Karbon customer, Elaine Arkley from County Durham, shares her tips for cooking on a budget and a favourite recipe to try with ingredients you’ll find in a foodbank parcel.
Hello! Tell us a little about yourself - I’m from a big family and food has always been a way to bring us all together – even when we’ve been on a budget. I have four adult children, two grandchildren and one due this month. I’ve been involved with foodbanks since they started 25 years ago and I’m passionate about the brilliant work they do. More people than ever now rely on their food parcel to get through the week.
When did your love of cooking begin? - I am the youngest of a family of eight and things were very tight at home when I was growing up. All the girls were taught by our Mam to cook and we took it in turns to make meals. No food was wasted and there weren’t many luxuries. Sunday was my favourite day of the week when we’d all be together for lunch. Later, Mam would put on a spread for tea and there would be a slice of cake or an apple pie. Delicious!
What do you most like to cook? - I worked whilst bringing my family up, so would cook when I came home. Meals were made from scratch because it was cheaper and it was easier to make traditional dinners like mince and dumplings. I couldn’t afford takeaways, but we would have pizza or taco nights with a video. My three daughters are vegan/vegetarian but my son definitely isn’t! We still tend to have Mexican food when we’re all together as it’s really easy to adapt. You can just put it all in the middle and everyone can choose what they want.
What have you picked to cook for us and why? - Tuna pasta bake because it uses items you’d find in a typical parcel from the foodbank. It can feed a family, or once cooked, can be portioned up for someone like me who lives alone. It can be eaten hot or cold and can easily be adapted for vegans/vegetarians by swapping the tuna for vegetables.
Try it yourself
- 250g dry pasta
- Tin of tuna
- Tin of sweetcorn
- Jar of tomato pasta sauce
- Grated cheese and crushed up crisps (optional)
- Serves 4
If you’re cooking for a family add a side of salad or vegetables to make it go further and garlic bread for a treat.
Top Tip - This recipe can be made in a slow cooker as an alternative to a conventional oven. Slow cookers use a lot less energy, and are a great alternative if you don’t have a cooker. You can make all kinds of stews, curries and casseroles that cost very little. And if all the family is home at different times, everyone can just dip in for dinner. One pot also means no washing up!
- Preheat your oven to gas mark 6, 200°C
- Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta for 10 minutes
- Drain and pour the pasta into an ovenproof dish
- Fork in the tuna - Tip: If you’re using tuna in spring water then add the water too as it’s full of lovely flavours. If it’s in brine or oil then drain it first
- Drain your tin of sweetcorn and add
- Pour in the pasta sauce
- Mix thoroughly
- Cook in the oven for 30 minutes - Tip: Sprinkle on some grated cheese and crushed up crisps ten minutes before the end for a lovely, crunchy topping.
Method 2 (slow cooker):
- Add the dry pasta, drained sweetcorn and tuna to the slow cooker, along with the pasta sauce
- Fill the empty jar with water and give it a shake to pick up any leftover sauce then add to the pot before giving it a good stir
- Cook on high for 3 hours. Or leave it on low all day and it will be ready for dinner! - Tip: Stir in some grated cheese half an hour before the end for lovely, melted creaminess.
We’re looking for more fabulous home cooks to feature on these pages! If the kitchen is your happy place, we’d love to hear from you.
Nothing brings people together better than food. We cover lots of different communities and we'd like to know the dishes that matter most to you. We’re interested in all styles of cooking, diets and dishes. Just drop us a line at email@example.com to get involved.
If you’re struggling with money, contact our Money Matters Team who can help put you in touch with a local foodbank. Call us on 0808 164 0111.