The challenge of managing a weekly grocery budget increases when your family grows in size to seven. If you're truly struggling with providing nutritious food to your spouse or partner and children -- not to mention yourself -- a number of programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infants and Children assistance program, can help fill the gap during tight times. Otherwise, stretch your budget by focusing on inexpensive, filling foods while limiting higher-priced snack items.
Plan Before You Shop
When grocery shopping for a family of seven, there are two things to keep in mind: keeping to your budget and buying food that everyone in the family enjoys and will eat. For success on both fronts, plan before you head to the store. Open up the circular for your local grocery store and note what’s on sale; jot down meal ideas based on these sale prices. Go through your cupboards and fridge and determine what you’ve run out of. Finally, talk to your family members about their food requests for the week -- taking your youngest child’s request for cookies, soda and ice cream with a grain of salt, of course.
Use Meat as a Flavoring
In the absence of amazing sales or hunting for food yourself, meat is arguably the most expensive part of any grocery trip -- particularly when trying to portion it out to seven people. To cut back on the cost while still satisfying the members of your family who enjoy the taste, use it more as a flavoring or a condiment than as a main course. Bacon, ham, pancetta and sausage all provide a wallop of flavor for a small serving size, and using it in small amounts is much healthier than dishing up large portions. Replace the protein with something cheaper and healthier, such as eggs or tofu.
Use Fillers to Stretch
When you’re cooking for a large family, there are bound to be meals that require stretching. Use filler foods such as beans and grains to do so; they make a filling foundation for nearly meatless meals, says “Fine Cooking.” You can experiment with different grains, such as bulgur or quinoa, or stick to tried-and-true -- and inexpensive -- basics such as brown rice. You can further reduce your costs by buying grains and beans from bulk bins. These fillers can make scrawny meals look positively robust -- for example, boost the amount of beans in your chili or pad your stir-fry with extra rice.
Don't Neglect Leftovers
You can't afford to eschew leftovers, even if you don't enjoy eating the same foods over and over again. Think of new ways to package older food -- for example, use that chicken carcass with some cut-up carrots, celery and onion to make homemade chicken stock. If you served a pot of slow-cooked beans for dinner the night before, repurpose it into bean enchiladas the next day. Make it a goal never to throw away food, even if it means grating up a wilting zucchini and baking it into muffins.