Meal Planning for a Large Family

Planning meals for a family of 8 is no small feat. I have been off and on the wagon of meal planning and budget-based grocery shopping for a few months. Sometimes it takes too much of my brain-space to bother with it and we just go to the store and get what sounds good. That’s been my default plan lately and its kind of killing my wallet.

So for the summer, I decided one major task I was going to make a habit was menu planning and grocery shopping for a crowd of monkeys my lovely family. The caveat here is that I am also trying to slash our grocery bill since my poor infirmed wallet was crying mercy. I don’t do couponing or shop the sales, I just simply don’t have the time or energy to bother with all that. But I do like to control everything and being a organized and efficient housewife major control freak lends itself to succeeding in this area if one puts her mind to it.

Upon investigating pinterest (duh) for menu plans on the cheap, I found lots of ideas but none of them were the perfect fit for our large family – most were for a family of 4 –  and many of them included meals my hooligans wouldn’t eat. And in addition they were almost all for dinners only. My people eat 5 times a day, so I had to be able to feed all 8 of us all day long for about $7/day. Impossible?? Perhaps. But, of course my stubborn side took over and I decided to take my hand at this challenge and come up with my own menu and meal plan + grocery list for a large family 3 nutritious meals and 2 snacks per day for $50/week. I went to my favorite grocer, Aldi, and meticulously followed my list and even added a couple little things like chocolate chips for cookies and a nice big watermelon for cheap! And when it was all said and done, including tax and 5 plastic bags, I came in under my budget by about 40 cents.

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Here is my menu for nearly two weeks worth of meals and snacks. I say nearly because the first Sunday of the 2 week span didn’t count as I grocery shopped on the Monday. Theoretically, though, there is enough food here to do another full day of leftovers somewhere in the middle or a spontaneous new meal from all the goodies purchased. And in fact, this budget & grocery list included a dinner meal and a breakfast meal that we are making for dear friends who just had a baby. So technically that really is the 14th day of meals right there. Kind of awesome and beautiful that this very tight budget and well thought-out menu plan allows for us to still be generous with our time and resources to bless those around us.

June Menu Plan

As you can see the snacks aren’t on here. I allow them to choose their snack pretty often and they get to choose from our snack drawer in the fridge or in the pantry. Some items I always try to have on hand:

Granola Bars
Goldfish
Energy Bites
Popcorn
Cut Veggies
Fruit
Seasoned Pretzels
Cookies
Muffins

 

As well, we often have applesauce, nuts, veggies & hummus, yogurt, crackers & laughing cow wedge cheese, belvita, and apple slices in the house for them to choose from. For this 2 week span, I didn’t stock up on a ton of snacks, as we have fruit, popcorn, veggies, goldfish, and the ingredients to make granola bars and energy bites on hand. I did purchase the goods necessary to make a few batches of cookies and muffins or quick breads.

My shopping list doesn’t include many of the staples you would normally already have in your kitchen. I try very hard to stagger out the purchase of those staples and to buy certain things in bulk which allows for a little more wiggle room on a monthly basis in our budget. When menu planning, I shop my freezer or pantry first: what do I already have on hand that we need to or want to use first and plan meals around that. Then come up with your 3 meals for every day and formulate your grocery list from there.

flour tortillas 4
salsa 2
corn 1
cilantro 1
sour cream 2
shredded cheese 2
Ham 7
bread x4 5
applesauce 2
spaghetti 2
spag sauce 2
cream cheese 4
oats 3
Almond Milk 2
frozen hashbrowns 4
pork sausage 3
Miracle Whip 3
Eggs 4
Apples 3
sugar 1
syrup 2
Chicken Breast 23 23
Gr. Beef 4lbs 8
Mini Bagels 2
hot dogs 3
buns 2
pretzels 2
veg oil 2
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I wrote out every item we would need for these meals, that we didn’t already have, and the approximate cost at Aldi (with the exception of the Chicken Breasts which I had planned on getting from Costco – which is 10lbs of Chicken for $23 – but as it turns out I opted for a smaller bag of chicken from Aldi and was able to sneak in a few little extras into this shop with the overage that provided me). The extra items I ended up purchasing were: watermelon, 2 additional dozen eggs (at $0.68 each!!!!!), yogurt tubes, an additional sour cream, 2 packages of chocolate chips for cookies, an additional pound of pork sausage and an additional pound of ground beef and some canned green beans & corn. I am pretty happy with that last minute change I decided upon. Usually the investment in a large bag of chicken from Costco means more room in my budget next time since I have that in my freezer to shop from but this seemed to make more sense right now for what our menu looks like.

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It was a LOT of food. My guesstimate budget was $101 and my actual total at the checkout was $100.53. I know. Even I was impressed with myself. Ha. I got so excited by this little victory that I decided to share the awesomeness with you all. Because that’s what friends do. Or as they say: friends don’t let friends spend too much on groceries. Wait, they don’t say that? Well they will now. I am basically a trend-setter y’all. 

I will plan to share some of my recipes and details on how I use some of this food to stretch it across 14 days worth of meals in my next post. Including the recipe for this delicious breakfast casserole!

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Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Get in my belly.

Nesting when you are expecting quintuplets of unknown ages can be tricky. It’s impractical to purchase 5 of everything in every category known to man. 🙂 wpid-children-wardrobe-closet-design-2014-2015-4

But it’s completely impractical to do nothing as well.

So lately I have found myself stocking my freezer. Crockpot dinners of italian chicken and taco soup, chili and lemon pepper chicken, quickbreads, waffles & pancakes, breakfast burritos & sandwiches, sausage bread, and so much more.

So what else does one do when they are looking to stock their freezer with scrumdeliumptious meals for their whole family??

Troll Pinterest, of course.

That’s when I stumbled upon this gem:

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From New Leaf Wellness

And let me just tell you – wowza! I am impressed! I have done many freezer meal prep sessions in the past and they all took up the better part of 2 or even 3 days! Not cool at all. The difference with these sessions is that they are so do-able in a morning or afternoon! So on Monday morning while the kids were getting started with school for the week, I did the breakfast dishes and whipped up 7 freezer meals!

Now my goal is to NOT use them!

Yet. Whew, I hope you didn’t think I went off the rails or something like that. Who needs a freezer stocked of things they won’t use? But no, seriously, my goal for the next month or so is to stock my freezer with 7-10 meals a week and not use any of them which would mean by mid-October, I will have 40 or more meals in my freezer ready to go and then as we use them I won’t really be depleting my stash because I will keep building it each week. Make sense? Well it does to me.

With homeschooling and soccer and the crazy life of soon-to-be-Foster-and-potentially-adopt-a-basketball-team-parents we need more crockpot meals. We need more good breakfasts that are homemade and nutritious but I can’t feasibly cook every single morning like I currently am. I need to incorporate some balance in my life that includes working out and ensuring proper rest, so these meals while some amount of prep, are really intended to save me time.

Tomorrow we bake a LOT to stock that freezer full of delicious and nutritious foods to fill the bellies of the circus I am rockin’.

Tell me, what is your freezer stocked with??

A meal is never just a meal.

Today the kids and I spent the day in the kitchen. I have been wanting to pass along some of our favorite family recipes and really teach them how to make them over the next several years.

A gal I met at a homeschool gathering had this genius idea for teaching kids to cook:

Pick the meal. Make it the same night 4 weeks in a row.

The first week, the kids basically watch you cook, and you talk them through some of the steps.

The second week, the kids help you in the actual making of it – you showing them how to measure everything, walk through the steps, etc.

The third week, they make the meal with YOUR assistance.

The fourth week, they make the meal without your help! And voila! You have taught your child how to make a recipe from start to finish and they have confidence in executing it!

This is something I will be doing this summer and throughout the school year as a part of homeschooling. It’s just such a valuable skill that I can’t not do this for my children.

This was week one. We made one of our family’s most treasured recipes. This recipe is not only incredibly delicious but also filled with a story of a dear old friend.

The story goes a little something like this. Years ago, we were in a season of intense grief. Our baby that we were adopting had died at 36 weeks and we were beside ourselves in sadness. Only one family brought us a meal. It’s funny the things you remember, huh? Well, that meal was brought by a dear friend, Laurie. And it was this delicious pasta you could eat hot or cold. We loved it because it was so tasty and also because it tasted like love. The love and compassion of a friend who knew that while she couldn’t do anything to heal our grief, the meal she made us could be a comfort. And a comfort it was.

We loved that meal so much, that months later when I came out of my fog, I remember emailing her for the recipe. She replied quickly and attached the recipe and we began making this meal both for our family, but also to give away to other families as regularly as possible.

Months turned to years and I didn’t see my friend much. Then one day, the unthinkable happened.

This beautiful homeschooling mama of many littles was standing in her kitchen one moment while life clattered on beautifully all around her. And the next moment she was on the floor, gone. Just. gone.

An aneurysm took the life of this holy, kind, and compassionate woman.

And so this recipe, this meal, it takes on a whole new meaning every time I prepare it. It draws me deeper into prayer for Laurie’s husband and children, and for their entire family who have grieved her. It encourages me to pray for all families who have lost someone. It grows my capacity to love and to be love & compassion to others.

This is why this recipe matters. These are the lessons I want my children to remember. A meal is rarely ever just a meal. It can taste like love, and compassion, and holiness, and community, and courage, and beauty. So the moments we spend pouring over a recipe or working the sauce until it’s just right… these are moments pregnant with grace. These are the moments we taste the divine.

The kids chose this meal to be the one they would make this week. They planned the menu, all the while knowing that we would be making TWO of this meal so as to bless another family with a full meal tonight.

So I texted a dear friend and told her to not plan anything for dinner, and that we were bringing her a meal. She is 7 months pregnant with her 6th boy and they are in the middle of moving. I knew it wasn’t a big deal as she is not sick or bedridden or anything, but it was a little something we could do to just say, ‘hey, we love you guys’.

They called when dinner was over and each of their boys got on the phone with my son (Emma was at soccer) to tell him their favorite part of the meal. It was a delight to watch his face light up as each of his friends told him what they enjoyed. This was a tangible act of service that he will remember for years to come.

The blessing of this meal is that it helped us to re-learn the lessons of grace & compassion as well as a spirit of generosity! See? A meal is never really just a meal.

Farm to Table indeed

Today we ventured out in the rain to hit up our local Farmer’s Market. It was just my boy & I since sister was sick. We meandered through the various booths offering their delicious bounty.

Timmy got to talk with local farmers and even do some of the purchasing! They were having raffles throughout the day, and Timmy won!! He was super excited, but was hoping for a pie instead of onions & beets. 🙂 We got drenched on the way home, but all told had a total blast exploring the market and shopping for some local delicious food.

Our dinner tonight will be Farm to Table indeed.

Jammin’ with the fam….

Yesterday was the beginning of Family Camp. It was a blast.

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We spent the better half of the morning learning the ins & outs of kitchen stewardship. This is such an important skill that I want to pass on to my children. Cooking 21 meals a week from scratch takes a lot of planning, preparation, and creativity. As well as a lot of fortitude to use what we have and not look for greener grass elsewhere and even spontaneity when things don’t go as planned.

The kids learned to inventory the fridge & freezers: IMG_5660

And to turn what we have into a menu-plan for 21 meals. We accounted for a fun lunch out as a family at the end of the Farm to Table week – super excited about that lunch! We also planned for the special dinner I am going to train them to cook – including a strawberry pie for dessert! (From our freshly picked berries, of course!)

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And then we cleaned out the fridge and made a grocery list for the random ingredients we would need to pull off this 21 meal plan.

Monday lunch has always meant a muffin-tin lunch which enables us to eat something quick & easy & somewhat random. Perfect for a menu-planning day!

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We proceeded to spend the remainder of the day processing the berries we picked.

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Thanks to Christina over at Intimate Weddings for the jam recipe! Yum!!

When all was said and done, we really couldn’t resist a mid-afternoon snack:

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Breakfast Sandwiches & Burritos

My kids love breakfast. I mean, I wake up some mornings to an island full of assorted breakfast ingredients lined up by the “breakfast sprite” aka. my little 5 year old boy who knows he is to be in bed still, but thinks if he puts out a coffee cup & mommy’s creamer, maybe I won’t scold him for being up.
While many mornings I do enjoy making a nice hot breakfast for everyone to enjoy, there are some mornings when that is just not feasible. So rather than have those mornings default to cold cereal, which I detest feeding them with any frequency, I try to have homemade breakfast items on hand, in the freezer. They take a little planning when you shop, and some time to assemble, but once you spend one morning a month doing this and stocking your freezer with breakfast goodness, you will be sold on this idea!

Breakfast Sandwiches (makes 1 dozen)


1 package english muffins
scrambled eggs
6 slices deli ham cut into fourths
6 slices cheddar cheese cut into fourths
cream cheese – either plain or a savory flavor. I use sundried tomato.

1. Scramble your eggs.
2. While the eggs are cooking, begin lightly toasting the muffins.
3. As the muffins come out of the toaster, stack the tops and set them aside, line up the bottoms and begin spreading a thin layer of the sun-dried tomato cream cheese on each.
4. Turn the oven on to broil.
5. Build your sandwiches assembly line style: Eggs on each, 2 pieces ham on each, 2 slices cheese on each.
6. Put them all on a cookie sheet (I do this step in batches of 6)
7. Broil for about 2 minutes until cheese is melted.
8. Immediately smush the tops of the muffins onto the melted cheese.
9. Set the muffins on a plate and put that in the freezer for about 2 hours.
10. Once all muffins are frozen, put 1 dozen into a gallon size ziploc bag & keep in freezer.

To reheat: simply wrap sandwich in microwave & heat for anywhere between 30-45 seconds, longer if necessary.
I like to make this recipe doubled or tripled so that I only have to do it once a month with no concern of running out.

Breakfast Burritos (makes 10 burritos or 20 if you cut them in half)

10 flour tortillas
1 dozen eggs, scrambled.
cream cheese, plain or savory
Jimmy Dean’s maple sausage: crumbled, browned, & drained.

1. Cook sausage – reserve in fridge until ready to assemble.
2. Scramble eggs
3. Build tortillas: spread cream cheese, add sausage & eggs, roll burrito style.
4. Freeze on a plate, then put all of the burritos into a gallon-size ziploc bag.
5. Reheat for about 1:30 in the microwave.

Again, I double or triple the burrito recipe in order to stock up. My husband loves to take these in his lunch as well, so I like to have plenty on hand.







The Best Scrambled Eggs

8 eggs
1/4 c. milk
lowry’s seasoning salt
shredded cheese – about 1/2 cup
laughing cow swiss cheese – one wedge cut into tiny pieces

1. coat your pan with Pam cooking spray & heat on medium
2. blend the 1st 4 ingredients with hand mixer until bubbly
3. pour egg mixture into frying pan
4. cook on medium for several minutes until sides begin to look foamy
5. begin to flip & chop with your spatula
6. when almost done, sprinkle tiny pieces of the LC cheese and fold into eggs

serve and enjoy