Frugal Food for Large Families

Toni, from The Happy Housewife, has graciously agreed to share with us all just how she feeds her family of 8 (soon to be 9!) on a budget. She has mastered this fine art and shares a bit of her wisdom with us today!

One way to make frugal meals for large families is to use meat as a side rather than a main dish. Cheaper cuts of meat taste great cooked over a period of time or mixed in with other things. A whole chicken is an excellent idea for stretching your food budget. Instead of cooking the chicken and serving it as a main course, take the cooked meat off the bone and use it in a variety of meals. Whole chickens run about a dollar a pound which is much cheaper than using canned chicken or chicken breasts.

I like to cook my chickens in the crock pot. Spray the crock pot with nonstick spray and then sprinkle the chicken with your favorite spices. I usually use garlic, salt and pepper since that allows me to use the cooked chicken in a variety of different meals. Set the crock pot on low and cook for 6 to 8 hours depending on the size of your chicken. When the chicken is done it will fall off the bone.

Frugal Food for Large Families |

Pick off all the meat from the cooked chicken. Some people prefer to do this while the chicken is warm, but I usually put it in the fridge overnight before taking the meat off.

Frugal Food for Large Families |
When you take the chicken out of the pot your pot will be filled with broth. Do not throw this away! This is the same stuff you purchase in the store from anywhere between fifty cents and a dollar a can but without all the preservatives. When the broth has cooled pour it into a container and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning there will be a layer of fat on the top, scrape it off and throw away. This chicken broth can be stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen for long term storage. After you have taken all the meat off the bones simmer the bones in water for about 30 minutes. Discard the bones and save the liquid, this provides you even more broth to use in future recipes.

Frugal Food for Large Families |

From one cooked chicken, you have a plate full of chicken (about 4 or 5 cups) and a freezer full of broth. A three to four pound chicken can be stretched to make three meals for our family of eight.

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Chicken Pot Pie

Yield – 8 servings

Preparation Time – 10 minutes

Cooking Time – 50 minutes


  • Pie Crusts for two pies ($1)
  • 4 T. Butter ($.50)
  • 1/4 cup Flour ($.02)
  • 1 tsp. salt ($.05)
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme ($.05)
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper ($.05)
  • 2 c. chicken broth (free)
  • 1/2 c. milk ($.07)
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and cubed ($2)
  • 3 large potatoes diced and boiled for about 10 minutes ($1)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables ($1)


  • Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 2 pie plates with crust. Melt butter in a large skillet over low heat and stir in flour, and seasonings. Cook until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in milk and broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in chicken and veggies. Pour half of each mixture into each pie crust. Top with the second pie crust.
  • Bake on cookie sheet 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Price for two large pies $5.74

We usually serve our pot pies with a large salad.
Frugal Food for Large Families |

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Chicken Noodle Soup

Yield – 8 servings

Preparation Time – 5 minutes

Cooking Time – 25 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon butter ($.10)
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion ($.25)
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery ($.25)
  • 3 cups chicken broth (free)
  • Water
  • 2 cups chopped chicken ($2)
  • 3 cups egg noodles ($.30)
  • 1-1/3 cups sliced carrots ($.40)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil ($.05)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano ($.05)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste ($.05)


  • In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion and celery in butter until just tender, 5 minutes. Pour in broth and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add water until all the ingredients are covered with liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

Total cost for soup $3.45

Frugal Food for Large Families |

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Mexican Skillet

Yield – 6-8 servings

Preparation Time – 5 minutes

Cooking Time – 20 minutes


  • 1/2 cup chopped onion ($.20)
  • 1 TBS olive oil ($.25)
  • 1 TBS minced garlic ($.10)
  • Chopped chicken breast (I would use whatever I had leftover from the whole chicken)
  • 1 can corn, drained ($.50)
  • 1 can black beans, drained ($.50)
  • 3 cups cooked brown or white rice (when making your rice decrease the amount of water by about 1/2 cup and add 1 cup of salsa) ($.50)


  • Coat large frying pan with olive oil. Saute onions and garlic. Add chicken, beans and corn. When everything has been heated through add the cooked rice. Serve immediately. Top with sour cream, or serve with shredded jack cheese on a tortilla.

Total cost for Mexican Skillet $2.05

Frugal Food for Large Families |
You CAN make healthy delicious meals for large families without breaking the budget. For more frugal ideas for large families visit Toni at her blog, The Happy Housewife.


  1. Phoebe says

    I’ve just within the past few months realized the benefit of a whole chicken! I’m generally a bonless/skinless gal (I have issues with meat and bones. Thank you for these recipes.

  2. Rachelle says

    Oh my. I have been throwing out that stock all this time. No more!! I’ll be freezing it for now on. BUT…you didn’t mention if you put water in with the chicken before cooking it??

  3. Emily says

    Great post! I’ve never cooked a whole chicken before, and hadn’t thought of using a crockpot! Will be checking out Toni’s blog for sure. :)

  4. The Happy Housewife says

    Hi Rachelle-
    I do not put any water in the chicken before cooking it. Just spray your crock pot with nonstick before putting the chicken in.
    aka The Happy Housewife

  5. Jehan says

    don’t toss that fat that collects at the top over night. that’s high quality cooking fat!
    fry your eggs in it, brown your onions. use it in place of butter when you’re making the crust for those pot pies!

  6. Anonymous says

    if you want to make chopped liver like you pay a lot for at a deli, having the chicken fat (schmaltz) is like having the missing piece.

  7. Christine says

    Thanks for the ideas! I also have made chicken tetrazzini with the cubed chicken, spaghetti, cream, chicken broth and mushrooms. A whole chicken really goes a long way!

  8. Joanna says

    Wow, I love the Mexican Skillet – I have a turkey and 2 hams at home, I’ll have to try some mods on these… Thanks!

  9. Lawanda says

    I always save my chicken broth too! :) But I don’t throw away the fat! LOL I guess I like fat! hehehe

    I love that mexican dish… it is one of my all time faves πŸ˜‰

  10. Rona's Home Page says

    Thanks for sharing these tips for larger families. I remember my mother doing something similar for our family of 7.

  11. Judy says

    I never thought of using a whole chicken in this way. I will be on the lookout for one to go on sale.
    I love Toni’s blog. Can you see why : )

  12. momstheword says

    Toni, thanks for sharing these recipes. I like to cook whole chickens in the crockpot too. I also like use leftovers to make broccoli and chicken casserole too.

  13. 4ddintx says

    If you add a bit of vinegar to the chicken bones when you make the “extra” broth, it extracts more calcium and such from the bones, making the whole thing even healthier. The broth is much richer if you crock the bones on low for about 12 hours, too–rich enough to make a great veggie soup with no added meat and stretch that chicken even further!

    Mom to 6 girls

  14. The Babbling Housewife says

    Chicken and Dumplings! We like it with the flat, rolled dumplings. I use 2 cups self-rising flour, and mix in just a little bit of liquid to make a dry dough that sticks together. You’ll need about 4 – 6 cups of stock, depending on your preference.

  15. Judith says

    I’ve done whole chickens in the crockpot for years, and like you, I use the chicken in all kinds of casseroles and potpies and tetrazzinis…….
    I discovered that you can put a FROZEN WHOLE CHICKEN in the crockpot in the morning on low, and it’s cooked-to-falling-off-the-bones by suppertime (8 to 10 hours). Can you guess why I had to try that? LOL
    By the way, that also means you can chuck the frozen bird in the crockpot overnight and thus have the meat to put in the fridge until needed……. I’m a working mom of 4 who has done this more than once!

  16. Martha A. says

    We do the same thing here! But we usually get whole chickens for under $1 a pound, like .69 a pound generally, so it makes it really cheap!

  17. Lilith Silvermane says

    This was wonderful! I am a single mom of six kids and I’m always looking for recipes that will feed us all!

    I made a whole chicken in the crockpot yesterday while I went to the museum with my kids and some friends.

    Then when I got home, I took the meat off the bone, and fed three of my kids chicken and broccoli and bagged up the rest of the chicken.

    Then I made homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight, adding the leftover broccoli and using a smaller noodle.

    It made enough for 5 of us, and lunch for two adults tomorrow!
    (along with grilled cheese sandwiches!)

    Wonderful idea for a large family!

  18. says

    Don’t forget to make your own stock/broth from the bones as well!! Throw the left over bones and whatever is attached to them into a pot with a tbs of vinegar. Slowly bring to a low boil. Skim off the froth as it heats up. Let it simmer for 12 hours (over night os so). Then freeze or can! You’ve got your won healthy calcium full stock to use on the next few meals! Add water for soup, or for extra flavor leave out the water!

  19. Sheri says

    I like your website, I just added it to my favorites, thanks for the tips. I’ve been using whole chickens for years but I didn’t keep the broth, but now I am.

  20. Suzi says

    I have never made a whole chicken before and I’m interested in trying it. I’m a frozen/boneless/skinless kinda girl so I’m very nervous…..are their parts to remove from the inner cavity like there is in turkey?

  21. says

    Hi there!

    My name is Christine. I am 25 years old and in my first year of marriage. I have never cooked a whole chicken before, and tonight is the night! I have been looking for a cost efficient way to feed my husband! He’s 6’3″ and would eat an entire dinner prepared for 8 people if I let him! I love this blog, and I’m going to try all three recipes this week! This may seem silly, but we are just starting out and honestly have not yet accumulated all of the spices used in so many dishes….Not to sound too frugal, but spices are pricey! I love that these recipes are simple, with basic ingredients, and perfect for a beginner cook as well!

    Thanks a bunch!

    I hope you post more!!!


    TO, Ontario

  22. says

    I have 10 adults to feed on a very limited budget where can i get more bang for the buck seems like each day food costs me around $50.00 and we can not afford this anymore.

  23. Laura says

    A whole chicken costs about $12.00 here. Making your own chicken healthy chicken broth is becoming a luxury. The precooked roasted chicken from the grocery store is about $8.00, but, its so small (I’m lucky of I get 2 cups of meat). A tray of Foster Farms chicken thighs runs about $9-12 dollars. Any suggestions?

  24. Amy says

    Thank you, I’m always looking for more ways to use chicken.

    @Laura- if you have a walmart near you, you can get 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters for about 7.80

  25. Amy says

    Thank you, I’m always looking for more ways to use chicken.

    @Laura- if you have a walmart near you, you can get 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters for about 7.80

  26. says

    I agree this is the best way to say money on meat. My personal rule is try not to spend more than $1.50 per pound on meat. People always ask me how this is possible but they just have to readjust their thinking. I am always getting chicken leg quarters 10 pound for .69 cents/pound or less. I got pork roast all summer for under $1.49 and once for .88 cents/pound (I bought 4 roast at that price and would have bought more if I had the freezer space. Thanks for spreading the frugal ideology that I love so much.

  27. says

    Hi, Neat post. There is a problem together with your web site in web explorer, would test this? IE still is the market chief and a huge portion of folks will pass over your fantastic writing due to this problem.


  1. […] Frugal Food for Large Families – 5 Dollar – One way to make frugal meals for large families is to use meat as a side rather … thing here! But we usually get whole chickens for under $1 a pound, like .69 a pound generally, so it makes it really cheap! Reply. Ruth December 27, 2008 … To prepare healthy meals using natural and wholesome … […]

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