Lesley Cooper, 62, from Street End Lane, Broad Oak, knows what it is like to go hungry. When she was in her 20s she was homeless for four years and needed to find ways to feed herself on the tightest of budgets.
She decided to help others struggling to cope with rising prices, low incomes and a family to feed. The result was a food blog which has catapulted her to instant media stardom.
Lesley’s internet blog - thriftylesley.com - appeared in the national press and on TV last week and is now attracting offers from English, Spanish and Russian TV companies who are lining up for interviews and demonstrations.
She told the Express: “I’ve cooked since I was a child and I always loved vegetables. Then I got involved with a group of recipe testers who created an on-line blog. I was sad when that wound up but I learnt a lot. I used to work in IT and thought I’d start a blog myself as I know lots of people are really struggling to put food on the table.”
She built a spreadsheet; thought hard about grocery shopping, nutrition and how to make ingredients go further. She advises people to set a specific amount to cover a week’s food for two people and then use ingredients left over in the next week’s recipes.
Fruit and vegetables play a vital role - they are reasonably priced compared with meat, fulfil the Government’s five-a-day requirement and add flavour and texture to dishes. She laughed: “Carrots and onions are great! But so are kilo bags of frozen veg like peas .”
She updates her blog every day and responds in detail to people who post queries - offering advice carefully tailored to the problems people are experiencing. The blog initially attracted about 6,000 hits per month but after the recent national publicity that has now exploded into 30,000 hits and more - initially crashing the system and forcing her to buy more server space.
She explained: “In the month from January my blog has had more than 1.5 million hits. Interest has just grown and grown and I feel good that I can help people feed themselves on about 50p per person per day. I feel strongly about the quality of food and I want families to realise they can keep themselves healthy for a fraction of the price of buying ready meals or sugary sweets.”
Lesley is married with two daughters, three grandchildren and a great grandchild. She now has to fit family life around huge demands on her time since her talents exploded onto the social media scene. She understands why foodbanks are becoming so popular. “I hope I can offer help to people who need it.”