Personal and Other

A Cheap, Easy Meal for Lockdown Times

When I started this blog, I pondered whether I should make it about writing, history, or myself. A global pandemic was as far from my mind as it could possibly be.

Yet here we are.

Now I’ve done a lot of cooking in my life – most of it on a tight budget. I was sitting at dinner with my sister tonight and we were marvelling over our food. How could a meal be so tasty, so quick, and so cheap?

And I realised I should probably share it. These are dark times, and many people are struggling for money. So this extra, unscheduled post is not about fantasy or history, or writing at all: it’s about tomato pasta. [Caveat: some of these ingredients may have been hard to find a week or two ago, but the shelves have been restocked and it shouldn’t be any trouble now.]

Tomato Pasta

Serves 2


  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil,
  • 4 handfuls of pasta (I didn’t say this was going to be scientific),
  • Squirt of tomato puree [optional],
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes,
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped,
  • 1tsp ground basil,
  • 0.5tsp sugar [optional],
  • Grated cheese [optional],


  1. Bring pasta to boil in a pot and let cook (usually takes 10 minutes),
  2. Add oil to frying pan and then garlic cloves once hot. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and puree and stir together. Cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Drain pasta. Add basil and sugar to sauce and stir.
  5. Plate up and grate cheese on.

There you go! Couple of other things: consider having some part-baked bread or pitta with it to bulk up the calories. The extra oil and the cheese are also there to give it more substance, so you aren’t hungry when you go to bed.

In the UK, a tin of chopped tomatoes is usually 35p. A garlic bulb is 30p. Pasta you can find for less than £1. A tube of tomato puree is around 40p. Sugar, basil, cheese and oil will all vary greatly in price depending on which supermarket you get them from but they shouldn’t cost much more than £6 all together. And once you’ve got them, you can make oodles of this stuff and only have to worry about buying a new tin of tomatoes every time. I imagine the cost per meal is less than £1 if you make it over and over again, but I haven’t actually worked it out.

There you go. Give it a try, it’s nice, healthy, takes ten minutes, and doesn’t cost very much.

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