Cooking on the daily for your large brood often poses quite a challenge for parents. Busy families are often short on time in the evenings, and big families have a wide array of palate preferences. It's hard to please everyone with your evening meal without breaking the bank or your sanity, but these creative, easy meals for large families are sure to be crowd-pleasers.
One-Pot Show Stoppers
Large families require large amounts of food, and sometimes cooking for your oversized gang means so many pots, pans, and plates. The only thing less fun than making major daily dinners is the clean-up. Save yourself so much trouble by making the following one-pot dinners. These meals are guaranteed to bring on more smiles and less dishwashing.
Single Skillet Kung Pao Chicken
When you have a massive family, going out to eat gets expensive really fast. Bring the out-to-eat dining experience inside your own kitchen with a single skillet variation of Kung Pao chicken. Preparation and clean-up are a cinch with this recipe, and your wallet won't be drained, as the ingredients are inexpensive and commonly found in most stores. Throw in a box of five-minute rice to serve that up as a bed for the star of the show, and you have an easy, no fuss, no muss masterpiece for cheap!
For the base of the meal, you'll need enough chicken, veggies, and peanuts to feed your gang, as well as some cooking items that you likely already have in your pantry, like garlic, vegetable oil, cornstarch, sherry, and soy sauce. Once cooked, the meal gets drenched in a sauce composed of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and a few other ingredients. It might feel pricey to purchase bottles of ingredients that you won't use daily, but remember that once you have these specialty items in your kitchen, you can quickly recreate the meal anytime.
Easy, Everyday Chili
Easy to make... check.
One-pot to clean after cooking... CHECK!
Chili is a classic meal that large families flock to for all the above reasons. Choose a simple chili recipe to start with if your family is new to this dish. Go light on the spice, and over time, create variations of your traditional chili recipe by substituting it out for a chicken chili recipe or a vegetarian recipe in its place. Chili is one of those meals that takes mere minutes to throw together. After that, it's a matter of simmering and waiting, giving the chef plenty of time to do things they enjoy, like playing board games with the family or watching a classic movie until dinner is ready. You can offer a selection of chili toppings including cheese, diced onions, sliced avocado and sour cream, so every eater can customize their dish. Pair your classic chili meal with a good cornbread recipe or a simple salad, and your meal is made.
Creamy Chicken and Rice
Chicken and rice dishes are easy to make, cost-effective, and normally palatable for even the pickiest eaters, making them hits among large families with many mouths to satisfy. Creamy chicken and rice is made in a single pot and only needs a couple of common ingredients like chicken, rice, cheese, veggies, spices, broth, and cream. Substitute brown rice for white rice or consider adding nutrient-packed broccoli into the veggie mix.
This recipe is a food pyramid champion since it includes all the necessary elements sans fruit. Consider making a fruit-based dessert for a family dinner that meets everyone's nutritional needs.
Classic Pot Roast
Meat-eating families must have a good pot roast recipe in their dinner arsenal, and this particular pot roast recipe is tasty, requires few ingredients, and only uses a single pot. Combine comfort food flavors like beef chuck meat, onion, celery, carrots, and herbs to create a dinner dish that will warm everyone's bellies. Serve a side of mashed potatoes or crusty bread to pair with the waterfall of gravy that this dish creates.
Roll Out the Casserole Dish
Casseroles make great family meals because the primary course is served in a single dish. Most casseroles can be prepared long before dinnertime and frozen for a time where you need to feed everyone in a pinch. Get inventive with your casserole recipes so that everyone in your family scarfs down your culinary creation.
Easy Breakfast Casserole
Kids love breakfast for dinner because it is out of the box and delicious. Whipping up mountains of fluffy eggs, pancakes, bacon, and sausage is costly and time-consuming, which is probably why families reserve this treat for Sunday mornings. If you want to work a breakfast casserole into your dinner rotation, this easy recipe is healthy, delicious, and full of ingredients that kids will gobble up.
Combine eggs, milk, hash browns, veggies, meat, cheese, and other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour the contents of the bowl into a casserole dish and pop the meal in the oven. Families with action-packed evenings can precook meats that they plan to include in the dish, or they can make the entire meal beforehand and freeze it for a busy day in the week.
Tater Tot Casserole
Tater tot casserole is a quick dish that will serve a gang of starving kids after sports practice. The entire dish only requires a handful of ingredients like ground beef (you could substitute cooked sausage or ham chunks), frozen tater tots, cream of mushroom soup, cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper. That's it! Prepare the meal during the day when you get a free moment. The prep part of the meal takes mere minutes. Throw it in the oven about an hour before dinnertime and serve it with a salad. It's so easy, cheap, and tasty.
Loaded Mashed Potato Meatloaf Casserole
This recipe combines two beloved comfort foods: meatloaf and a loaded baked potato to create a casserole dish that everyone will have seconds of. Loaded mashed potato meatloaf casserole is similar to shepherd's pie but plays to dishes that the younger crowd adores. Use ground meat, potato, cheese, and several other ingredients commonly found in the kitchen to create this dish. You can add in taco seasoning for a twist or go low carb by replacing the potato portion with mashed cauliflower.
Easy Mac and Cheese Casserole
Mac and cheese is the king of kid cuisine. This easy mac and cheese casserole recipe elevates the dish so that it works for young and older diners alike. You can add in various veggies and meats, like bacon, crumbled sausage, seafood, chives, or roasted red peppers to tailor your cheese casserole to what your family prefers.
To create this meal, you will need a large casserole dish, lots of cheeses, pasta, cream, and common "helper" ingredients. With few ingredients, many of which cost very little, and only one casserole pot and one mixing bowl to clean afterward, this meal is a perfect dinner dish for picky eaters and parents short on time and energy.
Meals for Families With Dietary Restrictions
Every family has at least one member who doesn't eat meat, has allergies, or cannot tolerate gluten. Instead of making several dinners each night, try some family recipes that appease those with dietary limitations and satisfy all the other hungry kin.
Gluten-Free Taco Pasta
There is nothing not to like about gluten-free taco pasta. It's great for those in the family who are gluten intolerant, and kids generally adore both tacos and pasta. Winner, winner taco pasta dinner! This recipe requires pasta noodles and classic taco ingredients. An Instapot will make the meal move much faster, but the recipe can be created sans Instapot if necessary. Brown ground beef, add in taco seasoning, water, tomato sauce, and a few other items to make a large meal that checks all the boxes.
Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup
Sometimes a warm, hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup is just the ticket to a cozy family evening. For families who have members that don't do gluten or dairy, this chicken noodle soup recipe is the perfect, pleasing pot of yummy. Chicken, gluten-free pasta, broth, celery, carrots, and other key items are combined to create an iconic dish that kids and adults will both look forward to during the colder months. Throw together a creative salad and some buttered bread, and you have a cost-effective meal for the entire gang.
These gluten-free enchiladas will be ready to hit the table in less than fifteen minutes, making this an excellent meal for busy families on the go. Super savvy moms and dads who have plenty of hungry kids but not a lot of free time can precook the chicken and freeze it. It's also a good idea to stock cans of enchilada sauce in the pantry to whip up meals like this. Considering this meal uses a microwave, you may need to make two batches for your family if you have many members. Gluten-free enchiladas contain three basic ingredients, and you know what that means... CHEAP! Add black beans or refried beans and corn as easy sides, and you are ready to chow down.
Vegan Minestrone Soup
Cooking hearty, large meals on a budget is trying enough. Doing it for a family of plant-based eaters presents an entirely new challenge for parents. No cheese or meat, and loads of veggies isn't typically something the kids beg for, but minestrone soup is one dinner meal that they will often choose to sample. What would parents do without noodles?! This vegan minestrone meal is whipped up in a single pot, and contains so many nutrient-rich veggies that you will instantly feel like Mom of the Year while making it, and it costs next to nothing. You'll need broth, veggies, noodles, and common spices to feed your growing army.
Vegetarian Fried Rice
Vegetarian fried rice is a meal in itself. It's an easy vegetarian dish that feeds several people and uses only a few dishes and pots. Seriously, what is there not to like about this meal? Parents wanting to boost the protein factor in vegetarian dinners can add tofu to this dish, no problem. The tofu will take on the taste of the other ingredients, and the texture will be a perfect complement for the rice and the eggs. The entire meal requires about ten ingredients, many of which parents will have sitting around their kitchen.
Easy Meat-Free Pizza
Pizza is the perfect family meal because it's inexpensive to make at home, and thanks to so many possible toppings, everyone gets something they like! If you have vegetarians in your home, leave the meat off of your pizza recipe. If you have family members who can't digest gluten, try a gluten-free crust recipe. Provide your family with different sauce options like red sauce, white sauce, or bbq sauce. Chop up plenty of veggies and herbs for toppings including: peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, tomato, basil, and fresh garlic.
Be sure to provide lots of cheese for dairy lovers in the gang and vegan cheese for family members who don't eat dairy.
Veggie Pot Pie
Some pot pie recipes are so delicious that the kids forget the dish is primarily made up of stuff that is good for them. Veggie pot pie can be made in a large casserole dish; the bulk of the work lies in the prep, so get the kids in the kitchen chopping and dicing away, and this meal is as good the second day as it is the first!
Find Your Favorites
Try some of these easy, cheap, and creative meals in your dinner rotation. Some are going to be hits that you can remake and incorporate twists into over the years. Remember that new foods sometimes don't take the first time around. Be persistent with your creations, and don't toss them out the window immediately. Give a dish a few trips around the table before you move onto something new to try.