Best Meal Prep Tips for Big Families 

by | Jun 3, 2024 | Family

Meal prepping is a lifesaver, especially for big families. Not only does it save time and money, but it also reduces stress by ensuring you always have a plan for what’s for dinner (and breakfast, and lunch). If you’re new to meal prepping or looking to streamline your process, these meal prep tips will help you get started and stay organized. 

Week-to-Week Planning 

The ingredients for pasta, noodles, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices all sit on a white surface.

Consistency is key when it comes to meal prepping for a large family. Start by setting aside time each week to plan your meals. Sunday afternoons work well for many families, but find a time that suits your schedule. During this planning session, follow these steps: 

  1. Assess What Ingredients You Have Already: Before you make a new shopping list, check your pantry, fridge, and freezer. This helps prevent unnecessary purchases and reduces food waste. Take note of ingredients that need to be used up soon. 
  1. Write Down Meals for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner: Plan out every meal for the week. This might seem tedious, but having a detailed plan will make your life so much easier. For breakfast, consider simple, repeatable options like oatmeal, smoothies, or scrambled eggs. Leftovers, sandwiches, or salads make great lunches. Dinners are typically more varied, but we’ll cover that in more detail below. 
  1. Write Down All Ingredients: Once you have your meal plan, list all the ingredients you need. Compare this list with what you already have to finalize your shopping list. Make sure to include any snacks or special items for school lunches or workdays. 

Go-To Meals 

Three tacos on a white plate sit on a blue picnic table.

Having a set of go-to meals that your family loves and that you can cook with your eyes closed is invaluable. Aim for 10-12 reliable recipes that you rotate through regularly. These meals should be: 

  • Quick and Easy: Think 30 minutes or less to prepare. 
  • Nutritious: Balanced meals with a good mix of protein, vegetables, and grains. 
  • Family Favorites: Recipes that everyone enjoys to avoid complaints and waste. 

Examples of go-to meals might include: 

  • Spaghetti with meat sauce and a side salad 
  • Tacos with ground beef or chicken and various toppings 
  • Stir-fry with mixed vegetables and rice 
  • Chicken fajitas with bell peppers and onions 
  • Baked salmon with roasted potatoes and asparagus 
  • Chili with cornbread 
  • Chicken noodle soup 
  • Beef and vegetable stew 
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup 
  • Homemade pizza night 

Here are 110 family friendly recipes for ideas on meals to add into your regular rotation or to even add new recipes to the mix (see below)! 

Introduce New Recipes 

Variety is important to prevent meal fatigue, so try to introduce one new recipe a week or every other week. This keeps things exciting and helps you discover new family favorites. Choose recipes that are straightforward and not too time-consuming. If the new recipe is a hit, add it to your list of go-to meals. 

Efficient Meal Prep 

Someone chops up cilantro with a knife.

Once your plan and shopping list are ready, it’s time to prep. Here are some tips to make the process smooth and efficient: 

  • Prep Ingredients in Advance: Wash, chop, and portion out vegetables, fruits, and proteins as soon as you get back from the store. This makes cooking during the week faster and easier. 
  • Batch Cook: Prepare large batches of certain foods for use in multiple meals. For example, cook a big pot of rice or quinoa, roast a tray of vegetables, or grill several chicken breasts. Store these in the fridge for quick assembly throughout the week. 
  • Use Containers Wisely: Invest in a variety of containers to keep your prepped food fresh. Glass containers are great for reheating, while mason jars are perfect for salads and overnight oats. 
  • Label Everything: Label your containers with the contents and date. This helps you keep track of what needs to be used first and avoids the mystery leftovers scenario. 
  • Freeze for Later: Many meals and ingredients freeze well. Double up on recipes and freeze half for a future week. This is particularly handy for busy nights when you don’t have time to cook. 

Our Top Meal Prep Tip: Stay Flexible 

Even the best-laid plans have a chance to go awry. Be flexible and ready to adapt your meal plan if something comes up. If you have unexpected leftovers, adjust your plan to use them up. If a new recipe doesn’t turn out as expected, have a backup plan, like a quick pasta dish or grilled cheese sandwiches. 

By incorporating these meal prep tips into your routine, you’ll find that feeding a big family becomes much more manageable. Not only will you save time and money, but you’ll also reduce stress and enjoy more quality time with your loved ones (try these outdoor family activities with your extra time!). Happy meal prepping!