Frugal Meals for a Crowd


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!

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Written by Dakotapam
I'm a Lutheran pastor's wife and mom to six kids, including young adult sons down to 8-year old twin daughters. 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!