Cooking for a large family can be a huge challenge, whether you worry about paying for groceries, pleasing everyone’s tastes or shopping for kitchen appliance packages when your old kitchenware falls short. While feeding a large family is difficult, especially on a tight budget, it can be done using a few simple tips.
1. Cook at Home
Cooking at home is a rewarding bonding experience for the entire family. Studies show that kids belonging to a family that eats at least one meal together daily get better grades in school, have higher self-esteem and lower rates of obesity and eat more fruits and vegetables than their counterparts who don’t eat with their families. When your family cooks at home, everybody can be involved from prepping the ingredients, to cooking the food, washing the dishes and taking the trash out. Catching up at the dinner table gives everyone a chance to go over the day at school and work and tell how things are going, and it’s cheaper than eating out or buying prepared meals.
2. Plan Your Menu
Menu planning is critical when cooking for a large family. Large meals take time to cook, regardless of whether you have high-end Thor appliances to simplify the cooking process. Menu planning takes the stress out of deciding what your family will eat at every meal and can help you create and stick to a shopping list to reduce your grocery spending.
The day before you typically go grocery shopping, go through your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to find out what ingredients you have and what is missing. Then sit down and create a menu plan, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, for every day of the week. To save time, avoid making more than one cooked meal a day and consider making double batches of favorites that you can freeze or eat for lunch the following day.
3. Learn How to Preserve Food
Learning how to can, freeze or dry your own foods allows you to buy fresh items in bulk at a more affordable price. You can also batch cook and prep food for the week, allowing you to spend less time worrying about mid-week dinners and more time enjoying your family.
The simplest way to preserve your food is to freeze it. Invest in a high-quality freezer or combination freezer/refrigerator from Zline appliances. This ensures high efficiency and optimal freezing conditions to keep your food preserved for longer. To preserve vegetables, blanch them in boiling water first before placing them on a baking tray in a single layer to snap-freeze. Transfer them to a Ziploc bag when frozen. For meat, fish and poultry, split them into smaller portions and press them as flat as possible before placing them in the freezer. This helps save room in your freezer and allows you to defrost the packages quickly and easily.
4. Stock Up on Essentials
Things you use all the time can be bought and stored. Items such as cereals, coffee, flour, spices and baking supplies can all be purchased and stored for when your family needs them. You should also stock up on dried goods that are more nutrient-dense. Staples like rice, grains and potatoes will fill your family up but won’t give them the added vitamins and minerals that wholesome vegetables, fruits and beans offer. When shopping for the week, buy dried beans, lentils and split peas. Throw a handful of legumes or pulses soaked overnight into a big batch meal like a stew or casserole for an instant nutrient and fiber boost.
Items like this are essential for every kitchen and make feeding your family a healthy, well-balanced meal a snap. Keeping your kitchen staples well-stocked also makes your sale shopping less stressful if you don’t need to worry about having something to go with that delicious chicken you got for a steal.
5. Leftover Magic
Leftovers are great when you have a large family, but not everyone wants to have the same thing over and over again. Even when you’re freezing half that casserole ahead of time, it might not all get eaten at the dinner table, and nobody wants the same dinner two nights in a row.
● From the dinner table to the lunchbox
Many dinners, such as casseroles and pasta, are great to heat up for lunch at work or school the next day. Using your leftovers for lunch the next day saves you money and time because you don’t have to buy or prepare one from scratch.
● Repurpose one meal to make another
Repurposing ingredients from one meal to make another saves money, and all it takes is a bit of creativity. If you have some leftover baked chicken from last night, why not chop it up and use it for chicken salad lunches for the family? Have fun and get adventurous; instead of chicken salad for lunch, you might decide chicken burritos sound great for dinner. All you’ll need are staples like beans and cheese and a few fresh ingredients for a bit of family dinner magic.
6. Cut Down On (Unhealthy) Snacking
Snacking on fruit or fresh whole foods helps you save money and ensures your family eats a nutritious diet. The empty calories in most chips and snack foods drive many people into unhealthy eating habits. Snacking between meals, and then skipping out on a healthy lunch or dinner, causes you only to get hungry again afterward and start the cycle over. Comparing the cost of your snacks is also an eye-opener for many people, considering a pound of bread can often be made for less than a dollar, but snack crackers usually cost more than $6 a box! Buy a hot air popper and popcorn for your family to enjoy, instead.
Master Your Kitchen
Finding ways to keep your family healthy and well-fed can be challenging, especially if you’re on a budget. But, there are methods to save money and still keep your family happy. Incorporating some of these tips into your shopping and kitchen routines can save on your wallet and make you a superhero in your kitchen.