Feeding a Large Family on a Tight Budget

Feeding a large family on a tight budget is no simple feat! Here is one amazing way to lower the costs of feeding your large (or small) family on a budget. 

The best way to save money on food when feeding a large family on a tight budget…. is a tip that you don’t want to hear.

In fact, it’s not necessarily a “tip” or a “hack” but a complete lifestyle change. When you are feeding a large family, then your food costs are multiplied exponentially. It’s much harder to save money using couponing. You need some drastic measures. You won’t be able to cut your food bill for a family of 8 or 9 just by using a $0.50 coupon.

Of course, you can shop all the sales and use all the coupons and do all the tips and hacks to save money on groceries, but I am going to guess that if you are feeding a large family, then you are also taking care of a large family which means that you have no extra time on your hands. Add to that the fact that you are trying to feed a family on a tight budget, and some drastic changes need to be made.

Of course, this tip is a great idea even if you are a small family on a budget.  Feeding a family on a budget is not an easy endeavor and can be pretty difficult no matter your family’s size.

I always get a lot of backlash when I share this in real life or on any of the forums I frequent. I am curious if this blog post will get the same type of dismissive reaction.

The best way to save money on food, particularly if you are cooking and feeding a large family on a tight budget, is something you probably don’t want to hear and you certainly don’t want to implement. I will share it anyway because it really is the most effective and the most healthy way to change your diet.

If you do agree to begrudgingly give it a try, it will change the way you eat forever. ( OK, I actually can’t promise “forever”- we have been doing it for 4 years, and it has changed the way we eat, but that is all the data I have on the subject.) I don’t have such a large family, but I grew up in one, so I know the struggle of feeding a large family on a tight budget.

Feeding A Large Family on a Tight Budget when you Eat Kosher

This advice will have even more cost-saving benefits if you keep kosher for those of you that don’t keep kosher, then you don’t know that kosher chicken, meat, fish, cheese, and yogurt are more expensive than you can imagine. It is significantly more costly than your non-kosher counterparts.

This is especially true if you don’t live in New York or New Jersey or anywhere else with a very large Jewish market, so if you live “out-of-town,” then continue reading!

We actually started this “diet” for health reasons and didn’t really have finances in mind. It started when my in-laws had started doing a strict plant-based diet based on Dr. Michael Greger’s book “How Not to Die,” and they were truly obsessed.

Plant Based-Food

So we decided to read it and see what we thought. A lot of the ideas seemed out of reach for us, but we really were sold on the main point:

Eat Plant-Based Food

Eat more plant-based food and cut down on animal-based food and processed food.

The processed food was basic- no more junk food or soda. But you probably know that already.

The biggest switch was thinking of plant-based food as a main dish instead of animal-based foods. This means that instead of eating meat, chicken, fish, or cheese as a main dish, we switched to eating various beans and tofu as the main dish instead.

We decided to try it. It was great! We really felt better. Then we noticed the change in our food bill! It was tremendous. We were spending significantly less on food, and we had more money to buy fruits and vegetables- even “expensive” ones that we don’t ordinarily splurge on (like strawberries!).

We went from eating chicken or meat at least once a day for 7 days of the week to eating it approximately one day a week (Shabbos).

The pricing difference was insane! With the money we saved on the “main dish,” we were able to use to add more, and varied, fruits and vegetables to our diet and still came out ahead!

No Need to be Vegan

We don’t do this for ideological reasons. Additionally, we still eat a lot of animal-based food- we just cut down a lot. I still drink milk with my coffee, and my kids still eat yogurt. We still eat meat occasionally and always on Shabbos and Yom Tov (Holidays). We do eat a lot less cheese, fish, chicken, and meat.

The Cost-Savings Analysis

Saving Money When Feeding a Family on a Budget

Please think of the cost for a minute: Let’s say that chicken is $2.99 a pound. (prices vary wildly on location, obviously). Beans are for a pound. Look at the cost savings in that! Add in the fact that beans are considered much healthier for you than chicken, and you have a winner!

If you take that extra $1.99- you can use it to spend money on vegetables and fruits that you ordinarily wouldn’t have money for. That is a win-win.  Now think about feeding a large family. Take that $1.99 and multiply it by 5 or 6 or 7. The numbers add up so quickly!

When you have a tight budget, then the $10 certainly adds up rather quickly! If you do this a few times a week, we are talking about some significant savings. When your large family is on a tight budget, then this is an easy way to make feeding them just a little cheaper.

But my family will never agree!

This is a common refrain: “I would do it, but my husband NEEDS his meat. My kids NEED their chicken”.

It is easy to say, “well, if you are feeding a large family on a tight budget, then everyone needs to suck it up,” but we all know that it doesn’t work like that. And after a few nights of complaining and kvetching, you will be back to expensive foods that people do like.

If you have a family of staunch meat-eaters or picky eaters, then don’t dive into this all at once. It will backfire. Slowly ease into it.

5 Tips to Slowly Cut Down on the Meat and Chicken in Your Diet:

  1. Make the main dish the side dish. Use chicken and meat but make a much smaller amount. This is easier if you plate the meal yourself. Put a smaller amount of meat and chicken and put large amounts of side dishes- rice, beans, vegetables. You will be saving money on the meat and chicken and slowly encouraging them to eat the other foods. You can also make a cheap soup as a side dish!
  2. Make a chili. Make a “vegetarian” chili but put in meat or chicken. The small amount of meat and chicken will satisfy the avid carnivores while drastically cutting the price and encouraging the beans aspect. Then, make the same chili without the meat or chicken. Once the dish was a hit, they will (hopefully!) be more willing to try the meatless version.
  3. Experiment with great food. Don’t make bland beans and rice and expect people to love it. They won’t. Make delicious chilis, curries, and other dishes to try. Use bold flavors and spices. Delicious food is delicious food. Experiment and research different recipes to see which ones work the best for you. Budgetbytes.com has a whole vegetarian section with really yummy meals. You can also check out Vegan Chickpea for some great ideas!
  4. Don’t make substitute meat dishes. Don’t start with Black Bean Burgers or Vegetarian Meatballs. These are sure to disappoint a meat-eater. Make things that are totally different and new. The substitutions tend to taste “almost like the real thing,” which makes you crave the “real thing” more!
  1. Eat it yourself. If you have truly picky eaters or a die-hard carnivore, then your hands are tied. You can encourage those in the family to eat more vegetarian foods and make meat only for those who insist. This will help save food costs and improve health for those who try it. Maybe all the delicious foods that you make will entice the hold-outs to try a bit. You never know!

Have you tried cutting meat and chicken from your diet? Are you feeding a large family on a tight budget? What recipes do you like best?



Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.

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