Volunteering with Bags of Taste was one of the best decisions I made during lockdown, and I would really encourage anyone with an interest in food or healthy eating to get involved!


I have been volunteering as a Mentor, guiding groups of students from all over London through the Mentored home cooking Bags of Taste course. It only takes a few hours of your time a month, but it is very flexible and I can tell you it is well-worth the small commitment. It has been an extremely rewarding journey, and it has been amazing to see how someones eating habits, and whole life, can change in just a few weeks!


I have also loved meeting so many new interesting people, and I am so proud to be part of an organisation that is making a difference.
Bags of Taste cooking statistics

Well, the results are in…

An independent evaluation on our Bags of Taste Mentored home cooking courses has just been completed and it was great to see the difference that the course has made to our students.

The evaluation

60 students who took part in our Mentored course were interviewed by telephone six months later and the data was analysed.

They were asked eight questions which centred around evaluating the impact of the course on their cooking and eating habits, their finances and their health. Quantitative analysis was conducted on answers for certain questions, and a thematic analysis was conducted of the entire data set.

So the top line results found

  • 65% were cooking more frequently.
  • Students were cooking more from scratch and trying new cooking – 68% had gone on to try new recipes.
  • There was a significant increase in healthy eating and they were all eating more fruit and vegetables.
  • 45% of students had saved money by eating less takeaways and ready meals.
  • Many reported a range of improvements to their physical, social and emotional health and enjoyed interacting with other each during lockdown.

Please get in touch with [email protected] if you’d like to see the full evaluation and report.

‘I feel healthier, I feel like the course helped me get better control of my diabetes.’

‘After doing the course, I really calculate what I need. If I don’t need anything I won’t buy it.’

Huge thanks to the authors who generously supported us by doing this review.

Claire Norris, Jennifer O’Mara BSc, MSc, Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) and Shaye McLeish BSc, Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr)

‘My confidence was really low and I hadn’t cooked for a long time’ Nina’s diet consisted of tinned fish, oatcakes and eggs. ‘I was in a cycle of not cooking and not eating well.’ Suffering from ill health, Nina has days when she doesn’t have the strength to cook, but the course has helped because she now has a selection of dishes she can ace, and knows how to pace herself, chopping onions (the Bags of Taste way) sitting down, and sometimes taking a break before moving on to complete a recipe.


‘I had no idea chopped onions could be frozen,’ she admits.

Her appetite is small but with the recipes providing two generous portions (for around £1) she knows that once she’s cooked, she has at least two more servings to store in the fridge or freezer for another day. ‘I realised through cooking how nourishing it is to have home cooked meals.’ Not only that, Nina calculates she’s saving £20 a week cooking for herself now.


Also, a good hot meal helps give her energy. Having the free bag of ingredients at the start of the course, with enough for more than six meals got Nina into the habit of cooking.


‘I had no idea how to chop an onion,’ she confessed. Her blunt knife didn’t help. ‘I’d never sharpened it before,’ she admits, but using the knife sharpener it now cuts through the toughest tomatoes: ‘it makes such a difference.’



And following the recipes brought unexpected results. Cooking the onions slowly to bring out the sweetness for the pasta sauce was a surprise: ‘I always thought onions were bitter.’


A couple of weeks after the course had finished she’d already cooked the ragu three times, becoming even more confident. Having never cooked pasta sauce before she now wouldn’t go back to buying a jar. Nina also appreciated the fact that the dishes are mostly one pot wonders. ‘Now I can see how people find cooking relaxing.’


After her success with the three recipes provided, Nina was keen to cook more. Her first follow on dish was sag aloo with a tin of potatoes she had to hand.

Nina appreciated the great value the recipes represent. ‘The course, made me realise what you can make with the £4 you would spend on a ready meal.’ The shopping guide, too, was a bonus.


‘I appreciated the support and encouragement in the group. The course has changed my life. I can confidently say I can cook now, when I didn’t before.’


bags of taste delivered ingredients

People everywhere are suffering from Zoom fatigue as video conferencing replaces every day face-to-face interaction from doctor’s appointments, to job training, to chats with Granny.

Our Mentored Home Cooking Course shows ‘out of the bag’ thinking…

Image of Fresh ingredients and Bags of Taste recipes

“It would be fantastic if we all agreed that everyone should be able to eat well, have easy access to nutritious, reasonably priced food and follow a healthy diet that benefits their physical and mental health,” writes Margaret Cooney, Chair at Bags of Taste.

a bunch of balloons floating in the blue sky

Different people experience different barriers to cooking at home; one person for example may have problems with food access; another may live next to Tescos, but not have a pan to cook with. Usually it’s a combination of several barrier that hold people back.

Two thirds of the UK’s adult population is overweight or obese, so even though we all want to eat healthier, and we ‘know’ what healthy food is, and that it’s good for you, it doesn’t seem to be enough to motivate us to change our habits. So how does motivation work, if ‘knowing’ about something isn’t enough?

view of a street with terraced houses and new builds in the background

We have always asked people what stands in their way that prevents them from cooking. If we saw a recurring theme, we would figure out a way to deal with it.  Over time, we realised these “other reasons” were far more important than actual ability to cook.

A market stall with many colourful and exotic fruits and vegetables

Nutrition is an area that is mired with claims and counter claims, and things we thought we “knew” years ago – for example, that margarine is better for you than butter

Alicia, founder of Bags of Taste does a cooking demonstration

Social networks are starting to play an important role during these unprecedented times, with lockdown and social distancing having a real impact on everyone’s social and private lives.