Feeding a large family is a challenge. You need plenty to eat for plenty of hungry people, and you’d like to accomplish that without draining all of your free time and money. As the mother of four hungry kids, I’ve learned a few strategies that work well for our family. I also called in an expert: my friend Jeff Page, father of eight and founder of Hectic Meals.
Plan your meals
You need to plan your meals in advance. Winging it on meals, especially with a large family, will cost you. You’ll stress every day over that, “What’s for dinner?” question, and end up depending on fast food, takeout, or multiple grocery store trips to feed hungry people. It’s impractical and terrible for your budget. Jeff calls meal planning, “a matter of self-preservation.” (See also: How to Stop the Takeout Meal Cycle and Save)
Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated, though. It’s usually easiest to plan a week’s worth of meals at a time. Jeff recommends collecting your favorite recipes and using them on a regular rotation.
Get input from your family
You may be the meal planner, but you can get great ideas on favorite meals by polling the crowd. I’ve found that my kids are quite happy to eat the same basic thing for breakfast everyday, but they get tired of that kind of repetition for lunches.
Work with the seasons and the sales
If you pay attention to what’s in season for produce, and what’s on sale at your local grocery store, you can plan your menu around these items. You’ll not only get fresher, better produce with this approach, but you’ll also save money.
Combine new and old recipes
Depend on your tried-and-true favorites for the bulk of your meal planning, but add in some new and interesting recipes here and there. It’s a good way to expand your family’s eating repertoire without alienating your picky eaters. (See also: Save Money and Eat Better With These 6 Online Meal Planners)
Buy and prepare food in bulk
If your family eats in high volume, buying and prepping your food in correspondingly high volume makes sense. Meal planning will help you determine what you need in advance, and buying in bulk will help you get it at the best price.
What to buy in bulk
Basic pantry items, such as baking ingredients and canned goods, are almost always a good idea for bulk purchases. The savings might not be huge, but since you can go through high quantities of these staples, you want to keep them on hand and buy them in large quantities when they go on sale. (See also: How to Shop for Food Once a Month and Save Big)
Another smart bulk purchase is your main protein source: meat, eggs, beans, dairy, etc. For Jeff’s family, their biggest value has been in purchasing meat in the largest quantities possible, then freezing it for use as needed.
Fresh produce can be a great bulk purchase, as well, if you’re able to process or…