Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Livin' Large

Okay, fine.

You broke me down.


Friends keep sending me little messages saying "You should really blog about how you guys manage feeding and affording all these kids!"

I just kept thinking that's really not super exciting... but apparently people are interested in such gory details!

Piggybacking on my post two weeks ago - children aren't expensive. Lifestyles can be VERY expensive.

So here ya go!

We don't buy a bunch of processed stuff.
I don't buy biscuits in cans, no frozen breakfast products, no small cups of yogurt. I don't get snack-packs of anything, no canned fruit salad with cherries, no 100 calorie packs of pretzels. We don't eat frozen dinner stuff, we don't make meals from boxes, and I don't call the pizza guy.
So, what does that leave??
Breakfast - I buy those giant bags of honey nut o's (no trans-fat or HFCS), I make muffins, I make my own kefir and do "banana juice" (smoothies) with whatever I serve them. I make egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos, or a snack-plate with half a piece of fruit, yogurt in a little cup, and a muffin or two. And they have a smoothie almost every morning. It is super good for their digestive systems with all those good probiotics, and it helps fill them up and keep them full longer than just a muffin.
Lunch - PB&J (one loaf of "sandwich" bread makes 12 sandwiches), pasta with veggies, quesadillas, soup or grilled cheese, maybe a combo of leftover items. 80% of the kids love salad, so that's always an option with some leftover chicken on top. Lunch is whatever I make that's easy. I don't over-do it on lunch preparation, especially when it's 105 degrees - like this week!
Dinner - Some family favorites are fajitas, sauteed chicken, almost any pasta dish, any kind of fish, meatloaf, Salisbury steak, chicken fingers, and anything Dad makes. We do a lot of brown rice, a lot of those giant bags of frozen green beans, and I make rolls sometimes. We portion the food in the kitchen, and allow them to have more once they finish everything we gave them to start with.

We drink water. And smoothies. Sometimes milk... but I prefer smoothies.
No juice, no kool-aid, no juice boxes, no squeezy pouches of anything. Water or smoothies.

Fruit is our major snack food. I keep apples and bananas on hand. I recently bought a case of peaches, but mostly to freeze for cobblers and smoothies later on. If it's in season and a decent price, I buy fruit. 10-11 of the kids like watermelon... depending on the day. 9 or 10 like mangos, so when I see them on sale I buy a bunch.
Popcorn is a good snack... I have 2 air poppers and I make a giant bowl of popcorn and divide it up into lunch bags cut in half to hand it out.
I also buy pretzels... that makes a decent snack sometimes, too!

Sorry, tree-huggers:
I maintain that there is somewhere a landfill named in our honor from all the diapers and stuff over the years. However, now with a dozen kids... we use styrofoam or paper plates at nearly every meal. I serve cereal in plastic disposable cups. We use regular silverware and wash that regularly... but I use disposable if it's at all available.
I pink fuzzy heart styrofoam plates.
Laundry stinks. I don't like it. Thankfully, my kids help... otherwise I'd be buried alive in a matter of days. 14 people wear a LOT of clothes. The boys wear their pajamas 3 nights before they get washed. (sorry if that grosses you out... but I figure they aren't sleep-mud-wrestlers, so it's okay.)
They re-use towels after showers, and I'm a big fan of wearing jeans multiple times before washing them unless they are just gross. (which, in the summer, most stuff is gross after one wearing).

I might cry just writing this... but we have to get a new van. Soon. Like, very soon.
Poor Moby. We've dumped thousands into keeping her running and going strong over the past year... 15 passenger vans aren't cheap and they aren't just for sale around every corner either. The poor girl just ain't what she used to be. And now... we are van hunting. And I'm hoping I win the lottery (even though we don't play) to pay for it since I hate, hate, hate having a car payment.

 We live within our means. We don't charge stuff, we don't wear brand names or go shopping for a new wardrobe anytime someone grows. We don't do 12 kids x 4 seasons of sports. We don't go on beach vacations twice a year. We don't go out to eat unless it's a SUPER special occasion. We let our lawn die this year since it's a drought. (Sorry, neighbors... but I'm not wasting my budget on a water bill just so the stupid grass is green. It will come back.) We have a local rec center membership so we can go to the pool all summer without paying per person. We have a zoo membership since it's the same price for 4 or 14 people. We pack lunches when we go out. We take water bottles when we go out so we don't have to buy drinks somewhere expensive. We shop yard sales and goodwill and get lots of hand-me-downs. We have what we need and we don't go hungry, we love our kids and we enjoy being around each other. 

Things that bug me:
"You must live in a HUGE house!"
"I could NEVER afford to have that many kids!"
"We can't afford to adopt."
"My kids all NEED their own rooms."
"My kids would NEVER share their stuff."
"Well, of course you cook a lot, your husband is a chef!"

Things I wish people understood:
12 is a big number.
It's a lot of food, a lot of laundry, a lot of mess.
It's also a huge blessing and responsibility.
It's also tight financially every month.
We worry about money sometimes.
It's always okay.
We appreciate every single little God-breeze that blows our way - donated clothing, an unexpected invitation for one of the kids to do something fun with a friend, a group discount, or a grocery budget that somehow manages to stretch till the next payday.
It's hard.
It's not impossible.
It's worth it all.


  1. We went from 2 to 6 kids in a morning last year when we were fostering. We had six under 7 and our laundry solution was a huge blessing. All the kids at 4 or 5 days of clothes in a single drawer (they were all small). THis meant I had to do laundry on Wed and Sat no mater what. And I stopped folding kids clothes. I sorted into piles, and the kids put them in their drawer. As things got destroyed I'd replace it from a bin in the garage. But I never had a mountain of laundry, the kids didn't have tons of clothes to make a mess with and it just made life a lot easier. Thanks for this post. Its a lot of the same things we do even though we're back to just 2 kids.

  2. Just a thought on the dishes...we recently implemented a new system. Each child has a bin with a cup, a bowl, and a plate. when they use one of those items they have to wash it and put it back in the bin. The big kids are responsible for helping the littles with their dishes. This has helped us cut way down on our dishes and saves us money on disposable products. :-)

  3. LOVE this-thank you SO much for sharing-we are about to bring home our two newest Stutzman's from Ethiopia-and will now have 8 kids! I get those comments too and they really bug me! You are so right on with everything you said! Love it-keep it coming! amber

  4. Great post! Ditto for the Duleys... I say a lot of that same stuff when people ask how in the world we make it work on 1 teacher's salary!

  5. We have half the kids you have, but still do a lot of things the way you do :) and it's all o.k.! Everyone's happy and healthy :) (oh, but we DO use credit - a card with rewards - that we pay off every single month no matter what... then we get free cameras or laptops or dinner gift cards with our rewards points)

  6. I saw you have a zoo membership. We just got a membership through boonshoft (it's out of Dayton, OH), but we use it at the zoo, the adventure science center, the discovery center (in M'boro), and tons of other areas places (Atlanta, Chattanooga, etc). It's only $100, I think for the full-out family pass for all the zoos, science centers, and kids museums), and for about $20 more you can add a couple more adults. Don't forget kids bowl free at some of the area bowling alleys. I know in Smyrna, they aren't on the website, but they have their own free bowling (2 free games a day all summer long for kids+shoe rental). Some of the skate centers are doing free skate too.

  7. Yes, Yes, and YES! You have captured so much so well! I was just getting ready to attack the whole "how do you afford it" question on my blog. Would you mind if I send readers to this article? r8rgr8@frontier.com


  8. Sister- AMEN AND AMEN!!!!!!!!! I hear ya!!!!!

    Those bug ya comments- ummm yea...nuff said! I also don't like- you must be supermom- UMM NO!!! HA!

    We all do things a little differently, but man oh man can I totally relate!!!

    It is ALWAYS WORTH IT!!!!!!!! Even when the check runs low and the bills seems high!

  9. I absolutely love how you broke this down! It makes me want to adopt a dozen kids!

  10. We have 16 kids from all over the world. I've heard all these same questions and have given very similar responses. Check into fleet sales for a new 15-passenger van. We bought one that used to be a shuttle vehicle for the county for 11K. It was in excellent condition with only 36000 miles on it and has been reliable for 7 years now. We also bought a 12-passenger from the same place for 10K.

  11. You said it beautifully! THANK YOU.

  12. LOVED this post. Thank you for sharing. We have been learning some hard lessons this past year on how to manage our household. We've come to a lot of the same conclusions. Zoo membership's are awesome. And, a lot of them will allow for you to visit other Zoos with the same membership. I admire your family's willingness to adapt and be vulnerable with each new addition. Very thankful for your blog!


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