Meal Plans, Grocery Shopping, and a Large Family

Meal Plans and Grocery Shopping for a Large Family

Meal Plans and Grocery Shopping for the Large FamilySome of the most frequently asked questions I get on this blog relate to: meal plans and grocery shopping in our large family. This post will be my attempt at answering those.

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!

Large Family Meal Plans

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Sunday morning, Father’s Day here in the U.S, I got to photograph this sweet girl’s entrance into the world and was even home in time to enjoy lunch with my family.

I went for a walk in the afternoon and began work on refurbishing our old lockers after dinner. I am so excited about this project. It involves Spray Paint! And Sharpies! And Vintage Colors!

Once the kids were safely tucked in bed, Chuck and I left the teens in charge and headed out for a date. To the grocery store. Let me tell you, my husband is much better grocery shopping partner than six kids. But don’t tell them that.

I have done a horrible job lately of meal planning…and with a family this size, that just isn’t pretty. And it really stresses me out.  So, here I present to you our: Large Family Meal Plan

Dinners:

spinach and meat lasagna, salad and focaccia bread

chicken enchiladas

crockpot orange chicken and stir fry veggies

tacos/beans/rice

Whole chicken in crockpot, rice, roasted cabbage wedges

Lunches

I have stocked the shelves with items for lunch:

white albacore tuna, english muffins, summer sausage, bread, peanut butter, nutella

Weekly shopping for my crew means trips to several stores, so this morning I will load up and fresh produce, cheese and milk.

The meal plans may not impress Martha Stewart, but I can tell you they will make my week a whole lot easier!

If you are interested in hearing updates and seeing pics and videos of Judah and Tilly at Teen Missions, be sure and follow me on Facebook. I will probably post an occassional update here, but it is easiest to “share” directly from the Teen Missions page.

Have a great Monday!

 

 

Large Family Meal Plans

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Breakfast: oatmeal and fruit salad

Lunch: manicotti (assembling this from leftovers in my fridge)

Dinner: loaded baked potato soup and homemade bread

Tuesday

Breakfast: peanut butter toast and Cream of Wheat

Lunch: nachos and refried beans

Dinner: sesame chicken over rice,  broccoli

Wednesday

Breakfast: eggs and tortillas

Lunch: sack lunches (Kalina has an appointment at Seattle Children’s and this is a treat for my homeschooled kids!) PBJ’s, apples, cheese sticks, pretzels, juice

Dinner: spicy red beans and rice

Thursday

Breakfast: yogurt and toast

Lunch: quesadillas and ramen noodles

Dinner: Crockpot chicken, potato wedges and veggies

Friday

Breakfast: oatmeal with berries (frozen)

Lunch: homemade mac and cheese with sausage

Dinner: Crockpot orange chicken, rice and veggies

{I should add here, that nearly every lunch and every dinner is accompanied by veggies, even if they aren’t listed. In the beginning of the week, especially, I make sure to use up whatever produce I have in my fridge to avoid waste. If a veggie is specifically mentioned, it is either because I purchased it for that meal, or it is a family favorite with that meal. Otherwise, I wing it and use up whatever I have. Our family is a big fan of raw veggie plates, so that frequently makes an appearance on our table.}

 

Freezer Cooking for Real Moms

Once a Month Cooking, Freezer Cooking, Batch Cooking, Bulk Cooking…the internet (and library bookshelves) are awash in different methods of cooking meals ahead. There’s a reason for it, I believe; busy moms (and busy humans) are looking for ways to make their lives easier. I have been doing one form or another of batch cooking (as I like to call it) for over ten years. My methods have changed depending on my circumstances and I’ve had long periods where I have done no cooking ahead. Today I want to share with you Freezer Cooking for Real Moms.

I am a real mom. I am a busy mom. In fact, I am so real and so busy that I haven’t put a meal away in my freezer for months. We have been short on both finances and time this past year and freezer cooking takes a bit of both.

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Here is what we did:

Last night I soaked four cups of beans in the crockpot for White Chicken Chili. This morning, I drained the water and added chicken stock (made from a chicken we ate this weekend). When the beans are done cooking, I will add the other ingredients and this will be tonight’s dinner.

Next up was lasagna. Enoch (13) grated the mozzarella and Tucker (8) mixed the cheeses, spices and eggs. Both boys worked together to assemble the lasagna. I used to make my spaghetti sauce, but have found it more economical to just buy the big #10 cans. This time,  however, I bought Prego spaghetti sauce because  that what the store I was shopping at happened to have. We already had lasagna noodles (we buy a ten pound box at a time) and some cooked ground beef in the freezer.batch cooking, freezer cooking, once a month cooking, bulk cooking, cooking for a large family, large family recipes. prego spaghetti sauce, fix feast freeze, love in the kitchenbatch cooking, freezer cooking, once a month cooking, bulk cooking, cooking for a large family, large family recipes. prego spaghetti sauce, fix feast freeze, love in the kitchen

While we were working on that, Hezekiah had started his schoolwork (there wasn’t room for him in the kitchen) and Kalina washed and chopped celery and carrots for use in lunches and the beef stew we’ll be having later in the week. batch cooking, freezer cooking, once a month cooking, bulk cooking, cooking for a large family, large family recipes. prego spaghetti sauce, fix feast freeze, love in the kitchen

Tucker was so proud of his lasagna! This meal will be eaten tomorrow, so into the fridge it goes. We put a bag of olives and shredded mozzarella on top. We will add those when it is almost done baking.

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Once the lasagna was done, Tucker mixed the cheeses and Jubilee sliced pepperoni for the calzone we’ll have for dinner on Wednesday. These are stashed in our fridge, ready for assembly. I will use the rest of the Prego spaghetti sauce and we will make the dough from scratch.batch cooking, freezer cooking, once a month cooking, bulk cooking, cooking for a large family, large family recipes. prego spaghetti sauce, fix feast freeze, love in the kitchen 

Apollo peeled three carrots before he lost interest!

Once those were done, Enoch and I mixed up Lemon  Chicken and Mariachi Chicken Rolls. Only, when we got to the “roll” part, I realized the chicken breasts I purchased were too thick…so I simply layered the ingredients in the pans. batch cooking, freezer cooking, once a month cooking, bulk cooking, cooking for a large family, large family recipes. prego spaghetti sauce, fix feast freeze, love in the kitchen batch cooking, freezer cooking, once a month cooking, bulk cooking, cooking for a large family, large family recipes. prego spaghetti sauce, fix feast freeze, love in the kitchen

And, I only had two freezer pans, so one of these will be eaten this week.

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Once we were done with that, we put Hezekiah to work cooking the sauce for Honey Glazed Chicken Thighs.

We also cooked a pound of bacon “ends and pieces” in the oven. These are put in the freezer and added to things like scrambled eggs and mac and cheese.

So here are the REAL numbers. We began cooking at 9:30 and ended at 11:00. We washed the dishes as we went along, so when we finished up it was perfectly clean and lunch was ready!

Here is what I spent on the meals:

I call this Freezer Cooking for Real Moms, because of course I didn’t purchase every ingredient for every meal! I used what was in my pantry already and used the meat that I purchased on sale.

Lasagna and Calzone: the ingredients I purchased cost a total of $30.21. I have spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese and ricotta cheese left over (these will go in other meals including our English muffin pizzas for lunch). $30.21 means $15.10 per meal or $1.25 per serving. This is more than I usually spend, but watch how the meals average out in the end!

Honey Glazed Chicken Thighs (from Fix Freeze Feast): six pounds of thighs $6.50, honey $2.67 for a total of $9.17 or $0.76 per serving.

Lemon Chicken (from Love in the Kitchen): six pounds of chicken thighs $6.46, lemon juice $1.78 for a total of $8.24 or $0.69 per serving.

Mariachi Chicken Rolls (from Fix Feast Freeze): boneless skinless chicken breast $11.92, one can of olives $0.98, salsa $4.40 (we only used 1/4 of the bottle). We used red peppers and cream cheese  that were already in our refrigerator. For a total of $17.30 for  three meals. $5.77 per meal or $.048 per serving.

To crunch the numbers even more, I spent $64.92 on the ingredients for the main dish for seven meals. This comes to a total of $9.27 per meal or $0.77 per serving. Now, obviously these are main dishes, not complete meals. These will all be supplemented with: rice, potatoes, salad, bread, etc. But that is real cooking, by a real family. We spend 90 minutes prepping meals and cleaning up…which averages to 13 minutes per main dish!

Not bad for a morning’s work…

You may also want to check out my post from 2007: Freezer Cooking for the Large Family. I describe how I process a few freezer meals as we unload our weekly/monthly groceries.

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