20 Sep How do You Cook for so Many?
This is a question I am often asked. People wonder how in the world someone with a large, family manages meals, assuming it’s ten times more the work. In reality, it’s not so at all. I have personally found that the larger the family gets, the easier it becomes because my workforce increases substantially. If nothing else, mom learns to become a more efficient manager of menus, shopping, cooking and delegating.
I am not a big fan of grocery shopping. I am always looking for ways to lessen the time and effort I put out on this job. I always shop with a grocery list. My mission is to go out and conquer and not buy anything else unless it’s a real deal.
Here’s what I do.
- Keep a running list on the fridge door of ingredients needed and next week’s menu so I’m sure to pick up all that’s necessary.
- Have it typed on the computer – two lists of commonly bought ingredients?
- Before going shopping, circle what and how much is needed, ie. 4 cartons eggs.
- I consider upcoming meal menus and make sure all ingredients will be on hand.
- The grocery items are listed according to how they appear as we walk down the aisles of the store. I have two lists – one for each half of the store. I always take a teenager with me. He gets his list and I get mine. This cuts my shopping time in half. An added bonus is that my teens learn how to select produce, comparative shop, orient themselves around a grocery store, and learn to bypass a lot of unnecessary stuff.
- I try to save time by doing a one stop shop.
- At the cash register, my teenager unloads the carts, while I pack the bags according to their destination ie. Fridge items, freezer items, canned goods, dry goods etc.
- Once home, everyone pitches in to unpack and put away the groceries. Even the toddler helps. It’s a family affair and kids learn young that they are needed and appreciated.
Another issue is the actual menu. When you have a large family you do look for recipes that are nutritious and work within your budget. You make a bigger effort to plan ahead of time so that you stay on the ball. To balance your budget, you tend to cut down on major meat portions and balance out more with side dishes and veggies. My little kids eat better today than their older siblings ever did. You also realize early in family life that your home is not a restaurant.
- You do not cater to the food tastes of each individual but rather cook for the group, making sure there is at least one side dish the picky eaters will eat. In my house, children learn to eat what’s put in front of them or wait until the next meal. No child ever dies from missing a meal. If anything, they appreciate the next one even better.
- In my home, we started offering dessert every evening as a way to encourage kids to try and eat their meals. The rule is you don’t finish, you don’t get dessert. For the little kids, it’s “How old are you? That’s how many scoops you have to have before you move on to dessert.” Now dessert can range from some applesauce to pudding, to cookies to cake – depending on the occasion and what you can whip up. It certainly works well in my home to offer an amazing dessert following a new recipe where you have a lot of reluctant eaters. It’s a riot to watch my family sweet tooths plug noses, crunch up faces and force feed themselves all in the name of sugar.
- In my home, we don’t do a lot of junk food. Kids have to bake their own sweets and pop and chips are reserved for special occasions. We have lots of fruit, veggies and good snacks always available. Not only does this give them healthier eating habits, it also makes them really enjoy and appreciate treats when they get them.
Must it cost a fortune to feed your family? Well yes, it is not under $50, but no it’s not horrendous. The cost per person for the week for my family is probably less than the average family. Why? I shop with a purpose.
- I know what I need because I plan in advance.
- I try to avoid impulse buying.
- I buy bulk when things are on sale and have a large freezer and full-size fridge to accommodate.
- I learn what days stores have marked down meats, produce, and baked goods and take advantage of these savings.
- I buy when foods are in season and most affordable.
- I look for recipes that are simple, economical and nutritious.
- I rarely buy pre-made meals and do make most from scratch.
- We also rarely eat out.
- We pack lunches in reusable containers and juice bottles, using nothing pre-packaged.
- We stopped drinking fruit punches at meals and turned to water.
- We encourage healthy snacking at set times, and frown on impulse eating. Snacks also are just that –snacks – a small amount of food offered to re-charge you, not a meal. So snacks are selected and portions determined. Kids don’t binge out, and they save their appetite for the next meal. Parents don’t need to be always providing the latest, greatest and most convenient snacks on the market. I’d rather soak my money into good books, great sports equipment or something much more formative, than food. Anyway, great food budgeting is an art and many moms of large families can teach so much. Our kids don’t feel under-fed or under-nourished. If anything, they have healthy and happy appetites and great family memories of pitching in to get the meal on the table.
Clean-up is not as deadly as one might assume with twelve times the dishes. My children have a kitchen chore list that rotates on a daily basis. It’s typed, clearly posted and regularly used to get the troops moving. Little kids can easily set the table and bring their place setting to the kitchen counter. School kids take turns washing and drying dishes, loading dishwasher, unloading dishwasher, wiping table, sweeping floor and taking the garbage out. My husband is a great supervisor during these moments when my energy has died down. You really need to keep your sense of humor and it really can be a lot of fun. Great music, great laughs and great conversation keep the place hopping. It’s a team effort and everyone feels they are needed and appreciated. Before you know it, it’s done and you have time for other things.
If you have a large family, what are some points you would add? Email me and let us know.