Fill up the family for PS20 a week; IF YOU'RE ON A BUDGET, WITH MOUTHS TO FEED, LORNA COOPER HAS YOU COVERED, WRITES ELLA WALKER.
FIVE years ago, Paisleyborn Lorna Cooper set up a Facebook page to help people get dinner on the table more easily, healthily and - most importantly - cheaply.
She recalls how at the start, "we had people commenting and messaging us saying, 'We've got PS3.75 to last us until Thursday, what can we do?' Or people saying, 'I'm on maternity leave so I've only got PS15 to buy the next four days' worth of food'." Half a decade on, she says, "that's been consistent".
Food poverty is being increasingly (and quite rightly) talked about more than ever before, and in terms of how many people are affected, Lorna says, "one person is way too many, isn't it?" The 43-year-old, started the FYF (Feed Your Family) community after a back injury left her off work sick for almost a year. As a mum of three and stepmother of two, her family's PS100-a-week food bill had become pretty much unsustainable.
"I started to look at the budget to see where I could cut costs," she remembers, and began scrapping expensive jarred sauces, cooking from scratch rather than just heating stuff up, and soon found herself sharing tips online with other people in a similar position.
Her Facebook page (facebook.
com/fyf20quid) now has more than half a million followers - and a new cookbook, Feed Your Family For PS20 A Week.
But it's not just about handing someone a PS20 note and pushing them into a supermarket, saying: 'Here you go'. Instead, Lorna is pragmatic, providing an eight-week, PS160 meal-plan (to feed four people), and employing batch-cooking, buying in bulk and using up leftovers in ways that turn basic actions into tools of total ingenuity.
The ethos behind the food - which she says is "not fancy; it's healthy, it's filling" - takes you back to "what your granny or your great-granny would've cooked, from scratch. They wouldn't have thrown out leftovers, they would've gone in the next meal."
Lorna says these are skills a lot of people just haven't had the opportunity to learn.
"That's one of the reasons I started the Facebook page. I didn't get taught it. I lost my mum when I was only 11 and I didn't know how to cook. I hadn't been taught budgeting.
"Home economics at school for us was making a mandarin cheesecake and learning to sew a cushion - not exactly the most helpful," she says.
These days, Lorna is well clued up. "It's become a challenge and I really enjoy it," she says, describing how she'll spot a recipe or dish and think, 'Oh, I could make that', before going home and whipping up a significantly cheaper, veg-heavy version."
So how can you stretch PS20 into a full week of meals? To start with, for Lorna doing a big shop involves more than one supermarket. "There's a lot of shopping about, to see where's got the best bargains."
When you get home, it's about being savvy with your time and your freezer ("What I mean when I say 'batch-cooking' is it doesn't take any more time to make two lasagnes than it does to make one").
Despite the trend for veganism, Lorna's approach to organic and free-range produce is just as pragmatic.
"When we didn't have a lot of money, my main thing was getting food into the kids to make sure they were fed," she says.
"If you can afford to, if you want to, you can use more organic and free-range things, but the core of the book at the moment, it's to keep the costs as low as possible."
That said, eating more affordably often has its own ethical and sustainable plusses, she points out - it focuses on minimising waste, going big on veggies and pulses (which are naturally cheaper), and by default, using less meat.
"Maybe the average family would use 500g mince to make a lasagne," explains Lorna. "We only use 200g."
There is one item she won't scrimp on though - butter. She says: "I'll always buy real butter, always have done. I won't use margarine. It's only one ingredient away from plastic!" | Feed Your Family For PS20 A Week by Lorna Cooper, photography by Andrew Hayes-Watkins, is published by Seven Dials, priced PS16.99.
's That a wrapLOADED BREAKFAST BURRITOS "THESE make a great hot breakfast with minimal fuss in the morning," says Lorna.
"They definitely taste like they cost a whole lot more than they do! I often make these at the weekend and then wrap and freeze for a quick and easy hot breakfast midweek."
INGREDIENTS (Serves 12) Oil, for frying 2 sausages, removed from their skins 1 onion, diced 1/2 pepper, diced 1 tomato, diced 6 eggs 50ml milk 50g cheese, grated Parsley, chopped 2 cooked potatoes or 1/2 tin, diced 12 wraps METHOD: 1. Pour a little oil into a frying pan and add the sausages, breaking them up with a wooden spoon (as you would if you were browning mince).
2. Add the diced onion and cook for five minutes. 3. Add the pepper and tomato and cook for a further five minutes. 4. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and add the milk. Add this to the sausages and veg, and cook like you would scrambled eggs until the egg has cooked through.
5. Remove from the heat and add the grated cheese and parsley. Stir through the potatoes. 6. Spoon the mixture onto 12 wraps and then either roll or fold them up, ready to eat.
frying game tuna fishcakes and spicy salmon fishcakes "FISHCAKES are a great way to get those healthy omegas into your diet, so I've given two different recipes below," Lorna explains.
"Cold mashed potato works best, but you can make it fresh too.
"These go well with a simple mint or carrot salad."
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4) For the tuna fishcakes: 4 spring onions, sliced 1 garlic clove, crushed 20g butter 800g cooked potato, mashed 100g frozen sweetcorn, thawed 1tsp parsley 2 x 110g tins of tuna, drained Salt and pepper, to season For the salmon fishcakes: 4 spring onions, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, crushed Cooking oil, for frying 500g cooked potato, mashed 1tbsp chilli flakes 1 x 210g tin of salmon, drained Zest of half a lemon Salt and pepper, to season For the prep: 2tbsp plain flour 1 egg, beaten METHOD: 1. Gently fry your spring onions and garlic in oil/ butter for two minutes over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and place in a large bowl, leaving to cool slightly. 2. Once cool, add the rest of the fishcake ingredients. Mix well using your hands, then shape into patties. You'll do this process separately for both the tuna fishcakes and the salmon fishcakes. 3. Next, set up your 'fishcake prep line': three bowls, one with flour, the next with egg and cold water and the third with breadcrumbs. 4. Coat the fishcake in plain flour, then dip in the egg. Finally, coat in breadcrumbs. 5. Repeat with the other fishcakes, then chill in the fridge until you're ready to cook.
6. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and shallow-fry the fishcakes for four to five minutes per side, until golden brown.
7. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with simple mint or carrot salad.
it take w Slo SLOW COOKER CHOCOLATE CAKE "I KNOW you're looking at this and thinking, chocolate cake? In a slow cooker?! It's a very different cake from most and to be perfectly honest I have no idea why it works, I just know that it does," says Lorna.
"Give it a go - but I mean it when I say below, don't stir it!" 2tsp vanilla essence For the topping: 100g caster sugar 100g soft brown sugar 25g cocoa powder 350ml hot water Ice cream or custard to serve METHOD 1. To make the cake, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then make a well in the centre.
2. Add the milk, butter and vanilla essence to the well, and whisk until smooth. 3. Pour the batter into the slow cooker.
4. To make the topping, mix the sugars and cocoa powder together in a bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake batter. Pour the hot water evenly over the mix - don't stir! I know it doesn't make sense and you'll want to, but trust me, don't stir! 5. Put the lid on and cook on high for about four hours. 6. Serve straight out of the slow cooker with ice cream or custard.
Lorna Cooper and her new cook book, below left
2tbsp cold water 100g breadcrumbs Cooking oil, for frying
INGREDIENTS (Serves 8) For the cake: 130g plain flour 150g white sugar 3tbsp cocoa powder 2tsp baking powder 1/4tbsp salt 125ml milk 75g butter