Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Recipe books are costly – and do you ever really read them? Learning to cook for free isn’t as hard as you might think – and could save you lots of cash in the long-term. But, learning to cook is always on the backburner whilst other priorities in our busy lives take over.
Getting in the kitchen seems like a luxury for those of us who haven’t got hours of time on our hands. Supermarket aisles that are packed with options and recipes listing 20+ ingredients are likely to seem intimidating for the novice cook, too.
But unfortunately it remains true that cooking from scratch and eating well, rather than ordering takeaways or heading out to the chip shop (again), will always make you feel better. It’ll be much kinder to your monthly budget, too.
Here, we’ll look into ways you can learn to cook for free, and what online resources you can use to keep yourself cooking from scratch in the longer term. All our recommendations offer free tips to up your cookery game. They’ll all help you master this essential new skill and make yourself feel full and happy in super-quick time – we promise!
It’s really easy to pick up the phone and order food in. It’s just as easy to sling a ready meal in the microwave or oven, too.
But learning to cook for free will expand your horizons – and save you wads of cash. Ready meals are so much more expensive than cooking from scratch. They’re also often filled with the bad-for-you stuff like excess salt. The same goes for takeaways!
We’re all stuck in lockdown with time on our hands. It’s tempting to comfort ourselves with takeaways and easy food – but you’ll feel better for lots of fresh home cooking. We promise! You’ll learn how to put together loads of fresh veggie combos to make tasty dishes to keep healthy. And you can make these good-for-you dinners in less time than it takes to wait for a delivery to your door!
Buying ingredients and cooking from scratch also means you can save a LOT on your food bill. You can buy in bulk to cut costs – and batch cook to make lots of meals ahead of time. Freezing meals, or making fresh portions for the next few days, saves you lots of time overall, too.
So, now you’ve seen how cooking at home can save you money, here’s where you can learn to cook for free online!
Food writer Jack Monroe is a self-taught expert on cooking with whatever’s in your cupboard. As a struggling single mother on benefits, she found herself striving to make nutritious meals for her young son from the most basic of ingredients – and an accidental career began to stem from it.
Her blog, Cooking on a Bootstrap, lists numerous recipes, all of which are marked with a cost per portion. Think pancakes from 8p each, parmigiana from 74p, and cookies from 2p. Yes, really. Jack’s most recent book, Tin Can Cook, lists 125 recipes that can be made with tinned ingredients that you might already have in your cupboard. Check out her free canned cookery lesson, courtesy of STV, here.
She’s also hosting a TV cookery show, Daily Kitchen Live, throughout the coronavirus lockdown. The show can be viewed on BBC iPlayer and aims to teach people how to substitute ingredients that they might not be able to get hold of with cheaper alternatives.
That’s not all, though – head over to #JackMonroesLockdownLarder on Twitter and 5pm every day during the lockdown, where Jack will be advising people on delicious, quick recipes that they can make with whatever’s in their cupboard. Phew!
Chef, presenter and thrifty cookbook author Miguel Barclay has made a name for himself with his £1 meal cookbooks. If you haven’t got your hands on any of his books whilst we’re in lockdown, though, you can turn to his Instagram page for all your £1 culinary inspiration.
You’ll find numerous Stories (check his Highlights section) and recipe videos, teaching you how to make everything from a recreated McDonald’s burger to focaccia bread, speedy chorizo bolognese, and cookies.
BBC Good Food has long been the go-to internet space for easy, reliable recipes that don’t cost the earth. There are thousands of recipes available on the site, but the section dedicated to cheap and healthy dishes is probably the one that you want to head to if you want to learn to cook for free. Expect recipes including orzo and tomato soup, chipotle chicken and slaw, pork souvlaki, curried cod and prawn and salmon burgers with spicy mayo. Yum!
Personally, we’ve also found it a great place for novice bakers. We’d highly recommend this lemon drizzle cake by Tana Ramsay, which has become a fortnightly staple in our house and probably doesn’t even require a trip to the shops.
Trying to eat less meat or dairy? It’s great for the environment and animal welfare. Vegan cooking is also phenomenally cheaper than cooking with animal products!
We recommend The Avant Garde Vegan, a YouTube channel that will teach you how to create numerous animal-free feasts (including a BBQ – yes, really!) for free. Easy to follow, tasty recipes live alongside information videos (what to eat on a day in quarantine, for example) on the channel, which has over a million followers.
All the major supermarkets have hundreds of pages dedicated to online recipes that you can try out at home for free. There’s usually no sign-up required, and because supermarkets are often catering to novice cooks they like to keep their recipes simple and – crucially – cheap. Asda Good Living has a handy article on recipes that you can cook for a very purse-friendly £1, including smoked mackerel and kale carbonara, slow-cooked chili, and squash, spinach and goat’s cheese risotto. We’re hungry just thinking about it.
Other supermarket websites that offer a wealth of free recipes include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-op.
Joe Wick is the Nation’s PE Coach right now. Did you know that he started out with his Lean in 15 Instagram series? With a focus on quick, healthy and nutritional dishes, Wicks’ creations are fun, fast, and will make you feel great. Follow his channel for recipes including homemade Indian inspired veggie burgers with mango chutney and mint raita, chocolate bounty pancakes with coconut yoghurt, and halloumi dippers that the kids won’t be able to get enough of.
Sorted Food is a great YouTube cooking channel, even if you’re not a foodie by nature. Fun videos offer everything from knife comparisons to Japanese restaurant challenges, bringing you into their kitchen wherever you are.
There are practical guides that can help you right now, too – see this video on tinned food hacks to give you some inspiration for cheap and easy creations. There’s no pretension here: two chefs work with three ‘normals’ to bring you food content (and fun) that makes cooking interesting. They even have the Sorted Club, recipe books, and audio guides to listen to as you work your way throuh a recipe.
Another celeb chef keeping us going throughout the coronavirus lockdown is Jamie Oliver, whose Keep Cooking and Carry On series is available to watch through YouTube. Jamie’s fun cooking style takes us through everything from scones to quesadillas to chocolate cake, minestrone soup and fresh pasta. A great one to get the kids involved in, as Jamie himself demonstrates with his nine-year-old son buddy.
We hope these resources give you all the inspiration you need to learn to cook for free. If you’re feeling inspired, check out our other cheap eats articles below!
Get weekly ideas, deals & freebies
New data capture form 2023
"*" indicates required fields
Good article. My cooking has increased (and hopefully improved) during the lock down.
Some excellent links for cooking ideas.