Mother-of-five helps feed families for just £20 a week – in a hurry

Mother who feeds her family-of-five on £20 a week reveals her money-saving tips including freezing cheese and never shopping in the same place – and shares three cheap recipes YOU can whip up in 20 minutes

  • Lorna Cooper, 44, from Paisley, Scotland, has 554,000 followers on Facebook
  • Regularly shares her money-saving tips and home-cooked meal ideas 
  • Is releasing a new book called Feed Your Family For £20 A Week In A Hurry
  • Shares three of her favourite money-saving, super quick recipes with FEMAIL 

A mother-of-five whose money-saving recipes help struggling parents feed their families for £20 a week has shared her top hacks for making food stretch that little bit further.

Lorna Cooper, 44, from Paisley near Glasgow, has 554,000 followers on her Facebook page where she regularly shares money-saving tips and homecooked meal ideas. 

Having previously published a book called ‘Feed Your Family For £20 A Week’, Lorna is now releasing a follow-up – this time geared towards home cooks with limited time on their hands.

In Feed Your Family For £20 A Week In A Hurry, which contains 100 new recipes that can be prepared in less than 20 minutes, Lorna also shares her savvy shopping tips for conserving your pennies and how to store fresh produce to help it keep for longer.

Lorna Cooper, 44, from Paisley near Glasgow, has 554,000 followers on her Facebook page where she regularly shares money-saving tips and homecooked meal ideas

Speaking to FEMAIL Lorna, who has three children of her own and two step-children, said she freezes a lot of fresh produce including vegetables, cheese and meat. In fact, she relies so heavily on her freezer that she’s invested in three.

‘I’ve got a freezer under the stairs and I sacrificed my dishwasher when it broke and put an under-counter freezer in there so that I could save some more money,’ she said.

‘During lockdown I found a local wholesalers who delivers to restaurants and cafes that started delivering to people’s houses. I ordered a 5kg block of cheese – it was a great buy, I chopped it up and put it in the freezer.’  

Lorna revealed she doesn’t tend to buy frozen vegetables, but instead freezes produce that she buys fresh, from peppers to onions and herbs, which she chops before popping them in bags.

‘I don’t really know why but I definitely think when you buy and freeze stuff yourself, it tastes better than buying them frozen,’ she explained.

LORNA’S TOP MONEY AND TIME-SAVING TIPS

  • Shop at a different place every week for an hour
  • Freeze fresh produce like vegetables (and think about what you’re using it for and if you can pre-prepare it)
  • Pre-prepare meat before you freeze it – dice chicken if you’re planning to make a curry
  • Freeze garlic by blitzing cloves in a food processor with water then putting it into ice cube trays

‘Take carrots – if you buy frozen carrots, when you cook them they go all rubbery compared to a normal carrot, I have no idea why!

‘Frozen broccoli also turns to mush – you don’t get that crunch.’

Lorna, who suffered a back injury six years ago which forced her to stop working and start cooking on a budget, said a good way to save money is to take the ‘pre-preparedness’ out of the food you’re buying at the supermarket, and spend a bit of time planning which will actually save you hours in the long run.

‘When I was writing this book I was thinking of ways to make stuff convenient for people without them having to pay for it,’ she explained.  

‘I don’t tend to buy pre-prepared anything. I’ve never tried a lot of the frozen mash because I always find it so expensive compared to a sack of potatoes. I understand for some people it’s just easier, but one of the things I say to people is, if you can take the pre-preparedness away, you pay a lot for that. 

‘There’s a hash recipe every week; I tell people to buy a large 7.5kg sack of potatoes, open it up, pick out the big ones, then fill up your slow cooker and bake them, so they’re like jacket potatoes, and then freeze them. 

‘Then if you’re making a hash you’re not having to part-boil potatoes. You’re just taking these ones out of the freezer, they’re already soft and you save yourself 10 or 15 minutes when you’re making dinner.

‘Same goes for if you’re buying 1kg of chicken breast; think about what you’re going to be using them for. If it’s a curry and you’re going to be dicing it, when you open them up and divvy them into bags for the freezer, chop them up, then on the night you’re cooking it you’re saving time if you’re in a rush.

Feed Your Family for £20 a Week…In a Hurry! by Lorna Cooper is out now

‘It’s also a good idea to cook some plain chicken when you’re making dinner that night, then chop it up or shred it. That way you’ve got a bag of cooked chicken which you can put in the freezer, then if you’re making a pasta dish or an omelette, or want some chicken topping for a homemade pizza, you’ve got some cooked chicken there to add to your dishes.’

Lorna also has a handy hack for keeping garlic fresh and having it on hand to add to a recipe when needed. Simply peel some fresh cloves and chuck them in a food processor with a dash of water, then freeze the puree in an ice cube tray. Once they’re frozen you can pop them out and store them in a freezer bag.

While Lorna likes to buy in bulk, she never buys all her food shopping in one supermarket. Instead, she picks and chooses which ones are cheapest for certain items.

‘People think when I say shop around that they’re having to spend hours and hours traipsing round different shops, but that’s not the case,’ she explained. 

‘If you go to the supermarket every Friday say, for an hour, imagine if you just went to a different place every Friday for the hour over eight weeks. Pick and choose the cheapest place to buy your store cupboard essentials, then your fruit and veg the following week (I go to a farmer’s market in Glasgow), then your pasta and cupboard staples the next.

LORNA’S TOP CUPBOARD STAPLES 

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Flour
  • Lentils
  • Porridge oats
  • Chickpeas
  • Eggs
  • Potatoes

‘Every two or three months I will go to the Asian supermarket and buy a huge sack of rice and spices. 

‘I wouldn’t spend a whole day traipsing round lots of different places but I would spend an hour a week going to a different place but shopping for a month or two months’ supply.

‘It took me a little while to work out which shops in my area have the cheapest items, but once you’ve done it, it’s much easier and cheaper to shop like this.’  

Lorna, who wrote her new book in lockdown last year, said she never imagined she’d have one cookbook, never mind a second.

‘I didn’t grow up knowing how to cook,’ she explained. ‘I’m from one of the first generations where it was all processed and convenience foods, ready meals, jars of sauces, and I didn’t realise for a long time how bad they were, how much sugar and salt was in them. Some of them are still quite high now.

‘I’ve always taken inspiration from things you could buy pre-prepared, like those ready meals that come on silver trays. 

‘They look nice, but they’re expensive for what they are, so I started looking at the ingredients and working out how I could make it myself. 

‘Same goes with things like pasta sauces – most of them are a basic tomato, but experiment with adding different ingredients until you get the taste you like.’ 

Feed Your Family for £20 a Week…In a Hurry! by Lorna Cooper (Seven Dials) is out today and costs £16.99.   

Lorna’s favourite recipes which take 20 minutes and cost £20

These are a perfect but simple opportunity to wow any overnight guests

SWEET POTATO EGG NESTS

 20 mins prep/cooking • Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp oil 

¼ large sweet potato, peeled and finely grated 

200g frozen baby spinach 

4 eggs 

Pinch of salt and pepper 

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 5. 

Grease four holes of a regular-sized muffin tray with oil. Using your fingers, line the greased muffin holes with the sweet potato, pressing to form a crust on the bottom and sides. 

Bake the sweet potato crusts for 5–8 minutes, then remove from the oven. 

Add the baby spinach on top of the sweet potato and crack an egg onto each crust. 

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and return to the oven to bake for a further 8–10 minutes, or until the egg whites are cooked.

CHIPOTLE CHICKEN

This Mexican-inspired chicken dish is very flavoursome. It’s a sort of sweet but smoky BB£ flavour, which is a firm favourite with my son, Kyle

10 mins prep • 20 mins cooking • Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp veg oil 

1 onion, diced 

3 garlic cloves, minced 

200g frozen peppers 

½ tsp brown sugar 

1 tsp chipotle paste 

400g tin chopped tomatoes 

2 large chicken breasts 

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes. 

Add the garlic and peppers, and cook for 3 minutes more. 

Stir in the sugar, chipotle paste and tomatoes, then add the chicken. 

Simmer for 20 minutes. 

Remove the chicken and shred with two forks. 

Add it back into the sauce and stir well. Serve with rice. 

MANDARIN & CHICKPEA CURRY

It sounds like a weird combo, but it works! And it’s a vegan recipe to have up your sleeve

20 mins or less • Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp oil 

1 onion, chopped 

3 cloves garlic, crushed 

½ tsp cumin seeds 

½ tsp mustard seeds 

1 tsp ground turmeric 

1 tsp ground cumin 

1 tsp ground coriander 

1 tsp chilli powder 

1 tsp salt 

1 tbsp tomato puree 

2 tins chickpeas, drained 

1 tin chopped tomatoes

200g frozen cauliflower 

200g frozen broccoli 

250ml vegetable stock 

1 tin mandarins in juice 

1 tsp garam masala 

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. 

Cook the onion, garlic, cumin seeds and mustard seeds for 3–5 minutes, or until the onion has softened. 

Add the ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, chilli powder and salt. 

Stir in the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes. 

Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, veg and vegetable stock. 

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Add the drained mandarins and heat through. 

Remove from the heat and mix in the garam masala. 

Serve with rice. 

 

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