Single mother’s 9p meals win book deal thanks to her ‘austerity recipes’ blog about feeding her family on £10 a week
- Jack Monroe has signed a deal with Penguin following her blog success
- The 25-year-old from Southend feeds herself and Jonny, three, on £10
- The healthy and frugal meals include 30p chilli, 22p curry and 9p burgers
A single mother who has turned her 9p meals into a book deal has urged shoppers not to be put off value-brand food to make their money go further.
Jack Monroe, 25, has been documenting her attempts at feeding herself and her three-year-old son Jonny on £10 a week for the past year.
A 9p carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger, 30p chilli and 22p apricot curry are among the frugal and healthy recipes that have caught the attention of publisher Penguin, which has signed her up to produce a book packed with more than 100 ideas for making the most of a tight budget.
Ms Monroe, from Southend, was job-hunting and living on benefits when she started her blog following a councillor’s attack on single mothers in her local paper, which appeared under the headline: ‘Druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining our town’.
She began attending council meetings and writing about politics and budget meals on her A Girl Called Jack blog following encouragement from friends. She used a Nokia E72 phone to write and upload her posts as she does not own a computer.
Since then, she has appeared on the BBC Breakfast sofa to talk about her experience. A nutritionist on the show told her that the portion sizes were too small.
But Ms Monroe told MailOnline: ‘I eat four times a day, have breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea and snacks.
‘You could eat twice as much and still save lots of money.’
Ms Monroe shops from the value and reduced ranges at Sainsbury’s, her nearest shop, and grows her own herbs to make the most of her £10, which is what she has left after paying bills and rent.
She sang the praises of value ranges, where kidney beans and chopped tomatoes are a quarter of the price of the branded equivalents, and said shoppers shouldn’t be turned off by the ‘unattractive’ packaging of the bottom shelf products.
Local food banks also give out copies of her recipes to help others feeding themselves on very little.
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Ms Monroe, 24, was invited to appear on BBC Breakfast to talk about her blog and now has a deal with Penguin books
They include ideas for simple herb bread at 7p a portion, lemon curd sponge puddings at 24p and posh mushroom, spinach and walnut pasta at 34p.
‘Chopped tomatoes turn up in pretty much everything’, she said, while handfuls of frozen vegetables, such as green beans and spinach, pad out meals and flour, pasta, rice and UHT or soya milk are cupboard essentials.
‘I throw things together and if they work they make it on to the blog.’
Ms Monroe, who was recently hired as a trainee reporter at the Southend Echo, has criticised the Government for not understanding the difficulties of those surviving on benefits.
This week, she revealed that a two thirds cut in her tax credits means she is going to downsize from her two-bed flat to a place where she will share a room with her son, to avoid having to quit her job to save money on childcare.
‘People quote Iain Duncan Smith’s claim about being able to live on £53 a week all of the time, but they don’t realise that when get that payment you have to cover everything with it. You are not exempt from bills all of a sudden.’
She told MailOnline: ‘If they could spend a week with one of us, they’d see things a lot differently’.
She receives emails, messages and tweets every day from people who say her blog has helped them make savings and cope with the shock of redundancy.
‘You feel like you’re the only person in the world this has happened to,’ she said. But the blog has made her realise: ‘You’re not going through this on your own.’
This bean and vegetable burger with vegetable rice, posted to her Twitter page during a Live Below the Line challenge, cost only 14p
In one blogpost, entitled Hunger Hurts, she wrote: ‘Poverty isn’t just having no heating, or not quite enough food, or unplugging your fridge and turning your hot water off.
‘It’s not a tourism trade, it’s not cool, and it’s not something that MPs on a salary of £65k a year plus expenses can understand, let alone our PM who states that we’re all in this together.
‘Poverty is the sinking feeling when your small boy finishes his one Weetabix and says ‘more mummy, bread and jam please mummy’ as you’re wondering whether to take the TV or the guitar to the pawn shop first, and how to tell him that there is no bread or jam.’
She has raised more than £2,500 for Oxfam through her blog by taking on a Live Below the Linechallenge to feed her family for a week on only £5.
Jack Monroe’s book is due out next March
It was her friend’s Facebook photos of his meals when he took on of the challenge last summer that prompted her to ‘do it better’, she said.
She bought one of everything from the supermarket’s value range and thought: ‘Right – what can I make out of this?’
Her blog readers have become an online support group, she told MailOnline.
‘Every time I spoke to friends I was banging on about how awful things were.
‘I was boring myself.’
She refers back to the Hunger Hurts post as ‘the pinnacle’ of how bad things were while she was unemployed and trying to support herself and her child.
‘People tell me: “Thank god it’s not just me, I’m in the same situation”.’
Ms Monroe gave birth to her son while she worked at a fire service call centre, but the job and relationship with her son’s father did not work out, and he was unable to support them.
She was approached for advice by Labour MP Helen Goodman, who fed herself for a week on £18 in February to experience what life would be like for her constituents in Bishop Auckland once the ‘bedroom tax’ came into force last month.
Ms Monroe told MailOnline: ‘I would say the cuts are quite draconian, though I do understand we don’t have an endless pot to prop up welfare.’
She called for a change in the way housing benefit is paid, criticising the way it is paid every four week in arrears rather than monthly and in advance, and highlighted the stress of having to negotiate with letting agents and landlords for their patience.
She found herself in difficulties with her rent payments when she registered for housing benefit, becoming nearly three months in arrears in the eight weeks it took to process her claim.
COOKING ON A BUDGET WITH JACK MONROE
|CARROT AND CORIANDER FALAFELS (23P A PORTION)
Ingredients: 3tbsp vegetable oil, 1 onion, 1 can chickpeas, shake of cumin, 1 carrot, parsley, coriander, 1tbsp flour
1. Peel and finely chop onion; grate carrot. Fry in tablespoon of oil over low heat till softened.
2. Tip into mixing bowl with chickpeas; add chopped parsley, coriander and cumin.
3. Mash till chickpeas have broken down. Oil from carrots and onion will help, but you may need more.
4. Mould into golf ball shapes with floured hands. Fry with a little more oil till golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside.
Find more of Jack Monroe’s budget recipes at AGirlCalledJack.com
|MUSHROOM, BACON AND ALE CASSEROLE (28P A PORTION)
Ingredients: 100g bacon, 1 Garlic clove, 1/2 onion, 1/2 potato, 1/2 carrot, 260ml bitter, 1 beef stock cube, 50g mushrooms
1. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Add to a sauté pan or heavy bottomed saucepan.
2. Chop the bacon into small pieces. Add to the pan with the onion and garlic and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
3. When the bacon is sealed, pour over the bitter (the rest of the can be used for bread)
4. Chop the potato and carrot, and slice the mushrooms, and add to the pot. Add beef stock cube, fistful of thyme, and water to cover.
5. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with mash and green veg.
‘Some really simple changes would mean people won’t be taking out payday loans with 3,000 per cent interest to buy food,’ she said.
The as-yet unnamed recipe book will be out next March.
Lindsey Evans, the cookery publisher at Penguin, said: ‘Jack Monroe is a fresh new voice for our times and I am so pleased that Penguin will be publishing her first cookbook.
‘Not only has she managed to feed herself and her son on just £10 a week but she has done so by coming up with delicious and nutritious recipes, all within that budget. More importantly, she can now show us how we can do the same.’
WATCH: JACK MONROE ON BBC BREAKFAST