How to Cook Nourishing Food for a Large Family

Is it possible to cook nourishing food when you have a large family? Well, this author does! Dina-Marie, from Cultured Palate. is sharing her first post today with us on how to cook nourishing food for a large family (or a crowd). She is a wealth of knowledge in this topic as she has ten children! (The picture above is her with her children and grandchildren). I am so excited to have her share her practical tips, tricks, and recipes with us.
Today she is starting with 5 basic principles that she uses to make it possible. If you have a question or topic that relates to either feeding a crowd or a large family nourishing food that you’d like to see her address, please leave it below as Dina-Marie will be sharing with us once a month here at The Nourishing Gourmet, and I would love to hear what topics you’d like her to cover!  -Kimi Harris 
Whether you are cooking for a large family or practicing hospitality for a large group, cooking for crowds can be overwhelming – especially when you are trying to provide a nutrient dense meal. Not only are you trying to go through the motions of cooking but now it is on a much larger scale. Even though only 7 our my 10 children are still at home, the older ones are frequently present at meals with their children! So, I know the challenge and here are a few ways that I handle it.

1. Meal Planning

I have found that meal planning is my best friend when it come to being prepared. Whether you plan meals on a weekly basis or monthly, having a written plan saves time and money. I plan meals for a month and write them on a calender. This allows me to look ahead and know at a glance what preparation work needs to be done ahead of time, such as, soaking beans, thawing food ….

Whether you are on a tight budget or have a bit more wiggle room, menu planning can save you money. By planning my menu for a month at a time, I am able to shop less frequently and avoid unnecessary purchases. Although fresh produce must be purchased more frequently, most items can be stored.

2. Buy quantity

Many items needed when cooking for a large family or group can be purchased in bulk. Kimi shops at her local Costco. We do not have Costco but we do have a local Sam’s Club. While these buying clubs have a lot of processed foods that are not nutrient dense, they also have staples that are nutritious. I also utilize a food co-op, Azure Standard which delivers to our area. They have more organic products at better prices than the local stores.

I prefer having my staple items in large containers rather than many small ones that clutter my pantry.I would rather purchase one 525 lb bag of white beans than numerous 1 lb bags. I then store my bulk items in labelled, 5 gallon buckets.

3. Proper Equipment

mroper equipment is important for any task but especially in the kitchen! A couple of My favorite kitchen items are my 3 and 5 gallon stainless steel stock-pots. Food preparation is made much easier when you can fit all your ingredients into one large pot rather than several smaller pots. And, if you are cooking for a large group only occasionally, the stock-pots are still very versatile for making soups and broths (whose excess can be frozen) and for cooking noodles.

I started out with thin walled stock-pots which tend to have hot spots and cause food to burn quickly. So, I have invested in good quality heavy stainless steel ones and they have been worth it!

4. Prepare Ahead

If you have planned your menu ahead, often there are parts of the preparation process that can be done the night before. For example, you need to soak grains or beans, this can be done overnight. Preparing as much as possible ahead of time alleviates stress the day of.

5. Stretcher Recipes

If budget is an issue, look for recipes which stretch meats. Recipes which use rice, beans or noodles allow less meat to be used but still provides a nutrient dense meal.

Whether you have a large family or just like to practice hospitality, providing nutrient dense food for groups is very rewarding. Hopefully, I have given you steps that can ease any anxiety over the task and you will be able to enjoy the time.

Hi, I am Dina-Marie, the mother of 10 children, 7 of whom are still at home. I live in West Texas with my husband who also happens to be my best friend. We decided to make a lifestyle change in 2008 and left the corporate world of southern Alabama and moved to West Texas. We now have 27 acres of grapes, 2 family milk cows, chickens and raise our own beef. Working the vineyard together as a family is hard work but very rewarding.

Moving to West Texas to begin a vineyard has brought many changes including a return to health through the GAPS diet, learning about “real” food and becoming a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Cooking REAL food for a large family has been challenging and fun. I love trying new recipes and sharing them with others. I have a passion to spread the healing potential of real traditional food, as well as, to encourage others with a nutrient dense diet and simple family living.

I would love to have you follow our adventure in real food and vineyard life at my blog, Cultured Palate.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. says

    Great tips! I know when I plan ahead we eat for a LOT less. It’s when I slack that things really add up. Do you really buy a 525 pound bag of beans? My favorite items in my kitchen are my crockpots. I try really hard to use a large piece of meat that I can cook down and use in lots of recipes.

  2. says

    I am from a family of 14, so yes, these are key elements in “feeding the masses”! I took over cooking as a young teen and learned very quickly that meal planning was definitely neccesary….and though we lacked in the “proper equiment” department, it gave me a deep appreciation for the quality cookware (and knives!) I use now.

  3. says

    Hi there,
    Just wondering what some of your favourite meal stretching or bean recipes are? We have 3 children, one of which has severe multiple allergies and a husband with an amazing metabolism (meaning he’s hungry all the time:)) and I find it very hard to stay in budget while making sure everyone is full and satisfied. I would SO love more help in this area, as I desire to be frugal, but still nourishing in the food I buy. Do you buy organic or does most of it come from your garden?

    • says

      Jessica, I so buy organic occasionally but most of our produce comes from our garden. Azure is a great place to buy organic and their prices are less. I will share some of my stretcher meals in the future, cut our family loves spaghetti – pasta is a great way to stretch. I also use white beans for Mexican dishes, chili and as an addition to soups. Salads are a great way to serve beans in the summer.

  4. says

    Azure is definitely a key to feeding large groups a nourishing diet! We can often get organic bulk goods from Azure that are cheaper than what we would pay at the store for the same conventional products.

    Another way to keep things affordable is to make homemade. We could never afford organic bread, english muffins, tortillas, etc for our whole family (plus frequent guests) but we can afford 20lb of organic flour each month (from azure!) and make these things at home. Moreover, when I make them at home, I can make sure they are sourdough or soaked, and made with healthy oils and no preservatives. It takes more time, but its worth it.

    People are always impressed when they come over and I am making pizza dough or crackers from scratch… little do they realize that I only do it because its more frugal!

  5. says

    i love how dina-marie says, “only seven of ten” — 7 is so many! these tips are great and easily transferrable to a smaller family as well. i’ll look forward to your monthly post 🙂 cheers xo

  6. Jill says

    Off topic a bit, but is Dina from West, Texas (that recently lost the firefighters in the fertilizer plant explosion), or the western part of Texas? We live on the north end of Waco and was just wondering! The memorial service today was beautiful!

    On topic, thank you for sharing these great tips!


  7. Beverly says

    I found this today while looking for info on feeding our large brood (8 soon to be 9 people). I saw that you did done healing through GAPS – we did GAPS last spring for about 60 days – all of us. I think it was a huge help but I got worn out and then we found out in March we were expecting again and when the tiredness set in it was just too overwhelming. I was thinking I might like to try again but the kids are not super excited about broth meals again – I wondered if you did GAPS for everyone or just you? I think we could all use some healing (we have a variety of food allergies) but it was overwhelming and hard to keep up with the amount of food everyone needed to be satisfied.

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