Menu planning: 4 Moms, 35 Kids

Oh my.  Menu planning?  Whose idea was this?  er…um…why don’t you go see how the other 3 moms feed their crew:

But you’re not going to let me off the hook that easily, are you?  Neither does my family.

Like much of life, our menu was far more organized when all the children were little and everything hinged upon Yours Truly getting it all done.  If I didn’t have a plan, eating became tricky to say the least.

Now I have 6 understudies in the kitchen, and among us we have a good streak of creativity.  If we fail to plan, we can usually come up with a quick and appetizing meal nonetheless.  I’m not recommending our method menu planning, nor am I excusing it.  I’m just telling it like it is.

It could also be that after 12 or 15 years of more structured menu planning, I have learned to plan subconsciously.   When I shop, I have an actual list and a general sort of menu either in writing or in mind, so even when there’s no written plan there are meals in the fridge, freezer and pantry.  Are you buying any of this, or should I stop now?

You’re buying it?  Good.  So am I.  Hopefully my husband and kids are buying it too.

So…here are some of the meals that commonly land on our menu.


  • Homemade granola with lots of nuts for high-protein staying power
  • Oatmeal (often with apples and lots of cinnamon)
  • Pancakes – made from scratch, of course.  We quadruple the recipe from my old Better Homes cookbook, to make just enough for me and the kids after hubby has gone to work.
  • Eggs (fresh from the chicken house) and toast from homemade whole wheat bread
  • Baked oatmeal (again, usually with lots of apples and cinnamon)
  • Egg burritos (egg, cheese and occasionally sausage in a tortilla)
  • Banana bread and milk – sometimes with walnuts to boost the protein content, and usually with peanut butter for the same reason.
  • Breakfast in a bowl (grits, eggs, cheese, sausage)
  • Sausage gravy, biscuits, and eggs (generally only on weekends).  May also include grits, to be eaten with butter, salt and pepper – never sweetened. We’re southerners, after all.
  • Cold pizza (a Saturday morning tradition)
  • Kefir – this is new for us, but hubby and I often start our day with a cup of kefir.  Several of the kids have also developed a taste for it.


  • Leftovers – always high on the list.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches – cheddar cheese on whole wheat bread, made with real butter.  mmmm!
  • Fried rice – leftover rice with any veggies we have on hand, plus several eggs and some soy sauce.
  • Peanut butter-banana smoothies – We peel browning bananas and freeze in large ziplock bags. For a cold delicious thoroughly nutritious lunch, blend 2 frozen bananas, a scoop of peanut butter, and some milk.  Now we often use kefir instead of milk for a nice tang.
  • Peanut butter & jelly rollups – on tortillas instead of bread.  Usually for the little ones when the bigger ones eat leftovers.
  • Nachos – spread tortilla chips on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with grated cheddar and bake for a few minutes til cheese is melted.  Dip in salsa.  For single servings, a plate in the microwave works just fine.  When you shop at Costco, tortilla chips and grated cheddar are surprisingly affordable.
  • Ramen noodles.  It’s true.  I confess.
  • More fun and easy lunches here and here, though those are older posts and our menu has evolved over time.


  • Tomatoes – we often serve up and demolish entire plates of quartered tomatoes
  • Fruit – whatever varieties we have on hand, usually purchased wholesale by the case and likewise eaten by the case.
  • Banana smoothies – as on the lunch menu above, but we often leave out the peanut butter if we’re not using these as a meal.
  • Cheese quesadillas – just cheddar cheese melted in a tortilla.
  • Carrot sticks, with or without dip
  • Frozen peas, straight from the bag.  Are we weird?
  • anything fast & easy from the lunch list above

Dinner (nearly always includes a salad):

Above all, we try to operate in a “what do I have in my hand” mode.  Although I don’t empty my pantry every week, I do try to be mindful of what I already have and buy ingredients to go with those items so that we rotate our stock and regularly – or eventually – use nearly everything we have.

Upcoming topics for 4 Moms 35 Kids

  • April 15 Cooking from scratch – what you make from scratch and how you get it all done
  • April 22 Recipe swap – We’ll all post a couple of our favorite, budget friendly, feed a crowd recipes and a Mr. Linky so that readers can participate by contributing their own recipes.  When you share your link on one of our blogs, it will show up on all 4!  How fun is that?!

Past topics:


  1. we eat frozen peas AND corn from the bag. i guess we’re double weird? 😉

  2. C.W.Holeman II says:

    – Jamabalaya link fails – remove .html from the link and the “a” from between the “M” and the “b” in the text.

    – The Jambalaya can be generalized to rice+saucy just as “Misc. creamy, cheesy noodle creations” is for pasta+creamy.

    – A form or e-mail address for feedback such as link fails would be handy.

  3. We eat frozen peas from the bag. We’re weird too.

  4. I never menu planned when I was a SAHM, instead I shopped the Public Market for fresh produce and deals and would whip something up. I have been back to work 5 years now and my girls still comment that they miss Momma’s cooking.
    I have the worst time menu planning, but I have to now that I work. It just isn’t the same.

  5. Hey Kim,

    Awhile back I tried to contact you to participate in a blog tour for my newly released inspirational book for parents: One Million Arrows: Raising your Children to Change the World. This visionary book is gaining momentum and I’d like to invite you once again to another blog tour at the end of May.

    In our last blog tour, both Raising Olives and Smockity Frocks participated in our successful tour and I believe they were both blessed by the message.

    OMA has been recommended and endorsed by some of America’s top spiritual leaders such as Josh McDowell, Franklin Graham, Dennis Rainey, Ron Luce, Thelma Wells, and many others.

    You can find more info on Amazon:

    Also here is an inspiring one minute video:

    I sure would love to include you in the next tour so if you are interested or if you want more info, please email me as soon as possible.

    Julie Ferwerda

  6. thank you soooo much for preserving the dignity of grits. the very THOUGHT of putting sugar on grits is revolting. butter and salt…plenty of butter and salt. ahhhh…

  7. Yeah even my family of 4 rarely buys beef but we do eat alot of venison. 5 deer this year. Thanks for noticing I’m still here just didn’t have much to say. How are you feeling?

    • Maryjo,
      I’m feeling surprisingly good for having only 7 weeks left in this pregnancy. Even the family has noticed and commented on it frequently. I had a checkup today, so will probably post an update tomorrow.

  8. People eat sweetened grits? I shudder to think 😉

  9. im writing down your menu choices!! many are the same as ours, but there are lots of new ideas as well! im loving this series. As a mom of 6 young kids, these ideas are helping me so much!

  10. You have some really good meal ideas. For our small crew of “only” 7 kids, we do some of the same thing – having those basic menu ideas that are used over and over and then interspersing it with a new original recipe from time to time.

    Usually the latter happens when my 10yo girl finds a recipe she think looks good in one of my cookbooks! 🙂

  11. We use mostly chicken for meat as well. (we’re in the same area)

    I remember, growing up, that beef used to be the cheap meat. No longer.

  12. Love this. As usual it sounds just as unorganized as I am yet it works. 🙂 I think large families have to be flexible but this can work for anyone. I actually learned how to shop and simply keep ingredients on hand from my mom. She only had to provide meals for 4 people. To me, this type of planning allows for being prepared as well as being creative. I feel very stifled under a full menu.

  13. I don’t see alot of beef (besides hamburger) or pork on your menu. Do you find that to be too expensive?

    • maryjo,
      You’re right – in our area, any beef besides hamburger is just too expensive to include regularly. We do eat stew regularly in the winter since it’s a good way to stretch a small amount of beef, but otherwise it’s hard to make 1.5 lbs. of meat feed a family our size. We would need a 5 lb. roast or 5 lbs. of steaks, and that’s just not something we want badly enough to pay the going price.
      Pork isn’t so bad, but our favorite form of pork is sausage. Lately we’ve found some very good buys on whole pork tenderloin, a beautiful lean piece of meat – but we still prefer to grind it into sausage which we season ourselves.

      PS. It’s good to hear from you, maryjo. I just told the girls the other day you had been strangely absent from our comments. We missed hearing from you. 🙂

  14. I make a smoothie similar to your peanut butter banana one except I add a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder. Since it is just the powder, it isn’t really adding anything too unhealthy but it feels like it is. That has been one of my best “I’m pregnant and in desperate need of ice cream but I want to be healthy and there isn’t any ice cream in the house anyway” remedies.

    • MacKenzie,
      We do this with our coffee-flavored fraps, but I don’t know if we tried it yet with the banana smoothies. Will have to do it soon!

  15. Just wanted to let you know that I love your recipes! I love planning so I usually stock up on sale items and then “shop” through my house and make my weekly menu plan. Of course with 2 boys under 3 I am lacking in kitchen help, although my 2 1/2 year old thinks he’s a chef = )
    Thanks for the post!


  1. […] 8 – Menu planning, how we plan (or don't plan) to feed our hungry […]

  2. […] 8 – Menu planning, how we plan (or don't plan) to feed our hungry […]

  3. […] are talking all about menu planning and shopping.  Hop over to see what The Deputy Headmistress, KimC and Connie have to say about this […]

Leave a Reply to My Boaz's Ruth Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: