I know eating leftovers is a time and money saver. But seriously, we're a family of 8. 3 growing boys, nursing mother, and my husband who works a very physical job and needs to consume more than the avg number of calories. I physically can not make enough food for there to be leftovers. I could cook 4 chickens and MAYBE have a drumstick the next day. I have to run 2 very large crockpots to cook enough meat and veggies for just one night's meal. WTH? Does anyone have any ideas on how to cook more for less? Especially for Thanksgiving. We're barely able to feed us all, and MIL and BIL and his family (GF and 3 tween-aged kids) have invited themselves from out of state for a few days. That's 16 people for Thanksgiving dinner. One stove/oven won't be able to make enough food...
What if you never have leftovers? Feeding a HUGE family...
One oven can't cook a bird big enough for 16 people???
Maybe you could serve things that don't need to be cooked as large sides: salads, rolls, etc., and use coolers if your fridge can't contain it all. And use the slow cookers, maybe borrow a few to cook and keep hot sides. Or next time say you can't host because you don't have the capacity to cook everything.
There is also pick-up and delivery of dinner fixings around the holidays here, but that is the least frugal idea.
For the every day, maybe you could consider buying an extra slow-cooker or two so that you can cook enough for leftovers? Or get giant slow-cookers?
Perhaps you could use very large stock pots to make stews and soups to make 2 meals at once.
Or perhaps you could visit the large family tribe for more ideas?
Last night I cooked 1 giant tray of chicken enchiladas, and while I was at it made another giant tray. In our case it will serve us 2 meals for 6 of us (one of those is a baby), but in your case the one tray should serve at least one meal, and then another tray on hand could serve you another meal down the line. Enchiladas in one of those things that is delicious and hearty, but can be time consuming, so making lots at once can be a real time-saver.
I host Thanksgiving for my family and my ILs. Between all of us, there are 18 people this year, though one is just a 2 month old. Last year, there were 16. We do the turkey and mashed potatos, but we have each family bring stuff also. It's like a potluck Thanksgiving and everyone enjoys it. Yes, one stove is enough to cook the turkey, we do a 20lb every year. The sweet potato cassarole brought by MIL and the stuffing my mom brings both need to go into the oven to warm up before serving, they both fit in the rack under the turkey and I can usually get rolls in on one tray next to the turkey roasting pan. Sometimes they go in after the turkey comes out, and cook while the turkey is being cut (we don't do a special carving thing or anything, we just cut it up and throw it on a platter and that is what goes on the table. Other things like corn, those are microwaved, and the mashed potatos are made on the stove.
So, that's how thanksgiving is handled for our large group. Now, for the rest of the year...
Turkey is ok for the rest of the year too. If you have a freezer, stock up now on turkey while it's on sale. By me, there's a sale going on for $0.57 a lb. You can get a few 20lb turkeys for just your family and then when you roast them, you should have plenty left over for at least one more meal. And if you have 2 crockpots, you have your turkey roasting in the over, one side filling up each crockpot and you have a whole meal cooking all day, with little effort, and leftovers.
Cooking 4 whole chickens...is there a reason you can't do 5 or 6? Is it just space in your oven? What about doing cornish hens instead? They are smaller, small enough that they usually only feed one person each, but you could probably fit a bunch more in your oven...don't know how big it is.
Some other thoughts...when you do have smaller amounts of leftovers, like just 2 drumsticks etc, freeze them. Then when you have enough of a mishmash to make a meal, just have a leftover night. Not everyone will eat the same thing, but that's ok. Also, if you have no leftovers, then you have no waste, which is also moneysaving. And, whether you are cook 4 chickens twice a month, or cooking 8 chickens once and then using the leftovers for a second dinner, you have still paid for 8 chickens, all its saved you is time, rather than money. So really consider why you feel that you need leftovers also.
Do you have a breadmaker or two? If you do, you can serve bread with each meal which is kinda filling, that might leave more meat for leftovers.
Also, one interesting thing I have found is that if I more smaller dishes to cook with, my DH in particular eats less. If I make a cassarole in 2 smaller dishes, I have enough leftover to put in his lunch the next day. If I make the exact same cassarole, but cook it in one larger cassarole dish, the whole thing gets eaten. I can't explain it.
Another thing I do, if I know I want leftovers for his lunch the next day... I will sometimes portion that amount out first. I don't make any extra for it, it's just one serving, and somehow, again, he eats less at dinner. He doesn't eat his dinner portion and then need to crack into his lunch "leftovers" but if I don't portion it out first, the lunch portion won't be leftover. I don't know how or why that works, but it does.
Cooking 4 chickens definintely would be awkward in a normal size kitchen.
Do you do casseroles? You can fit a lot more calories into a super-sized casserole, and still have it fit in the oven. You'd also have to use less meat in order to fill your guys up. (one chicken per casserole, supplemented by cheese, a starch, veggies, etc)
Since family invited themselves, I don't think it would be out of order to ask them to pick up things like salad, rolls and pumpkin pie on their way over to your home. That would eliminate some of it. Get the biggest turkey that you can, but have enough on the side that people fill themselves up on that. You should be able to do a huge pot of rice and gravy on the stovetop, and two veggies in the crockpots you have. Or, use the two crockpots to cook a ton of potatoes, and use the stovetop and some very large pots to do veggies and gravy.
The other thing I'm wondering is, does your family just eat until they see the bottom of the pan? Just because the food's there? So no matter how much you make, they'll finish it? You might be able to solve this by making double batches, and then immediately putting the extra batch in the freezer. Out of sight, out of mind. :lol
something I heard on Rachel Ray that might help is that she cooks smaller birds or half of birds, they cook quicker so you could throw more in right away and maybe tent the meat, some would be cooler than the rest (done a few hours before) but there would be more.
I actually have a mini oven thing that was given to me at our wedding, its not a crockpot but an actual oven for birds. Wonder if you could maybe get one of those?
Oh and one thing Dh's family does (they are Italian) Is they have a pasta dish as well as thanksgiving dish. (like ziti or whatever)
Yup, outta sight, outta mind here, too. I'm cooking for 6 regularly now, but it was 7 until this past July when my MIL died. And I have cooked for 10 on a regular basis in the past, too. It can certainly be done. I would examine the way your family eats first. Do they feel they NEED a whole chunk of meat to feel satisfied, or are they willing to use meat as an ingredient more? I have no problem cooking up to 6 full size chickens in my normal oven. You just have to swap them around halfway thru cooking if you don't have a convection oven. That said, are you using ALL of those chickens? Do you save the bones for stock? If I were going to serve whole pieces of chicken in one meal, I'd make sure to use another chicken or two shredded or chopped up in another dish or two, like soup (with the bones for stock), stir-fry, or casseroles. I also have found that if I put the food on the table, more gets eaten. If I fix the plates myself, there may be a few who go back for seconds, but somehow I end up w/more food left over.
For Thanksgiving, I've cooked for scads of people in my regular ole kitchen (heck, one year I sold 80 pies out of my little ole oven!). I do up my pie crusts and freeze them a week ahead. I make the pie fillings a day or two prior to the big day and refrigerate it until time to bake the pies (day before Tday). I make spinach artichoke dip and freeze it a week ahead. I peel potatoes and put them in the fridge in water up to a couple of days prior to cooking them. I chop all my onions and celery for the stuffing a week prior and freeze until i need them (nothing special needs to be done in order to freeze them, just do it on a tray and then plop into a bag). Same with the bread cubes and cornbread. I make a sweet potato casserole (not the marshmallow kind!) and freeze it a week or so ahead. On Tday I have only to make rolls in the morning and let rise in my laundry room til time to bake, and the turkeys (I always do 2--one in the oven and one in the smoker outside). While the oven turkey is resting after roasting, I bake any casseroles. While they are baking I do the giblet gravy and set out any relish trays and we always have sweet potato empanadas. Last minute I pop the rolls into the oven so they are nice a fresh when we eat. Oh, I also make a dijon brussels sprouts dish, and that goes in the oven between the casseroles and the rolls (or at the same time if I can fit it.) I prepare the brussels sprouts the night before.
Ok, first, PLEASE point me to the large families tribe! I need help. I think a lot of the trouble I'm having is in adjusting my expectations. Just 3 years ago we were a family of 4, 2 of them almost still toddlers, so didn't cost much. Now 4 kids (and soon enough 5) and 3 adults are eating, and using electricity, and water, and soap, and TP, and and and.... My dh still cooks as though it's the 2 of us and ds#1. Then he gets upset when there's none left for him. Duh! But I understand because it's just so hard to see $15 worth of scratch ingredients go into a single meal when that could have fed us for 3 days or more just a few years ago.
I hate to cook, so I like to cook very large portions at a time and try to have leftovers (which almost never happens, as I mentioned). I put a very large roast and veggies in the crockpot the other night. Biggest crockpot they had at the store, like can cook a smaller turkey. It didn't last the night. It's probably to be expected, but as I mentioned it's just so hard to see it go so fast...
Good questions for clarification:
- Yes, our oven can cook a turkey, but it's small and that's all it's cooking. So all the other things needing to be baked are baking before or after, leaving them not hot at "dinner" time.
- Love the idea of using crockpots for sides/veggies. Thanks!
- We have a lot of food allergies, so casseroles are difficult. In fact, most things are difficult. Sigh...
- Dh's family is coming to MI from CT for the week (again, just found this out this week, totally uninvited). They're staying in a hotel. They're not bringing anything. Luckily MIL will usually end up sliding us some cash for feeding them all week. But it doesn't make it easier to cook/store/clean, etc, especially with a newborn in the house. Fil will probably bring something, but he can't cook so it's gross and nobody eats it.
- DH MUST have meat to feel he's eaten, and he hates turkey or I would stock up. But I've been getting him into nutrition a lot more lately and he's trying to make 51% of every meal raw. Yay!
- It's very possible that ut of sight out of mind might work.... My issue is that I need to double it to have enough for a second meal, and to do that I'd have to cook it twice anyway (can't fit enough in the oven/stove/crockpot), so it defeats the purpose. I have a hard time finding huge pots, and then they don't fit well on a regular burner, and our oven is small. But more than one crock is a great idea. I'll put another huge one on my Xmas list.
I love all the ideas for Thanksgiving, ladies. Keep them coming, please.
Do you have a roaster (like this)? They are often on sale around this time of year. I also have divider trays (like this). I pop the dividers in and keep the sides warm in it. Sometimes I cook the meat in it and sometimes I don't.
But for regular meals you could cook a second batch of whatever in the roaster really easy.
I actually use my roaster very seldom because, other than holidays, I don't cook enough food to fill it.
- My issue is that I need to double it to have enough for a second meal, and to do that I'd have to cook it twice anyway (can't fit enough in the oven/stove/crockpot), so it defeats the purpose. I have a hard time finding huge pots, and then they don't fit well on a regular burner, and our oven is small. ...
Sounds like you need to make extra meals that don't need to be cooked first. (i.e. one for tonight, one for later)
For example, a meatloaf can be formed and then thrown in the freezer raw. Then, take it out, and cook it when you want to eat it. That saves time because you are only mixing once but eating twice. Meatloaf can be "beefed" up by using things other than beef: sauteed carrots/onions/celery and cooked lentils. That saves money. Plus, hamburger in giant bulk portions is often much cheaper.
I would freeze lasagne raw too, and just cook it once on the night I wanted to eat it.
I do that for enchiladas, although I don't add the sauce until ready to cook. (so the tortillas don't get mushy)
You could get a giant rice cooker and cook gobs of cheap rice at once. Leftover rice is good for crockpot stuffed peppers, Fried rice (w/ a medley of leftover meats & veggies), and even breakfast on cold mornings.
The fried rice medley would help you use up random bits like your single drumstick, if you throw them all in the freezer for a week. It is also helpful to get rid of all the remaining veggies on the night before shopping day.
I also make chili from all the random bits I have saved each month. I save any beef leftovers, hamburgers, taco meat, meatballs, etc., and throw them right in the freezer after dinner. Right before tomatoes go bad, I throw them in the freezer. On chile day, I roast those tomatoes, plus carrots, onions, etc. with salt and EVOO in the oven and then puree them in a blender. I save the little bits of leftover salsa and italian red sauce in a baggie. Basically anything red or beefy. I save the tiny portions of leftover beans. I throw all this in a crockpot, along with cumin and chile powder, and let it cook all day. Maybe a little beef broth and a spoon of grape jam (or red wine). Sauteed carrots/onions/celery. I serve with tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream. Easy dinner!
Since you hate cooking, you might try what I do. If I am cutting things up, I cut a ton of them and freeze them for the week's meals. Like onions. Don't want to chop them each night! So I will put several in my "miracle chopper" (manual food processor) and then save them for the week. Same with carrots and celery. That saves me a ton of time since I add these to lots of meals.
Other than that, it might be kind of nice to have everything eaten. Nothing gets wasted! And you aren't stuck eating the same old leftovers multiple times!
I always cook the turkey the day before. I slice it up, cover it in the broth in a baking pan. Then it just has to be reheated the next day. It is the most delish turkey ever. Also make the mashed potatoes the day before. Put a bit of extra milk and butter in it the next day and reheat. Stuffing in the pan not the bird. green beans or corn on top the stove. Cranberry sauce in the refrig. Make the gravy that day. rolls. Pie. I used to cook for 20 a lot and that worked well.
If you make tacos use 2 lbs of beef, extra tomato sauce and add in oat meal to make it go further. Any ground beef tomatoey thing you can add the oatmeal to make it go further. they won't know.
Make rice or noodles your friend. A smaller roast with lots of gravy over noodles or rice.
Serve a salad and a baked potato at least three times a week. Sprinkling a bit of cheese & bacon bits on a baked potato makes it more filling. Can make a smaller serving of meat with salad and potato.
Learn to make an amazing tuna casserole.
Serve peanut butter sandwiches with chili.
Grilled cheeses and tomato soup.
Have breakfast for dinner once a week. Pancakes are cheap to make. Eggs are very filling. Dice in a bit of bacon with the eggs.
Homemade pizzas with lots of veggies and a bit of pepperonis
It also might be helpful to get some different kitchen gadgets. I love my griddle, for instance. It cooks pancakes, french toast, nad the like so much faster than a frying pan on the stove. My grandmother used to love her electric skillet. If you had one of those, it would be like having an extra burner.
You need a roaster. We have two and at Thanksgiving they both get cranked up. My sister has two, also. We make the turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green bean casserole and cauliflower and cheese all in roasters. That frees the oven up for pies and sides that guests bring. I routinely serve 20-30 people for Thanksgiving with no problem.
I have a large family - 3 adult sized men, 1 teenage boy, nursing mom, 4yo, 3yo, 9mo. My dd and her dh often come over for meals. We often host other large families for Sabbath meals.
All of that to say: I feel your pain.
It's winter now so soup is your friend. We try to eat 50% raw, too. We have soup and a big plate of salad, maybe bread on the side. Last night I made a 6qt crockpot of chicken and dumplings, a big pot of mashed potatoes and a huge salad. Scoop of potatoes, ladle of soup on top. It makes both the potatoes and the soup stretch to feed all 17 of us w/leftovers.
I make one chicken feed all 8 of us routinely. I 'bake' it in the crockpot (season the chicken and add about 1/2 c water on high for about 4 hours) then I remove and debone. Put all the bones and skin back in the hot crockpot and fill w/water (and any veggie scraps) and cook on low for 24 hours. I use that for soup later in the week.
You'll find deboned chicken goes further than pieces. My family doesn't realize they're getting a portion instead of a whole piece AND they appreciate not having to mess w/bones. I serve w/pasta, rice or potatoes to make it stretch.
I make a large pot of rice and soak two kinds of beans on Sunday. Monday I cook the beans. I use these for 'convenience' meals during the week. Fast, easy and cheap.
If your dh needs more protein you can do what I do for my 19yo athlete. I buy a large package of chicken breasts and ground turkey from Sam's. I marinate and season and grill the breasts and turkey patties. Grill and freeze, dump in a gallon bag. When he gets home from practice and we're not having enough protein to suit him he just takes out a portion (if I haven't already). He gets what he needs, we get what we need and our grocery budget rejoices.
Now, I cook a roast in the crockpot w/carrots and onions. I shred the meat and thicken the broth and serve it over mashed potatoes or noodles. Honestly, even my 19yo likes it just as much as a hunk of meat w/a few potatoes and carrots. A lot of what we love is in the flavor of a dish.
This thread has been really helpful! Now I think I want a roaster!
My Dh had to adjust his thinking, too. He's an only child. Now sometimes he puts up with meatless meals, and knows things have to stretch. Things are different in a bigger family.
No real help here for the "big family" issue, but for Thanksgiving, you could get a big chafing dish like they use at restaurants for buffets. Costco sells them -- they have 3 stainless pans that can go in the oven and you could bake your sides in those the day before or before the turkey, at least... Then just put them on the burner to serve them and keep them warm. They also have a crockpot thing that is similar, it's 3 little crockpot inserts that you can keep warm, but that may only be big enough for gravy for your family!
My MIL raised 9 children, 6 of which were boys. Some tips I saw over the years when she still had some at home (dated DH during HS)
-Water at dinner. Cheapest way to drink something. A gallon of milk etc would be gone in seconds otherwise. Nevermind things like soda
-plated the meal at the stove. Otherwise doing a family style type thing, the bigger boys would take a lot and then not much left for everyone else.
-she stretched meals with noodles, veggies, pasta, rice etc. I learned about rice and about potatoes from her!
-bought cheaper cuts of meat for like stew, roasts things like that.
-had some casserole type meals that were made with inexpensive ingredients but could still stretch and feed hungry kids.
We usually have about 30 at Thanksgiving. SInce they are approaching 80, we all do a potluck. Turkey is cooked there by two of my BILs, but we potluck everything else.
Serve up the meals for everyone. We start with the youngest. We got some sectioned plates like at schools and use those for many meals. Everyone has to eat fillers. My oldest would only eat a chunk of meat and some veg if I didn't make him eat the rice and bread as well.
Once a week I do a big pot of dry beans in my crockpot. The first night it is bean burritos. You can do another crockpot of meat, too. Just put in a roast or chicken thighs and cover with enchilida sauce. We eat on those beans for about three days. We homeschool so they eat them plain or in burritos for lunches or if they don't like dinner. I buy tortillas and stuff at Costco.
I have a set menu plan. I only shop for that.
Cook two starches and two veg for every single meal. Loaves of homemade bread are filling and easy if you have a kitchen aid or other stand mixer. If you have a costco stock up the frozen veg there.
Serve meals that are served on starches. Pulled pork on buns. Stew on mashed potatoes. Stirfry on rice.
Make good cheap desserts like crisp, muffins, banana bread etc.
Set aside the leftovers when they aren't looking. Make a leftover shelf...I use the top shelf.
Check 365 crockpot and make two of her meals a night. Freeze a couple of portions before they eat.
Baked potato night. Make a ton of toppings and an oven of potatoes.
DON'T YOU DARE LET YOUR RELATIVES DO THAT. Call them now and tell them what they need to bring. Give them jobs when they show up. You are a mom of a big family. Time to delegate.