FED up paying big bills to put food on the table? Help is at hand.
With a little thought and preparation, you could be feeding your family for just £20 a week.
That’s the idea of a new book by mum-of-five Lorna Cooper, who has learned the hard way about the cost of shopping for food.
Now she is passing on her tips to YOU so you can save cash and still give the kids healthy meals.
Lorna realised in 2014 that she couldn’t justify her family’s whopping £100 weekly food bill.
She had injured her back, was unable to work and had to cut costs.
Now 43, she said: “Money was really tight but I knew that with planning I could lessen our monthly food bill. I started to make all of our meals and before long I was enjoying it and became really good at finding the bargains.”
She discovered that by meticulous planning, taking advantage of supermarket offers, bulk buying and making meals from scratch she could easily cook meals for her family that were much cheaper — and more nutritious.
For the past five years, Lorna has shared her money-saving tips on her Feed Your Family Facebook page, which has half a million followers.
And now she has turned her best hacks and recipes into a book.
How to Feed Your Family For £20 A Week is an eight-week meal plan that will teach you how to shop more smartly, cook from scratch, batch cook, make the most of your freezer and learn to love your leftovers.
Lorna, from Paisley, Renfrewshire, said: “I feel passionate about helping people to eat healthy meals.
“There are a lot of families in financial dire straits, but I’ve learned a lack of funds doesn’t mean that you can’t eat well. You can.
“I promise you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen and you’ll never want pre-packaged food again.
“I don’t want to spend more money than I need to on food.
“I’d rather save money for lovely days out as a family or special treats.
“I get amazed at the price of food, particularly pre-packaged food such as chopped vegetables. It’s so expensive.”
Her family — husband John, 52, daughter Ayla, 26, sons Jamie, 24, and Kyle, 13, plus stepdaughters Morgan, 22, and Grace, 19 — all love her grub.
Lorna says: “My meals are easy. I’m a busy mum, I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen.
“A lot of the recipes are based around one pot too, which cuts down on washing up.
“Following this plan will save you more money than you thought possible — and you will enjoy the process too.”
Here, we bring you Lorna’s tips, an eight-week shopping list — and the first day’s recipes. We will have more recipes this week.
Chicken breasts and stewing beef are often on offer at the freezer shop as three for £10 or five for £15.
I bulk buy and fill up my freezer, without having to worry about sell-by dates.
Running an empty freezer is more expensive than running a full one.
MAKE FRESH INGREDIENTS LAST
Blanching, then freezing your veg is a great way to make it last.
If you buy veg reduced, throw it in hot water for a minute, then plunge straight into cold water before allowing to dry.
Freeze flat on a baking tray and transfer to a bag so they don’t freeze in a clump.
If you’re freezing lots of storage bags put a bit of oil on the outside of each one to stop them sticking together once frozen.
TWO FOR ONE
People argue they don’t have time to batch cook and don’t want to spend their whole Sunday in the kitchen cooking endless meals. I hear you, believe me!
My mantra is double up – if you are making a lasagne, make two, it takes you no more time. One for dinner and one for the freezer is my motto.
PLANNING IS KEY
Make your shopping list at home and never assume you need something without checking.
Think about your shop in terms of ingredients, not just food for food’s sake.
BUY IN BULK
Buy in bulk when you can. If you see a good deal buy as much as you can afford (and can store). If you are short of cash, consider grouping together with family or friends.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is just going to one shop for all of their ingredients instead of shopping around.
It may be less convenient, but it makes a huge difference to your budget.
If you cannot get to lots of different shops, look at supermarket “basics” options. These are often as good as branded items.
Bargain stores are also a fantastic place to find store cupboard items at reduced prices.
Useful things such as stock cubes, crushed garlic and tinned tomatoes are often cheaper.
BE SPICE CLEVER
Herbs and spices are much cheaper from Asian supermarkets than from chain supermarkets.
If there isn’t one near you then often the world food aisle in the supermarket is cheaper than buying the small jars.
GROW YOUR OWN
You don’t need to buy dried herbs, as you can grow fresh ones easily without needing a large space – a window sill or small planter is ideal.
Some areas have community herb gardens where you can pop along and take a cutting.
Or ask around as friends, family or neighbours may already grow their own and be happy to help you get started.
Once you’ve grown some, you can easily dry them at home and save a small fortune.
By bulking out meat with vegetables, porridge oats and various pulses you can save money without affecting the quality of the food you serve up to your family.
I regularly bulk out my meat in this way and have had no complaints.
LOVE YOUR LEFTOVERS
Don’t scrape leftovers into the bin, you can use up all those little bits and pieces at the end of the week.
Also, by making a larger pot of pasta or soup, you can save some for lunches.
But these lunches don’t have to be the next day or even that week.
Freezing your leftovers means you don’t have to risk being bored with the same meal the next day.
1. Breakfast: Berry blast overnight oats
- 25ml milk
- 120g yoghurt
- 90g porridge oats
- 50g frozen fruit
- 1⁄2 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
- 1⁄2 tsp honey (optional)
METHOD: Combine the milk and yoghurt, giving it a good stir.
You can flavour the mix with vanilla essence or honey if you like, or leave it plain and let your fruit do all the work.
Layer the oats, yoghurt mix and fruit in a glass jar or plastic container.
Cover, then pop in the fridge overnight.
This recipe makes an individual adult portion – to make it for two adults and two kids, just triple the ingredients.
2. Lunch: Gammon picnic pasta
Serves 4 + 4 leftover portions
- 300g pasta
- 1 tbsp oil
- 5 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp honey
- 6 spring onions, sliced
- 100g frozen sliced peppers, defrosted
- 100g cooked gammon, shredded
METHOD: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Drain and stir through the oil to stop it sticking together as it cools.
Add the mayonnaise, mustard powder, cayenne pepper and honey to a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Once the pasta is cold add all the other ingredients and stir through, ensuring it is all coated. Then serve cold.
Remember to save half of this in the freezer for another day, just defrost it in the fridge overnight before eating.
3. Dinner: Minestrone
Serves 4 + 4 leftover portions
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 carrots, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 x 400g tin baked beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1.5l vegetable stock
- 100g frozen spinach
- 100g spaghetti, broken up, salt and pepper (to taste)
- Part-baked bread, to serve
METHOD: Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
Add the onions and carrots and cook for a few minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more before adding the tomato purée and cooking for another minute.
Add in all the other ingredients and stir. Simmer for 15–20 minutes.
Serve with part-baked bread.
- Feed Your Family For £20 A Week, by Lorna Cooper, (Seven Dials, £16.99) is out January 9
BUY BOOK FOR £8.49 (RRP £16.99)
YOU can pick up a copy of Feed Your Family For £20 A Week for just £8.49 at WH Smith (RRP £16.99) with this voucher, which is valid from January 9 to 15, 2020.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS: Discount is valid on ONE copy of Feed Your Family For £20 A Week by Lorna Cooper (9781409195672, RRP £16.99) with this voucher. Voucher valid January 9-15, 2020. Offer subject to availability and redeemable at WH Smith High Street stores only. Excludes outlet stores, WH Smith Online, Books By WH Smith at Selfridges, Harrods, Arnotts and Fenwicks stores, WH Smith Local and all Travel Stores including those at airports, railways stations, motorway service stations, hospitals and workplaces. Offer excludes Book Customer Orders, eBooks, Kobo eReaders, and book tokens. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other multi-buy or voucher. Only one coupon can be redeemed per transaction and it must be surrendered upon use. No cash alternative. Photocopies not accepted. Coupon is not transferable. WH Smith reserves the right to reject any coupon it deems to have been forged, defaced or tampered with.