Finding affordable, nutritious meals for big families takes careful budgetary planning, attention to nutritional information on labels and a bit of creativity in the kitchen. Fortunately, there are dozens of possibilities for cooking large, healthy meals on a small budget -- from chili to lasagna -- and many of them are easy to prepare.
Chili is a classic, hearty dish that provides ample fiber and protein from beans and vegetables. Start with a base of three beans, such as red kidney beans, black beans and garbanzo beans, in equal portions. Add in a blend of your choice of vegetables; corn, celery and carrots are economical options. For flavor, consider adding a few splashes of hot sauce or a clove of garlic, which are both relatively inexpensive. Depending on your proportions, you should end up with 1-cup servings that have more than 15 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber each.
Lots of Lasagna
Lasagna is a deceptively easy pasta dish that can feed a crowd, though it does take some time to prepare. Lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and cooked ground meat are the core ingredients for this dish. Ricotta cheese and ground meat are the most expensive items in this list, but neither should compromise a restricted budget. With tomato sauce and meat, the dish is rich in vitamin A and protein.
Breakfast for Dinner
Another option for big families involves cooking traditional breakfast foods for dinner. Eggs are inexpensive in most locations, and bread varies in price, but basic types like sliced whole-wheat are cheap. Count on two eggs and two slices of bread for each person, with a side dish of fruit, such as bananas or oranges. Two eggs provide 12 grams of protein, and most fruits are loaded with fiber, vitamin C and B vitamins. Even if you add vegetables and spices to the eggs, the meal is cost-efficient and easy to prepare for a large crowd.
Chicken and Rice
Buying chicken in bulk makes it inexpensive, especially if you take advantage of sales, and rice is already very cheap in most areas. Cooking rice and chicken together is a scalable recipe perfect for almost any size family, and it provides a filling balance of carbohydrates and protein. Throw in sauteed vegetables like onions, celery or mushrooms for extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for a negligible extra expenditure per serving.