May 26, 2011

Feeding a BIG Family on a Small Budget – Part 4


The following is a guest post by Connie at Smockity Frocks!

See Feeding a BIG Family on a Small Budget – Part 1, Feeding a BIG Family on a Small Budget – Part 2, and Feeding a BIG Family on a Small Budget – Part 3.

One of the ways I manage to feed a BIG family on a small budget is to stretch my meals for all they are worth.

The first fundamental of stretching a meal is to forget about “meat and potatoes”. By that, I mean most meals that include a meat as the main dish with vegetable side dishes are going to be more expensive than a casserole or a soup.

With one whole chicken, I can make 2-3 casseroles that will feed my family more than once. But, if I had to serve each person in my family a chicken breast, or a chicken leg or thigh, I would need more than one chicken for that single meal.

We do occasionally splurge on meat and potato meals, but they are usually special occasions, and we can certainly eat cheaper when we don’t!

Consider these meal stretching tips if you are feeding a big family on a small budget:

  • Use plenty of rice. Rice is inexpensive, filling, and goes with almost any dish. You can serve a casserole over rice, or you can incorporate it into the casserole itself. I even use rice as a filler in my meatballs, and I call them “porcupine eggs”.
  • Use noodles. Noodles are also inexpensive and filling, and can be incorporated into many dishes. I serve lots of saucy dishes over noodles. Spaghetti, Swedish meatballs, and stroganoff are just a few.
  • Potatoes can also be the base for many dishes. A hearty potato soup with cup or so of leftover, diced ham is a very frugal meal that will satisfy a hungry crew. Also, many saucy dishes, like Swedish meatballs or stroganoff, can be served over mashed potatoes instead of noodles or rice for some added variety.
  • Have plenty of bread available at meal times. My whole family loves my homemade bread! This is an inexpensive and delicious way to satisfy everyone at the dinner table without busting the budget.

Remember that meat is probably the most expensive item when it comes to feeding your family. If you can make a little meat go a long way, by using it in a casserole, or serving it in a sauce over rice, noodles, or potatoes, you can make your meals stretch and stay on budget.

Connie is the mom of 8 rowdy kidlets, wife of one hunky dude for 25+ years. She is a former public school teacher who currently teaches her own children at home and writes daily at Smockity Frocks. She has recently published the FREE ebook Homeschool Tips From a Homeschool Veteran and is currently finishing Cooking For a Crowd which will be released in June. You can connect with her on Twitter and on her Facebook fan page.
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  1. Pasta makes everything stretch to feed more people. Soups or Chili feed a lot of people for not a lot of money. That’s about all I can think of !

  2. Brianne says:

    When we make tacos, we add a can of black beans into the meat mixture. It bulks up the amount, while adding lots of fiber and iron. We also mix shredded zucchini into hamburger meat and patty. It allows the meat to go farther, but also keeps the meat very moist!

  3. I make turkey burgers with zucchini……also double batch of chili with only 1 lb ground beef 🙂

    • Christine says:

      How much zucchini do you use per lb. of turkey ? It sounds like a wonderful idea and a great way to sneak more veggies into my kids 😉

  4. Rice or beans…

  5. Rebecca says:

    i mix rice in with my meatballs 🙂

  6. Raw veggies and fresh fruit

  7. Jennifer says:

    To make ground pork go farther, use it to make frozen wontons for soup or to steam as dumplings. It takes SO little meat mixture in the wrappers that less than a pound of pork makes about 3 quart sized bags of wontons.

  8. Add fine bread crumbs… which you can make from the ends of the loafs that don’t get eaten… to meatloaf, hamburgers, baked pasta and as a coating to meat/chicken you are going to bake or fry! Mix in some spices and use with anything!

  9. lynn smith says:

    Is your home-made bread whole grain wheat?

  10. lynn smith says:

    That is a very starchy diet in this article. Way to go promoting Type II Diabetes. Those foods- potatoes, rice and especially the noodles and bread (cuz they are made from white flour) should only be eaten in moderation. Take Brianne’s advice- it’s healthy!

  11. Martha H. says:

    I agree with Lynne. Too much starch does promote and elevate Type 2 diabetes. So using beans is a great way around that, they are a complex carb and leave you feeling fuller longer while they take their time to break down. On a positive note, eating whole wheat pastas, breads, and brown rice can help extend the bulk of your meals. It is not the best, but a better choice for people with diabetes and healthier over all. So I think either way, you do what you have to do to feed your family as best you can. We are only a family of four, but try to eat as frugally and healthy as possible. One of us has diabetes (me) and one is a vegetarian (my 14 yr. old son) so we have to work around that as well on a very small budget. My husband has been laid off for over 3 months now. Luckily he gets unemployment, but it is only half what he normally makes. We have learned to really stretch our dollars and our meals!

  12. Heather Finnegan says:

    Lynn-depends on if it is white or whole grain. And even so, the less processed the better. When you are cash strapped, or have an unexpected emergency, what is better? Starving children or children eating a slightly more starchy diet? Refined sugars are way worse than starch, and I’m gonna guess their kids are way more active than the average, so I am sure they work it off. Less judging, more understanding, and the world would be a nicer place 😉

  13. Gabrielle says:

    Another way to stretch out a meal is to use lentils. In spaghetti sauce or chili, I use half the amount of ground beef and then add about a cup of dry red lentils. Lentils are a great source of protein and iron.

  14. New to this site, lots of good ideas! Will be looking forward to cutting down my grocery bill. Food prices up, no raise in social security in two years…….

  15. The only thing I have to add is portion control.  Hard with growing kids, I have one that portion controls herself, and one that struggles with comfort eating.  She has been that way since she was born.  Literally!  Cooking from scratch, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, but above all, portion control.  Even fruits and vegetables can contribute to type II diabetes if you are eating way to much sugary fruits and vegetables.

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