Can you come up with a cheaper meal than a toast sandwich? The Royal Society of Chemists has been offering a £200 prize to the first person to create a cheaper meal than Victorian food writer Mrs Beeton.
She designed a frugal feast of toasted bread between two slices of buttered bread as a cheap and cheerful meal, with extra helpings of cheap.
I wasn't so much staggered by the sandwich as by the way the media reported it. Although it was jokey news story, there was an undercurrent of seriousness. Austerity means that people are looking for cheaper meals.
With that in mind, I've reviewed five dishes that cost less than 50p. Here's what I found…
The toast sandwich — 7.5p a serving
You take one piece of toast, add salt and pepper to taste, and place between two slices of buttered bread. And that's it.
Made with butter, it contains around 330 calories, although I made it with low-fat margarine instead.
Believe it or not, this actually tasted pretty good (If you don't believe me, go and try it — it will cost you less than 10p, after all). But man cannot live on bread alone — and that's all there was to this "meal". I don't think I'd feel particularly satisfied after eating three slices of bread.
Mini pizza — 44p a serving
This petite pizza takes just eight minutes in the oven to cook. It contains 273 calories and is quite healthy for a pizza — low in both salt and sugar.
At 44p, my hopes weren't that high, but this was actually pretty tasty. There was even enough cheese for the base, which is often not the case with more expensive pizzas.
But if I was going to eat this as a meal, I'd need to pad it out with some salad at least. Like the toast sandwich, it didn't feel like a whole meal and it had no healthy greens.
Tinned spaghetti bolognaise — 49p a serving
Out of the can, onto the hob and it's ready to serve.
Rather worryingly, the can claims to contain two servings, which would technically make it 24.5p a serving. However, it simply didn't look like it would stretch to two meals. One can contains 252 calories and 2.6g of salt.
I'm vegetarian, so I asked my husband to taste test this one. He said it was essentially tinned spaghetti but with onions and herbs. It tasted alright but was very runny.
Tinned chicken and vegetable mild curry — 48p a serving
Once again, out of the can and onto the hob. This curry contains 206 calories and 5.8g of salt.
To my taster's surprise, this was quite rich in flavour and had large chunks of vegetables. He said this would be a good lunch, especially if you were in a hurry but wanted a hot meal.
Tinned macaroni cheese — 48p a serving
Again: open it, heat it, and you're ready to eat it. It contains 290 calories and 3.4g of salt.
The other meals have all been fairly tasty, even if they haven't been amazingly healthy, but this simply wasn't. Mac cheese is so simple that I expected this to be good to eat even if it wasn't very nutritious. Instead, it was horrible — watery and unpleasant.
Given how easy macaroni cheese is to make, I can't help but feel that you're better off spending a few pence more and making it yourself.
Chicken and mushroom dried noodles — 35p a serving
Boiling water and four minutes of your time are all that's needed to 'cook' this pot of noodles. It has just 140 calories and very low salt levels, but also 2.6g of saturated fats.
This product contains 0.4% of 'powdered' chicken, so my husband had to step up again. After a thoughtful chew, he said it had a "subtle flavour... very subtle". So subtle in fact that he had to drown it in soy sauce to give it some taste.
It was very quick to prepare, but most people will need more calories than that to get them through an afternoon at work.
Are any of these actually meals?
The trouble is that pretty much every dish here, including Mrs B's toast sandwich, felt more like a snack than a proper meal.
I asked my husband which of these options he would like for supper and he wasn't keen. However, apart from the mac cheese, he said he'd eat any of them as a quick, cheap, light lunch. If you're currently spending £3 a day on a sandwich then that means you could save more than £12.50 a week eating for less than 50p.
But as the main meal of the day, none of these really worked. To be fair to ASDA, none of these dishes are marketed as complete meals but they are as filling as the toast sandwich.
However, I can't help but think that entirely subsiding on toast sandwiches or any other super-cheap servings won't do your health any good in the long term.
A frugal foodie will be better off cooking healthy meals from fresh ingredients and sharing the cost with friends or freezing individual portions.
[See also: Is junk food cheaper]
Felicity is Yahoo! Finance's money-saving columnist. If you have a money-saving scheme you'd like to see tried out then let us know in the comment box below.