Frugal Meals for a Crowd

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It has happened. It used to be that I could prepare a meal for the Rev. and I and we could stretch it out over two or three days, without any effort on my part. Our kids ate way less than any human serving size and we could serve them off of our plates without going hungry ourselves. The times, they are a changing!

Now, when I prepare a meal, I am preparing a meal for six people. With the appetites of my healthy, growing boys, I am preparing meals for the equivalent of 6 very hungry sumo wrestlers. And if one of the boys from down the street is over, sweet talking me with gratuitous compliments about the aromas of my food, or my creative expertise in the kitchen…I may have even more hungry sumo wrestlers to feed! (The funny thing is if you were to look at a picture of all of these hearty eaters together…counting ribs…you would wonder if I ever feed them!)

Anyone who has spoken to me for more than about five minutes knows that I am frugal. Really frugal. Borderline cheapskate. But I also have another side of me, that does not seem to mesh with my frugality. I am a foodie. I am not just any foodie, I’m a food snob on a health food kick with a secret, or not so secret, love for Coca Cola. I detest, despise, and abhor fake food (unless we are talking gummy bears or kettle cooked jalepeno chips). I want my food to be healthy, high quality, tasty, genuine, and cheap. I’m probably the worst kind of foodie.

I have spoiled kids too. They have eaten, and enjoyed Eggo waffles. Then, I bought a waffle maker, and Saturday morning became waffle day. And I found that I could sneak wheat germ into the waffles with only the Rev. noticing and complaining (which is against the Thompson family dinner rules…more on those later). Now, my waffles dominate over Eggo. My oldest will turn up his nose over the boxed up variety. And my version is cheaper. Go figure.

You see, when you are feeding oodles of hungry people, it really cannot pay to eat prepackaged food. A box of 10 corn syrup laced pre-made, frozen waffles, does not even begin to satisfy my crowd. We would need at least two boxes, which even with coupons and on sale would cost us well over $4… which is not terrible…but considering the amount of fake stuff present in the food, is a bit like selling my family out. Some flour and milk and eggs and a few tablespoons of oil along with my wheat germ spike costs me about $2, and fills up the hungry hordes, and earns me gratuitous compliments as well, placing me back on top of the family pecking order (right under the Rev. of course).

These cheap-o cutbacks that I make on using fresh ingredients and not using many pre-made mixes (though any cookies that come out of my oven are strictly place and bake…Dakotapam does not bake!) allow me to splurge on some of my foodie indulgences, like really good spices for making my food taste good, cans of artichoke hearts, tropical fruits bought out of season to remind me that it is summer somewhere…

I’ll share more on this in the future. I’d like to hear how some other large families eat healthy, and cheaply!

Kids and Responsibility<< >>I'm Afraid I'm Becoming One of Those Moms...

About the author : Dakotapam

I’m a Lutheran pastor’s wife and mom to six kids, including toddler twin girls. My life is sometimes normal, and sometimes crazy; but through it all, I know that I am blessed! Some people say that I have my hands full, I prefer to call it living life with both hands full, and I love it!

8 comments to “Frugal Meals for a Crowd”

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  1. Glenda - April 4, 2009 Reply

    I could've written this post. We try to eat healthy and do more than we ever have. But there is still coke and/mtn dew, Doritos or Cheetos, velveeta cheese, and some sugar laden cereals, and who knows what else at any given time.Although I simply can't stomach boughten cookies – this mamma likes to bake. :-)And those growing kids always seem hungry…….

  2. Dakotapam - April 4, 2009 Reply

    Glenda, feel free to send some cookies my way. We also have sugar cereals, and healthy ones too…I'm not a huge homemade breakfast person, except on weekends…so we get what is on sale, and it seems to satisfy the masses!My favorite is when the littlest one asks for a snack, before the dishes are even loaded into the dishwasher!

  3. The Parson's Wi - April 4, 2009 Reply

    Talk about foodie… here too! I like to "trick" out foods… hmmm, like buying a jar of roasted red peppers at the dollar store (about 6 peppers per jar)- red peppers are big bucks fresh! I use them on ficoccia, blend them into a red-pepper sauce for home-made pasta and such… frugal. Also, there seems to be people who "gift" me cream of wheat, or farina… I use this in fresh pasta, wheat bread, pizza and other bakery items… pretty much anything that calls for semolina… Hmmm, cilantro to dress up anything spicy, dried is cheap and goes forever! The biggest tip though is PRESENTATION… if you make it look gourmet, and name it something spectacular! Like Roasted Red Pepper Laced Fresh Pasta instead of Spaghetti….

  4. Megan - April 4, 2009 Reply

    You sound very much like me Pam! We are a little food snobby around these parts too. Believe it or not, my oldest won't even eat McD's anymore and he really dislikes eating school lunch because he doesn't care for all of the processed garbabe (I really do think it is) they give them. I love to cook & I find if I do alot from scratch, we can have restraunt quality meals at home without breaking the bank. I also watch for good meat sales (Sams has great large quantity meat too) and seal-save it into the portions I want and stick it in my upright freezer. Freezing homemade waffles is something I have been meaning to start doing. The problem is, I got rid of my regular waffle maker a few years back in favor of a super-snobby Belgian waffle maker. No way would those babies fit in the toaster to reheat.

  5. Tarasview - April 4, 2009 Reply

    wow… I should get me a waffle maker!

  6. Ethan, Zach, and Emm - April 4, 2009 Reply

    I make a lot of my own mixes from scratch–onion soup mix, taco seasoning, italian seasoning, etc. That way I know what's in them, and it's much cheaper that way. Who wouldn't want stroganoff from scratch instead of Hamburger Helper?????

  7. Joy - April 4, 2009 Reply

    Coupons, baby. that's how I get stuff cheap. Wal-Mart honors competitor's ads, and I take them up on it. And I buy a lot of store-brand boxed/canned goods. (But I don't buy Hamburger Helper because I'm MSG sensitive.)Glenda, not even Oreos?

  8. Dakotapam - April 4, 2009 Reply

    Yes Essie, I love you scratch mixes, and you bake…so you rock…you even make rice krispie treats, so you are a star in my book, since I don't have the patience for that. Although the Pioneer Woman just may have convinced me to try my hand at cake balls this week…time will tell!My best trick to fill hungry kids…apples…about 10 pounds a week. Full of fiber and good sugar. I make mine eat them whole, so it is zero effort for me, and they take longer to eat and feel full faster. the meal makeover moms have a new apple dip on their blog though, so I may be cutting some apples up this week, and throwing the dip into lunch boxes for some much needed lunch box variety.

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