The Myth of Overpopulation

Surely you already know that I don’t subscribe to the myth of overpopulation.  Even if I did, if faced with accusations of irresponsibility I think I would have to quote another mother: “Sir, the world NEEDS my children.”

Nonetheless, I enjoy witnessing the debunking of ridiculous theories like evolution and overpopulation.  That’s one reason I can’t resist sharing this video, found via Large Family Mothering.

The other reason?

I love God’s sense of humor and timing.  I found this video and let it load in the background while chatting online with my good friend, Mother Hen.  When it was done loading, I hit the play button.  Mother Hen sent me a link while I was watching, but I finished the video before going back to our chat.  When I clicked on her link, guess what came up?

Yup.  I wonder if she’s blogging the video this very moment?  Nah…what are the chances of that?

Duggars in Cincinnati

Four Huge Homeschool Conventions We hear a lot about the Duggars.  When people meet us with our 10 children, there are 2 common responses.  If they know my parents, they ask if we’re trying to “beat” them.  I’m the oldest of 14 children so if it’s a competition, we’re not far behind.

If they don’t know my parents, they want to know if we’re trying to catch up with the Duggars.

We’ve met the Duggars a couple of times, and I don’t want to compete with them.  They are far too sweet and genuine.  I’d rather be on the same side as they are.

If you live near Cincinnati, you may have a chance to meet them too! The Duggar family will be at the 2011 MidWest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati!

Michelle Duggar  will be leading a special workshop session during the day on Saturday, and that evening at 6PM the children will perform.  Then Jim Bob and Michelle will share their testimony & family story. This will be followed by a Question & Answer session, and finally an autograph-session/book-signing.

Want to learn more about the Duggar family?  Check out their book and video:

Career choices

Posted by Megan

So, today I was thinking about all the stuff I’d like to do. I’d like to be a writer. I’d like to be an editor. It would pretty cool to be hairdresser.It would be flat out awesome to be a chef. Then I realized, being a SAHM  means that you can do all of that, and much more!

My mom blogs: she is a writer.

My mom edits whatever we blog: she is an editor.

My mom cuts, trims, tapers and layers all of our hair: she’s a hairdresser.

My mom cooked for all of us, for years before we started helping: she’s a chef.

It seems like some career woman think we have no choices.  I’m sorry, but that makes me want to laugh. It’s just plain silly, SAHMs (or SAHMs to be) have far less limited choices than career women. That’s my thought, anyway.

Ask the kids: Do you want a big family?

I asked earlier this week what question you would ask the children of a mega-family.  I want your questions to help with a secret project, but in the meantime I thought it would be fun to put the questions to my own children.

I’m starting with one that we hear quite often from friends, family and strangers alike.  I was really touched by how much their individual personalities came through in their answers. Believe it or not, these answers are totally uncoached and unrehearsed.  Am I the only one cracking up over Perry Boy’s answer?

Do you want a big family when you grow up?  Why or why not?

Deanna (17):

I like big families and I would feel perfectly comfortable having a big family but I don’t have my heart set on having a certain number of kids.  I feel equipped to have a big family, but at the same time I wouldn’t be hugely heartbroken if I only ended up having 2 or 3 kids.

I don’t believe in using any form of birth control – I very strongly believe that because I believe that God won’t give me more kids than I can handle and He won’t give me any kid in particular that I couldn’t handle, like a child with Down’s syndrome or autism.  If I couldn’t handle a challenge like that, He wouldn’t give it to me.

Besides all that, I want to have at least 20 grandbabies. I can’t wait to be a totally awesome grandma!

Kaitlyn (15):

Of course! I love kids and wouldn’t want to miss out on any of my kids that I might have had :) . I love being a part of a big family and can’t imagine anything else (and I don’t want t0).  Lord willing I’ll have at least 50 grandkids to love and if I do my job properly I’ll have a steady stream of babies for all my life…

I always feel very proud of my parents when we’re all together and get complimented and I can’t wait for people to see my family! I think having a big family is a great public witness too.

Besides just loving kids the Bible makes it very clear that God wants us to have lots of kids. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” I don’t think it gets any clearer than that! God doesn’t say “if you want to and if it’s convenient for you I’d like you to have some kids”.

Lydia (13):

Yes, partly because it would seem very boring to have just 1 or 2 kids.  Also for Biblical reasons: “be fruitful and multiply…” and “children are a blessing from the Lord.”  And I like babies!

If God did choose to give me only 2 kids, it would obviously be because He had other things in mind to occupy me.  But right now 2 kids sounds very boring.  I think it would be easy to be content with anything more than 8 kids, because less than that would seem like a small family to me.

Megan (12):

Yes, I want at least 12 so I can say that kids are cheaper by the dozen.  If I go above 12 – heck!  I may as well aim to beat the Duggars!  But why do I want kids?  Growing up in a large family, I think if my parents had had less kids I would probably spend all my life wishing  they’d had more.

Natalie (10):

I do, because kids are very fun and the older ones would be very helpful.  I want my kids to have the same sort of life that I do, but I hope it’s even better for them – sometimes my sisters pick on me.  I just want a big family so I can see how hard it is, and it’s fun to be loved by everyone in a big family.  I think it would be nice to have between 10 and 20 kids.

Becca (9):

Yes!  I want a big family because it’s fun to see babies grow into kids.  Baby toes are so cute, and it’s fun to look at all their tiny clothes.  I like it when people say, “Wow!  Your baby is so cute!”  Also, I like to cook for a big family.  I think it would be fun to teach kids how to cook and read.

Rachael (6):

I’m fine with how many kids God wants to give me.  If He gives me a lot, I’ll be happy, but if He only gives me a little that’s ok too.  But I hope He gives me a lot!  I want 20 kids! – No, wait –  I want as much as God gives me.

Perry (4):

I want a bunch of kids!  I’m gonna have as much as God gives me.  If I stop having kids, then I want to adopt a little bit more.  I’ll adopt as many as God gives me, too.  I want to adopt ALL THE ORPHANS IN THE WHOLE WORLD!  And I’ll build a huge house, with a lot of bedrooms – no, with just one bedroom like we have, but really huge so all the kids can share it!  And I’ll be their dad, and my wife will be their mom.

And I want you to have some more babies.  I want 2 more brothers so we can have 2 teams and 2 people on each team, and we can play good guys getting bad guys.

[slightly condensed because he repeats himself and because nobody can type as fast as that kid talks when he’s excited.]

What would you ask?

I have a question for you.

If you could ask the children of a mega-family anything you wanted, what would your question be?

Just one question, mind you, answered from the individual perspective of each child.

Indulge me and assume that unlike my own children, these children range from established adults with families and worldviews of their own, down to preteens and young adults still under their parents’ roof.

What would you want to know?

4 Moms 35 Kids: Kitchen/Dining Room linkup

Last week, we all showed the outside of our home or the entry if we had one.  I’ll start off this week with an excuse – er, an apology.  I forgot the kitchen part and thought this week was only about dining rooms.  “What’s the problem?”  you’re asking.  “Why doesn’t she just snap  a few pictures of her kitchen and be done with it?”

Well, I’m sorry but I can’t.  I loaned my camera to my sister this weekend because I’m 300 miles from my kitchen.  If it’s kitchens you want, you’ll have to drop in on Smockity, Raising Olives, or the Headmistress.

But in what I thought was an uncommon display of foresight, I did snap a few pics of my dining room before I left town.  Here’s the grand tour.

Lest you get the wrong idea from the word grand, our dining room is not particularly large, though we think it is well suited to entertaining large groups.  Our floor plan is very open, with a dining area smack in the middle of the 12 x 48 kitchen/dining/living area.

Our table, on the other hand, is nearly 4 feet wide and 9 feet long of solid hardwood.  We found it at a scratch-n-dent store many years ago and decided it was probably a good investment for a family that was growing at the rate of one child every 19 months.  Now it’s just the right size for our family, though we’re always happy to squeeze in a few extras if the occasion arises.

The finish is sadly deteriorated after all these years, so as part of our homeschooler disguise we covered it with maps and other educational items under clear plastic.

I gladly gave up my vacuum cleaner years ago when we put down linoleum tile.  Now we use these to clean the floor.

They do a beautiful job, and don’t require any storage space like the vacuum did.  I think they just live under the table, usually as close to the little ones’ seats as possible.

In the first photo above, to the right of the table you see our computer counter.  I had a separate photo of this but it didn’t turn out so you’ll have to squint your eyes and/or use your imagination.

This is where we keep 4 computer monitors, all attached to the same desktop unit.  These are often used for educational purposes.  If you think Facebook is in any way educational, then they are always used for homeschooling.  That would certainly answer the “what about socialization” question, wouldn’t it?

Another useful fixture in our dining room is the globe.  We like ours without a base because…um…it’s easier to turn it around and see new places?  No.  The truth is, the base never lasts more than a month.  I got tired of replacing perfectly good globes just because the base broke and now we’ve had the same one for 3 years.  I don’t think the younger children know that globes even come with a base.

Above the computer counter is the birthday wall.  See how uneven they are?  That’s because they all rattle every time somebody slams the front door, in the lower right corner.  Hmm.  Natalie seems to have fallen again.

This is where we have 1st birthday photos of each member of the family, from Dad all the way down to…well…if you count the frames, you’ll find that I’ve procrastinated for at least a year in updating it, because there’s no picture of Bethany, let alone Parker.  If you look closely, you might notice that Perry Boy is only a couple of months old, which means that I’ve procrastinated far longer.   Anyway it’s far more efficient to do these things by 2’s and 3’s, don’t you think?

Guess who most of our children take after.

And we’re done!  Who’s hungry?

Are you ready to show your kitchen and/or dining room? Link up below, and please remember to follow the rules: you must link to an individual post on your blog (not the home page), and your post must link back to one of the 4 moms.  Thanks for joining in!

4 Moms 35 Kids: Open House linky

4 Moms 35 Kids is back from summer break/maternity leave!  Did you miss us?

Just for the fun of it, we’ve agreed to kick it off with an Open House to show you how big families live.  Join me, Kimberly, Smockity and the Headmistress by linking up with a post and pics of your own.

Our Open House this week highlights the outside of the house.  Here in south Texas, we have 2 seasons: Summer, and Not-Summer.  Each lasts about 6 months.

Since we don’t use a/c and things get pretty steamy down here, we spend a lot of time outside in the summer.  Of course we also spend a lot of time outside during the more pleasant not-summer time.

Needless to say, we love our deck.   My hunney has been buying me wrought-iron tables and chairs by bits and pieces over the last year or more.  We eat dinner out here nearly every night, especially when we have company.

Last year I also added a table built out of leftover scraps from deck repairs.  We usually serve dinner buffet style from this table.

We were thrilled to add some shade on our deck last year…

and even more shade last month.

See? Lots of shade!

We already thought our view was stunning, but somehow it seems even nicer when your brains aren’t baking in the sun.

Unfortunately, our garden isn’t nearly as happy on the deck as we are.  I think it’s languishing for freedom, but the deer run rampant down there.  The garden wouldn’t last a week.

If you’ve ever been to our house in real life, you were probably expecting to see our laundry hung out to dry.  No, I am not posting pics of our undies flapping in the wind for the whole world wide web to see.  Only our closest friends and family get that view.

If one were to venture off the deck – something I do with shameful infrequency – one would be accosted by chickens who assume that you are on your way to the compost pile with a bucket of goodies.

The full-grown hens are very friendly, but we’re curious to see if our little Leghorn pullets will stay as sweet as they are now.  Leghorns have a reputation for being shy and skittish.  Too bad they can’t stay tiny and fluffy, but I suppose that would defeat the purpose of having chickens.

Further down the driveway is our little bit of flatland, where you’ll find a used bike lot and the trampoline.

Wait – did I say that?  Bikes?  What bikes?  There’s just a trampoline.

You’re welcome to walk about our 5 rocky, hilly acres if you’d like – there’s lots of live oak, spanish oak, agaritas (loaded with delightfully tart little berries in the spring), and prickly pears (another edible fruit, though we aren’t fond of them), with small scrubby cedar everywhere.  Oh, and rocks.  Lots of rocks.

And that’s all there is to see, folks.  Would you care to sit a spell and have a glass of iced tea?  Or come in and see the baby?

Or you could link up with a post of your own.  Just link here and your link will show up on all 4 Moms’ blogs!  Please remember to include a link to this post to keep your link from being deleted.

100+ Reasons to Have Children

Lately I’ve come across several lists of reasons not to have children.   I find it very sad and telling that nearly all of the authors’ reasons are based in immaturity, materialism, myths, and misconceptions.  Yes, children require work, money and personal sacrifice, but these are all things we do willingly because we love them.  These are joyful sacrifices for a worthwhile cause.

I couldn’t help but work on my own version.  Here are a few of the perks of having children, in no particular order.  Some are tongue-in-cheek, while others are dead serious.  I’ll let you try to guess which is which.

Please understand that I am not criticizing those who do not have children, particularly those who struggle with infertility.  I am also not suggesting that you or I should have children just so that we can save some bucks when it’s time to file taxes, or use the stork space in the grocery store parking lot.  My point is that children are a blessing and a delight, not a burden to be avoided at all costs.

What would you add to the list below?

100+ Reasons to Have Children

  1. Have a happier marriage.
  2. Pay less income taxes.
  3. Learn to share, and like it.
  4. The ultimate diet plan: morning sickness and breastfeeding.
  5. Enjoy snuggles on demand, around the clock.
  6. Cuteness abounds.
  7. Disposable diapers.  There.  I said it.
  8. Receive preferential treatment in grocery lines.
  9. Be seated first (or last, if you prefer) on planes.
  10. Park in the “stork” space at grocery stores.
  11. Have an excuse to buy cool toys and cute little outfits.
  12. Children will love you on your worst day, and…
  13. they think you’re beautiful, even on bad hair days,
  14. or when you’re not wearing makeup.
  15. Free entertainment: kids are hilarious.
  16. Laughter is good for your health.  See above.
  17. Have family still living when you’re old.
  18. Have someone to help you when you’re old.
  19. Grandkids!
  20. Have someone to help care for your pets.
  21. But who needs pets?  Kids are way cuter, and they last longer.
  22. Unlike pets, kids eventually learn to take care of their own poop.
  23. Get a lollipop every time you go to the bank, along with your children.
  24. Tone your arms the old-fashioned way: tote a toddler.
  25. Kids eat free at many restaurants.
  26. Have an excuse to buy junk food.
  27. Sharing your junk food means less stays on your own hips.
  28. Children will eat and appreciate your failed cooking experiments.
  29. Embarrass your kids.  You won’t believe how fun it is.  Displays of affection with your spouse work well for this.
  30. Be better able to encourage other parents during rough times with their children because you’ve been-there-done-that.
  31. Blow bubbles.
  32. Give your friends somewhere to send their kids’ hand-me-downs.
  33. Burn calories: play with your kids.
  34. Kids will help hone your reactions with obstacle courses on the stairs.
  35. Save money by not buying birth control.
  36. Have sex without worrying about pregnancy.  It’s fun.
  37. Ask anyone who has given birth: the pains of labor are worth it.
  38. Pregnancy reduces menstrual cramps in subsequent periods.
  39. Pregnancy lowers your risk of ovarian cancer.
  40. Breastfeeding lowers your risk of breast cancer,
  41. and uterine cancer,
  42. and osteoporosis.
  43. Not using birth control lowers your risk of ectopic pregnancy.
  44. Think pregnancy dooms you to getting fat?  Take a look at my mom with her 14 kids.  Can you even tell which one she is?
    Mom and 14 children
  45. Pregnancy requires you to eat more.  I can appreciate that.
  46. Be motivated to be a better person.  Little eyes are watching.
  47. Help raise the languishing birth rate.
  48. Learn alongside your children.
  49. Read books you never would have discovered on your own.
  50. Reread your childhood favorites with and to a new generation.
  51. See the world through new, unjaded eyes.
  52. See yourself through your baby’s eyes.  It’s amazing.
  53. See yourself through your children’s eyes.  You’ll never be the same again.
  54. See your flaws reflected in your children.  It’s enlightening and humbling.
  55. Kids will make you proud and keep you humble.
  56. If you make a mess while eating, everyone will assume the kids did it.
  57. Kid will say what you wish you could say, but can’t.
  58. Strengthen your relationship with your own parents by becoming a parent yourself.
  59. Stay physically active.  It’s much harder to be lazy when little ones depend on you.
  60. Improved immune system.  It’s a law of nature: Moms never get sick.
  61. If you do get sick, you have someone to take care of you without your spouse taking time off work.
  62. Baby smiles.
  63. Carrying a baby?  Strangers will smile at you.
  64. Babies are also a great conversation starter.
  65. Learn to delight in everyday occurrences.
  66. Translate toddler gibberish with ease for puzzled onlookers.
  67. Your own love for your child gives you a small taste of how much God loves His children.
  68. Live vicariously: remember that toy you never got as a child, but you’re too old to want it now?  Let your kids try it out.
  69. Relive your childhood: remember the toy you did get as a child?  Let your kids try it out.
  70. Rediscover the joy of crayons.
  71. Job security: moms have it.
  72. Learn and believe that happiness really doesn’t come from material wealth…
  73. …yet be amazed at how much joy you can buy your child with a quarter.
  74. Kids are cheap.
  75. Marvel that 2 people can produce children that are better-looking than either parent.  Heredity is a strange and wonderful thing.
  76. Be welcomed home like a returning war hero every time you go grocery shopping or to the post office.
  77. Be looked at like this:
  78. Soft little fingers and toes.  They’re cute on other people’s children, but utterly priceless on your own children.
  79. The unbearable cuteness of newborn-size diapers. (credit: Deanna)
  80. Discover your super powers: make milk, and heal mortal wounds with a kiss.
  81. Ask any parent you know if they regret having kids.
  82. Learn to appreciate simple pleasures: ice cream cones, a single M&M, homemade cookies.
  83. Do you love your spouse?  Experience a miracle: a new person who looks like both of you.
  84. After 10 years of children, washing dishes becomes optional.  (credit: Deanna)
  85. Get special treatment on Mother’s Day.
  86. Breakfast in bed is fun, even when it’s cheerios and multi vitamins.  (credit: Becca)
  87. Experience the triumph of potty training.
  88. Have the advantage of a youthful memory again: have your kids remind you about important things.  (credit: Megan)
  89. Expand your wardrobe: share clothes with your teens.
  90. Gather candy from the piñata without getting funny looks.
  91. Have help cooking.
  92. Be a safer driver,
  93. In a safer vehicle.
  94. Free or cheap manicures and pedicures.  I pay a dollar.
  95. Ditto for back/shoulder rubs.
  96. Perpetually late?  You don’t even have to blame it on the kids.  People will assume.
  97. Vanity?  You’ll look at your baby in the mirror instead of yourself.
  98. Paint your kids’ nails in a color you like but could never wear yourself.
  99. Have your bed made for $.25/day.  Maid service has never been so cheap or cheerful, and there’s no need to report payments to the IRS.
  100. If you’ve never had a baby fall asleep on your chest, you just don’t know what you’re missing.
  101. Homemade friends.  My children are some of my favorite companions.
  102. Kids with money ROCK!  They buy their own clothes, treat you to Starbucks, and buy you unbelievable birthday/Christmas gifts.
  103. World domination through militant fecundity! [maniacal laughter]
  104. Children are part of God’s purpose for creating marriage:But did He not make them one,
    Having a remnant of the Spirit?
    And why one?
    He seeks godly offspring.  Malachi 2:15

Want to see another list, more thoughtful and eloquent than mine?  40 Reasons to Have Kids

If, on the other hand, you like ‘em funny, try this: Reasons to Have Children.


Visit other posts about being a homemaker at the Homemaking Link-Up

 

Baby Conference recap

The Baby Conference

Read to the bottom for a giveaway.  Hey – wait!  No skipping ahead.  I worked hard on this post.

It’s been quiet here on our blog, but that doesn’t mean life has been quiet for our family.  On the contrary, it’s been a whirlwind.  Last weekend was Vision Forum’s long-awaited Baby Conference!  Perry and I attended Thursday evening with just the baby.

On Friday he had to work, but the kids and I left the house early and stayed at the conference until mid-afternoon.  We met a lot of friends, old and new, and managed to take in a few sessions.  Then we checked into a hotel room and swam until it was time to to pick up my Hunney.  We had planned to go back to the conference for the evening, but decided to take Deanna out for a birthday ice cream instead since it was her 17th birthday!

We were up and out early on Saturday morning since it was finally time for the panel on Managing the Logistics of a Large Family.  The girls sat in on the session, while Perry was in and out – he was working as staff.  My sister was there with her girls too, quite an accomplishment since they had to leave their house just after 6 AM.  Is it just me, or do Rachael and cousin Alyssa  look like they’re still half-asleep?

photo by Anna Friedrich

I was much less nervous by this time, and felt even better when the session started and I learned that we wouldn’t be taking surprise questions from the audience (sorry, y’all).  Instead, Beall Phillips had prepared a list of questions, and we would all take turns answering each question.  Better yet, I found myself in third place of four ladies, with Beall moderating.  This gave me time to think about my answers.

Overall, I thought it went well.  I have zero speaking experience, unless you count running for class president during my early public school years, and that was in front of 30 other 8yo’s, not 600 mothers and children.  I know I said “um” a lot, but at least I never did the deer-in-the-headlights stare.  Well, maybe once or twice, but not while I was actually holding a microphone so I’m trying to convince myself nobody saw.

Oh, and just for the record: we do about 3 loads of laundry per day, not week.  I’m not sure who was in charge of my brain when I said that.  I would love to go back and see the looks on the faces of the ladies who believed we really only do 3 loads/week.

Baby panel photo by Anna Friedrich

I’m listening now to the rough audio from this session.  That’s one of the perks of sleeping with the guy who is in charge of audio editing.  :)

The first few questions (paraphrased slightly):

  1. What kind of preparation did you have for raising a large family? I found the answers to this question amazingly diverse!
  2. Would you describe yourself as a rigid scheduler, a fluid scheduler, or just fluid? We had surprisingly similar answers on this, though each had different reasons and methods for implementing our scheduling styles.
  3. Did you and your husband intentionally and conscientiously set out to have a large family?  At what point did you realize you had a large family? Again, we each had a different take on this, but I was very touched by Victoria Botkin’s answer.
  4. Talk about your pregnancies for a minute: difficulties, blessings, things that you and your children learned. Diversity, diversity.  Multiple pregnancies don’t wreck your body, but it’s not always easy for all of us.  Complications don’t mean you can’t have a large family.
  5. Let’s talk about our husbands for a minute.  Try to describe for everyone the level of participation your husband has in the day-to-day.  Here is where my speaking skills failed me.  My husband has such a servant’s heart, and I don’t think I expressed that very well.  He has been such an encouragement to me during all the trials of family life, both as a source of wisdom and as a leader, taking charge in the home when we need him to do it but never micromanaging.
  6. Do you have any special tips for how to do laundry for a large household? Apparently my sock philosophy is gaining a following.
There’s more – much, much more.  This was a 2 hour session!  I mistakenly thought it would be 90 minutes.   90 minutes would have been just right for Parker.  As it turned out, I had to feed him during the last few minutes.  He also just had time to do something we had joked about.  Something he has never done to me before in his very short life.  Something akin to this, but (thank God) on a smaller scale.
That’s ok.  He was just doing his bit to make sure I had something to blog about, just in case Beall’s questions didn’t do the trick.  Fortunately I had better material to blog.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
THE GIVEAWAY

To enter to win a free download of this session, just leave a comment on this post.
Not sure what to say?  Tell us what questions you would have asked if you had been there.
If you were there, tell us what you learned!
On Friday we’ll choose 10 winners.  Unless we do it on Saturday, or totally forget until next Monday.  You know how things can be in a big family.
Want all 38 CDs?  Order the complete Baby Conference Audio Collection on for $89, or get the complete Baby Conference in mp3 files on 1 disc for just $45!.

4 Moms 35 Kids: a baker’s dozen for managing the food budget

See how the other 3 moms pinch a dollar til it squeals:

  • Headmistress (The Common Room): The Growing Family Beats the Incredible Shrinking Dollar
  • Connie (Smockity Frocks): Grocery Budgets
  • Kimberly (Raising Olives): Feeding Your Family on a Budget

  • According to our illustrious government, the average American household consists of 2.5 people, who spend $511/month on food.  That works out to just over $200/month for each person.  Granted, a fair portion of this (nearly 45%) is spent eating out rather than in, but there’s a lesson there: #1 way to save on groceries: Eat in.

    There are a lot of other ways that the more thrifty shoppers among us keep the food budget under control: some shop at 9 competing grocery stores; some stack coupons and deals obsessively, getting paid to shop during their best outings; some sing the merits of Angel Food Ministries; some grow enormous gardens or get free produce from the gardens and orchards of others.

    For one reason or another (do you really want to hear my long list of ready excuses?) none of these are good choices for us right now.  However, saving money is nearly always a good choice for a large family, and so we work to keep our food budget under control in other ways.

    I shared 10 basic tips to cut your grocery bill over on Frugal Hacks, but will give you the more chatty and less formal version here and now.

    I’d be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what our household spends on groceries, since in addition to 11 people we’re also feeding 25 chickens, 2 dogs (plus 9 puppies right now!), and one very large cat.  Our “food budget” also includes paper products – mainly toilet paper, and a LOT of it –  personal hygiene, household items, clothes, and nearly anything that can be purchased at WalMart.

    With all those disclaimers in place, my “food budget” including all of the above is $900/month.  I would estimate that the actual vittles cost us $700-750/month.  This is not a barebones beans-n-rice diet.  We eat meat every night of the week, and we are hearty eaters.  We also eat produce by the wholesale case.  I usually buy over 100 lbs. of produce in a single trip.  Never mind about teenage boys; try feeding a herd of hungry Coghlans for a week.

    Over the years, we have developed some habits that keep the cost manageable.  Some are newer habits, while others are well-established.

    1. Have a list, a target price and some flexibility. I know what I’m willing to pay for the items on my list, and when I find a really good sale I stock up – even if it means going over budget this week.  I know I’ll save over the upcoming weeks.  If I can’t find a fair price, I revise my list.
    2. Do your homework: I try to make sure I know the regular prices of the items I buy so I don’t get fooled by “specials” in the weekly grocery flyer.
    3. No prepared or highly processed foods.  This year, we’ve even replaced our summertime breakfast cereals (always purchased at 10 cents/oz or less) with homemade granola.  We do still stoop to the occasional case of ramen noodles, but I hardly consider them food.  The kids often eat them uncooked, so they’re more like really cheap snack crackers in really fun shapes.
    4. Homemade bread, from fresh-ground whole wheat.  Not as cheap as white bread from the store, but much more filling and nutritious, so we get more for our money.
    5. Cook from scratch. It’s probably a no-brainer for most of us and it overlaps a lot with #3 above, but this one alone will take you a long way.  We cook our beans from scratch.  We don’t buy pancake mix, cocoa mix, enchilada sauce, mac-n-cheese, cornbread mix, cake mix, canned biscuits, etc.  All of these are better and cheaper made from scratch.  An added bonus to cooking from scratch: we generate far less trash and my grocery shopping is greatly simplified (i.e. my list is much shorter).
    6. Don’t use coupons. I won’t say they’re never worth it, but in our area coupons are invariably for overpriced name brands on products that I don’t buy.  “Save $1″ doesn’t save me anything if it’s money I wouldn’t have spent in the first place.
    7. Shop wholesale. I make a trip downtown every few weeks to buy produce by the case from the local wholesale company that supplies many of the restaurants, hotels and even grocery stores in San Antonio.  Many moms swear by restaurant supply stores as well.  You may have similar options in your town.  Ask around.  Search via the web or the old fashioned yellow pages.
    8. Costco (or Sam’s Club).  Thanks to Costco, cheese is an inexpensive source of protein in our house.  We use a shocking amount.  This is also where we buy yeast, spices, real butter, flour, sugar, nuts, coffee, tortilla chips, and a few other staples.
    9. Eggs. Another inexpensive source of protein.  We have chickens now, and eat ~18-20 eggs/day.  We have to buy feed for our chickens to supplement our scraps and their foraging so the eggs aren’t entirely free, but they’re cheaper, fresher and better than store-bought.
    10. Avoid excessive sweets. Yes, even homemade sweets can add significantly to the budget.  Chocolate chips and butter, and other ingredients add up quickly and don’t provide a lot of nutrition.
    11. Buy the specials, especially meat. I never pay over $2/lb for meat (that’s for boneless, skinless, super lean and otherwise special stuff) and usually buy it for much less.  When I find a really great deal, I buy 50-100 lbs.   We eat a lot of chicken, pork and ground beef, with occasional ham, roasts, and sausages.
    12. Eat produce in season, and eat it abundantly. I used to think that produce was expensive, but I’ve learned that’s not necessarily true.  We buy what’s cheap, not just whatever sounds good or looks appetizing today.   This may occasionally mean our only fruit is bananas or but we have plenty of variety over the course of the year.  Our salads one week may have little more than greens and red cabbage, but the next week we will have a veggie tray every night because something came into season.
    13. Buy in bulk - but always with caution, watching the unit price so I don’t get fooled by a big package that ends up costing more per ounce than 4 small ones.

    There.  A baker’s dozen of tips for saving money in the kitchen.  Appropriate, don’t you think?  What would you add?


    Upcoming topics for 4 Moms 35 Kids

    • April 8 Menu planning/shopping
    • April 15 Cooking from scratch – what you make from scratch and how you get it all done
    • April 22 Recipe swap – We’ll all post a couple of our favorite, budget friendly, feed a crowd recipes and a Mr. Linky so that readers can participate by contributing their own recipes.  When you share your link on one of our blogs, it will show up on all 4!  How fun is that?!

    Past topics:

    • March 18 - Live-blog day, in which all 4 of us live-blog a real day in our home.  Find out what we really do all day.  It’s our own reality show, just for you.  Who needs TV?
    • March 25 – Outings with only little ones.  Mom’s rules of order, and how not to become the poster family for birth control.