Meal Planning for a Large Family

Q. What is a typical week of meals for your family right now?

A. I love our farming, homeschooling lifestyle. One of the biggest reasons is we get to eat all three meals a day together as a family. This also means somebody has to make all those meals. If we aren't prepared by knowing ahead of time what we will cook there are a lot of disappointed people in the house.

menu board

This is our menu board. It's just a big picture frame with fabric that matches our kitchen behind the glass. The glass part is 16x20. That's a nice big writing space. You'll see why in a minute. During one of our mother/daughter times Brownie helped me cut out the vinyl lettering. I love it! Whoever has cooking for the week fills it out for all to see. Sometimes someone will sneakily erase something or add something else they have been craving.

I suspect we go about menu planning like most everyone else does. We look through our cupboards/pantry to see what we have in stock, search the grocery sales ads for good deals, then scour our cookbooks before actually writing down a menu. This helps to keep our costs down to about $125-$150 a week or about $5.95 - $7.14 per meal for the entire family. {more about our grocery costs in another post}

One thing I have found we do differently is the amount of side dishes we have especially for our biggest meal of the day which is lunch. It is not uncommon for us to have a main dish, at least two or three veggie options, a salad {fruit, jello, pasta or green}, and a bread. We've found instead of tripling a main recipe {that usually feeds 4-5 people} we can get away with making only one recipe because we all fill up with the cheaper side options. Now you know why our writing space on our menu board is so big. We need room for writing all those side dishes! And we do write them all down. After making our menu we can then see exactly what ingredients are needed for each meal and make our grocery list for food we don't already have in stock.

Here are the typical main dishes we have for each meal.

  • oatmeal or granola with lots of topping options - fruit, nuts, cream, cinnamon and other spices, yogurt 
  • cream of wheat
  • pancakes {fruit, oatmeal, whole wheat}
  • waffles
  • biscuits {served with cheese sauce or sausage gravy, or plain with jam}
  • french toast
  • cornbread
  • German pancakes {hootenanny}
  • quiche cups
  • muffins {all types}
  • crepes with filling options
  • eggs - flat, scrambled, poached, or hard boiled
  • hashbrowns
  • sausage
  • bacon
  • toast
  • fruit smoothies
  • cold cereal {only once in a great while}
We always have at least four fruit options available to eat with breakfast: apples, bananas and then whatever is in season - berries, mangoes, grapes, oranges, etc. Our favorite drink for breakfast is milk or chocolate milk.

Lunch: {this is only a sampling}
  • Hawaiian Haystacks
  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chicken Broccoli Casserole
  • Chicken and Rice Casserole
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Mexican Haystacks
  • Tacos
  • Enchiladas
  • Burritos
  • Hamburgers
  • Taco Soup
  • Tin Foil Dinners
  • Navajo Tacos
  • Porcupine Meatballs
  • Lasagne
  • Spaghetti
  • Lentil Stew
  • Beef Stew
  • French Dip Sandwiches
  • Stir Fry
  • Fajitas
  • Quesadillas
  • Lemon Salmon
  • Tuna Noodle Casserole
  • Panini Sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Baked Potatoes

  • Leftovers
  • Salad {Ceasar, Spinach Strawberry, etc}
  • Choose anything from breakfast or lunch  :)
Side dishes:{a sampling}
  • cooked veggies - plain {peas, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, corn, mixed peppers and onions, etc.}
  • raw veggies
  • salads - pasta salad, fruit salad, green salad, jello salad, bean salad
  • potatoes au gratin
  • french fries
  • broccoli roll ups {baked in crescent rolls}
  • black-eyed peas
  • couscous
  • rice
  • Fruits of all kinds - apples, bananas, raspberries, mangoes, strawberries, grapes, oranges, kiwis, etc.
  • Veggies- Broccoli, Cucumber, Cauliflower, Carrots, Jicama, Celery, Grape Tomatoes
  • Cookies
  • Muffins
  • Granola Bars
  • Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
I've shared a lot of recipes over the years. Most can be found by clicking the Cookbook option in my menu board at the top of the blog. Apparently I really like to share desserts!

Just about everything we cook and bake is made from scratch. Good home cooking just can't be beat! It's one of the best ways to show love to your family.

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved


  1. I am SO GLAD you posted this, I was so curious after you mentioned that your girls did the meal planning, etc. I'm just a baby in terms of meal planning for my family of four, and now I'm wishing my husband was home for lunch instead of dinner! Your dinners sound so easy, and lunch actually sounds like fun! Thank you for sharing that!

  2. Is Sunday similar to the rest of your days? I noticed it isn't on the meal-menu. Also, fruits and veggies are so expensive for us! How do you keep the costs low? I can be patient if you'll talk about this later. :) And, does your $150 per week include staples?

    1. Sunday we have breakfast and then a late lunch. Church is from 11-2 and we don't get home until almost 3pm. Then we'll have a snack before bedtime.

      I have a post in the works to talk about grocery costs. It will post in two weeks on May 30th. Our grocery costs cover all food - fresh, frozen, bulk, and staples.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I usually make more of the starchy side dish but I don't often increase the other dishes - I'll have to give it a try. Our breakfasts look pretty similar, though.

    Your grocery costs are excellent - do you buy some items in bulk from a particular source? Thanks!

  4. our middle eastern students who lived with us say lunch is their main meal too. I would love this lifestyle! I want my girls (11 and 9) to cook more, but reality is I cook the dinner 80% of the time at lunch time while the toddler has quiet time. The afternoons are homework, afternoon tea and a bit of play. Grumpy toddlers and crazyness means dinner is ready to go around 5:30pm because I've premade it. I will perhaps start with them cooking dinners on saturdays and sundays. They used to but once again I fell into the trap of its easier to do it myself and they quietly forget to remind me that they have to do work ;)

    thanks for all your ideas. It is motivating.

    I'm in a wholesale market co op where about 8 ladies get together - half stay with all our children ;) and the other few go to the market to haul the 20kg bags of potatoes, carrots, apples etc, then we divide it up. we get quite alot for $30 each. However food costs are astronmical in australia...$250 a week for a family of 6 (we also have student so sometimes 7) is considered very cheap - most families for 4 would spend that or more. time to do some more gardening... in my small innercity plot :) I've got pumpkins there at the moment.. time to rip out and grow lettuce and carrots and beans.

  5. When I tell people that we spend about $300 for our family of 5 each.month, they are astounded. It really does make a really big difference to meal plan. I love your list. There are some great ideas for younger cooks there. My son will love that list! (when he has to plan his meals!).

    I also agree 100% that it is one of the best way to show love for your family.

  6. We love cooking from scratch, too! It's so much more healthy and much less expensive at the same time. :-)

    I love seeing the foods on your menu and the cute way you display your menu.

    Mama Rachel

  7. I hadn't done the math before but I was talking to my husband about it and he was saying yeah, we average such and such a meal than. I about fell over because I can spend 3-4 times that on a meal for myself eating out. Which frankly I crave while I am pregnant but I know it's bad and now thinking about the rip off it is I am feeling worse. I love the ideas you shared. I am working on organizing my recipes and expanding our horizons. We have our garden all in now so exciting to see what will grow and what we can harvest ourselves and save even more money!

  8. I've been looking for a more permanent solution to our menu calendar, and I think your board is a wonderful idea! I also appreciate your meal lists, as our family is getting bigger I have struggled with ways to make meals simple and healthy, but filling, especially for breakfast. Thanks for being so willing to share and encourage.

  9. I love the variety you have but I really liked the broccoli roll ups, can you post a recipe?


  10. We are in the process of revamping our menu options and approaches. I'll probably post about our methods [eventually!]. I do agree that more sides helps with the overall costs. We tend to cook from fresh verses canned/ boxed. That is actually more expensive, but we try to compensate in other areas.


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