Feeding a family of six for under $20

Last updated 11:19 05/03/2014

THE REAL DEAL: Jas McPhee, pictured here with her gorgeous family, truly knows about feeding an army of people on a budget.

HER BOOK: Jas' new book is all about cost-effective family meals.

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South Auckland mother of five Jas McPhee knows what it's like to be living hand-to-mouth. There was a time in her life when things were so tough financially that they were living without any electricity and eating instant noodles and toast.

She had always loved cooking, but her own straitened circumstances taught her to look for bargains and make do with what was in her cupboards. Seeing school children in Manurewa queued up at takeaway shops made her realise that other people didn't have the same skills. After making a lamb curry with roti bread that fed her whole family and cost just $16 to make, McPhee whipped up a quick Facebook page in order to share her skills.

Just over a year later, that Facebook page has more than 67,000 'likes' and McPhee's first book, Feed A Family Of Six For Under $20 has just hit shelves.

She and husband Vance are also developing a food box scheme for low-income families. The book, like the Facebook page, is all about cost-effective family food. There is no kale, no quinoa and no sumac in its 80-plus recipes for hearty, tummy-filling meals. McPhee's food might not be tapping into the latest micro trends, but it isn't boring. Her recipes are globally inspired - chicken rice paper rolls ($11.37 for 18 rolls), steak and kidney pies with hash brown tops ($19.70) and chop suey with taro and coconut cream ($18.70) among dinner options. I think her slow-cooked Chinese lamb neck chops sound particularly good. There are sweet treats and light meal ideas too, plus a comprehensive list of pantry staples.

In many ways McPhee shares the same goals - of emphasising the importance of home cooked food and family eating - with English food mogul Jamie Oliver (who made his own, heavily criticised, foray into money-saving meals when 'Save With Jamie' was published last year).

But the fact that she's been there and done that, for real, means she can speak more directly to her audience. McPhee knows that whole baked celeriac and chicken liver bolognese aren't going to cut it with families more used to fish and chips or fry-ups. Like blogger Jack Monroe, who has become the poster girl for 'austerity living' in recessionary England, McPhee's appeal lies in her authenticity. 

When she started her Facebook page McPhee thought she would be happy to get a handful of 'likes' from 'mums just like me, trying to feed their families good wholesome food on a budget'. I think she deserves more than that. 

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