We are a one income family of eight. My little people eat a lot of food. Here in lies a potential problem.

If I had to guess, food purchases is one of the biggest problems for anyone’s budget. It’s so very easy to go over. An extra bag of oranges here, a drive-thru latte there, the unavoidable Girl Scout cookies… I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but I do have some experience on this front and I’d like to share what works for my family. Here’s a short list of rules I live by.

Don’t Eat Out

I think this goes without saying but I’m gonna say it. Eating out is more expensive than cooking at home. Eating out is the biggest budget killer. Yes, it’s easier. Yes, it may even taste better. Some things just have to change when you have a large family. We know of all the “Kids Eat Free” deals in our neighborhood and, if we do eat out as a family, that is when are where we go.

Buy in bulk whenever possible.

We have a membership to Sam’s Club. I’d love to try Costco but it just isn’t worth the drive for me when there is a Sam’s close to my house. We buy quite a bit there but you really have to watch. Bulk prices aren’t always best. For example, my local Sam’s only sells brand name pasta sauces. I can buy 3 jars of sauce cheaper at Aldi because they are not brand name products.

Bulk shopping can also benefit you in that it can allow you to shop less often. I don’t know about you, but, for me, a trip to the store for milk always ends up with more than just milk bought. Obviously some things cannot be bought in bulk because they will spoil, but many can and every little bit helps.

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit

In our house there is always a hot debate over the words to this rhyme. I always knew it to be, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat them the more you toot.” My husband says it’s, “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart. The more you eat them the more you…” You get the idea.

However you say it, beans are a great way to feed a large family. They are cheap, filling, and good for you too. Go search for some bean recipes and you’ll see how diverse they are. Our family favorite is a 5 bean chili with peppers.

Shredded Chicken Thighs are Amazing

We buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs in bulk. They are quite cheap and freeze great. I separate them into meal size portions before I freeze them. I throw them into my Instant Pot (my favorite thing of all time) still frozen for 20 minutes and then shred them. Shredded chicken goes so much farther than un-shredded. It can be served over rice, in a burrito, in a soup, or whatever sounds good that day.

Meal Plans

For this, I don’t necessarily have a schedule of meals planned for the week. I buy what I need to make a certain amount of dinners for the week and decide that day. What I mean when I say meal plans is that we have designated food for each meal of the day and designated meal times. No one in my house is grabbing food at random times of the day. For example, bread is meant for lunch and lunch only. Lunch is at a set time. Everyone eats at that time or they miss lunch. If you are hungry after that you have to wait until snack time. Sometimes I feel a bit like a food dictator but if I let these wild things eat whenever they wanted and whatever they wanted it would be anarchy and I’d be grocery shopping every other day. My kids know no other way of life so they don’t complain. They are pretty hard core about not missing that snack time though.