Budget Meal Planning Ideas for Large Families (with free printables!)

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If you have a large family, meal planning can be challenging. It’s never fun spending hours in the kitchen cooking for your kids when you could spend that time playing with them or just enjoying some “me” time. Not to mention the headache of worrying about food costs! I’ve been there and it’s NOT fun! 

That is why I created a budget-friendly meal plan to not only save my sanity but help yours as well! It is full of easy, healthy recipes that will help you take control of your grocery shopping and save money so you don’t have to stress about running out of food before payday. In this post, I am going to go over some ways you can plan your family’s meals on a budget and give you some ideas of how to stretch what you purchase to feed a large family. 

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    How Meal Planning Can Save You Money

    Meal planning may seem like a simple change but it can result in big changes in your savings when it comes to food preparation. According to the 2019 US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent over 3,500 dollars on food away from home, meaning restaurants, take out, and fast-food meals. 

    This is a large expense you could cut out by planning meals that are delicious and convenient, instead of paying for the convenience of these other options which may not be healthy or delicious. It is also important to remember that you can increase your savings by cutting costs when you buy your groceries! You can learn about more grocery saving tips to decrease your overall spending, here.

    How To Make A Grocery Budget For a Large Family

    The first step in effective meal planning is to make a grocery budget for your family, which can be customized to the size and number of meals you need. Your family’s needs come first in budgeting, with things like allergies, intolerances, and other factors going into your meal planning. You also have to factor in the ages of the children in your family, as teenagers will be eating more than your toddlers. If you would like some additional help with budgeting the USDA frequently publishes budget plans based on the current prices of common grocery items. According to their statistics, the average family spends around 1,200 dollars a month on their moderate plan. 

    They publish plans that are separated into 3 categories, low, moderate, and liberal. This means that you can adjust your plan in several ways, and compare to the plans with higher price points, this can let you see the scope of your savings and where you can continue to cut costs.

    How Using A Meal Planner Can Keep You On Budget!

    A meal planner can be a great way to keep you on a budget! While you may think you can remember everything you need to do in a day, even your planned meals, it truly helps to use a planner to get your thoughts onto paper. By using a meal planner, such as this, you can finally get all of your thoughts and budget planning ideas out of your head and onto the page. 

    You can write out a grocery list, weekly meals you are planning, and recipes to try, all that are in line with your personalized family budget! Here is another helpful article for even more tips on sticking to your budget.

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    What is the average cost per meal for a family of 5-6?

    Another way to help you create and maintain a budget is to know the average cost to feed your family. One way to help calculate this and other budgets is with this Intuit grocery budget calculator. You can adjust to four different spending levels, input the number of family members, and even add food restrictions. 

    The calculator then gives you the average weekly and monthly grocery cost you can expect to spend. The average cost of feeding your family members can also be found on this page, which breaks down the weekly and monthly costs by age and sex of the members of your family. These numbers are based on the 2019 US averages. In general, the average monthly cost of feeding a family of 6 is around 1,200 dollars

    You can calculate the average meal cost by using the weekly average as a guideline, so the average cost per meal for teenage boys, who are notoriously the biggest eaters, is around 8 dollars per meal for a week.

    What is the cheapest meal you can make?

    The cheapest meals you can make are usually made from items you can buy in bulk, such as eggs, flour, rice, bread, and even pasta. The cheapest breakfast option usually tends to include pancakes, eggs, and bacon. This is a cheap option because you can buy a majority of the ingredients in bulk and you can make many pancakes out of just a few ingredients. 

    Eggs can also be used in omelets, egg salad sandwiches, and other options so you can get as much use and uniqueness out of them, without your family complaining they’re tired of them. A great budget option for lunches and even dinners is grilled cheeses and tomato soup. 

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    Once again, all of the ingredients are on the cheaper end and some can be bought in bulk. Bread, cheese, and soup seems simple and boring but it is a classic for a reason and can be adjusted in different ways for those with dietary restrictions or who may want to add something extra to the dish.

    Cheap Weekly Meal Plan Ideas For Families On A Budget

    Budget meal planning is a great way to save money and plan your meals for the week ahead. With so many families on a strict budget every month, it’s important to find ways of saving money and cutting out unnecessary expenses! 

    Cutting out expenses doesn’t mean you have to shop for ramen noodles or start a diet of bologna and cheese sandwiches. In fact, there are many great recipes you can incorporate that are budget-friendly and taste great. Below you will find a full week of meal plan ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and even desserts! 

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      A Week of Budget-Friendly Breakfast Ideas

      Apple Cinnamon Rolls

      If you’re looking for a fun way to get your family excited for the fall season, and back to school time, then this is a wonderful recipe. Minimal ingredients are used for this breakfast idea, meaning it is a frugal option but will still be an exciting spin on plain old cinnamon rolls. Apple-shaped, topped with icing, and made for your budget, what more could you want? Find the full recipe here.

      Chocolate Chip Waffles

      If your family loves those chocolate chip waffles in the freezer section of your local grocery store, then they will love these even more! This is a recipe similar to the brand name freezer waffles, but for a much cheaper price point, and they can be made in bulk. These are an easy switch from a store brand to your own family brand of waffles, they take a short time to make, and you can freeze any leftovers to minimize food waste. You can read the full recipe for these fluffy and scrumptious waffles, here.


      If you have some picky eaters in the family, or you just aren’t a big meal at breakfast type of crew, then smoothies are a healthy and quick way to get some food in before you all start the day. You can add any ingredients you want to these. There are so many different recipes and this is a great way to use your fruits (and some veggies), that you don’t want to waste before the weekends. 

      You can have protein-rich smoothies with peanut butter, banana, honey, and oatmeal. You can go with classic strawberry and banana, or even get tropical with mango, pineapple, and coconut. The best part is this option is quick, the ingredients can be cheap, and it allows you to use up any fruits before they have gone bad.

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      French Toast

      French toast is a classic breakfast staple and the main component is bread! Bread, eggs, milk, and the other ingredients needed for this item can be bought on even the strictest of budgets and is easy to make. You can make this dish fun and healthy with cinnamon, honey, and fresh fruits! You can also adjust the portions by making homemade French toast sticks, without spending the money on the brand-name freezer options.


      Oatmeal can be bought in bulk for cheap prices and it is a healthy option to introduce some fiber into your family’s diet. While you may be thinking, how could eating this plain oatmeal be enjoyable, don’t worry! There are many ways to spruce up your oats for you and your family to enjoy this frugal breakfast. You can add fresh fruits, honey, cinnamon, peanut butter, or even chocolate! With so many different variations this is a nice breakfast option, that you can switch up before anyone gets tired of it.

      Egg in the Hole

      This is a popular breakfast option that is fun for kids, and even adults. All it takes is bread, eggs, and your usual seasonings. You begin by taking a cookie-cutter and removing the shape from the center of the bread. Then you put butter and the bread into a pan, flip it, crack an egg into the center, and remove when the egg has been cooked to your liking. This is an easy and frugal way to get some protein into your mornings while playing with fun shapes and designs.


      Another breakfast food that has many different iterations, your family will surely never complain as you can switch up flavors often with this choice. You can go with classic blueberry or strawberry muffins, or add some chocolate chips to give it a sweet edge. You can also have lemon poppyseed or banana nut muffins to really add some flavor. This can also be an easy on the go breakfast option if you make them bite-sized!

      To read about more breakfast ideas, helpful breakfast items, and kid friendly ideas, check out this post!

      Lunch Ideas For Large Families 


      Lunch may just seem like boring sandwiches and plain peanut butter and jelly, but pinwheels are a fun take on the classics. Instead of a ham and cheese sandwich, you can make ham and cheese pinwheels! These may seem like the same thing but to kids who may struggle with eating at lunch, all it could take is for their food to take on a new form, to become more appetizing to them. 

      These pinwheels are easy to eat and give your children something new in their lunchbox which may give them a renewed appetite. You can also add some new flavors to the pinwheels by using this taco pinwheel recipe, which is great for kids and adult lunches!

      Peanut butter and jelly roll ups

      Just like the situation with the pinwheels, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich may be boring to your child now but you can switch things up for your picky eater by creating these fun roll-ups! 

      The PB&J sandwich may have too much bread or not enough jelly, but with these roll-ups it is much easier to get a perfect balance in every bite-size snack! It also adds a sense of newness and excitement to a seemingly outdated lunch choice.

      Cereal for Lunch

      A simple and price saving way to pack a lunch for your child is to introduce cereal into their lunchboxes. Whether you want to use the prepackaged cereal cups you can buy in store, or want to go a cheaper more sustainable route by packing the cereal into a lidded storage bowl. This way you can add cereal from a larger bag you have bought in bulk and you waste less plastic by using a reusable bowl. You just need to pack a side of milk and some healthy snacks such as fruits or veggies, and then the lunchbox is all set!

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      Pepperoni Pizzadilla

      An exciting and flavorful take on pizza for lunch is this pizzadilla! Similarly, to make a homemade cheese quesadilla, you just need your favorite pizza toppings, a tortilla, and pizza sauce. Your family is sure to love this fresh take on a lunch item, and it can be customized to their favorite pizza choices, like classic pepperoni or even Margherita! Read up on the recipe and cooking process, here.  

      Spinach and Ricotta Rolls

      An easy way to get your children (and other family members)to eat some green veggies is to make these spinach and ricotta rolls for their lunches! These are easy to eat and packed with flavor, if you’re looking to add something new and savory to your lunches then this is a perfect pick. You can find the full recipe for these savory rolls, here.

      Pasta Salad

      Lunch is an important meal for adults and children, so if you need to have a carb heavy meal to give you enough energy to get through your day, then pasta salad is an affordable option that takes no time to make, and can be stored in the fridge to use across multiple days. You can purchase boxes of pasta salad mix at affordable prices, or you can make your own version with ingredients you have in the pantry. If you want to try out a homemade pasta salad recipe that is tasty and has minimal ingredients, check this page out.

      Three Veg Scrolls

      If you have a hard time getting your veggies in for your daily nutrients, then these veggie scrolls can solve this issue. They are a nice option for vegetarians as they only include cheese, vegetables, and puff pastry dough. They are bite size ways to get all of your nutrients and give your ideas for vegetarian lunch options. To find out the many ways to make them, click on this link.

      Many other helpful lunchbox style recipes for you to stockpile ideas and help meal plan, can be found here!

      Cheap & Easy Dinner Ideas

      Spicy Cauliflower Tacos

      For all the vegetarians or healthy eaters out there, it may feel impossible to maintain a nutritious diet while on a strict budget, but with this recipe you should have no worries! Packed with spice, vegetables, and protein, these tacos are a twist on your usual taco recipe by switching the meats for spicy cauliflower and chickpeas! They offer protein and texture, adding to a delightful dish. Find the full recipe, here.

      Black Bean “Meatloaf”

      Black beans can be a great meat substitute for vegetarians out there, or those who are cutting back on certain proteins. This meatloaf recipe replaces your usual ground beef with mashed black beans, and is an amazing option for those on a budget because canned beans can be bought in bulk and for a cheap price point! See the full recipe and cooking directions, here.

      Pulled Pork Sliders

      For our meat eaters out there, these pulled pork sliders are a savory, and cheaper way to make those BBQ sandwiches you love! Using a crock pot for the main ingredients of this dish allows easy cooking and serving when dinner time comes around. Everyone in your family will love the tender and sweet pulled pork that comes out of the crock pot and you won’t have to light up a grill or a smoker to achieve maximum flavor. Read about the cooking process and the toppings used for this recipe, here.

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      Leftover Pulled Pork Recipes

      If you looked at the recipe above and decided that it sounds amazing, but maybe you made just too much of the pulled pork, then there are so many ideas for dinner options to use those leftovers! Don’t waste perfectly good food, and if you don’t want sliders again then check this page out! Whether you’re in the mood for pulled pork tacos, taquitos, nachos, mac and cheese, or even pizza, there is a recipe for whatever you’re hungry for! The best part is you get good use out of those leftovers so you have no food wasted!

      Recipes for your Grill

      If you think that grilling things like seafood, making kebabs, or any other outdoor cooking seems like a luxury, I am here to tell you that’s not true! Look at this page to find many affordable griller recipes for any outdoor occasion you have this summer. Whether you want a seafood boil, chicken kabobs, jerk salmon, or caprese chicken pasta, you can have anything you can think of to enjoy outdoors with your family this summer season!

      Lemon Rosemary Garlic Chicken

      A meal your family is sure to love is this lemon rosemary garlic chicken, containing minimal ingredients that you can find for cheap; this dinner feels classy but won’t break the bank! Simply pair with some vegetables as the sides, and you have a nutritious dinner you can enjoy together.

      Recipes Under $5

      To really find recipes to fit your budget, check out this list that compiles a variety of options all for under 5 dollars! This includes dishes like ham and cheese crescent rings, veggie rolls, stir fry, kielbasa, and goulash! If you’re looking to branch out and stay under your budget this list will have many choices for you and your family.

      Snack Ideas For The Whole Family

      Pizza Bites

      We all are familiar with the classic brand name pizza rolls and bagel bites, but this alternative is much better for those on a budget, and it tastes just as good! This recipe uses crackers to give it a nice texture and add fiber but you can also use mini bagels or regular size bagels and apply the same techniques!

      Yogurt Cups

      Instead of spending money on brand name yogurt cups that add to the world’s plastic packaging, you can make your own! This is a cheaper and more sustainable option because you can buy plain yogurt in larger quantities and add flavors and toppings to it! This ends up making a more fun, tasty, and affordable option than boring cups from the grocery store. One unique and fun option is this recipe for shark week themed yogurt cups!

      PB&J Energy Bites

      If you are on a diet or your children need a daily dose of energy (probably unlikely depending on their age), then these peanut butter and jelly bites are the perfect snack choice! Peanut butter adds protein, oats add fiber, and jelly adds some sweetness! What more could you want in a snack, see the full recipe here.

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      Frozen Jell-O Grapes

      Grapes may seem like a boring snack on their own, which is why this recipe comes in handy to make sure they all get eaten and you aren’t wasting money by throwing out uneaten fruits. These Jell-O grapes add a new sweet flavor and freezing them gives them a nice texture. These make a great summer snack and can even be used as ice cubes! Plus freezing the grapes extends their shelf life, meaning you can use this as an option to reduce your produce food waste.

      Homemade Goldfish

      If you and your children have dietary restrictions or certain allergies, this homemade goldfish recipe should cover many bases. They are vegan, gluten-free, and grain free! Yet, they are still just as cute! These snacks can fit everyone’s dietary needs, and can last for quite a while as they are baked.


      S’mores are a fan favorite for everyone, but you don’t have to go camping to enjoy them! This post gives many ways you and your family can have fun making s’mores without braving the wilderness and while not sacrificing your budget!

      Road Trip Snacks

      If you and your family are planning a road trip or just a long trip to a relative’s house for the weekend, then this post contains many recipes that are road trip friendly and yummy for even the pickiest snack eaters! Homemade cheese crackers, apple chips, dried fruit chips, and peach rolls, all star in this list! It contains something for everyone and these snacks can be enjoyed without the need for a road trip as well.

      Desserts on a Budget (Can’t Forget Dessert… even on a budget!)

      Funfetti Crepes

      If you’re celebrating a birthday, an event, or you just want to have a breakfast themed dessert this recipe ticks all the boxes! Incorporating fun colors, icing, and sprinkles, everyone will love these Funfetti crepes.

      Funfetti White Chocolate Fudge

      Another festive dessert that everyone with a sweet tooth will love is this white chocolate fudge! Complete with rainbow sprinkles, this 3-ingredient fudge is a no brainer for dessert!

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      Snickers Cookie Bars

      We all love candy and cookies, so why not put them together? This cookie bar recipe does just that by adding Snickers bars to the mix. You can enjoy the recipe as is or substitute your other favorite candy bars.

      Leftover Halloween Candy Cookie Dough

      You may have an enormous amount of candy hanging around long after Halloween is done and throwing it away seems like such a waste! This candy cookie dough recipe is the solution to take care of that leftover candy and give your family a sweet cookie mixture, they are sure to love!

      For even more Leftover Halloween Candy Desserts, check out this post!

      Meal Planning on a Budget Can Be Hard with A Large Family, But It Can Be Done!

      Meal planning can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you have a large family, but I assure you it can be done! These recipe ideas and tips will help get you on the right track and take away some of the stress of starting this new budgeting strategy. No matter how big your family is there is a recipe for everyone, and meal planning is a step in the right direction for big savings in your budget.

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      hi! I'm shannon

      I’m a wife, mom of three, doctor, and blogger! In 2018, I decided to turn my mom blog, into a personal finance blog so others could follow along on our journey to pay off over HALF a MILLION dollars in student loan and practice start up debt. I hope you enjoy following along, and maybe even find some inspiration along the way.