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Menu Planning for Large Families: My Kitchen

Updated on October 4, 2013

Creating a Reusable Menu for a Large Family: Sit Down at My Kitchen Table

I have six kids!

I've been cooking meals for my family for over nineteen years, and as each bundle of joy has arrived, my cooking responsibilities have increased. Now that every child is old enough to eat table food, I have had to come up with a great way to plan, shop and cook meals for a large group of people.

Something that is strangely unique about the way I plan and prepare meals, is that I rarely use leftovers!

It's just the way my cooking style has evolved over the years, and with few exceptions, I seldom have much of a meal to clean up. Even without leftovers, we manage to keep our grocery costs down.

Every area is going to be different because of Cost of Living conditions...for example, Californians are going to pay more for some groceries and less for others, and Midwesterners are going to have a lower Cost of Living, unless it comes to more tropical food that is available for cheap in warm coastal states!

For us, we can feed our family of 8 on 140$ a week.

Menu Planning Tools for the Modern Family - Here Are a Few Menu Planning Tools You Can Use Right Now

A couple of them are FREE! I don't know if this is a temporary promotion or not, but check it out!

Pepperplate
Pepperplate

I'm going to download this for my Android right away!

 
Kitchen Menu
Kitchen Menu

For .99 you might save fifty bucks on your grocery bill!

 
Write it down
Write it down

Sit at My Table

What Will Your Family Eat?

Sit down with pen and paper, or pull up your laptop or shine up your Smartphone...the planning stage can be fun! This is where you jot down all of your family members' favorite meals. If your spouse or kids are in the room with you, even better. Get their input. You might even assign kids a night to cook their favorite meal, freeing you up to do something else you enjoy.

Make note of the calendar...are there any holidays or celebrations coming up? What about soccer game night? Consider the timing in all of your meal planning. There might be a week where it's hot sandwiches every night for the sake of saving time. And hot sandwiches doesn't mean eating out!

Also take a walk-through in your kitchen and pantry. Do you already have half a bag of potatoes? An unopened bag of shredded cheese? Perfect...you just found a meal for a chilly day. (Cheesy Potato Soup). Using up food you already have on hand in your menu will save you money at the grocery store!

The Kitchen Laptop is a Great Resource - So Many Kinds of Meal Planning and Cook Books

Digital version or hard copy? At one point I got rid of all my hardback cookbooks because I knew I could get on the computer and find what I needed. Now I'm cycling around to repurchasing favorite cookbooks because I like having it in my hand when I'm in the kitchen!

The American Diabetes Association Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook
The American Diabetes Association Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook

This one is a best seller. Consider the health needs of your family members.

 
How to Lose 5 Pounds in 5 Days: It's Easier Than You Think !
How to Lose 5 Pounds in 5 Days: It's Easier Than You Think !

Another book with some food lists and tips to lose a couple pounds. Available digital or paperback.

 
Take a pic; it lasts longer
Take a pic; it lasts longer

Open the Fridge and Look Inside

Just Don't Stand There with it Open!

Take inventory of what you already have. You will be using on-hand items to supplement your grocery list and meal plan. This saves you money, time, and food.

Don't you hate that guilty feeling when you toss out an unopened bag of salad that you forgot you had in the crisper drawer? When this happens to me, I punish myself by not buying one for a couple weeks. Argh!

Plan a menu...make note of what you have and how you're going to use it. You will feel so much better when you do this.

I've heard that some families post a photo of the inside of their fridge on the door!

Other families use a dry erase marker to write things that just ran out. Not a bad idea!

So while you're looking in that fridge, what have you got? What are the expiry dates on your dressings? Have lunch meat? What about staples...have enough butter for baking? That's right, check it all out. If it looks like your salad has one more day, then plan on using it TONIGHT. Salad goes with everything.

Get That Fridge in Tip Top Shape - Can You Find What You're Looking For?

Get a couple things to help you organize your refrigerator.

Fridge Door Magnets .. Phone Icons Refrigerator Magnet
Fridge Door Magnets .. Phone Icons Refrigerator Magnet

Have you seen anything cuter or more fun for your fridge?

 
Who left the cereal open?
Who left the cereal open?

Open the Pantry

Smells Like Cereal in Here

We all know a well-organized pantry is a pleasure to use. It just doesn't last! For me, if I organize my pantry, it's a mess by the next day! Oh well, at least I tried.

So what have you got in here? Crackers, chips, cereal, canned goods, pasta, spare granola bars, some toaster pastries? What are you supposed to do with this stuff?

Sounds like a casserole in the making, if you ask me. Plan a casserole for a night when you don't have to go anywhere, because you'll need a couple minutes to assemble it, and then at least thirty minutes to bake.

Cook and drain your pasta. Mix in a can of 'cream of' soup, a can of veggies or two, canned chicken breast or canned ham, OR...if you have some leftover lunch meat or hot dogs, you can chop those and put them in too. Top your casserole with shredded cheese and then crush up the rest of the potato chips that no one will eat and put those on top. Bake at 350 for thirty minutes. Serve with a side salad or make an easy fruit salad with canned fruit and a fresh banana. You can also have crackers on the side.

A Pantry to Die For - I love when everything is in its place. It just doesn't happen all that often!

A couple items can transform your pantry from a jumbled mess to a pleasant destination in the middle of cooking.

Organize It All Can Rack (1866W)
Organize It All Can Rack (1866W)

The next can rolls right into place. Easy and convenient.

 
Copco Non-Skid 3-Tier Cabinet Organizer, 15-Inch
Copco Non-Skid 3-Tier Cabinet Organizer, 15-Inch

I use something similar for my spice rack. Triples the space in the cupboard!

 
Where did I put that shortening...
Where did I put that shortening...

Nosing Around the Cupboards

Looking for a bone?

As you have been writing your meal plan, (Suzie wants chili, Katy requested fresh rolls, DH wants meat and potatoes) poke your head in all the cupboards.

Do you have all the seasoning packets you need? If you make your own chili, do you have enough chili powder and cinnamon? Do you need a taco seasoning packet from the store? What about chocolate chips if you're taking cookies to the school on Friday? Make sure you have yeast for those rolls too.

The cupboards are your final stop to make sure you have what you need and to give you ideas for another meal if you need one. Maybe you found that bag of fifteen bean soup you forgot about...and you just saw a box of cornbread mix in the pantry...perfect!

The Old School list
The Old School list

Back to the Kitchen Computer

Do you carry your Smartphone everywhere?

Have you tried any grocery apps on your smartphone? They probably have several! You can print out your grocery list at the computer station, or handwrite it or tattoo it on your arm.

If you want a reusable meal plan, I recommend typing one up in Word and saving it. If you plan meals for three weeks, you can rotate it and your family won't even notice that you get the same things all the time. If you only have chili once every three weeks, they won't mind at all.

So now you type up your menu. It might look something like this:

Monday: Suzie cooks chili, cornbread on the side

Tuesday: Cheesy Potato soup in crock pot, Katy makes rolls

Wednesday: Jack wanted hot dogs, use leftover chili too!

Thursday: Hot sandwiches, soccer game

Friday: Casserole with fresh salad

Saturday: Order pizza

Sunday: Roast and potatoes in crock pot

If you have your meal plan, and you know what you already have available, your grocery list might look something like this:

Milk

Bread

Eggs

Yeast

Ground beef

Chili seasoning packet

hot dogs

hot dog buns

catsup (we're out) DOH! It's on sale, buy two

lunchmeat

Thousand island dressing

swiss cheese

bag salad

fresh green beans

beef chuck

Now you have everything you need for your week, if you were including the things you found in your fridge and pantry!

Counterspace
Counterspace

Kitchen Counters

A Couple Recipes to Get You Started

I keep mentioning Hot Sandwiches...what are those?

In this meal plan, Katy made rolls on Tuesday night. Hope she made a double batch, because you can use leftover rolls to make these hot sandwiches. Split the rolls, fill with lunch meat, Swiss cheese, and a dollop of Thousand Island dressing. Wrap in foil, and bake in 350 degree oven for fifteen minutes. Easy and delicious! Kids can carry them in the car to eat on the way to the game.

Cheesy Potato Soup

Dice all the potatoes you think you'll need. Simmer in four to six cups of water. If desired, add some bouillon cubes to the water too. Saute a little onion and celery if you have it and throw that in too. My kids hate onions and celery! I use them as much as I can.

In a separate pot, make a white sauce with flour and butter and a cup of milk. When it gets nice and thick, add as much shredded cheese as you would like. Once you have your cheese sauce, pour it into the gently simmering potatoes. It's done when the potatoes are tender when pierced.

Making Your Countertop Work for You - Choosing the Right Containers Makes All the Difference

I actually use an assortment of glass vases to store all my dried beans and popcorn. It looks pretty and keeps them handy.

San Miguel Set of 3 Aris Apothecary Jars
San Miguel Set of 3 Aris Apothecary Jars

I love my apothecary jar that has brown rice in it.

 
Purely American Mesa Verde Anasazi Stew, 16 Ounce
Purely American Mesa Verde Anasazi Stew, 16 Ounce

A jar full of bean soup mix is so pretty to look at, and inspires you to cook as well.

 

Pretty Pictures from the Kitchen - Pretty colors on your table means good health

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chili and cornbread. Save leftovers for chili dogs!The smaller you chop the potatoes, the quicker they'll cook up for the Cheesy Potato Soup.Ham and Swiss cheese are my favorite, but you can use chicken, roast beef or turkey lunch meat in the hot sandwiches.Salads are the most colorful addition to any meal.Find a recipe for rolls that you love. The bread machine book has a great one!Canned fruit mixed with fresh fruit means you don't have to add sugar.When DH wants meat and potatoes, be sure to add lots of onion and celery for the kids!
Chili and cornbread. Save leftovers for chili dogs!
Chili and cornbread. Save leftovers for chili dogs!
The smaller you chop the potatoes, the quicker they'll cook up for the Cheesy Potato Soup.
The smaller you chop the potatoes, the quicker they'll cook up for the Cheesy Potato Soup.
Ham and Swiss cheese are my favorite, but you can use chicken, roast beef or turkey lunch meat in the hot sandwiches.
Ham and Swiss cheese are my favorite, but you can use chicken, roast beef or turkey lunch meat in the hot sandwiches.
Salads are the most colorful addition to any meal.
Salads are the most colorful addition to any meal.
Find a recipe for rolls that you love. The bread machine book has a great one!
Find a recipe for rolls that you love. The bread machine book has a great one!
Canned fruit mixed with fresh fruit means you don't have to add sugar.
Canned fruit mixed with fresh fruit means you don't have to add sugar.
When DH wants meat and potatoes, be sure to add lots of onion and celery for the kids!
When DH wants meat and potatoes, be sure to add lots of onion and celery for the kids!

I hope you enjoyed visiting my kitchen today. Have a hot cup of herbal tea with honey and sit a spell.

What Do You Think of My Kitchen Decor? - Should I change the curtains? Add a tablecloth?

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    • Lynn Klobuchar profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      Inspiring!

    • VictoriaHolt profile image
      Author

      VictoriaHolt 4 years ago

      @ChocolateLily: Oh wow, thanks so much! I'll put you as a featured lens, because it's such a similar concept.

    • profile image

      ChocolateLily 4 years ago

      Great tips! I'm going to add this to my grocery budgeting lens' sidebar. Thanks for sharing it with me!

    • VictoriaHolt profile image
      Author

      VictoriaHolt 4 years ago

      @TreasuresBrenda: Hi, thank you for your visit! One of the books I re-purchased was actually Betty Crocker's 'Cooking for Two'. That was one of my first cookbooks twenty years ago, and I LOVE those recipes! Eggs Del Monico...probably still my favorite.

    • VictoriaHolt profile image
      Author

      VictoriaHolt 4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: Thanks for visiting today! I should take a photo of all my colored beans I store on the counter in curvy glass containers. That's how I use existing things for more storage!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Six kids - wow! Great organizational tips :)

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 4 years ago from Canada

      Your outline is great for people who want to get organized about their meal planning! We're down to cooking for two now, which is a challenge of a different sort but planning still helps.