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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  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Cheaper alternatives:
    1. The open-face toast sandwhich...omit the top piece of bread.
    2. The virtual toast sandwich...omit the toast!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    2 slices bread and brown or tomato ketchup cheap and yummy

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Surely if cost is the issue, cut out the slice in the middle and either have two slices of toast, or a butter sandwich. 3 slices is the luxury.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    WOW, the BBC is allowing my opinion to be aired. Unfortunately I dont want to talk about toast sandwhiches. I want to talk about Syria, The Net Privacy bil. US Marines in Australia, Wall St etc etc.l etc etc.
    Toast Sandwhiches? For real.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

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

    Quick internet search, I can get a 10kg bag of rice for £15.00
    Further reasearch reveals that 20g (dried weight) rice is a 1 person portion.

    Therefore I calculate that a meal of rice for one person can be prepared for a price only 3p.

    Where's my £200?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I'm Romanian and in Romania we have a joke mocking the poor's man meal. It's bread sandwich. But the Brits actually took it serious and invented that? I mean I knew they have poor taste in food but seriously guys...

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Articles like this on the BBC

    Are we getting prepared for something ?

    I would say a stall on any hight street in the uk selling toast and a cup of tea for 50p would be packed out !
    even the posh places ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Since when does three slices of bread constitute a "meal"? Wlkipedia describes a meal as "different from a snack in that meals are larger, more varied, and more filling" Your "meal is distinctly unhealthy and there is no mention of fuit or vegetables. Is your correspondent a master baker?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Might have cost 7.5d in Mrs Beeton's day, but clearly the RSC chef has not done his own shopping for a while. A typical 20 slice (I just counted them) loaf costs £1, often more. and 250g butter costs the same. So that is 19p in ingredients. Add on the cost of electricity, which you have to look up to get today's price, and you could safely offer the £200 even for achieving the 7.5p toast-wich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    SAPS - Milk, bread and sugar all mixed together and eaten like soup.

    Breaded Egg - One soft boiled egg, two slices of bread with salt & pepper. Chop the bread and mix the egg in with the bread. Season to taste

    Both of these were regulars in our house in the 50s/60s when there wasn't much money around.

  • 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 33.

    a bread sandwich... slightly more nutritious - less electric...
    send the £200 to Oxfam pls...

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    If the BBC has time to come up with articles like this it should have the time to allow us to comment on all serious articles.

    I wonder who chooses what we are allowed to comment on ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    ...or add dead mouse for extra all round goodness. For free?!!

  • 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 29.

    Can i just point out that "marge" is not sold in this country anymore as it's against the law. You're mistaking it for buttermilk which is similar but not "marge" It was mentioned on QI a good few years ago now and is reg seen on that digital station with a blokes name.

  • 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?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    So what exactly constitutes as a 'meal'? It's such an ambiguous definition (and I'm sure that the fine chaps at the RSC have thought of one) that completely defeats the point of the challenge in the first place.

    At least we can sit back and admire the stone-faced approach to this article. Such candour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    This meal also comes with a complimentary 'nap' when you faint mid-afternoon due to malnourishment. Should it carry a "do not drive or use heavy machinery" caveat? Slow day on the newsdesk BBC? Next article is how to turn unwanted junk mail and used envelopes in to a delicious meal for two. Not a good article BBC.


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