Meal Plans and Grocery Shopping for a Large Family
How much money does it cost to feed your large family?
We spend $1,200 per month on groceries for our large family. I know this is what we spend and no more because we use cash only for groceries. Every two weeks we put $600 in an envelope and use that to purchase our food. The number $1,200 honestly sounds astronomically huge to me, but then I remind myself that we currently have ten kids and two adults, so that comes to $100 a month per person. Or $400 per month for a family of four. This is interestingly less than USA Today reported the average family of four spent on groceries in 2013. According to the USDA Food Plans list, a family my size, in June 2014, would have spent $441.20 per week on the thrifty plan and $868.50 per week on the liberal plan. So I guess you could say we are doing okay.
How often and where do you shop?
I shop 3-4 times per month. We shop at: Costco, Cash & Carry (restaurant supply store), a produce market in the summer, and local grocery stores based on their sales. We shop Costco perhaps every six weeks, Cash & Carry about twice per month and the local stores when we need specific items or there are great sales.
Do you meal plan or shop first?
Meal plan, always! I gather the Tuesday sale fliers and see if there is anything worth purchasing (meat on sale, etc). I may base a few meals off of the sales or I may not. We have a clipboard hanging in our pantry with a printed list and we highlight items as they are needed. When we use up or run low on something, we simply highlight it on the list.
How do you meal plan?
I hate cooking, but you probably already know that. Even more than cooking, I hate meal planning. It really shouldn’t be that hard, since we eat every day of the year, but it really can seem overwhelming to me. Life is much, much better when I meal plan, however. This week I gave Tilly the job of meal planning because she is a Type A and she was craving all sorts of her favorite foods after two months of going without. Here is our list for the upcoming week:
Lunches: pizza bread (homemade), pita bread and tuna, sandwiches, nachos, sandwiches.
This is the base plan and we will add to it depending on what we have on hand. Each lunch will include some type of fruit, veggie, or both. We may add chips, pretzels, leftovers, or whatever else we have on hand.
Dinners: Chicken enchiladas and rice, homemade pizza, bean burritos and corn chips, cheese steaks, chili and potato wedges.
Today I went shopping and purchased $159 worth of food. This $159 included supplies to pack five sack lunches each day for the five kids attending theater camp (so 25 sack lunches).Tomorrow I will head to Cash & Carry and buy the bulk of our produce and a few staples (I will probably spend $150 there). I have money “left over” from last week, enough to cover whatever we need.
A few notes about meal planning:
This is a base plan. Every dinner includes veggies and usually a salad. Rice is eaten three or more times per week. We prefer to plan just the main dish and be a bit spontaneous with the rest.
We don’t plan each breakfast. We always have a supply of: eggs, rolled oats and the staples for baked goods (pancakes, muffins, etc).
Do you cook in bulk and freeze or cook fresh each night?
Both. I prefer to have the freezer stocked will meals, but that doesn’t always happen. Here are two great posts that describe my methods: Freezer Cooking for Real Moms and Freezer Meals for the Large Family
What items do you buy in bulk?
Staples such as: oatmeal, flour, sugar, beans, grains. We purchase most of our produce from Cash&Carry (a restaurant supply store): bags of apples, oranges, lemons, avocados, six-pack bags of peppers, scallions, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, etc.
Meat is purchased either: on sale at our local grocery stores or Costco. Last time ground beef went on sale for $2.99 per pound, I went and bought $100 worth of meat and stuck in our freezer. That was months ago and I am still using it. Costco offers whole chickens for $1.29 per pound. I can often find drumsticks for $0.99 or $1.09 per pound and I stock up then.
This is a basic overview of how I meal plan, grocery shop and feed my large family. Do you have any other questions? Ask away!