In tough economic times, it becomes more and more important for people to plan meals that are cheap and satisfying. For families of six people, this necessity is multiplied. A meal where you have to scrimp on portion size because the ingredients were too expensive will result in hungry family members raiding the snack cabinet mere hours after dinner; and with six people, it can be difficult to please everyone. Remember that it is usually cheaper to cook from scratch than to buy frozen or prepared foods, and eating at home always beats eating out in terms of value.
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Soups and Stews
Soup doesn't have to be a mere precursor to dinner; it can be hearty enough to stand as a meal on its own. Investing in a slow cooker makes soup and stew based dinners even easier and cheaper to prepare. You don't have to buy the best cut of meat to use in soup, as simmering meat for hours in broth will naturally infuse it with flavour and tenderness. Soups and stews can be made from almost anything, whether it be purchased ingredients from a recipe or leftover meats and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. Adding beans or lentils increases a soup's heartiness and nutritional value without adding a lot of extra cost. To save even more money, make your own soup stocks by boiling leftover bones, fat and skin from chicken or beef cuts with water and your favourite seasonings.
With pasta as the foundation for your meal, eating cheaply and bountifully becomes simple. Pasta is filling and provides good amounts of both carbohydrates and protein. Plus, it's extremely affordable, whether on sale or at regular price. A simple meal of spaghetti, sauce, bread and salad can easily feed a family of six. Lasagne is another fulfilling and cheap pasta-based meal option. Not only is it fun for kids to help make, but you can get creative with ingredients by adding vegetable layers or using leftover chicken instead of the usual minced meat or sausage. Picky eaters can even have their own corner of the lasagne pan with their preferred ingredients. A 9 by 9 inch pan of lasagne can feed six people with three extra pieces for seconds or lunch the next day.
Entrées With Side Items
Sometimes you just want the variety and flexibility of a meal based on a meat, side items and vegetables. This can still be done cheaply and with the aim of feeding six family members. Since the meat-based aspect of a meal is often the most expensive, look to this as the area where you can save the most money. Whole chickens are often cheaper per pound than precut pieces, and your grocery store's butcher will often trim the bird for you at no cost. A whole rotisserie chicken from the store is a cheap and tasty meat option to feed the family. Buy fresh vegetables on sale and can or freeze them yourself so that you will always have inexpensive options for side items. Buy rice cheaply in bulk and cook it in chicken broth for a delicious and satisfying side item that you can easily make in large quantities.
Breakfast isn't just for mornings; families can eat breakfast foods at night time for a delicious and nutritious dinner. One dozen eggs can provide the main protein for the entire family, or can be augmented with lean breakfast meats such as ham or turkey bacon. Making omelettes at dinner time allows you to customise the main entrée of the meal to each family member's liking -- a luxury that big families will appreciate. Plus, you can use as omelette ingredients any leftover vegetables, ends of cheese blocks or stray pieces of lunch meat that otherwise might not get used up. Pancakes with fruit served at the end of a breakfast-based supper will satisfy anyone's sweet tooth, and will provide more nutritive value than regular dessert.
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