Real Food for Families

How to Easily Meal Plan for a Large Family

This easy meal planning system will make your weekly grocery shopping a breeze! Now you can quickly plan simple easy meals, the whole family will love.

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Ok, it’s mom-fession time.  I’m kind of hate meal planning. Because I’m a rebel like that; I like to eat what I’m in the mood for, not what I planned a week ago. But with a growing family and hungry boys I need a weekly plan or we’ll be out of milk by Wednesday and left with 37 brown bananas. I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting my system but I’ve finally come up with the perfect way to easily meal plan for a large family!

Grocery Shopping for a Large Family

Let’s start with grocery shopping. I do not like going to the grocery store, so I choose to have my groceries delivered every week.

This frees up so much time for me, plus I don’t forget items at the store as often because Amazon Fresh stores past orders for me! Which makes it easier to remember all the staples I buy once a week.

My first step in meal planning is to iron out a solid grocery shopping routine. I’ve tried out many routines over the years. From shopping once a month, to going to the store every other day and everything in between.

Most systems I found to be confusing and hard to keep track of. My current grocery system is to have groceries delivered weekly. That’s it. I order exactly what I need for that week and we eat it.

For a while I was buying in bulk monthly (or even quarterly) and then making weekly trips to the store to fill in with fresh groceries like milk and produce. But it was a lot to manage and keep track of. I found myself often buying duplicate items because I had so much food stored I could never see or track all of it.

Now I just shop once a week. Easy peasy. If we run out of something early I’ll order extra for the next week, but I don’t do mid-week orders. (Unless it’s something we need like milk or diapers).

Whatever you decide to do, pick a routine and stick to it!

Meal Planning for a Large Family:

The How To

Now this is the system it took me years to perfect. Years. And when you read it you’re going to say “Really? This took you years?” Yes. It did. Don’t judge.

I tend to overcomplicate things, and I think in order to do something efficiently it has to be difficult and complicated. And really, keeping it simple is usually the best option.

My system is so super easy, you’ll be cruising along in no time!! Here we go!

Start with Dinners

Always start with dinners and go from there. Dinner will typically be your most expensive meal of the day and the one that needs the most planning. Breakfast and lunch are much easier, especially if you and your family eat outside the home for those meals. Plus, the lunch plan can always be leftovers from dinner, that’s usually what I do.

Serve the Same Breakfast Every Day

You know that whole thing about decision fatigue? It’s real. It’s exhausting to have to whip up something new for breakfast AND dinner every day (and lunch too). Give yourself a break and save some money by planning one breakfast for the whole week.

I might make a large breakfast casserole on Sunday and we all eat that for breakfast every day until the next week. It keeps it simple and easy on the budget! (I might have a back-up like oatmeal in the house in case we run out or need a break one day, but otherwise I stick to the same meal every day for a week.)

Eat Everything You Buy

This is why we eat leftovers for lunch and usually at least one night per week. We eat everything we buy. Not only does this save us money, but it makes menu planning for a large family much easier. If you buy it, eat it.

Plus it makes it much easier to shop the next week because I don’t have to spend an hour clearing out the fridge. We naturally clean out the fridge over the course of the week just by eating what we buy.

Meal Planning for a Large Family:

The Template

I have one more secret to share with you. It’s a good one! Are you ready? I have a template that I follow each week as a guide for meal planning.

I’m talking about a weekly pattern that makes my menu planning quick and simple.

When I menu plan for a large family I plan from Friday to the following Thursday. I do this because I have groceries delivered on Friday, so my grocery week starts over on Friday. From there I laid out a simple pattern and now that I follow it, I can meal plan and make a grocery list in about 10 minutes. Yup, that fast!

Here’s my pattern:

Friday: Pizza night, I started this rule years ago when I was still going to the store. My grocery shopping days were always pizza nights because it was too much to shop and cook all in one day. Even though I have groceries delivered now, pizza night just kind of stuck!

Saturday: Seasonal foods (in the summer we grill a lot, in the winter I do more soups and comfort foods)

Sunday: Family dinner, we have dinner with my parents on Sundays and my mom cooks, woohoo! No cooking for me!

Monday: Pasta (or some variation of this…..lasagna, tortellini, etc…)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday (or something in that arena……fajiats, enchiladas, nachos, etc.)

Wednesday: Easy Button (my husband works 12 hour days and Wednesday is the third one in a row, so I’m always tired and rarely in the mood to cook; easy button night might be takeout, chicken nuggets with fruit, or sandwiches outside on the patio; whatever works for us that week)

Thursday: Leftovers, Thursdays are usually a hodgepodge of leftovers so that we can clean out the fridge before groceries are delivered the next morning.

That’s what I do, some days are set in stone (like leftovers and family dinner) but others flex throughout the week or month. Sometimes I get tired of pasta so we take a break from that one week and I’ll do something totally different.

Like a curry or casserole. I’m a huge fan of casserole because I can get everything (protein, carb, veggies) into one bowl and my kids gobble it up.

The pattern isn’t meant to lock me into the same menu every week. It’s meant to be a guide to make my menu planning for a large family easier and faster.

Take some time and try to create your own pattern and choose what works best for your family. Remember to take into account weekly (or even one-time events) each week. If you work late every Wednesday maybe that’s your easy button night. And if you love having friends over on Sunday to watch football maybe you make extras to have for snacks and lunches all week.

Pick what works for you and build from there!! A few of other ideas for you:

  • crockpot night (prep a meal in the morning, come home to dinner!)
  • new recipe night (pick one new recipe every week to experiment and enjoy)
  • Meatless Monday (I think my family would stage a coup if I ever took meat out of a meal, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you)
  • Small group dinners- if you don’t have family nearby to give you a cooking break, team up with some close-by friends and take turns hosting. If you get enough people to participate you could trade off weeks (maybe every Friday) and then you’ll only have to make dinner on Friday once a month!
  • breakfast for dinner (always a winner in my house and super fun!)
  • Take out night
  • Picnic night
  • Asian foods night (I love cooking curry or stir fry once or twice a month)
  • Let the kids choose once a week (I’m not brave enough to do this yet, we’d be eating ketchup and applesauce every night, but one day my boys might have different opinions)

A Quick Word About Meal Prepping

I know the new trend right now is to meal prep for the week. I think it’s great and if I was still working I would absolutely spend time on Sunday prepping meals for the week. But I stay home with the kids, which I am so blessed to be able to do, so I don’t really have a need for meal prep.

This is not a strength for me, and if I’m honest I probably take for granted how easy it is for me to be in my kitchen throughout the day.

The one tip I do have in this area is to cook extra when you are cooking. I like to cook more than what we’ll eat for dinner so we have leftovers. Or I might cook a whole lasagna, freeze half, and then I have a meal prepped and ready to go for later!

That’s about as much prep as I do. Unless of course you count baking cookies every week as meal prep. No? I didn’t think so.

Ok, so that’s how I menu plan for a large family every week! Oh, one final tip. The great advantage to using a grocery delivery service is I can add to my order all week long.

So when I run out of peanut butter I just open the app and add it to my order. Instead of making a list all week long. Then on Thursday night when I sit down to menu plan and place my grocery order it takes even less time because I’ve already been adding to my cart all week!

Ok, now that is seriously ALL of my secrets to menu planning for a large family! Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? Leave a comment below!

grey distressed wood with a black board laying on top that reads "Menu" in yellow writing, a yellow pen sits next to the board, small bowls of spices and herbs sit in the upper right corner of the frame text overlay reads "How to easily meal plan for a large family"