Scottish author and blogger, Lorna Cooper, shares money-saving cooking tips in her new More From Less book

She demonstrates how to make food go much further

Published 26th Jan 2022
Updated 12 th Sep 2023

“When I was writing this book, one of the things in my head was ‘pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot nine days old’", says Lorna Cooper, 45. “That's what your granny did, she made something and whatever was left, she added, changed and adapted and made another meal, and then another”.

Paisley-based Cooper’s new book, Feed Your Family: More From Less is out now. In times of inflation and huge energy price hikes, this cookbook is ideal for those feeling the squeeze.

It demonstrates how to stretch something like a joint of meat, so that it makes a hero dish, then another selection of meals. So, for example, leftovers from a slow roast chicken will also make ‘fakeaway chicken quesadillas’, chicken and cauliflower soup, as well as other options.

Cooper, who has also written Feed Your Family for £20 a Week and Feed Your Family for £20 a Week…in a Hurry, ensures that the reader uses every scrap.

She knows her stuff through personal experience.

The author started her eight-year-old Feed Your Family Facebook page and blog, which now has over 500k followers, after she’d had to take unpaid sick leave from her job in personnel at Asda.

“I hurt my back and was off work”, says Cooper, who has three children and two stepchildren. “I had to keep returning because I was skint - you’re going from your normal wage to £80 a week. I’d get a bit better, then it was agony again. I was trying to cut down my own bills and started to write about where I was saving money. I followed lots of pages and groups on Facebook, different bloggers and asked questions, and it’s a fantastic community that we’ve built up, with people of all ages and circumstances. It used to be that we’d get comments and messages and I’d have to answer, but now the community will step in and start helping”.

Although she admits that she’s no chef, she has built up a huge knowledge base when it comes to home cooking on the cheap.

She was shocked when she heard some of her social media followers saying they only got one meal from a whole roast chicken.

“It’s funny, they’d say to me, I don’t know how you do that, we only get one meal out of a chicken,” she says. “I’d ask them how, and they’d say, well we don’t like dark meat, so we just eat the breasts and give the dog the rest, or bin it. Don’t throw it out, there’s people starving!”

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This is sacrilege to the author, who doesn’t thole any food waste. Her recipes even include bits that might usually make it into the compost bin, like spinach stalks or cauliflower leaves and stems.

“I was cooking roasted cauliflower that I’d got from a market, but it was a third of the size once I’d got the leaves off. I thought it was a waste, so I wondered if you could eat them. I Googled it and it turns out you can”, she says. “We tried the leaves in a stir fry, it’s a wee bit like kale or spring greens, but the stalk is quite bitter so we cut that out. Sometimes you can go to a greengrocer and ask for them - just kid on that they're for your rabbit or something”.

Cooper has paired back each of her dishes so they use the bare minimum of ingredients, with some needing just four or five.

“The knack I’ve got is to look at a recipe and strip it down, make it more affordable and add veg”, she says.

It’s definitely not an Ottolenghi book. You won’t need a pantry full of hard-to-source seasonings. There are no complicated cooking techniques either. She’s more like Scotland’s answer to Jack Monroe.

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“I was scared of cooking because I used to watch TV chefs and it was all organic garlic that was grown in some French valley. You must use this”, says Cooper. “It’s just a nonsense really, unless you’re a Michelin star chef that’s cooking for the Queen”.

The book features globally-influenced dishes like coconut marrow soup, ham cobbler, congee pork and Cuban sandwiches, alongside more staple dishes like moussaka or shepherd’s pie.

Now that Cooper’s children have left home, these were tested on her partner. The only failed experiment that didn’t make it into the book was a soup that she tried thickening with bread, rather than the lentils she usually uses.

“I showed him it, but he said it looked disgusting”, she says.

Her guinea pig has given the thumbs up to everything else, including the interesting sounding savoury bread and butter pudding, which features day-old bread, ham, garlic, cheese and other ingredients. Cooper insists that it’s “very nice”.

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Anyway, there is more call for this thrift expert’s advice than ever. She’s noticed that people are getting increasingly desperate.

Recently, she’s received direct messages from followers saying they had only a couple of quid to last them for days.

“It seems to be a constant thing now and it’s harder when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.

Thus, she recently set up another group, Facebook page, Helping Hands, to help signpost local assistance to those who are struggling.

“I can post for them - because so many people want to remain anonymous. They’re embarrassed, which is a shame as it’s not your fault if you find yourself in hard times. People feel as if others look down on them. Increasingly, they say that I’ve no money on my prepayment meter, no heating or hot water, it’s heartbreaking”.

Feed Your Family: More from Less, Seven Dials, £16.99

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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