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16 Money-Saving Tips for Large Families (from big families)

Got a large family and typical “frugal living” tips don’t apply? Check out these money-saving tips for large families – your budget will thank you.

Do you get frustrated reading many of the money-saving tips for families because they’re meant for families with 1-3 kids, and yours, well, is rather large?

large family in kitchen cooking together, text overlay "16 money saving tips for large families - simple action steps"

Money-saving tips for large families look different than for small families.

Not all of them – the principles still apply, and you can adjust here and there.

But, honestly, you need some specific tips and resources just for large families to really make a dent in your budget.

Lucky for you, I’ve been studying a bunch of large families for the last several months to catch their secrets on how they can afford to be, well, so large.

(Not only that, but I grew up in Amish country, PA where family sizes routinely run between 8-21 kids).

I’ve collected all of these great money-saving tips for large families for you, right here.

Money Saving Tips for Large Families

Grab your favorite bulk-sized snack, pull up a chair, and read through these money-saving family tips.

Seriously – there are some gems here.

1. Have Kids Trained in Skills that Cost a Lot of Money

The best example I can give of a super-large family that does this brilliantly is the Duggar Family.

They have 19 children.

Which means anytime they want to travel somewhere, they’d need 21 airplane tickets (with the parents).

And they’ll have up to 19 weddings to plan.

Not to mention, the 19 cars that they could potentially own once all the kids are finished getting their licenses and saving up for one.

Instead of paying out this outrageous amount of money, they have (and again, I’m calling this brilliant) had certain kids train in different fields.

  • John-David is a pilot
  • Justin is a car mechanic
  • Austin has mad construction skills
  • Jana has probably planned more parties than Martha Stewart
  • Jill is a midwife (and yes, she’s delivered several of her children’s babies)

This not only saves them a boatload of money, but it truly expands and opens up their world. I mean, they can fly to anywhere in the U.S. that they’d like to, when they’d like to.

They’re not the only family that does this – Janelle from the Browns (Sister Wives, a family of 18 kids) recently acted as the real estate agent when they were in the process of selling their 4 homes in Las Vegas.

Do you know how many tens of thousands of dollars they saved in commission by doing this?

Give it some thought as to how you can incorporate this into your own family for huge future savings.

Like, train a child to:

  • Change oil
  • Notarize documents (they’ll need to be 18, and can do this for the younger kids as they age and need documents notarized)
  • Cut hair

2. Set Up Kid Capsule Wardrobes

Getting on the kid-capsule-wardrobe bandwagon is going to be your best friend when it comes to cutting down on clothes costs.

Capsule wardrobes are awesome because the pieces all interchange with one another so you end up with tons of outfit ideas with far fewer pieces than normal.

Here are some great kid capsule wardrobe plans:

And definitely pass down these capsule wardrobe pieces to the next kiddo! That’s the age-old advice everyone knows – but with this tip, you’ll have more of a strategy behind it.

Psst: while we’re talking about clothes, check out Jordan Page’s dot system for knowing whose clothes belong to who (and when to pass them down) in large families.

3. Get a Handle on Babysitting

Date nights for married couples are seriously important.

I mean, your marriage is at the heart of your large family – and to not “make it” as a couple would be devastating to a lot of kids.

That’s why it’s VITAL that you find affordable babysitting options so that the two of you can get out together and keep engaging and growing as a couple.

Here are some cheap babysitting ideas when you’ve got a lot of kids:

  • Church Babysitting Nights: We’ve gone to two different churches now that have routine couple’s date night babysitting. Not only does our child get to interact with other kids with really fun activities (like safari night, and camping night), but the whole thing has cost $3/child with a maximum of $12 per family. Read that: $12 limit on families. This is golden for you guys! Of course, not every church can afford this, but search around for one that can – it’ll make a huge difference to your couplehood.
  • Swap Babysitting with Another Large Family: You want to make things fair when finding a family to swap babysitting with, so try to find another large family with about the same number of kids as you have. It might not be easy, but it’s well worth it (and don’t be afraid to take the initiative and ask – you never know what other couples might be dying for an affordable night out every other month).
  • Do At-Home Date Nights: My husband and I do tons of at-home date nights, and I’ve got a huge resource post here with lots of affordable, at-home date night ideas for married couples (we’ve done each of them – I like to test things out first!). You’ll also get a glimpse into how we set up and plan our date nights each week.

4. Focus on Getting Really Good Grades

Look at this family of Quintuplets, all of whom had 4.0 GPAs – they actually got full-ride scholarships for each of the kids to college due to their situation AND because they worked so hard.

That’s amazing!

Not only that, but good grades could help your kids get cheaper car insurance.

5. Seek Out Activities where Family Size is Not “Penalized”

By “penalized”, I mean, where you’re not charged extra for each child that you bring.

Activities like:

  • Church vacation bible school
  • Bowling (where you get to rent by the lane, and not pay by the person)
  • JCC membership (it’s per family, not per kid, and you can do lots of free activities there – though many paid ones are offered, too)
  • Restaurants where kids eat free (certain days of the week)
  • Family passes to museums, amusement parks, etc. where you can squeeze in 12 kids on one pass

6. Get Smart on the Costco Sales Cycle

Bulk stores are really helpful for cutting large family food costs.

But you need to go a cut above just shopping at a bulk food store.

Instead, get smart on the sales cycles there. This way, you can buy enough of a product while it’s on sale (1-3 of them, or however many you’re allowed – Costco sometimes puts limits on sale items per customer) to get you through until the next time it goes on sale.

Jordan Page, mama of 8, is a pro at this.

In fact, here’s a video of hers detailing ways to save money at Costco.

Psst: something I was particularly surprised and delighted to find out? Was that the Costco-branded products are actually manufactured by brand names. So, you’re still getting the high-quality products but paying less for them since they’re in a different package.

7. Buy Quality Reusable Products

You don’t need products that are:

  • Use once and done
  • Low quality, so while reusable, don’t hold up for long

That’s because, with a large family, all of the things in your home have to do double, triple, and quadruple duty (compared with a smaller family).

So, while it might seem counterintuitive to save money, investing a bit more upfront for certain items you’ll be using over and over and over again will save you mucho dinero.  

For example, you don’t need to be buying 10 rolls of paper towels every grocery shopping trip. That will cost you a small fortune over the next 10 years. And forget about buying bottles and bottles of toxic cleaners for your kitchen.

Instead, invest in a few anti-microbial, microfiber cloths that can be cleaned and reused (with a lifetime guarantee) with just water.

My sister spoiled me with free Norwex microfiber cloths – and to be honest, they’re expensive (but awesome).

Instead, you can use these e-cloths which are cheaper and very durable (says they’ll last 300 washes – and day-to-day use usually just needs to be rinsed with warm water).

Another common reusable item many large families talk about? Cloth napkins.

How Can I Feed a Large Family Cheap?

Let’s face it – feeding a large family is one of your biggest expenses.

That’s why I’m dedicating an entire section of money-saving tips for large families to tips that will help with how big families save money on groceries, snacking, and food in general.

8. Make Your Grocery Shopping Work Double-Time (and Triple-Time)

You spend a lot on groceries, so let’s start harnessing that spending to get you more.

  • Buy groceries from a store with gas rewards: You can easily earn $1.00/gallon by spending $800+/month on groceries (from what I’ve read of large families, they’re spending at least this).
  • Scan Receipts for Cash: Use Fetch, ibotta, and any other grocery rewards apps you can where you get cash back (what is the difference between ibotta and fetch?) simply by scanning your grocery receipts. (Hint: you can teach a child to do this – they’ll likely love the scanning element of it!).

9. Fill Your Freezer with Interchangeable “Meal Bases”

I absolutely love how the Pioneer Woman creates what I’m going to call “meal bases”, freezes them, and then gives you multiple different recipes/ways you can use them for future dinners.

I think this is absolutely key to not only eating more cheaply but to meal prep in bulk so that you’re eating out less.

Like, you can create bulk batches of meatballs. Freeze bags of one-dinner-sized portions for your family, and then you can create tons of recipes from them.

Here’s more ideas:

  • All Purpose Meatball Recipe: Spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, or any other recipe that includes meatballs.
  • Grilled Chicken Breasts: Use these in quesadillas, in chicken pot pie, in chicken Caesar salads, in a big cobb salad, in tortilla soup, on chicken BBQ pizzas, etc.
  • Your Favorite Chili Recipe: You can then use this to make bowls of chili (we personally include onions, cheese, sour cream, and avocado slices), tamale pie, chili-stuffed baked potatoes, etc.

10. Scout Out Dollar-Deal Bread Days

This woman of 10 calls her local Dollar store to find out when they get brand-name bread shipments. Then, she picks up a lot of loaves and freezes most of them to use over the next few months.

11. Get a Handle on Snacking

Snacking times 8, 10, 12 people or more can quickly eat through your grocery budget.

If you can get this part of your food budget under control, then you’ll free up some cash for healthy foods.

Several large-family snacking tips:

  • Make a snack cart, and fill it with individually-portioned snacks that you buy in bulk and then put into little plastic cups – like peanuts, and peanut butter with chocolate chips
  • Take 3 or so bulk-sized snack items, and make your own trail mix (an Amish woman from Money Secrets of the Amish uses peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame sticks, and raisins)
  • Use bulk-sized products at home (like bulk-sized jars of applesauce), and individually packaged stuff for on-the-go snacking (like applesauce food pouches)

12. Get Your “Lentil Meal” Down

I was never a fan of lentils. Which is sad, because they’re extremely healthy and have lots of protein, as well.

Not to mention, they’re darn cheap.

Except…then I stumbled across the recipes of all recipes that not only turned me into a lentil-loving fan but turned many dinner guests of mine into one as well (my Uncle exclaimed after tasting these that “these are the best lentils I have ever tasted”).

And that leads me to this important way to feed a large family on a budget – substitute meat for lentils at dinnertime 1-2 times per week.

The lentil recipe that you test out and love might be different from mine, but I’ll share anyway because WOW does my family love this.

We use two crockpots and cook two different lentil recipes from this amazing The Indian Slow Cooker book.

Then we just need the following to make it a meal:

  • Naan bread (you can find these in bulk at Costco, and they freeze well, too)
  • Chopped up cucumbers and red onion

And that’s it. How amazing!

Not to mention, if you love these a bunch, you just need to buy the spices and seasonings once and can use them over and over and over again for her recipes.

You can also try something like lentil shepherd’s pie.

13. Get Your Meats Under Control

Meat is one of the most expensive things on your list (I don’t have to tell you this, Mama Bear).

So, this section offers several ways to cut that meat cost down.

Besides eating a lentil meal each week, another great tip for stretching your meat is to add something to it. But not just any old “filler” – rather, a healthy, protein-rich filler.

For example, The Intentional Mom (family of 8) stretches her taco meat on taco nights by adding refried beans to it. Brilliant!

Mother of 10, Jamerrill, details here the entire process of purchasing an entire cow (pasture-raised, grass-fed) for $5.50/lb. of meat. It yielded a total of 527 lbs. of steaks, roasts, and ground beef, which she thinks will last them 9 months. She’s got lots of good tips, so if you’re even a bit interested, I’d go check it out.

For example, she says for the next time, she would definitely request a printout of the type of cut she has, and how many pounds of each to help with meal planning and freezer management. Great idea!

Another meat-stretcher (for, you know, for those of you who can’t or don’t want to purchase a whole cow)? Is to actually only shop for meats in your butcher’s clearance section.

I’ve been doing this for years, and it amazes me that not only am I getting great deals, but I’m buying organic (whereas before, we weren’t buying organic because of the cost).

14. Find a Community Food Co-Op

One of the ways big families save money on groceries? Is by not entering a grocery store.

Instead, they join a community food co-op and bulk-buy groceries at wholesale prices (which cuts out the middle man – the grocery store).

Here’s an article about how to locate a food co-op near you.

15. Find Your Local Salvage Grocery Store

I remember growing up when my stepmother found a grocery outlet near our home. I had never seen such small prices on food before!

These places can be goldmines of healthy (and, of course, some not-so-healthy) food for your family.

Definitely keep an eye on expiration dates, though.

Here’s a directory of nationwide grocery salvage stores.

16. Get Breakfast for the Week Done on Sundays

The Frugal Foodie Cookbook author Lara Starr recommends making a big pot of regular ol’ oatmeal on Sundays, and then dish it out for breakfast to your clan each morning.

But don’t get too scared off by this – there are tons of great fixin’s to mix in with it to make it like new each morning:

  • Frozen berries
  • Chocolate chips and peanut butter
  • Applesauce
  • Pureed pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and a spoonful of brown sugar
  • Bananas and cinnamon
  • Chopped nuts
  • Canned or frozen peaches
  • Greek yogurt
  • Etc.

In fact, you can think of breakfast as an Oatmeal buffet where everyone gets to scoop out their own hot oatmeal (reheated from the one you made on Sunday), and then choose their toppings.

How can a large family save money? By following some of these money-saving tips for large families above. Remember that each of these tips came from large families, so you should be able to find many that will work for your own. Start with one change, and then when you have that down, make another change. Before you know it, you’ll squeeze extra money out of your monthly budget – so much so, that you can stash it away in your emergency fund or travel fund accounts!

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.