Preston Larder offers old-but-new way to cut cooking bills with special Lancashire made thermal bags and launches pilot scheme to help families this summer

A Preston social enterprise says it has found a way to help people counter the costs of rising fuel bills – by reverting to a centuries old cooking technique.

By Fiona Finch
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 4:55 am

The Larder on Lancaster Road recently held a demonstration evening to show how a thermal cooking bag can be used to cut gas and electric bills – while still ensuring you and your family get a hot meal.

Now local families, with children on free school meals, are also set to benefit from the bags, which usually cost £40 or £50.

Kay Johnson, founder of Preston Larder (Lancashire and Region Dietary Education Centre), said: “We are working on a very interesting project with The Sewing Rooms in Skelmersdale to reduce food poverty and fuel povery...Over the summer families who are eligible for free school meals will be able to buy a bag for £5.00 instead of £50 and will also be given a voucher to buy some vegetables from Fresh and Fruity on Preston market and we’re going to do an online recipe.”

Kay Johnson (centre) pictured with Paula Gamester and Maureen Fazal from The Sewing Rooms at the thermal bag launch event at The Larder

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The Larder will be working with the city’s Community Gateway Association to deliver the pilot project, which has gained funding from Preston City Council.

To begin with just 40 families will benefit but Kay predicted: “This is going to be the beginning of quite a big project. There’s lots of interest in it.”

The bags are made by The Sewing Rooms using donated fabrics. The Sewing Rooms co-founder Paula Gamester said it was after watching TV reports about the soaring cost of living and fuel bills that she began thinking about how they could could help: “I was wondering what is it we can do to help people alleviate the big issues coming our way. I came across these thermal cooking bags – America has them, Africa has them. I started to think we could make these.

The Larder on Lancaster Road, Preston

"We all got together and designed our own bag. They are just amazing. We have two companies that support us and they provide us with textiles -the Senator Group and Panaz. We use those textiles for insulation.They are all shredded. You cook food for 10 minutes on the top of the stove and bring it the boil. Then tranfer the pan with the lid on, wrapped in a tea towel into the bag, leave it for three and a half hours and it continues to cook. You can cook soups and casseroles and all you’ve used in 10 minutes of gas/ electricty on the top of the stove.”

The bag is described as a “ modern, portable, washable version” of a hay box.. Paula predicted that used three times a week the bag could save up to £500 on fuel bils. She added: “It reduces carbon emissions and saves you money.”

But she cautioned: “You do have to handle it with care.”

Paula added: “We are one of the richest countries in the world and here we are looking at third world cooking methods and cooking methods in medaeval times to help us through this crisis. This is nothing new. People used to use straw or hay to insulate their food.”

The recipes Preston Larder will be providing with the thermal bags

She added: “The fact is, we use our ovens to cook casseroles for three or four hours a time not realising that ovens are among the most energy-demanding appliances in our homes. Aside from our fridge, the oven is likely responsible for the highest energy consumption out of all our kitchen appliances.”

For more information about The Sewing Rooms see www.thesewingrooms.co.uk

It’s predicted a family using this cooking method four times a week can save around £12 per week with an estimate saving of £624 per year and cut fuel consumption by 70 per cent a meal.

The Sew Fab Thermal Cooking Bag is also on sale at the Larder cafe, deli and shop in Preston, priced £50 and £40 and will be on sale through the Larder’s website shop on Shopify. The Larder is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8.30am to 3.30pm.

A Sew Fab Thermal Cooking Bag

Visitors to the launch event at the Larder were shown how to cook sausage and lentil stew and minestrone soup in the thermal bags.

Kay said as a result of sales on the night the Larder would be able to donate two bags to families that otherwise would not be able to afford one. Kay predicted anyone using the bags would”save money very quickly”. She continued: “Fuel prices are going up. Whatever you’re saving now with fuel you’ll be saving more as prices go up.”