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The best way to save money on food when feeding a large family….

is a tip that you don’t want to hear.

In fact, its 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. Its much harder to save money using couponing etc. You need some drastic measures.

feeding a large family
feeding a large family on a budget

I always get a lot of backlash when I share this in real life or 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, is something you probably don’t want to hear and you certainly don’t want to implement. I am going to share it anyways 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 a family on a budget.

Feeding A Large Family 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 than 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” than 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. 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 foot 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” one 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! 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!

Are you 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

Think of the cost for a minute: Lets say that chicken is $2.99 a pound. (prices vary wildly on location, obviously). Beans are $1 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.

How to feed a large family on a budget

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”.

If you have a family of staunch meat eaters or picky eaters than 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 the eating of 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 than your hands are tied. You can try to encourage those in the family to eat more vegetarian foods and make meat only for those that insist. This will help save food costs and improve health for those that 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? What recipes do you like best?

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