Cyprus Mail
Food and Drink

How to feed your family cheaply

Lorna Cooper, author of Feed Your Family For £20 A Week by Lorna Cooper. Seven Dials/Andrew Hayes-Watkins/PA.

By Ella Walker

Five years ago, Lorna Cooper set up a Facebook page (facebook.com/fyf20quid) 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 £3.75 to last us until Thursday, what can we do?’” Half a decade on, she says, “that’s been consistent”.

Cooper, 43, started the FYF 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 £100-a-week food bill had become pretty much untenable.

“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. FYF now has more than half a million followers – and a new cookbook to match, Feed Your Family For £20 A Week.

Cooper is pragmatic, providing an eight-week 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.”

Cooper 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,” she says. “I was brought up in the Eighties, when processed food was just first coming out. People were all, ‘Oh this is fabulous’, and I think a lot of mums were going to work [doing] full-time hours for the first time in a good few years as well, so a lot of it was lost.”

So how can you stretch £20 (€24) into a full week of meals? Well to start with, for Cooper, doing a big shop involves more than one supermarket. “There’s a lot of shopping about,” she says, “to see where’s got the best bargains.”

And 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”).

 

 

fishcakes from Feed Your Family For £20 A Week by Lorna Cooper. Seven Dials/Andrew Hayes-Watkins/PA.

Tuna and Spicy Salmon Fishcakes

(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

2tbsp cold water

100g breadcrumbs

Cooking oil, for frying

 

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.

Once cool, add the rest of the fishcake ingredients. Mix well using your hands, then shape into patties. (Do this separately for both the tuna fishcakes and the salmon fishcakes.)

Next, set up your ‘fishcake prep line’: three bowls, one with flour, the next with egg and cold water and the third with breadcrumbs.

Coat the fishcake in plain flour, then dip in the egg. Finally, coat in breadcrumbs. Repeat with the other fishcakes, then chill in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and shallow-fry the fishcakes for four to five minutes per side, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with simple mint or carrot salad.

 

Feed Your Family For £20 A Week by Lorna Cooper is available now



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