Let’s Eat! Dirt Cheap Meals for Large Families

If you have a large family, keeping everyone well-fed while sticking to a budget can be tough.


Thankfully, with the right tips and some good advice, it’s easy to cook up some delicious yet dirt cheap meals for large families.


No matter what size your family happens to be, read on to learn more about how you can craft cheap, delicious meals for your large family.


Start with Foundational Foods


Before you create your recipes for dirt cheap meals for large families, it’s a good idea to start with some foundational ingredients to keep on hand. Many nutritious staple foods can be purchased at an affordable price, and these foods can easily be incorporated into a variety of different meals.


Start with non-perishable pantry staples such as white and brown rice, beans, pasta, oatmeal, peanut butter, and canned vegetables and soups. Many of these items can be purchased in bulk at a very affordable price or found at food pantries.


If you can, add a few staples to your pantry like salt, pepper, seasonings, and oil. (Choose canola or olive oil for heart health.) 


Once you have a few basics in place, you can build on them with fresher ingredients to create delicious meals. Just remember to keep meals as nutritious as you can with advice from reliable sources like the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate. You can also eat your colors as a way to help make sure your family is getting what they need. 


When you can, it’s a good idea to plan each meal based on what you have available by first choosing your grain or starch, then adding vegetables, fruits, and healthy proteins and finally fats.


Fresher foundation foods include a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, bananas, and spinach. Long-lasting options include potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. Of course, you can also purchase almost any fruit or veggie in a canned version to extend the shelf life; just be aware that canned fruit has much more sugar and fewer nutrients than its fresh counterpart.


Healthy proteins include tuna fish, eggs, peanut butter, ground turkey, and rice and beans served together. These are affordable, delicious, and very flexible options when it comes to making a wide variety of flavorful dishes.


Finally, add a limited amount of dairy or fats like cheese, sour cream or crema, nuts like walnuts or almonds, and butter. Use these ingredients sparingly as they are high in calories and fat.


If you need assistance, find out if you qualify for the SNAP program or other income-based help. These programs are a safety net for families who may need help with money to buy food.


Start the Day With Breakfast


Kids and adults alike require a healthy, nutritious breakfast to start the day right. If you need some dirt-cheap meals for large families in the morning, there are plenty of affordable and easy options to try.


When it comes to simplicity, you can’t go wrong with a delicious meal of eggs and toast. Grab your eggs, start scrambling or frying them, and place your bread in the toaster or oven. This simple, filling breakfast can easily feed a large family, and it doesn’t cost a ton of money or time to prepare.


Oatmeal is a warm, nutritious, and filling breakfast that can be spiced up with the addition of cinnamon, apple slices, or even a little peanut butter stirred right in.


There are many other cheap yet delicious breakfast meal ideas you can try, like pancakes and waffles. This kid-favorite staple is easy and inexpensive. Just look for a box mix that only requires water, so you don’t need to fuss with any extra ingredients.


An egg casserole makes cooking for large families fast and simple. For this easy recipe, scramble your eggs and add ingredients like shredded cheese and ham. Bake the mixture in a casserole dish in the oven until firm, then cool, cut, and serve.


Tortillas are another great foundation food that can be used for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make a delicious breakfast burrito by filling tortillas with scrambled eggs, cheese, and your choice of other ingredients. Note that corn tortillas are more nutritious than flour.


Give biscuits a boost by serving them with a bit of gravy. You can find breakfast gravy mixes that come in affordable packets, or you can make it from scratch.


Dirt Cheap Meals for Large Families: Lunch Ideas


Whether you’re at home or sending the kids off to school, lunch is the meal that helps your family get through their day. You don’t have to go overboard when it comes to lunch, and in fact it’s one of the easiest meals to make on a budget.


If you happen to have leftovers from last night’s dinner, it’s the best way to save money for lunch. Divide the leftovers and place them into airtight containers that everyone can take and enjoy them.


Here are a few other easy, cheap lunch meal ideas for large families:

  • Place leftover chicken, some lettuce, and cheese in a tortilla to make a delicious lunch wrap.
  • Salads are easy to make and can easily be stretched to feed several people.
  • When eating lunch at home, a simple plate of spaghetti and sauce is satisfying and affordable.
  • Cold tuna or chicken salad is a lunchtime favorite that can be easy to make for large families to enjoy.
  • You can never go wrong with the delicious combo of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
  • Make a crockpot meal like chili and divide it into individual servings for tomorrow’s lunch.
  • Simple lunches like veggies and hummus, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or deli sandwiches are a good choice.

One way to ensure that your large family gets a delicious lunch is to make a foundational protein like chicken that can be incorporated in different ways. Cook your chicken, season, and shred it to create an easy addition for lunches. You can use it in salads, sandwiches, or wraps so that it stretches as far as possible.


Dinner on the Cheap


Supporting a large family can be expensive, but it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice a delicious dinner. Thankfully, there are plenty of cheap meals for families that you can make for dinnertime that everyone will love.


Anything that involves ingredients you can place in a taco shell, tortilla, or between two slices of bread is a good place to start. Make seasoned ground turkey or beef and include cheese, lettuce, and sour cream for a fun and affordable taco night. You can do the same thing with tortillas and make burritos or enchiladas for a delicious Mexican dinner that won’t break the bank.


Kids will never say no to pizza, and you can easily make this dinnertime favorite for cheap. Use your own crust mix or add toppings to bagels, English muffins, or garlic bread.


Pasta and rice are both great options that will help your dinners stretch farther. Look for some new ways to serve both of these ingredients by using different seasonings, sauces, and meats so that you always have something new yet filling for the whole family.


A casserole or crockpot meal is a great option for large families. Research different recipes online, make your own meals using your crockpot or cook everything in a casserole dish. Another perk to this meal type is that you can mix everything and carry on with your day while it cooks.


Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen when you’re coming up with new ways to feed your family. Try something new like stir-fried veggies over noodles. A simple sauce can make anything taste delicious without sacrificing healthy ingredients.


Quick bagged frozen meals like cheese pierogi, frozen tortellini, and quick chicken fajita mixes are sure to please, and you can find many store brands for a great price. Make sure you add some sauce or seasonings to these meals to make them palatable and filling.


Make a note of the meals that your family enjoys, then develop new ways to add a special twist to them. While you can’t please everyone if you have a large family, you can certainly feed them all without spending a ton of money.


How to Find Cheap Food


You’re not limited to buying food at full price from the grocery store if you have a large family to feed. There are other ways you can find cheap food to give you a lot more for your money.


Start by finding out if your state or local government offers food assistance programs for your location. For example, the CalFresh program offers low-income California residents monthly financial aid to help with food expenses.


Scour your local grocery store ads and look for sales that include products offered at a deal like buy one, get one free. You can also use coupons during these sales, which will give you even more for your money.


If you have the outdoor space available, consider starting your own garden at home. It’s a great way to get fresh food and a wonderful opportunity to bond with your kids and teach them a new, valuable skill.


Don’t be afraid to reach out to your local food pantry or soup kitchen if you need cheap or free food. These local organizations are always happy to help individuals and families who need it.


Cheap Meals Made Easy


There are plenty of dirt-cheap meals for large families you can make and enjoy on a budget from scrambled eggs and toast to taco night. Remember to start with your foundational foods and look for ways to get cheap, healthy food for a great price to stretch your budget even further.


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