Jermaine is a mum of two from Hackney and did the Bags of Taste course in summer 2022. She has always cooked for her family, but mostly stuck to the Caribbean dishes she knew and found it difficult to introduce new foods because of her sons being fussy eaters. She would also get freezer meals and fast food takeaways more often.

The Bags of Taste programme inspired Jermaine to cook new, quick dishes, switch up expensive ingredients like meat to cheaper alternatives like lentils or tins of tuna, and swap some takeaways for healthier homemade meals. She said: “Instead of getting takeaway, it encouraged me to make my own: I even made my own McDonald’s for my son instead of buying it.” 

Her boys enjoyed joining in with the cooking, and making dinner themselves encouraged them to try new things and eat more. They especially loved the pilaf with fish – they even asked for seconds! One of her sons who has autism particularly struggles with trying new food, but helping out with the cooking encouraged him to eat more. The programme also gave her useful tips to save on energy bills and food waste, for example, turning off the hob and leaving the lid on to let the rice continue to steam.


When we followed up with Jermaine a year later, she was still cooking with her children, trying new recipes, and inventing dishes of her own.

Her confidence has grown so she’s taken on new challenges, like baking her own bread.

“We cook together and enjoy doing it as a family, instead of just getting a takeaway and watching TV. I try to make the recipes from the programme my own and add different ingredients.”

Jermaine found she is getting more healthy food into her sons’ diets:

“I like to find different ways to get extra vegetables in the children’s food, like making banana and carrot pancakes or blackberry waffles. I took some lentils and spaghetti and made a bolognese. Veg and fruit don’t last long in my house as the children always eat it!”

She also noticed that since doing the programme, her shopping habits have changed.

“I buy more longer-life food, and get non-perishable food like rice and pasta in bulk. And we use what we buy now: instead of buying new food, and then finding things hiding at the back of the fridge have gone off, now I rotate it and we use it all up.”

“I just wish more people knew about Bags of Taste.”

To support more people to take part in the programme, can you give the gift of cooking today and support the Bags of Taste crowdfunding campaign at:

You’ll be supporting to eat healthier for good.


At Bags of Taste, we couldn’t do what we do without working with partners and Tuck by Truck are one of our key partners that support Bags of Taste in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Walthamstow.

Tuck by Truck support people with learning disabilities and autism to gain work skills and find work.

We chatted to Steve Irvine, Service Manager in Newham who told us how it all works.

“At Tuck by Truck, our main work involves packing boxes full of snacks and drinks and delivering them to businesses in different locations across London. So working alongside Bags of Taste through shopping, packing and delivering their bags to people in their own homes fits perfectly within our work plus it’s also hugely motivating for the team.

The team here start as volunteers and can work towards being a paid delivery assistants and the Bags of Taste work has helped them to learn a host of new skills and offered them a new challenge.”

“Usually we’d do between 8 to 16 deliveries a week and it’s broken down into stages.

Everyone loves the opportunity to do the shopping for the food and this part helps the team to learn about shopping and gives them experience of doing this in real time. They might be required to ask if they need help or can’t find anything. For some, this might be their first opportunity to go shopping.

We have a great system for making up and packing the bags back at the centre and this is always quite good fun. It’s like a mini conveyer belt with the food, the spice bags and the coriander and oil. Everyone knows how important it is to be accurate and make sure that the correct spices and the right amounts go into the bags.”

“The final part is when we go and personally deliver the Bags of Taste bags to people across the local communities. We’ll usually do this on a Wednesday or Thursday and this is done by a member of staff and one delivery assistant who go together in the van. At first, some of the team were a bit uncertain about this bit and were unsure about speaking to people but they didn’t know. But now, they are confident in knocking on people’s doors unaided and they now enjoy saying hello and giving the bags to the students.

We all absolutely love working with Bags of Taste and supporting them with their deliveries. It’s a great opportunity to everyone to be visible in the local community but it’s also hugely rewarding for everyone to know that our part is the first step to helping people to start cooking healthy, affordable food from scratch.”

Tuck by Truck’s supported employment services are also based in Aylesford, Erith and Herne Bay, in Kent. You can find out more here

Ashley said this about working at Tuck by Truck

“The staff are really nice and friendly. I like chatting with them. I am always busy here. I make up boxes for customers and change them, if they want different snacks”

Read more below about what people can learn at Tuck by Truck. 

People who come to work at Tuck by Truck start as volunteers or paid delivery assistants. Each role is different, but whatever they do people build up their skills, gain work experience to put on their CV, and grow in confidence.

There are lots of different skills you’ll learn here, from packing boxes and counting money to delivering trays to customers and health and safety checks.

We’ve also helped people to go on work placements or find paid work with other organisations. We can help you to do this, when you feel confident.

Read Esther’s story, one of our students who did one of the first Bags of Taste Mentored courses.

Sometimes the most effective solutions come in the most seemingly unlikely places. If someone had said to me that a cookery course via WhatsApp would have got me out of the “can’t cook, won’t cook” phase that I had been in for several years, (ok let’s be honest, for four years!!), I’m not sure I would have believed them. But somehow, three years later, once a regular visitor to the ready meal aisle, here I am continuing to prepare home-made food for nearly every meal… I shouldn’t really have been so surprised… my Master’s research had been on the barriers that prevent people accessing services, so I knew that the best way to reach people is to be flexible in your approach and that there is no one size fits all solution, but seeing really is believing…
I came across Bags of Taste when I attended a community event. One of the charities there told me about the mentored Whatsapp cookery course. I had just had an operation and the idea of not having to hobble back from the supermarket with the ingredients for 3 meals and having some peer support to get me cooking again sounded very appealing so I decided to give it a go.
The group was set up on WhatsApp and everyone introduced themselves and the ingredients arrived. The first recipe was the channa masala which was similar to something I had cooked before. By the time the second recipe – the pasta sauce – was due, old habits were dying hard and I needed a bit of a push to remember to cook it. I’m sure I mumbled something about not liking chopping, but the knife sharpener I got in my goody bag did make that easier.
I will never know what happened between recipes 2 and 3, it could have been because the chickpea and mushroom pilau was so delicious that it worked its magic, but somehow I had turned into someone who actually wanted to cook again. By the time I finished the course and got access to the many recipes available on graduation, I was a convert! The aubergine recipe and the pilau have become firm family favourites.
And of course instead of spending £4 on a one portion small ready meal, I was now making meals that were around £1 per portion. And because many of the meals are great for batch cooking, I learnt to make things that could just be reheated so when I’m too busy to cook, there is still an abundance of good food.
Had the course run in person, given that I had not long had surgery, it would have been difficult to find the time and energy to go along. I think that’s part of the beauty of the way Bags of Taste works. Because it is so flexible, it allows people to fit cooking three recipes into a two week period. There is peer support and encouragement in a comfortable environment and ingredients are adapted for learners with a range of dietary requirements.
Whilst there are lots of groups that provide face-to-face support, which definitely has its place, from the perspective of tackling the barriers that many people face when wanting to cook healthy, home-made, cost-effective meals, the way Bags of Taste delivers its programmes through WhatsApp is extremely effective at reaching a whole range of people who may otherwise miss out. From those who may have physical or mental health issues preventing them regularly attending a venue, to those whose with children or other caring responsibilities and, now more than ever, for those struggling with travel and childcare costs, this way of supporting people to cook really does reach the very people who otherwise would not be able to go along.
Bags of Taste courses are run by volunteer mentors, supported by a team of local co-ordinators. I am pleased to say that one of my own family members, who saw how much difference Bags of Taste made to me, is now a volunteer mentor leading their second course. The WhatsApp format means they have been able to fit in mentoring around a busy full-time job and are gaining valuable mentoring skills with Bags of Taste – a charity which really does make a sustainable difference.
Learning to cook

We’re delighted to have our Hastings project featured in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer. Please click on the image to be taken to the article on their website.

Featured as a story in BBC News on 1st January 2018.

Free cookery classes are helping people make healthy meals for no more than £1 a portion.

Bags of Taste is teaching hundreds of people how to cook new dishes and make their money go further.

Filmed, edited and produced by Emily France; additional filming by Charlotte Pritchard.

Watch the video if you haven’t!

Cooking classes for people on low budgets, with recipes designed to cost less than £1 a head – and you can take away a £3 bag of ingredients to serve four people at home.

Read full article here.

Today’s students range from teenagers in Nike tracksuits and white sport socks to pensioners. We take our seats in front of a table set up with a small portable stove and a chopping board. A teacher wearing a red striped apron welcomes everyone and the class begins.

“Today we’ll be making chili sin carne and sticky fried rice,” she says, first showing us how to sweat chopped onions on a low heat with garlic.

The teacher is Alicia Weston, a think tank researcher who set up the Bags of Tastecookery class with funding from the West Hackney Parochial Charity. The aim is to help those living on low incomes in East London eat healthily and save money. All classes are free to attend and feature a cookery demonstration, followed by a chance for students to split into smaller groups and recreate the dish themselves. At the end of the class, everyone sits down together to enjoy what they have cooked. Students are also offered a bag containing the ingredients to make four portions of the day’s recipe at home for £3.

Eating well for a quid sounds impossible but Weston hopes to show people that through bulk buying, identifying the best supermarket offers, and swapping more expensive ingredients such as red meat for chickpeas, it is possible to reduce food costs.

“Iceland sells the cheapest chopped tomatoes,” she tells us as she empties a can into the frying onions. Later on in the class, she shows us a diagram that illustrates why it’s better to buy large bottles of soy sauce, rather than lots of small ones.

As the tomato sauce for the chili sin carne begins to reduce, Weston adds paprika and cumin. Volunteer Linda, who has been assisting in the demonstration, shares some of her own advice on preventing food waste and saving money.

“You can keep onions in the freezer,” she tells the class. “I chop whole bags of them, my husband comes downstairs and I’m crying my eyes out holding a knife—he gets quite worried.”

After the demonstration, the students break into groups to try the recipe themselves. I watch volunteer Yvonne’s group make a start on the chili, with some of the teenagers fighting over who gets to slice the garlic. One student accidentally drops a plastic sandwich bag of sweet corn into the pot and watches transfixed as it sinks to the bottom. No one seems to mind.

I ask a student named Ali how he found out about Bags of Taste.

“Alicia told me about it at the Jobcentre,” he explains. “I thought, ‘Yeah I’d like to know how to cook.’ Normally I just eat plain chicken breasts with rice, it’d be nice to make proper stuff for my mum.”

For full article click here