking for a simple warming dish that is also healthy, look no further. Chef Tess Ward demonstrates how to make a delicious stew made from sausages and lentils. You can have it on the table in an hour and it will feed four people for a tenner.

Ingredients:
8 pork sausages
150 g dried Puy lentils
1 chicken stock cube (or jelly stock pot)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon
rapeseed or sunflower oil

Method:
1 Start with the lentils. Heat 1 tbs of cooking oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Add onion and carrot and fry for five minutes, until the onion softens. Rinse and drain lentils under cold tap. Add to the pan with the onions. Cover lentils with a litre of water, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes - or until tender - with the lid on.

2 While the lentils are simmering, you have time to cook the sausages. Heat another tablespoon of oil in your largest frying pan and add the sausages. Fry on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until golden on all sides. Drain off any excess fat at this stage. Squish the clove of garlic with the side of your knife, then roughly chop it and add it to the sausages. Cook for a further two minutes.

3 Drain and add the cooked lentils and stock cube to the sausage pan with a pinch of chilli powder and an extra 100 ml of water. Cover with the pan lid and cook for 15 minutes. Once the sausages are cooked, check the amount of liquid in the pot. If there is a lot, mash a bit of the lentils to thicken the rich, meaty juices. Keep the pot on a low heat until it is the desired consistency.

4 Divide between four plates, and serve topped with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Other five-a-day foods that won't break the bank
The trick is to have a few recipes up your sleeve that use nutritious but low cost five-a-day ingredients instead of more expensive ones that are less good for you. Try browsing through the recipes below, printing out the ones you fancy, and making a shopping list. Make sure you shop when you're not ravenous so that you stick to the list. In many cases, they're quick enough to cook after work, and the leftovers can often be used as an inexpensive lunch option.

Lentils
Most types of lentils don't need to be soaked before use. You only need 3 tbsp of lentils to count as one of your five-a-day. Along with chickpeas, lentils are often very filling, so you may find that you can reduce your portion size and save a little extra that way.
Tarka dhal (red lentils with spices)
Quick parsnip and lentil dhal
More meals using red split lentils
Puy lentil and feta salad (this is also good in a lunchbox)
Grilled salmon with Puy lentils
More meals made with Puy lentils
Two hundred calorie lentil chilli (it's a US recipe but easy to follow/adapt)

Chickpeas
You only need 3 tbsp of chickpeas to get one of your five-a-day so keep them in the cupboard and add to soups, stews and curries.
Chickpea and spinach curry
Chickpeas with chorizo
More meals using chickpeas

Tinned tomatoes
Two whole plum tomatoes count as one of your five-a-day. So whenever you're adding them to a pasta sauce, lasagne or casserole, you're boosting your health.
Penne with sausage and tomato
Beef meatballs with pasta
More meals using tinned tomatoes

Sweet potato
White spuds don't count as one of your five-a-day, but sweet potatoes do. Try roasting (no need to par-boil first) with olive oil and chopped rosemary and then topping with beef chilli and salsa.
Sausage and sweet potato hash
Sweet potato-topped fish pie
More meals using sweet potatoes

Frozen berries and vegetables
The supermarket aisle lined with freezers containing frozen fruit and vegetables might not look the most exciting, but it's packed with inexpensive ingredients that can be turned into tasty and healthy meals. In some cases, they have more nutritional value than their fresh equivalents. You can, of course freeze your own from what you've grown in the garden, or picked in autumn. Or even just the things you've bought fresh but haven't had time to use.
Autumn berry fruit crumble
Pear and hazelnut sponge squares with blackberries
Ways to use frozen spinach
Minestrone verde (mixed vegetable soup)
Sweetcorn and pepper frittata
More meals with sweetcorn

More nutritional advice:
NHS advice on five a day
What counts as five a day?
Sharpen up your cooking skills
Healthy lunchbox meals