Elderly people in Hervey Bay learn to cook hearty meals on budget amid rising cost of living

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Janice Bickerton is handy with a spatula but, at her age, it has become a bit too tiresome cooking for one all the time.

“I do a lot of cooking myself, but I freeze a lot of food, so I do not have to cook every day,” Ms Bickerton said.

“It is very time-consuming, and it is very difficult to work out what to cook for one.”

The spritely 88-year-old lives in her own unit in a Hervey Bay retirement home.

For many independent elderly residents, it’s often easier to sacrifice their health for the sake of convenience and cost.

But a grassroots initiative is luring them back into the kitchen to brush up on their culinary skills.

“I was getting feedback from some of our residents who are having toast for lunch and dinner because they might be single, they are only cooking for one person,” senior village manager Sally Zentveld said.

“Food prices have gone through the roof, so they’re cutting corners.

“We are giving our residents samples of what they can cook — it is che

Bang for buck
Professional chef Joseph Keen said his aim was to use an old simple classic, savoury mince, to show them how to make the most of healthy and readily available ingredients.

“In that savoury mince we have added extra protein, so we have got lentils in there, bean mixes, and the savoury mince is packed full of vegetables,” he said.

“From that savoury mince, we have created some dishes for our residents to recreate at home.”

Reigniting the hot pan
After decades of working as a nurse, Ms Bickerton said she had a new appreciation for cooking since a life of travel left her with little time to focus on the kitchen.

From New Zealand to the remote corners of Australia, she spent more time helping others than herself.

“When we lived in nurses’ quarters … some of the meals were just like boarding school again,” she said.

“We did get vegies and meat — except at Thursday Island because all the goods would come up on a cargo ship, so the meat was foul by the time it got there and we didn’t get fruit.

“I went down to [44kg] there, but I loved it!”

Now, Ms Bickerton can whip up a mean cottage pie, stuffed potatoes, or savoury rice all based on that savoury mince.

“We’re dealing with a generation that grew up on these staples,” Mr Keen said.

“It’s just those little added extras that they need in this time of life for their health.”