/ Food & Drink

Can you bake a Great British Bake Off showstopper on a budget?


We’re coming up to autumn – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, of hearty stews and warming pies. And the return of The Great British Bake Off.

Guest Penny Campbell from Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week shares her tips for baking  on a budget.

There’s no denying it: Bake Off has rekindled the nation’s love of baking.

So what if we can’t produce showstoppers like Candice or Nadiya? Making homemade treats for your children is invaluable, and nothing beats getting them to pitch in and passing on those top-secret family recipes you were taught by your mother or grandmother.

Preprepared vs homemade

Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week started off as group on Facebook with the aim of helping reeducate people who rely on preprepared goods, packets and jars to feed their families. We post recipes, tips and advice, and in just over a year, we’ve built up a following of over 500,000 members.

We know it can be tempting to buy preprepared packets and jars when you don’t have all the ingredients in your cupboards – especially when you only need to add water to cupcake mixtures or pancake batter to make sweet treats for your family.

And while you may look at the cost of individual items and think it’s cheaper to buy preprepared, once you’ve divided the cost of that bag of flour or sugar by how many recipes you can make, it really isn’t.

Shopping around for the essentials and gradually building up a staple of herbs, spices, dried fruits, etc, makes a huge difference. Often these ingredients last well past their listed use-by date and are worth snapping up when they’re reduced. (Herbs are ideal for freezing in an ice cube tray, too.)

Concocting the masterpieces seen on Bake Off to the finest icing detail can be expensive, and it can be hard to source those pretty edible flowers or gold-leaf decorations. But, there are often cheaper alternatives available and plenty of tricks to make your baking go that little bit further, too.

Cost cutting

What if you’ve let your creative juices take over and the cake you’ve made is going dry? Simple: you can easily make it into a delicious trifle, or dip it in beaten egg and fry in butter for a unique French toast.

Alternatively, cut a hole in the leftover cake, top with a scoop of ice cream and spread on some jam, top with a meringue and use a blow torch to brown it. This takes no time, looks elegant and costs pennies to make.

Struggling with leftover yolks from making the meringue? Turn them into a tasty lemon curd.

If you’re pushed for time, a slow cooker or pressure cooker can be your best friend and means you can make your family good, nutritious, home-cooked meals while you’re busy doing something else. You can even make cakes in a slow cooker – try out our delicious chocolate lava cake recipe for size.

Make meals in bulk and use your freezer well; you’ll find a renewed love of cooking and your purse will love the savings.

For more hints and tips, see the Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week website.

This is a guest post by Penny Campbell, administrator for Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week. All views expressed here at Penny’s and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.

Do you have any savvy money-saving baking or cooking tips?


As I’m not really a baker, I tend to buy cakes rather than make them myself. Does anyone else do this?

All the time! My lack of baking skills are legendary. My showstoppers are ban pie (banoffee without the offee) and tarmac tart (jam tart set so hard you could drive a car over it).

On another note, my nan had a friend who would send mince pies at Christmas as gifts. They were clearly shop-bought but had had the edges cut off and a sprinkling of icing sugar dusted over them to make them appear as if she’d baked them herself. You couldn’t make it up.

Don’t really eat cakes. And I’m still wincing at “preprepared”, which isn’t even a word. 🙂

Ha ha. Preprepared is a word – I looked it up, but agree it does look odd. I’ve never liked ‘newest’. Perhaps we should have a convo on words we don’t like. 🙂

It doesn’t exist in the OED, Mel. It can be created by adding a hyphen between the first and second pres, but it doesn’t exist as is.

But ‘prepared’ means to make ready before. So it’s hard to see how an extra ‘pre’ can add anything, really. Bit like unique. I shudder when folk talk about ‘very unique’, and groan when folk talk about disinteresting as boring. Being a pedant is sometimes a lonely life… 🙂

The first “pre” is unnecessary – it is prepared already. If you want to use another pre, for some reason. I’d suggest “pre-prepared”. And shouldn’t it be “re educate”?

I don’t like “got” and I wonder why we use there’s and we’re when “there is” and “we are” take up little more effort? I also do not like the newish fad for adding an overlong pause between the announcement of a decision and the result. Could of, nucular, I could go on…and on…..

You did ask and I am not normally a pedant 🙂

Malcolm I assume it means previously prepared and ready to eat 🙂 Now there’s food for thought (Ooops!)

I’d like to see how you feed a family for £20 a week. Can’t find it on the website. That’s 24p a meal. Just curious.

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Cake is a special treat for me at the moment as I have almost reached my goal of losing 14lbs in the last 5 months. I do allow myself the occasional treat with a coffee or tea when out but never at home because the temptation to devour more than one biscuit or cake is too great.

I used to cook a lot when all 4 children were at home but nothing too fancy. The old favourite Victoria sandwich filled with butter cream and jam and my mothers recipe of boiled fruit cake which was quick and easy to make and finished off in the oven. Sunday roast, lamb or beef which was eaten cold on Monday with oven baked jacket potatoes. Sausage and mash and baked beans on Tuesday. Cheese pie and carrots (a particular favourite) on Wednesday, Spagetti bolognese on Thursday, Fish fingers on Friday and Cottage pie or hot pot on Saturday. Pizza, curry and Chinese takeaways were something people ate when on holiday if you could afford one. Main meals were always followed by pudding, home made apple pie or steamed treacle pudding with custard on Sunday, the rest of the week either oven baked rice pudding, Angel Delight, stewed fruit or banana custard.

Now it’s whatever I fancy from the freezer, baked in the combi oven, never grilled, with lots of vegetables 🙂 I try to limit ready meals to 2 a week for when I have had a really tiring and busy day in the garden or in the house. Low fat Greek yoghurt with fruit or cheese and crackers and fresh fruit for pudding, lovely 🙂

I never managed £20 a week, more like £50 to feed a family of 6, but that was a long time ago. I dread to think how much it would cost today but with both parents now having to work to make ends meet and pre-prepared meals so ready available £20 pounds does seem a little unrealistic.

I enjoy baking cakes and biscuits. My tip is to test out new recipes once or twice before inflicting the results on anyone else.

As a child I took little interest in learning to cook until when starting the sixth form, the sports teacher, having noticed my reluctance to engage with PE and sports, said that if I did not want to play sport I would have to do cooking instead. I said that I would be delighted to and so did a friend in the same class. The two of us taught ourselves to cook and were able to get on with it without supervision. Very happy days.

Well I think you are really missing out if you can’t bake anything yourself. Eating that cake or pie is only a small part of the enjoyment. A shop-bought cake is too uniformly cooked and doesn’t have the lovely brown edge which we fight over. You also miss out on the lovely smell of a cake cooking – and/or the dubious pleasure of scraping the bowl and licking the spatula.

I prefer savoury food though and think that more people would actually enjoy making their own soup if they were given the chance. It’s so easy and so much nicer than the tinned or packet variety. I’d expect to get three meals out of a roast chicken and that would include using the stock made in a slow cooker from the carcase. (I used to be forever boiling dry the stock when I just used a pan.) Home made stock is so much nicer than stock cubes which are generally so very salty.

I enjoy the smell of cakes and bread baking – only surpassed by the smell of proper coffee. When baking biscuits there are always some seconds that are not quite good enough to offer to anyone else, but they can still be enjoyed by the cook. 🙂

Soup is very easy to make and freeze and mine has less salt than the commercial variety.

For anyone who may have been inspired by this series of GBBO before you get your apron on have a look at our latest mixer news: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/10/move-over-kenwood-and-kitchenaid-aldi-launches-premium-stand-mixer-for-150/

I was disappointed to discover that Which? no longer reviews stick blenders.

I would like a new mixer to take the hard work out of bread making.

GBBO seem to have removed the brand names from their mixers although they look rather like KitchenAids.

I already have an old food processor, but it doesn’t knead bread, so if I do get a new one, it must be robust enough to the job. Both first looks by Which? at the Aldi machines mention cheap quality so perhaps not for me.


I suspect that neither is very good value for money, albeit for quite different reasons.

Worth looking at Which? mixer reviews. I suspect like many chaep motorised products the Aldi may well do a decent job, but not last as long as more expensive products. But if you just have an occasional use for it it may be good value.

What disappoints me about Which? reviews is they do not usually give any indication as to durability . That would be a key requirement of mine in deciding whether to spend more on something that should be more robust, better built, with decent components. Knowledge of components is needed of course, and what to look for and how – taking a product to pieces after it has gone through its testing should tell a knowledgeable examiner a lot about its build quality. Do Which? have the kind of people in the test labs they use who can do this?

As a matter of public education it would be useful as malcolm says to do breakdowns of these competing machines and discuss the very real differences between plastics in terms of cost , weight, and correct usage. Types of motor and of bearings are all things of which most of us give no thought but are important if you want something to last decades. Our Kenwood is into its third decade and has had plenty of use.

There seems to be a vibe that what is cheap is Okay because if it breaks we can replace it. I would suggest that with a sluggish economy that people may not have the money for replacing items often.

As Which? contracts its’ testing out it has no capability to do this knockdown of machines – and one wonders if any testing laboratory would be keen to do the work.

Perhaps we should get people to put their experiences of this and other mixers in the Member Community forum so subscribers long term action testing can be recorded. I have various new machines which are revealing aspects that the Which? contracted testing does not cover. And of course items Which? has never covered like the A4 and A3 ereaders so useful for those with poor eyesight.

Hi Alfa – our first look review says “We tried out a variety of baking tasks, and thought it did a fair job of mixing cake batter, kneading bread dough and whipping cream and buttercream.” I would be hopeful that this would suit your kneads 😉 but it all depends on how much bread you make.

malcolm, that’s a very good question. I will have to do a bit of research into that to see what tests we do to check durability. A good indicator is the member reviews below which tell you how they reacted in the home, and often people discuss the durability. I’ll look into this further for you though.

@awhittle,, thanks Alex. The problem that has often been pointed out with online reviews is they are often comments on the product when new, rather than after they’ve used it for enough time to assess its real qualities. I wonder if Which? do dismantle products; that would be the best short term way of assessing real quality (or not!). At the same time I would hope they would do endurance tests – so run mixers, for exampl,e repeatedly for an extended period doing the usual tasks to simulate longer-term use.

Yes it will interesting to know. Once I hear I will get back to you.

Patrick I have also passed on your questions as well, so I should hopefully get an answer for you both soon. 🙂

Patrick – I agree that appropriate use of plastics is very important. Some deteriorate with age and others can be damaged by minor abuse. For example, I recently read of a Kitchen Aid appliance where a worm wheel had been broken when frozen butter was put in the machine. With machines that are used intermittently bearings will usually outlast the machines providing that water does not get in. Kitchen appliances should be designed to make them resistant to water and other liquids, but usually this is not done.

Inspection of the how machines are built will show up basic things like poorly engineered products but spotting possible problems with electronic circuitry is difficult.

Hi wavechange,

I have have just read your link to Spot the difference between KitchenAid and Aldi mixers

The comments are amusing…
Easy to tell the difference, DM helpfully photographed the names on the side of the machines…

They are both good for mixing tile grouting, money well spent don’t you know.

I will bet that one will weigh about as much as the carton the other one came in…

I seem to keep ending up with Sage products. I don’t go shopping with the intention of buying them but they do seem to be what I am looking for.

Sage do mixers……….

Yes, there are many gems among product reviews. Sometimes the humour is unintentional, which is an added bonus.

The problem with buying anything that is endorsed by a celebrity is that it is likely to be expensive, irrespective of quality.

I like to think I am not swayed by celebrities who are very unlikely to use their endorsed products anyway and think of Sage as rebranded Breville Australia products. I never call them Sage by HB. Thankfully they are only branded Sage.

Are they more expensive? I don’t know, but they are not cheap. But then a lot of other branded products are not cheap either. I investigate what is on offer on the internet, go to probably John Lewis and inspect what they have, make a note of the ones I am interested in, come home and investigate them further on the internet, then probably order from John Lewis and pick up from my local Waitrose.

I’m thinking about it from the value for money point of view. I’d be interested to know what celebrity endorsement adds to cost.

I would like to know whether any of these faded celebrities (presumably they need the money) have actually and willingly bought the products concerned. Otherwise it seems like fraud. Whenever Parkinson comes on to drone on about 0ver 50s Life Cover we have to turn the sound off. The ASA’s “truthful” requirement could be implemented perhaps?

Be guided by how long the celebrities say they have been using the product/service they are promoting. If not stated, assume that the endorsement is worthless. Recently I heard of a case of a celebrity who did not remember doing a promotion. Can anyone remember who, and what they had endorsed?

Celebrities ? Who are they ? Quite often nobodies given celebratory status by the Media The Media can make or break anyone at any time

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Morning all, sorry for my late response, I’ve been away for the last few days but I have had a response from our researchers about how we review home products, such as blenders. In terms of durability, at the moment we don’t test this, except with a handful of products where durability has been highlighted as being an issue. However, in order to test the durability of the other products (where an issue hasn’t been previously highlighted) we do undertake large scale reliability surveys for both large and small domestic appliances.

Unfortunately we aren’t able to take the products apart to test/review the various pieces of the products. We test it as a whole. I hope this gives you a good idea of our testing process but if there’s anything I’ve missed please let me know and I will go back to them and ask further for you.

“Unfortunately we aren’t able to take the products apart to test/review the various pieces of the products
@awhittle, Alex, welcome back. Hope it was a holiday and you enjoyed it.

If this is Which?’s official response to durability, then I am very concerned. Anyone can take products apart if they choose to, and knowledgeable people should be able to make a reasonable assessment of the quality of design, build, components that they discover. Likely durability, repairability and such matters of concern to prudent consumers can then be commented on. It might be necessary to find the right people, to build up some data and expertise, but in my view is an essential part of rating a product.

Relying solely on consumer feed back is insufficient, and too late of course; by the time they found their product has a durability problem, too many others will have bought it based on a superficial test result.

If we take product durability seriously – and I think we should – then I hope Which? will take a more in-depth approach to its product testing and assessment.

Product models can change so frequently, customer feedback isn’t always of much use.

I tend to treat companies that do this with caution as good durable products are likely to be around the longest.