I cooked meals from Jamie Oliver's £1 Wonders and regretted it on day one (2023)

Jamie Oliver's new cooking show aims to help families cook healthy and cheap meals in the midst of the cost of living crisis. But the show, called £1 Wonders, has been hit with criticism as many viewers were left unconvinced by the price per head claims.

One mum decided to put the bold claims to the test. Birmingham Live's Zoe Chamberlain went out to buy all the ingredients she needed to make seven days worth of dinners.

Here's how she got on:

I decided to give it a go for a week. And I regretted it on day one. By my calculations, seven days worth of food for four people should work out to £28.

I went to budget supermarket Aldi and bought the wonkiest veg and the cheapest ingredients I could find. And the bill came to £52. Ouch. I guess Jamie has a well-stocked cupboard loaded with herbs and spices, sauces and oils.

Day one - 50/50 Bolognaise

I cooked meals from Jamie Oliver's £1 Wonders and regretted it on day one (1)

The idea here is that you make a huge vat of bolognaise that gives you loads left over to freeze for lasagnes, shepherds pies and chilli. This is a great idea and something I always do when I make bolognaise normally.

It contains minced beef or pork, smoked bacon, three tins of lentils, four tins of tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery, carrots, balsamic vinegar and rosemary. It was simple enough to throw all the ingredients together but it required two-and-a-half hours to cook on the hob, which didn’t feel very energy efficient. Money experts suggest it costs around 20p an hour to run your gas hob so that was 50p gone.

My children normally love a spag bol but this was seriously bland. I think the lentils overpowered the flavour of the meat. Nobody finished their dinner and I now have eight portions in the freezer that are probably going to go in the bin.

Total cost £13.35 (for 12 portions so this worked out to around £1.10 a portion but would be less another time as I had left over balsamic and rosemary)

Added in: Chilli powder and Worcestershire sauce

Day two - Mexican Black Bean Burgers

It was Saturday night and I promised the kids a bit of a kitchen disco with burgers. They were excited. These burgers contained two tins of black beans, a red onion, a chilli, coriander, lime, rolled oats, salted peanuts, coriander, cumin and paprika and were served on burger buns with sliced avocado, salsa and rocket.

Unlike the bolognaise, the flavour of these burgers really packed a punch but the consistency was like mush. It was like eating a burger bun filled with an enormous dollop of seasoned hummus, fine for a couple of mouthfuls but not for the whole meal. Maybe I needed to cook them for longer than stated.

I also made some spicy potato wedges to go with them (not part of the recipe). And I was very glad I did as that was the only thing we ate.

Total cost £8.68 (making it more than £2 a head. It did leave me with oats, a few peanuts and some spices left over)

Added: Potato wedges

Day three - Scruffy Veg Lasagne

The kids were having friends over for tea and I could tell they were already cringing at the thought of what might end up on the table. I am not exactly sure how you make peas, leeks or broccoli ‘scruffy’ (?) but these veggies were layered with lasagne in a mustardy, cheese sauce topped with breadcrumbs.

Following our previous disasters, I added in a little cooked chicken to try to give it a bit more flavour. The children sat quietly as I placed it before them, toying it around their plates, eating most of it and politely declining seconds.

I filled them up with cake as a thank you for not making a fuss. There was, however, a portion leftover which I did enjoy for my lunch the next day.

Total cost £8.89 (making it more than £2 a head. It did leave me with flour, a few peas, some mustard, flour, lasagne and bread left over)

Added in: Chicken (and cake)

Day four - Cajun Chicken Tray Bake

Hooray. At last we had success! This proved to be a hit in my house.

Crispy chicken legs on a bed of Cajun-spiced rice mixed with red onions, peppers and garlic. I loved the way this could all be cooked in one pan so there was very little washing up and it tasted great.

It was also good that it could all be cooked in the oven rather than having to use the hob or the steamer as well. And it seemed good value for money too.

Total cost £5.98 (making it £1.25 a portion. I had some rice left over)

Nothing added

Day five - Mega Meatloaf

I’d never made meatloaf before. You combine minced pork with an egg, oregano, cheese and breadcrumbs then fry it in a pan, adding carrots, onion, garlic, chillies and two tins of tomatoes.

We had it on a bed of mashed potato. Whilst we all agreed it was fine, it still seemed to lack flavour and none of us wanted to eat it again. In fact, by this stage a turkey twizzler was looking pretty tempting.

Total cost £7.75 (making it just under £2 per portion with eggs and bread leftover)

Added in Worcestershire sauce

Day six - Spinach, sweet potato & chickpea curry

I cooked meals from Jamie Oliver's £1 Wonders and regretted it on day one (3)

Finally, I found a recipe that I really enjoyed cooking and eating. You cook the whole meal, including the rice, in the microwave. I doubled Jamie’s recipe as it was for just two people.

You start off by covering the rice in double the amount of water and cooking it on medium for 10 minutes. Then you leave that to steam as you add onion, ginger, garlic, tomato puree, curry powder, chilli and sweet potatoes to another bowl and cook them on high for 10 minutes before adding frozen spinach and a couple of tins of chickpeas and cooking for a further 10 minutes.

It smelt delicious as it cooked and, mixing in some natural yoghurt, it made for a really tasty, creamy curry, which we all enjoyed. According to the Citizens Advice Bureau calculator, it costs around 6.5p to run a microwave for 20 minutes compared to 20p for the same amount of time in the oven so this felt like a money-saving recipe all round.

Total cost £8.59 (making it over £2 a portion. I had some yoghurt, rice, spinach, sweet potato and spices leftover)

Nothing added

Day seven - Buddy’s Smoky Beans

This dish is made up of two tins of mixed beans with a couple of leeks, celery, red peppers, garlic, paprika, cumin, cherry tomatoes, brown sauce, passata and parsley. It was pretty simple to cook, you simply had to chop up the veg and throw it all into a pan.

But the finished dish was, yet again, bland. My eldest son decided to raid the cupboard this time, adding chilli powder and Worcestershire Sauce to his own dinner at the table.

It worked, so I did the same. From our previous experiences, I had also cooked some sausages, which I chopped up and added into the meal, and that made it much better. But these weren't factored into the cost.

Total cost: £8.22 (which is just over £2 per portion with only brown sauce and parsley leftover)

Added in sausages, chilli powder and Worcestershire sauce

Overall verdict

I was glad I had a couple of successes and we did have quite a lot of leftovers so I guess you could say each meal may have fed five rather than four but, then again, that could just have been because no-one really wanted to eat much. Note, that if you tot up my total costs for each meal, the overall bill comes to £61.46.

I have tried to split the cost of ingredients used in more than one dish, such as garlic, onions, carrots and spices, but it doesn't work out to exactly the £52 I spent. On the whole, I found the recipes far more expensive than planned and pretty disappointing. I won’t be trying them again.

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