Inexpensive Summer Meals for Large Families

Summer vacation is here and for some families that means more than just having all of the kids home from school. For some, this also means a packed house full of their kids’ friends, family visiting from out of state or both.

This is when the expenses can really start to add up. With so many mouths to feed and a restrictive budget to maintain, it can be a difficult balancing act. Below are a few tips and recipe ideas for saving your summer meal budget without going hungry.

1. RSVP and Covered Dishes

If you know your family and friends will be over for a summer cookout, make it a potluck. Request that guests call ahead to let you know who is coming, and ask them to bring a covered dish. This ensures that no matter  how many people show up, you don't run the risk of running out of food or having to make another trip to the store. It also does not hurt to ask your friends and family to help with preparations by bringing paper plates, cups, utensils, etc. When you are cooking out, use foods that can be cooked in a large quantity. Hotdogs and hamburgers can go a long way in a backyard family barbecue.

2. Turkey isn’t for once a year

Turkey may be considered only appropriate for Thanksgiving but if that were really true, you would not be able to find it in stores all-year-round. Buying whole turkey, chicken or ham can go a long way during meal time. If you have a deep-freeze, wait until the New Year and purchase turkey when it is on sale after the holidays and store it for later.

3. Crock-pot meals

Many great meals from soups to stews can be made using your slow cooker. When you are cooking for a large group, crock-pot meals are quick and easy to make. Depending on the size of your crock-pot you can make a meal last well into the next day.

4. Look For Recipes That Serve Large Groups of people

Some recipe and food magazines offer up recipes that are meant for dinner parties. Some recipes in Home Cooking, Taste Of Home, Southern Living and many others will have easy to make recipes meant to feed as many as 15 people. However, even if you are not expecting that many people to show up, it will work for many medium sized groups or families, too.

5. Cook for a day and eat for a month

This is a cooking concept that has begun to pick up steam among busy families. The idea behind this is to take one day a month to cook and freeze some of your families favorite recipes that you can heat and eat for the rest of the month. This does take some time to plan out your meals and get organized (labeling and storing the food safely); but once you have grasped the idea and have spent your time learning to perfect the Once A Month Cooking (OMAC) method you will find it to be cost effective and less time-consuming. There are quite a few recipe books and websites available for review that are centered around cooking once a month. They are great tips, advice and recipes.

6. Add Soup and Salad

Make your meal stretch by adding soup and a salad before the main course. This will help make the meal last longer and fill you up quicker. Making a large pot of soup will also give you a chance to use any vegetables that get leftover from previous meals.

7. TVP Can Go A Long Way

What is TVP? TVP is Texturized Vegetable protein. It is often found in natural or whole food stores and costs around the same amount you would pay for a can of beans. Made from reduced-fat soybeans, many vegetarians use this to replace meat. Preparing TVP and using it as a meat extender is a fairly simple task.

You will first need to rehydrate TVP in a bowl of water (the directions are available on the back of the package). In replace of water some will use vegetable, chicken or beef broth. Once the water or broth absorbed into the protein you can get around 3 ounces of meat substitute for each ounce of dry texturized vegetable protein.

Brown the ground meat in a skillet, stir occasionally. Make sure you break apart the larger pieces of meat while it is cooking. Drain off any fat from the cooked meat.

Once the meat is completely cooked at it to the bowl of texturized vegetable protein. Add one part TVP (rehydrated) to three parts cooked meat (you may want to add more depending on your tastes). When making your families favorite recipes substitute the TVP and meat mixture pound for pound.

Celeste Whitehead is an independent contractor, freelance writer and owner of the blog, Organic Mommy Today.  When she’s not busy chasing after her two young children, you can find Celeste contributing to the CareOne Debt Relief Services blog, a community that provides debt consolidation and money-saving advice.


  1. I love that omac idea, when I was teaching in 2 schools before ( I stopped since I enjoy more a life of less money but more nature therapy now), I used to cook once a week for the whole week, maybe I should do it again for more nature therapy time :) and blogging happine$$

  2. HAHAHA smiling here at Betchai's comment...and imagining her doing the once a month food preparation :) awesome tips here twinzy...hi there to your friends...were they the ones who came over was it last weekend? anyway reading this has made me hungry again..I tried so hard to control the amount of food I ate for lunch :) love yah!