7 Ways Your Large Family Can Keep Frugal and Not Go Broke

The average American family has 2.1 children (Hoover Institution). 

However, there are many families that exceed that number.

If you look at celebrities, there are families like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who have 6 kids, and you can’t forget the Duggars, who make headlines with their 19 children.

Of course, plenty of non-celebrity families have large families.

My son is only in 4th grade, but one of his classmates, who is the oldest in the family, already has 6 younger siblings.  Though large families aren’t as common as they were 60 years ago, they still exist.

While all of us need to stretch a buck to some extent, for those with large families, the need is even more important because there are so many mouths to feed and people to clothe and house.

However, there are plenty of ways that large families can save money.

Here Are 7 Ways A Large Family Can Be Frugal

7 ways a large family can be frugal

Don’t Eat Yourself Broke

Beyond housing, food is likely to be one of the largest expenses for a big family.  However, with cost cutting measures, food costs don’t have to be prohibitive.

1. Shop at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. 

Costco’s basic yearly membership is $55 per year.  However, many of their products are much cheaper than buying at the grocery store, so you’re likely to recoup this cost within a month or two, especially if you’re buying for quite a few people.  Their Executive Membership is $110, but you get 2% back on all your purchases, up to a total of $750 back.  This money is given to you at the time you need to renew membership.  Our family of 5 only visits Costco once a month, but we still earned enough cash back to cover the cost of our membership.  Larger families could recoup more than the cost of membership.

Related: Earn more at Costco with the TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express.

2. Cook from scratch.

Learning how to make your own bread, granola, yogurt, etc. can save quite a bit of money over a year’s time.  If the parents don’t have time to cook the basics, the older kids can learn.  Chances are they will only need a few times with parental guidance before they are able to make these staples on their own.

3. Have a repertoire of frugal recipes.

Sometimes cooking from scratch is not enough.

To make your grocery dollars stretch even further, have a repertoire of frugal recipes.  Some of my favorite ones are Depression Era Cooking with Clara (you can find her on YouTube) as well as the Duggar’s favorite recipes.  There are a host of frugal cookbooks and websites, so there is no shortage of recipes.

4. Garden. 

If you have the space and time, you may want to consider gardening.  For a very small investment in seeds and materials, you can grow hundreds of pounds of your own food to eat now and to preserve for later either by freezing or canning.  Amy Dacyczyn, of the popular 1990s The Tightwad Gazette, kept her grocery bill for her family of 8 very low by growing a huge garden and preserving the surplus to eat in the winter.

5. Choose carefully when eating out.

Depending on the size of your family, dining out can be costly.  One way to save is to either go to a buffet or to choose a pizza parlor that offers reasonably priced pizzas.    Another option is to buy complementary items.  For instance, if you can make delicious spaghetti at home, maybe just buy the breadsticks from your favorite restaurant for take-out and serve them with your meal at home.

Wear It, Wash It, and Don’t Let it Cost You Too Much

6. Buy used clothing.  The best way to save on clothing is to buy used.  There are so many places you can shop depending on your needs.  Amy Dacyczyn clothed all of her 6 children with garage sale finds.  She bought clothing for each child up to a year in advance when she found good deals and stored them until they were needed.  Of course, you can also find items on eBay, Craigslist, at thrift stores, and at consignment shops.

7. Make your own laundry soap.  Making your own laundry soap maybe one of those jobs that people with smaller families scoff at.  After all, how much does detergent cost?  However, if you’re doing several loads a day, making homemade soap can make a big difference.  The Duggars estimate that their homemade laundry soap costs $3 to make and lasts them 360 loads, saving them $117 over buying store bought laundry soap (YouTube).

Final Word on Being Frugal with a Big Family

They say having a large family brings more love and laughter.

However, the additional financial responsibilities can’t be ignored.  Yet if you have a big family or you aspire to have one, know that there are plenty of ways to cut costs, especially when it comes to variable expenses like food and clothing.

Do you have any frugal tips for large families?

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Published or updated November 23, 2014.


  1. Great tips Melissa! I think we do all of them, save for #7. We have three ourselves and it can be very easy to see expenses go up if you don’t watch them. The added benefit of doing many of these is that you also get to teach your kids on a practical level the importance of spending wisely and going over needs vs. wants.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Some things don’t get too much more expensive with more kids but other things seems to blow up exponentially! You’re right about using these tips as teachable moments for your kids.

  2. Families probably should have less kids if they are not financially ready. Children aren’t cheap…
    I don’t agree with CostCo though. We spend way more money when we were members because there are just so many things to buy. The fresh food there is not cheap either. Their frozen food is a good deal, but we rarely buy those.

    • Glen Craig says:

      You have to have a plan when you go into Costco; a list helps. You can definitely save there but if you aren’t careful it’s easy to go overboard.

    • Sarah Reilly says:

      Yes children aren’t cheap, we have 5 and we were financially sound until my husband lost his job. So saying people shouldn’t have large families unless they can afford it seems ignorant. Life happens and financial situations change, you just have to learn to adapt.

  3. Great tips on how to save money if you have a big family, but even smaller families can benefit from them as well. I think cooking from scratch is the best money saving tip ever. You can save thousands of dollars a year by just doing that. If you have your own garden and can utilize some fruits and vegetable from it to make meals, it’s even better!

    • Glen Craig says:

      We save so much by eating at home (and we also don’t have to deal with the kids running around at a restaurant!).

  4. Solid tips for families of all sizes …

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