A mum has revealed how she feeds her family of ten for £150 a week with glorious Nando’s and McDonald’s ‘fakeaways’.
Caroline lives with her husband John and children Ellena, 21, Joshua, 18, Daniel, 15, Finlay, 11, Henry, 10, Sophia, eight, Florence, six, and Emilia, two, in Evesham, Worcestershire.
Yes, that’s a lot of kids to feed. You can imagine how tricky it is to sort out meals that will please everyone and that stick to a budget.
Caroline manages it with plenty of batch cooking and making everything from scratch. She regularly recreates takeaway favourites like sausage and egg McMuffins and Nando’s style chicken to please picky eaters without having to ever buy ready meals or pre-prepared food from the shops.
Caroline insists that her tight budget doesn’t limit the range of what she can whip up for her family and uses her creative touch to let the family enjoy fun meals that they’ll remember – like homemade fish fingers and jars of special, home prepared sweet treats.
She said: ‘I’m a mad planner, I plan everything. My motto is: Failing to plan is planning to fail.
‘You have be military when you have a family this big.
‘I’m a sergeant major without the shouting, all the children have a role within the house when it comes to washing up.
‘I cook everything from scratch, everything we eat I make myself, I never buy ready meals.
‘I like to know what’s in our food, the only way to feed a family is to cook from scratch, we all eat the same thing.
‘When you get into the supermarket you get bombarded with stuff you don’t need. I hate waste, I try not to waste anything.
‘If I get to a Friday and my fridge is virtually bare then I’m really pleased because then I’ve shopped well.’
Caroline does a weekly shop every Saturday morning after sitting down and planning the seven days of meals the family will enjoy.
She gets enough food for a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, so no family member has to buy quick meals while out and about.
Caroline said: ‘Breakfast is usually toast, cereal and fruit and porridge.
‘Mornings can be a bit crazy getting everyone out on time.
‘Lunchtime is mixed, some take packed lunches to school.
‘My husband does the sandwiches and I usually add some cakes or sweet treats I’ve made myself, I try to avoid crisps.
‘I don’t buy cheap, supermarket alternatives because I know I can save the money by making my own. I make my own bread, cakes and also make my own pizza.’
Rather than just sticking to one supermarket, Caroline shops around to find the best bargains.
She’ll usually start at Aldi to get staples like tinned food, pasta, rice, and passata, then to Tesco for other bits.
The key to sticking to the budget is knowing exactly what she’ll be cooking each day, with every meal planned to perfection.
But if batch-cooking is conjuring up images of dull meals of rice and veggies, you’ve got it all wrong.
Dinner is always the main event, with Caroline making sure to stay creative and make something special for her family.
That might be chicken shawarma, cowboy pie, spaghetti bolognese, or those brilliant fakeaways of scampi, homemade fish fingers, and chip butties with homemade bread.
Caroline says: ‘I try and make memories for the children by doing extra things to try and make each meal special.
‘My idea is that they’ll look back on their childhood and they’ll say: ‘wow, do you remember when mum made that’.
‘My main concern for dinner is to make sure it’s healthy. We have treats of course, life is dull otherwise. I want people to come together around the table and chat about their day.
‘I cook things that anybody could cook, I’m a home cook, I’m a mum that enjoys cooking. I’ve got only a set amount of time to get food on the table, usually 30 minutes. Nothing takes too long.’
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