2 Super-Easy & Cheap Meals for Big Families of Up to 12

Rachel | Rachel Resets
by Rachel | Rachel Resets

Do you need ideas for cheap meals for big families or crowds? These two large family meals were a hit with our weekend game group and easy to throw together.

While these meals are not crazy low in price, they are still budget-friendly meals and use ingredients I tend to have on hand, making them perfect to turn to for cheap meals for a big family or group on the weekend. One recipe uses an Instant Pot and one uses the stove and oven.

The total I spent for both meals came to $28.60. Keep in mind that I had some of the ingredients for both dishes in my pantry already and are not included in the grocery lists.

Cajun kielbasa and rice

Grocery list

$10.66 total/$0.89 a serving/serves 12

  • Rice (6 cups) - $3.76
  • Kielbasa - $3.28
  • Pepper/onion seasoning blend (10oz) - $1.38
  • 1 28 oz can cubed tomatoes in tomato juice - $1.36
  • 10 oz can of Rotel - $0.88


  • 1 thinly sliced kielbasa (cut with kitchen scissors if easier)
  • 1 bag frozen seasoning blend (or pepper and onion blend, or 1 cubed onion and 2 cubed bell peppers)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 6 bouillon cubes
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
  • 1 tbsp creole seasoning (like Tony's)
  • 1 tsp cajun seasoning
  • 6 cups white rice
  • 11 cups water


Cooking the kielbasa

Slice the kielbasa. Turn the Instant Pot on the sauté mode. Add sliced kielbasa, oil, and pepper onion seasoning mix. Sauté stirring frequently until kielbasa is slightly browned.  

Budget-friendly meals

Budget-friendly family meals

Fill the pot with ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients, including all the rice, and stir. The Instant Pot will be filled up!

Place the lid on and set it closed to seal it. Cook on pressure cook for six minutes with a natural release for 20 minutes. Quick release to ensure all pressure has been released, then take the lid off.

Cheap meals for a big family

Stir and serve.

Alternatively, (for stovetop) heat the oil, then add sliced kielbasa and pepper and onion seasoning mix.  Stir frequently and sauté until the kielbasa is browned. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Keep on medium heat and cover.  

Once it has come to a boil, stir and uncover. Once most of the liquid has evaporated out, stir and cook on low for five minutes (or until rice is tender). Serve!  

Optionally, you can top it with cheese, but without the cheese, this is a dairy-free meal with the potential to be gluten-free as well if you use seasonings, kielbasa, and chicken bouillon that are gluten-free.

Loaded meatloaf and mashed potato casserole

Grocery list

$17.94 total/$1.50 per person/serves 12

  • 1 box turkey stuffing - $0.88
  • 3 lbs ground turkey - $7.62
  • 6 pack of eggs - $1.44
  • Ketchup - $1.18
  • Bacon bits - $1.70
  • 8 oz block cheddar cheese - $2.00
  • 2 family packs of flavored mashed potatoes (the cheese or garlic ones go well with this) - $3.12

Ingredients for meatloaf layer: 

  • 1 box turkey stuffing
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 3 lb ground beef or ground turkey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onions

Ingredients for toppings

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup bacon bits
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Ingredients for potato layer

  • Make 2 family-size instant mashed potato packs according to the back of the packages OR...
  • 8 medium peeled, sliced, and boiled potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp salt or salt to taste
  • 1 tsp minced garlic


Meals for big families

Adding the ground turkey to the pot

Make the meatloaf mixture. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make the stuffing as directed (use the butter and boiling water with a stuffing packet). I chose turkey stuffing because I’m using ground turkey since it’s less greasy than ground beef, but feel free to use ground beef and a different flavor stuffing you prefer.

Then mix in the 3 lbs of ground turkey, minced onions, and 2 eggs.  

You can also adjust the recipe’s cost by adding in only 2 lbs of ground turkey and more stuffing if you prefer.

Making the meatloaf

Add mix to the pan. Press and smooth the mixture into a 9x13 pan (or larger if you have it– I believe mine is an 11x16-inch pan). 

Spreading ketchup on the meatloaf

Meatloaf with ketchup

Add ketchup. Spread ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until it is 160 degrees Fahrenheit internally.

While the meatloaf layer bakes, make your flavored mashed potatoes according to the package.

If you are making it from scratch, boil your potatoes until soft, drain the water, and use a mixer to mash them. I use packaged because the price of raw potatoes is high right now.

Add salt, 1/4 cup butter, minced garlic, and sour cream, and mix.  

Adding potatoes on top of the meatloaf

Add potato layer. Spread the hot mashed potatoes over the cooked meatloaf in an even layer. 

Sprinkling cheese on top of the meatloaf
Finished meatloaf

Cheap meals for big families

Add toppings. Sprinkle a cup of shredded cheese and bacon bits on top. Put it back in the oven on broil until the cheese is melted (about 2 minutes). Serve. 

Cheap meals for big families

I hope you enjoyed the recipes for these two meals for big families. They are a hit at our house and our game night crowd always asks me to make these dishes again and again. Let us know what big, easy family meals you make to please a crowd! 

Join the conversation
2 of 10 comments
  • Sharon Sharon on Jan 15, 2023

    Forget politics, we all still have to eat. Basic staple based foods are still the least expensive way to feed families and large groups. Mixed or paired with lower priced meats(sale finds,coupons,hunter specials etc.) and canned or preserved vegetables, you can make filling meals.

    For example:(not a recipe just a suggestion) rice or any pasta, add ground beef or venison, canned tomatoes and some spices (try Italian or Mexican) is tasty and filling. The beef can be whatever amount you can afford. If you drain the tomatoes and add tomato paste or sauce, diced onions and bell pepper and cheese on top, this is really good. Do what you can afford at the time.

    Stay positive 🙂

  • Tina Tina on Aug 08, 2023

    I live in VA, but have found that IF you shop the sales, you can still get good deals, like the family packs of chicken breasts for $1.79-1.99/lb and ground beef for $3.49/lb in the family pack. Same prices as it's been for many years. When I get home, freeze the chicken breasts individually and divide the ground beef into 1 lb bags and freeze. Two favorite recipes are chicken bake and burger/veggie cassarole. For the chicken bake, filet the breasts so they are thinner. Make 2 boxes stuffing and put in a large baking dish, topped with the filleted chicken, bake. Serve with mashed potatoes/gravy and veggie of your choice. Tastes like Thanksgiving! For the burger/veggie cassarole, peel and cut up 1 lb carrots, 4 potatoes and an onion. Boil until they are soft, drain, and dump them in a cassarole dish. Crumble 1 1/2-2 lbs of ground beef over the top. Dump a large can of tomato sauce and bake at 375 until the beef is cooked. Both are REALLY hearty, healthy and filling meals at affordable prices.