Inexpensive Meal Ideas for a Large Family

Family cooking meal together

It can be expensive to feed a large family on a daily basis. These recipes are not only inexpensive, but they pack a punch in terms of their nutritional value.

30-Minute Pumpkin Chili

Nothing is better than throwing everything into a big pot and having a delicious meal ready within 30 minutes. The pumpkin puree adds a ton of flavor, is low in calories, and is loaded with vitamin A. This recipe serves six to eight people. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to five days and in the freezer for about six months.


Pumpkin Chili
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 3 (14-ounce) cans of no-salt or low-salt beans of any type, undrained
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of unsalted or low-sodium tomatoes, undrained
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional garnish)
  • Sour cream (optional garnish)
  • Sliced jalapenos (optional garnish)


  1. In a large nonstick pot, heat the olive oil or butter on medium-high, swirling to coat the bottom of the pot.
  2. Once the pot is hot, add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  3. When the garlic and onion have cooked down until they appear translucent (5 to 7 minutes), add the pumpkin puree, beans, and tomatoes.
  4. Add the salt, pepper, chili powder, and cayenne. Feel free to add more cayenne if you prefer a spicier chili. You can also add less than called for, taste, and adjust the seasoning as you go, as it is always best to start with less seasoning and adjust upward to suit personal preference.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  6. If the chili begins to boil, lower the heat to medium-low.
  7. Garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and jalapeno rings and serve with cornbread.

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast burritos are easy to make, loaded with protein, and filling. This makes eight burritos. You can keep these in the fridge for up to two days, but they are best eaten fresh.


Breakfast Burritos
  • 2 (14-ounce) low or no sodium black beans (1 can drained, 1 can half drained)
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1 (1 pound) package of uncooked bacon cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 16 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 8 large flour tortillas
  • 1 (16-ounce) container of salsa
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped


  1. In a medium pot, heat the black beans on medium-high until they are hot and the liquid begins to boil, stirring every few minutes. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, about five minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese. Stir to incorporate evenly into the beans until the cheese is completely melted. Set aside off the heat.
  3. In a large, nonstick skillet, cook the bacon on medium-high until crisp, about five minutes.
  4. Add the eggs to skillet with the bacon. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir the mixture until the eggs are scrambled and no longer appear wet, three to four minutes.
  5. Season the eggs with salt and pepper.
  6. While the eggs cook, begin heating the tortillas directly on the stove burner one at a time, flipping once with tongs so both sides warm.
  7. To assemble the burritos, spread the beans and eggs on the warmed tortillas, add the salsa and cilantro, and fold into burritos. Alternatively, place the finished eggs and beans in large bowls and allow everyone to serve themselves.

Zesty Lemon Pasta

Pasta is inexpensive, and it's quick and easy to make. This pasta serves eight, and you can keep it in the fridge for up to a week. Freeze leftovers for up to six months and reheat with additional olive oil. Serve with a simple salad of greens with balsamic vinaigrette on the side.


  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 (17-ounce) packages dry pasta (any shape)
  • 10 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 (12-ounce) packages frozen broccoli, thawed and drained or 1½ pound of fresh broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped


  1. Put 1 teaspoon of the salt in a large pot of water and bring it to a boil on high heat. The water should completely cover the pasta but still have enough room to boil without overflowing.
  2. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  3. While the pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a nonstick skillet on medium-high, swirling to coat the bottom.
  4. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly to avoid burning until it is lightly toasted, three to four minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.
  5. Add the broccoli and cook until it is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the lemon juice and zest and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, and the red pepper flakes.
  7. Cook until the liquid reduces slightly, stirring constantly, two to three minutes.
  8. Toss with the pasta.
  9. Garnish with parmesan, 2 tablespoons of olive oil per serving, and chopped basil.

Slow Cooker Soup

This soup is great for chilly nights and cooks while you're going about your day. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week and can be frozen for up to six months. It serves six. Serve with muffins.


Slow Cooker Soup
  • 2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, unpeeled, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of low or no sodium white beans, undrained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of low or no sodium kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton of low sodium veggie or chicken stock
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients.
  2. If there is more room in the slow cooker, fill it to about 1-inch short of the top with additional broth or water.
  3. Cover and cook on low for eight hours or on high for four hours.

Spicy Bowls

These bowls are nutritious, make great leftovers, and are a breeze to cook. Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to three days, but store the tomatoes and avocados separately and add after reheating. This serves eight people.


Spicy Bowls
  • 2 (16-ounce) boxes of uncooked brown rice
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans of unsalted black beans (1 drained, 1 with liquid)
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 large avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (16-ounce) container of prepared salsa
  • Hot sauce (optional for serving)
  • Sour cream (optional for serving)


  1. Cook the rice according to package instructions.
  2. While your rice cooks, in a medium pot cook both cans of beans on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cayenne, salt, pepper, and the cumin to the beans and simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.
  4. To assemble, build the bowls with the rice on the bottom followed by cheese, then beans (so the cheese melts), and top with two heaping spoonfuls of avocado and tomato pieces.
  5. Drizzle with salsa, hot sauce, and sour cream to taste.

More Inexpensive Recipes

Cooking on a budget doesn't mean you have to eat the same thing every night. To make the meals for a larger group of people, double the standard recipe and add an easy to prepare side dish. You can always freeze leftovers if there are any. Give these recipes a try:

Keeping It Simple

Cooking on a budget for a large family can be quick, easy and delicious. Tweak the recipe to fit your specific family's needs and give these frugal recipes a try.

Was this page useful?
Inexpensive Meal Ideas for a Large Family