Cooking for a large family can be tricky. Making everyone happy is virtually impossible. However, it is possible to make a filling, delicious, and affordable meal that most children (or husbands) will not spit into their napkins or faux gag--aim high, Mothers!
First, affordability. I will write several entries on this topic, but the long and short of it is to limit the ingredients as much as possible to your staples. Meal costs spike dramatically when you decide impulsively to try out this "amazingly easy" recipe that requires 5 different kinds of fresh herbs, shallots, puff pastry, and swordfish. When it comes right down to it, the majority of meals are variations on the same theme--chicken, beef, turkey, pasta, pork, fish. So select what's on sale or that you can get consistently at a good price and work from there, sticking as close to items in your pantry or fridge as possible. This includes fruit and vegetables. Eating seasonally and sale-fully (yes, I made that up as far as I know) is what saves you money.
Instead of viewing this approach as limiting creativity, it can instead lend an element of Iron Chef to your kitchen that might otherwise be stifled by such over-played "wisdom" of meal planning. Just how many ways can you disguise chicken so your family doesn't realize they are having it for the 3rd time this week?
Mushrooms were on sale this week @ .89/box. I got two boxes, knowing that most of my kids and my husband are big 'shroom fans, but not sure exactly how they'd be used. I ended up using them in 4 different ways throughout the week! (1) Added a few to the overnight crockpot chicken stock for flavor; (2) Turned the stock into chicken noodle soup and added some mushrooms as a vegetable; (3) Spaghetti with meat sauce-and mushrooms!; (4) Baked seasoned chicken quarters with mushroom gravy (this was SO delicious, hubby was over-the-moon)
I know not everyone likes mushrooms--they can be a very divisive vegetable--but my point is that you can stretch the heck out of a sale item...and concoct a few distinctive and creative meals while doing so!
So, the Easy Rules for today are
Rule #232: Shop the sales and staples and THEN plan the meals
Rule #584: Remember that Ina Garten doesn't live here. Unfortunately.