Toast sandwich is UK's 'cheapest meal'

Toast sandwich The meal was recreated by a chef at the RSC on Wednesday.

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Britain's 'cheapest' lunchtime meal was unveiled by scientists on Wednesday - the toast sandwich.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is reviving the mid-Victorian dish, which, unsurprisingly, consists of two slices of bread around a slice of toast.

The society is so confident in the repast, it will offer £200 to anyone who can create a cheaper alternative.

The meal, costing 7.5 pence, was first promoted by Victorian food writer Mrs Beeton.

It is taken from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management which became a best-seller after its appearance 150 years ago next month.

To celebrate that anniversary, the RSC decided to focus on meals that reflected "stern days" to come in Britain, rather than one of the book's many "table-groaning creations".

The meal was recreated by a chef at the RSC on Wednesday and offered to people outside their London offices.

The RSC's Dr John Emsley said: "You simply put a piece of dry toast between two slices of bread and butter, with salt and pepper to taste. I've tried it and it's surprisingly nice to eat and quite filling.

"I would emphasise that toast sandwiches are also good at saving you calories as well as money, provided you only have one toast sandwich for lunch and nothing else."

The toast sandwich provides about 330 calories, and consumers could opt for the healthier alternative of margarine instead of butter - an ingredient not available to Mrs Beeton because she was writing her book before it was invented.

"Of course, when we finally emerge from these dark days we will seek something more celebratory from Mrs Beeton's pantheon of rich recipes to welcome back the good times," Dr Emsley added.

Mrs Beeton's toast sandwich

Toast sandwich being prepared
  • Toast a thin slice of bread
  • Butter two slices of bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste
  • Place the toast between the two slices of bread-and-butter to form a sandwich

RSC employee Jon Edwards said: "In my student days I thought a meal of '9p noodles' from Tesco was the epitome of thrift - but a toast sandwich is tastier, quicker, has more calories and comes in at just 7.5p."

Mr Edwards added that the 21st Century version of the toast sandwich is healthier than the one from Mrs Beeton's era because of the vitamins and minerals - such as calcium - that are added to bread today.

British Dietetic Association spokeswoman Melissa Little said there were ways to make the toast sandwich much better for not that much more money.

Ms Little said: "You can add an egg for 8p, it's not much and it would give you some protein and keep you fuller for longer - and it would make it taste much better.

"Half a can of sardines for 19p would provide good fats, you would get some fish, and again make you feel fuller for longer.

"Even adding some vegetables, such as cucumbers or carrots - would give you some more nutrients."

She suggested the exercise did highlight that people are struggling to pay for grocery bills and looking for alternatives.

The more people talk about making healthy meals for less money, the better informed people would be, she said.

The first instalment of of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management was published in 1861. It sold over 60,000 copies in its first year of publication and nearly two million by 1868.

As well as recipes the book contained advice on household management, childcare, etiquette, entertaining and the employment of servants.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Well I just tried this and it was the most boring, tasteless sandwich i've ever eaten! And i'd like to know where you can buy bread so cheap. I think i'll stick to my favourite, cheese on toast :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    When I've been watching the pennies, I've found that porridge made with water and a pinch of salt is about as inexpensive as it comes. Did a bit of research on the way home and 50g dry oats is about 5p (from a 1kg bag), and the salt wouldn't even be 0.5p. Not to everyone's taste, probably, but it's filling. And in season I liven it up with free hedgerow fruit :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Grow the grain yourself and grind it into flour, save that 7.5p. Incidentally I've not seen a loaf of bread for less than a pound for ages now.

    Could I have a slightly more luxurious version, two slices of buttered toast with a piece of bread in between?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Such extravagance! Stop all this toasting and save energy, and while you're at it, cut out the butter, salt and pepper which is just going too far in the flavour department.
    Really, instead of just bread try economy pasta with a smidgin of sauce or garlic oil will give you a much more appetising meal for about the same cost; put the boiling water in a hot water bottle & turn of the heating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Regarding the comment regarding sugar sandwiches, I remember going to school and finding brown sauce sandwiches in my lunch. 2 buttered slices of bread with brown sauce spread thinly on one side.Wouldn't that be even cheaper?


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