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 85.

    Why not adopt the Johnathan Swift approach and just have a 'poor person sandwich' - two slices of bread with a thinly sliced poor person or for the health concious why not try a low-fat version 'pensioner panini' - yes, folks all the goodness of a Gregg's sausage roll but only half the Kcal of a Ginster's pastie ... courtesy of the people who thought the Irish could live on potatoes and cholera

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    And they say the English don't understand high cuisine......Chirac would eat his words! But probably not this sandwich ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Headline reads "Toast sandwich is UK's 'cheapest meal'". Now there's no getting away from the fact that this is simply not a meal... I've never eaten three pieces of bread before in my life and thought afterwards "This has filled me up for the next five hours!" It's just not a meal.
    Also, as I am studying Chemistry at Uni currently, I'm concerned that the RSC haven't got better things to do...

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I would suggest a fried bread sandwich, would be cheaper to make and has a saving on waste oil, fat/dripping disposal all of which would remove the need for butter, the final taste would also be better, especially the dripping one, bread can be purchased at 65p a loaf 20 slices, but that's still 3.25p per slice so 9.75p in bread alone, but if using their brand then my sandwich would be cheaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Thanks for this BBC, really. It's invaluable that in a time of hardship for so many that the old Beeb is here to keep our spirits up.

    Need to save money? No problem! Just take three slices of bread, toast one, and you're done! A whole meal! Winner!

    **** off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I think i may win the money, as a kid I made cream cracker sandwiches...and flavoured mustard!

    Can someone cost that out?! :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    For a very small additional cost the toast can be replaced with fried bread cooked in lard. This significantly increases the calorific value and if you add a splash of ketchup then you have a perfect meal. Delicious!

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    The following extract from George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" provides a useful tip in this context:
    "Two bad days followed. We had only sixty centimes left, and we spent it on half a pound of bread, with a piece of garlic to rub it with. The point of rubbing garlic on bread is that the taste lingers and gives one the illusion of having fed recently…"

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    I prefer a baked bean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Has no one ever heard of Asda? With 7p bags of Pasta...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Which shop did this come from?

    Asda Smartprice medium sliced white loaf: 47p
    23 slices = 6.4p per 3 slices.
    Margarine £1 (500g): 1.45p/slice x 2 = 2.9p (based on 3 loafs of bread per tub).
    So that's 9.3 pence, not 7.5p. Then you have to factor in the cost of electricity to power the toaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    "I've not seen a loaf of bread for less than a pound for ages now."

    Where do you shop, Harrods?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The slice of toast in the middle is clearly a wild extravagance - the same effect can be achieved by toasting two slices of bread in sandwich formation then buttering the outer toast sides lightly and reversing them so the toast side is on the inside of the slice dyad. I believe the RSC now owes me £200 - lets see if they back up their excessively bold public tender . . .

  • 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 71.

    You could alternatively have two pieces of bread (basics is about 2.1p a slice) and a very large dollop of basics mixed fruit jam which is 29p for a 450g jar (ie 1p per 15g!) from a famous supermarket beginning with "S", again likely to be far better for you, even if just from a vitamin C perspective (the jam 31% apple by weight).

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Wouldn't the supermarkets be better off giving away the stuff they throw out? it would get people into their stores and so it wouldn't be people just there for the freebies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    What about :-
    Open Toast sandwich : even cheaper. 1 slice bread, 1 toast.
    Curried Bean soup : 1 pint hot water 1 baked bean, 1 tsp curry
    Bovril soup, : 1 pint hot water, 1 tsp bovril, 1 slice Bread.
    Low Cal Bovril Soup: 1 pint hot water

    Seriously, when I was a student. Half can "stripy" baked beans on 1 slice toast or Cup a soup and toast was lunch. Had to save money for beer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Sorry but how is 330 calories a meal??? surely if it counted as a meal, 3 would make your daily allowance of calories. 3 X 330 = 990, a long way off. not a meal, a snack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    The world is in a financial mess, wars are on going, yet some scientists have spent money to find out that a toast sandwich is cheap, priceless

  • 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 :-)


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