Cooking for a large family means planning ahead. Clipping coupons and buying food items on sale are a necessity. While shopping, look for bargains on ham, turkey, roasts and chicken. These big-ticket items are handy for planning good, healthy meals for a family of eight. Once the meat is purchased, think of pasta and rice as side dishes along with vegetables. Look for healthy recipes that can be easily doubled or tripled to feed a large family.
Turkey is Not Just for Thanksgiving
Turkey is often the least expensive poultry to purchase at any time of the year. For a family of eight, a 12- to 14-pound turkey will feed your family for at least two separate meals. Roast the turkey in the oven for the first meal. Add mashed potatoes and fresh green beans as side dishes. Use the leftovers in a turkey casserole by combining the remaining turkey meat, 2 1-pound packages of wide, flat noodles, 1 family-sized can of cream of chicken soup and 1/2 package of frozen peas in a casserole dish. Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with a fresh salad. Take the carcass of the turkey and place it in a crock pot and fill with water. Cook overnight on low to make turkey broth for soup.
Ham is another meat item often on sale that a large family can use to make several meals. Figure on 1 pound of ham for each member of your family, although most will not eat that much. Cook the ham as normal and add oven-browned potatoes and fresh cooked cabbage as the side dishes. Remove the leftover ham from the bone. Use the leftovers in a simple casserole or as sandwich meat. Use the bone for a ham and bean dinner. Soak any type of dry beans overnight. Drain the beans, add the ham bone, and 3 tablespoons of mixed spices. Fajita and taco spice mixes work well with red beans, while Italian spice blends complement white beans. Cover with water and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the beans are soft and tender. Serve with a fresh salad.
Watching the store sales can get you terrific bargains on large bags of chicken quarters, for example, the thigh and drumstick. Figure on one quarter per adult or teenager and a half a quarter for younger children. Brush the chicken quarter with barbecue sauce and cook for 1 hour in a 350 degree F oven on a baking sheet. Serve with a rice and pea pilaf. Make the pilaf by combining 4 cups rice with 8 cups of water and 1 cup of frozen peas in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until the water is absorbed by the rice.
Watch for whole briskets to go on sale. These will weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds or larger. Ask the butcher to cut the brisket into roasts 4 to 5 pounds in size. Many grocery stores will do this for no additional charge and if not, you can do it yourself with a sharp kitchen knife. Freeze the extra roasts for later meals. In a Dutch oven, place the brisket in the pan. Season with pepper or other spices and cover with water or beef broth. Cook for 2 to 3 hours and then add 3 to 4 pounds of quartered potatoes, 5 to 6 carrots sliced into 1 inch chunks and 2 onions, sliced into rings. Cover the pot and allow the roast and vegetable to cook for another hour or until the vegetables are soft and the meat is fork tender.