5 successful strategies when cooking for large families

Allison Weigensberg
Mealtime doesn’t need to be stressful just because you have a lot of mouths to feed. Here are some simple strategies to decrease the time you spend preparing and cooking meals, and keep everyone (relatively) happy and complaint-free at the dinner table.
Have children, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Clearly they never had to navigate dinnertime for a large family on the verge of becoming hangry, with varying levels of pickiness and conflicting food preferences, all while trying to get out of the house in time for weeknight soccer practice.

Just because you have a lot of mouths to feed doesn't mean that mealtime needs to be fraught with stress. There are some simple ways to decrease the time you spend preparing and cooking meals and strategies you can implement to keep everyone relatively happy and complaint-free at the dinner table.
One for now, one for later
If you can double (or even triple) up a meal, just do it. You already have all the ingredients out, the cutting board and knife are already dirty, and you’re in the meal prepping zone. Taking a few extra minutes now for a little extra prep can save you tons of time down the road. The next time you are preparing a freezer-friendly meal make an extra one for later. You may need to undercook it a little before freezing, or add extra sauce upon reheating, but it is guaranteed that on those busy days you will be super grateful to have something that you can pop in the oven and serve.
Keep it simple
There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to cooking for a large group. Use recipes that are tried and true and don’t have a crazy amount of complicated ingredients. It will save time, money and your sanity. To prevent the boredom and monotony that may come with eating the same thing over and over, feel free to introduce one new recipe every week. If it’s a hit with the family you can add that into your rotation and build up your repertoire. By selectively introducing new foods, the chances are you will have leftovers available to deal with any picky eaters that don’t like it.

Wondering how to choose the best size Dutch oven when cooking for a large group? You may want to go with a 5.5-quart Dutch oven.
Freeze Individual Servings For Lunches
We often do a weekly meal-plan for our dinners, and sometimes forget that lunches need to be made as well. Especially if there are school-aged children, freezing individual servings of dinner leftovers can be a huge timesaver in the mornings. If you make a meal that the kids just love, try portioning it out into thermos sized servings to be heated up in the morning before school. Chilli, pasta dishes, and hearty soups are all freezer friendly and can easily be popped into a thermos.

Pro tip: If you fill the thermos with boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes before you add the food it’ll keep things hotter for longer!
This is a long established tradition in my home where I just throw the words “make your own” in front of nearly anything; pizza, pasta, tacos, salad, sandwiches, the options are endless. It really just means that you would be putting together a deconstructed version of whatever you are serving and everyone can add their own toppings. We often do this with meal salads; different bowls for lettuce, cooked chicken, shredded carrots, avocados, cubed cucumbers, etc and everyone just takes what they like.

This is especially great for picky eaters, as it means that everyone gets what they want without you having to make a million different meals. As an added bonus, having the prepped and ready ingredients makes them even easier to repurpose for future meals.
It really just means that you would be putting together a deconstructed version of whatever you are serving and everyone can add their own toppings.
Get Everyone Involved
When you have the whole family contribute to the meal plan you are setting yourself up for success. Not only are you taking the burden of figuring everything out off your own shoulders but by involving the rest of the family they feel more invested and are more likely to enjoy what's for dinner. You can even make this a part of your dinner conversation, where everyone gets to suggest a meal that they would like. If you want to take it to the next level, you can even involve them in the actual prepping and cooking. Obviously this part needs to be age appropriate, but having all the family members be involved and invested exponentially increases th e odds that your family won’t hate whatever ends up on their dinner plate.
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