Cheap and Filling Family Meals

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

A short list of affordable foods

It can be a challenge to provide meals for my very large family of 14 that taste and look good, but don't break the budget. With such a number of people to feed, meals have to please a majority of the family and it had better be something within our means. Somehow, I manage to eke out healthy food from a short list of affordable foods. Here's how:

Legumes pack a nutritional wallop

Legumes: it can be hard to find ways to serve beans and dried peas to your kids, but they pack a nutritional wallop. Pea soup is more fun if you add chunks of wieners. Call it hot dog soup. Serve some garlicky croutons on the side for the kids to toss into their bowls.

Make meaty tasting lentils: caramelize chopped onions in olive oil. Add lentils to skillet, along with a bay leaf, some cumin, granulate garlic, salt and pepper, and just cover with boiling water. Simmer, covered, until water is absorbed. Add more boiling water to cover and simmer until lentils are tender. The lentils with have plenty of yummy, beefy-tasting gravy. Serve over brown rice or mashed potatoes.

Deliciously different Meals

Make a white bean dip and serve it with crudités. Simmer soaked white beans in water until tender. Mash with olive oil, lemon rind, chopped Italian parsley, and salt and pepper. This is similar to hummus, but deliciously different.

Rice: Rice has been the staple of more than one culture, providing a full belly, lots of nutrition, and costing very little. Rice is versatile and easy to prepare. Try brown rice for its greater nutritional properties.

Make brown rice and tomato soup. Boil 5 cups of stock, add one cup rice. Cover and simmer. Sauté 1 chopped onion in 2 T. olive oil until translucent. When rice has cooked for 30 minutes, add onion, 1-4 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 cup canned or fresh tomatoes cut into small pieces, and salt and pepper to taste. When done, rice should be firm, but tender. Serve with grated cheese.

Chinese fried rice is made with 3 cups of rice that is at least one day old. Saute rice in 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok. Mix in 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 4 sliced scallions. Make a well; add 3 eggs to center of wok. Scramble eggs until partially cooked, and then mix the egg into the rice mixture. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce and add a cup of cooked baby peas.

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