Mother’s recipes for how to feed yourself for £1 a day (2024)

  • Lesley Cooper, 62, lived on a tight budget while feeding her two daughters
  • Claims to have 150 recipes showing you can feed yourself for under 50p
  • Day begins with 4p pancakes for breakfast, followed by 17p soup for lunch
  • She makes a bacon and sweetcorn pie with mash for 32p for dinner
  • Was pregnant at aged 16 and homeless after leaving her first husband

By Wills Robinson

Published: | Updated:

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When Lesley Cooper separated from her first husband, she was left to fend for herself and her two daughters while they had no roof over their head.

For four years in the 1970s, the family were forced to move from house to house and learned to feed themselves on the little money they had.

This meant the mother-of-two came up with various recipes which enabled her to make breakfast, lunch and dinner from the pennies in her jar.

Now, the 62-year-old has developed more than 150 of the cut-price methods which can now feed a family for less than £1 a day.

Bargain bites: Lesley Cooper, 65, from Heathfield, East Sussex, shows on her blog,, how to make a nutritious Mixed Vegetable Dauphinoise dish with a range of bargain-busting ingredients

Miss Cooper, who is retired, said: 'Without a roof over my head and no money at all, I learnt to budget. I know that when you’re struggling, having something nice to eat becomes even more important and I want to show it’s possible to have that.

'Most people I speak to say you can’t feed yourself for under 50p but I have over 150 recipes which show that well actually, you can.


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'Right now, there are a lot of individuals in Britain who are struggling. I’m just trying to get the message across that you can make good food for a reasonable price.'

A typical day consists of 4p pancakes for breakfast, spiced parsnip soup for 17p with 2p tomato scones for lunch and a supper of bacon and sweetcorn pie with mash and peas for just 32p.

To top it all off, there’s a muscovado cheesecake for dessert which costs only 33p to make.

Tight-budget: She learned to make the cut-price meals while providing for her two daughters while the family was homeless in the 1970s

Penny pincher: Her specially-made vegetable crumble costs only 40p

Miss Cooper, who lives with her partner of 32 years, Mike Negus, admits: 'I get a thrill from a bargain. Although I don’t really have any major financial fears anymore, my early years were quite rough.

'I know what it feels like to worry about money - that memory never leaves you. So finding or making something that doesn’t cost too much is a real buzz for me.'

At the age of 16, Miss Cooper met an older man and fell pregnant. She married him but realised it was was a mistake.

She left her husband while pregnant with her second child and returned to her parents’ house. However it was so crowded that her and her children had to sleep under a table.

She was homeless between 1971 and 1975 before she moved into a council house with her two children, Tracey and Sam.

A a daily meal plan from left to right: It begins with pancakes for breakfast, costing 4p, lunch is a tomato scone made for 2-3p alongside 17p spicy parsnip soup. Dinner is bacon and sweetcorn pie with mash and peas (32p) followed by Muscovado Cheesecake, made for 33p

'There was literally no room left at my family home and so for the next four years, my daughters and I ricocheted from place to place. We had nowhere to live and although we never actually slept rough, it came horrifyingly close.

The experience left Miss Cooper with an interest in ‘all things frugal’.

Even today, she will do anything to cut costs, making her body moisturiser from scratch by mixing glycerine and water together.


Day Meal Plan
MondayBreakfast: Raisin Pancakes - 4p per serving. (Using eggs, milk and flour)
Lentil soup - 16p a serving (adding a litre of water after carrots, onions and lentils have been sauteed)
Chickpea Crumble - 36p (serve with 80g peas and 200g onions per person)
TuesdayBreakfast, for each person: 1 egg fried, boiled, scrambled or poached on 1 slice of toast with spread, followed by a 2nd piece of toast with spread and marmalade
Hoummous and grated carrot sandwich - 9p (made using the chickpeas and vegetable oil)
Potato, sweetcorn and onion cakes, with bacon and ketchup - 47p
WednesdayBreakfast: 100g porridge per person, sugar to taste. Make with enough water so that it is as thick or thin as you prefer it
Carrot & Lentil Soup - 20p (using same method as Lentil soup with added vegetables)
Falafel & Grated Carrot Salad - 37p (
100g onion, chopped, 200g dried chick peas, 20g flour for dusting, 160g carrots, 75g salted peanuts)
ThursdayBreakfast: Raisin Pancakes - 4p
Hoummous & grated carrot sandwich
Rosti made with potato, onion, peas and bacon
FridayBreakfast: One egg on toast, one slice toast with marmalade as day two
Lentil Soup
Chole & Nan - 27p (Half a tin of tomatoes, 200g, 10g sugar, tblsp vegetable oil, 60ml milk, 125g self raising flour, Tsp sugar, pinch of salt, tblsp of spread)
SaturdayBreakfast: Bacon sandwich, spread and ketchup. Use 2 slices bread and 100g bacon per person and as much ketchup as you like
Carrot & Lentil Soup
Sweetcorn Fritters, Oven Wedges & Peas - 30p (175g sweetcorn, 50g self raising flour, 50ml vegetable oil, 400g potatoes, 160g peas)
SundayBreakfast: 100g porridge per person, sugar to taste. Make with enough water so that it is as thick or thin as you prefer it
Bacon &Sweetcorn Pie, Mash & Peas - 32p
Pudding: Marmalade Baked Sponge - 13p


For each seven-day meal plan, the cut price chef sets out an amount to take to the supermarket along with a shopping list.The food is then supposed to feed two people for a week, but some of the items are left over.

The above meal plan costs just £12.26 for the week (that is £6.13 per person). However, you have to take £15.89 to the checkout so you can buy full amounts.

Item Amount
Asda Smartprice (SP) Porridge Oats1kg75p
Granulated sugar1kg 88p
Asda SP Self Raising Flour1kg45p
Natco Red Lentils500g £1
Great Scot Chick Peas500g 95p
Asda SP tin Sweetcorn326g32p
Asda Vegetable Oil1 litre £1.35
Asda SP Tomato Ketchup550g18p
Asda SP Orange Marmalade454g27p
Asda SP Passata500g29p
Asda SP UHT Skimmed Milk1 litre 53p
Asda Free Range Medium EggsPack of six£1
Vitalite Dairy Free Spread500g£1.10
Asda SP Medium Sliced Brown Bread800g47p
Asda SP Salted Peanuts200g47p
Asda SP Sultanas500g84p
Asda SP Red Potatoes2.5kg£1.18
Asda Carrots1kg 80p
Asda SP Brown Onions2kg98p
Asda SP Cooking Bacon Pieces 500g81p
Asda SP Frozen Peas1kg 98p
Allinson YeastTwo 7g sachets 28p

She also serves up her budget dishes - such as 15p gnocchi made from instant mashed potato - at dinner parties.

'My £1-per-day meals are lovely, they’re just as a good as a more expensive dish. I’ve made them for plenty of guests and no-one’s ever been able to guess the price.

'People always talk about needing more money to have a better life. But really if you just make better use of the money that you do have, then you can achieve the same thing.'

Miss Cooper has spent years designing the meals. She claims they follow the government guidelines and provide one person's five a day.

Her meal plans and recipes are recorded on her blog Thrifty Lesley.


Ingredients: 270g self raising flour (45p/1.5kg), 100ml vegetable oil (GBP1.50/litre), 100ml water, 40g tomato puree (35p/142g)

1. Put the flour in a bowl. Add the oil and water and mix to form a soft dough.

2. Turn out onto the worktop and pat gently to a square shape about 2cm thick,

3. Then then slice them into small or large pieces.

4. If using big pieces, cut the dough into 6 by cutting down the middle, then cut each side into 3 pieces, giving me 6 big scones.

5. If you are making small ones, scoop all the scraps up after cutting out, squidge it together and cut out more, to use up all the dough

6. Whichever you do, place your scones on a greased baking tray and bake at 220C/200C fan/gas 7 for 12 minutes for diddy ones and 20 minutes for my huge ones.

7. You could brush them with milk and sprinkle crunchy salt flakes on top if you have any, or grind some pepper over.


Ingredients: 70g cooking bacon (Asda 81p/500g), 50g chopped onion (Asda 98p/kg, 2p) 50g sweetcorn (Asda 98p/kg), 115g self-raising flour (45p/1.5kg), 55ml vegetable oil (GBP1.50/litre), 400g potatoes - cooked and mashed (Asda GBP1.18/2.5kg), 160g peas (Asda 98p/kg)

1. Sauti the onion and potatoes in the 5ml of oil until soft. Mix the 15g flour with 100ml water and add to the pan. Stir around until thickened. Season, but be light handed with the salt as you will be adding the bacon. Stir in the chopped bacon and sweetcorn.

2. Make the pastry. Put the 50ml oil and 100g flour in a bowl and add until you have soft dough.

3. Roll out half of the pastry and use to line a flan dish etc big enough for two portions. Pile in the filling mixture and top with the remaining pastry.

4. Bake the pie at 180C/160 fan/Gas 4 for about 30 minutes until golden. Serve with the mashed potatoes and peas.

Money in the pocket: Miss Cooper said her early years were 'quite rough' but admits she now has 'no financial fears'

Mother’s recipes for how to feed yourself for £1 a day (2024)
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