I’m a mother of 10. My life is like hosting a birthday party every day — here are my best budgeting tips for food and essentials.

Jane Brosseau has 10 children between the ages of 4 and 19.

Jane Brosseau

Jane Brosseau and her husband have 10 children between the ages of 4 and 19.She says having a big family is like a birthday party where the guests never leave. Brosseau shares her best budgeting tips for grocery shopping and events such as Christmas. 

This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with Jane Brosseau, a mom of 10 and blogger at 10 Busy Bees in southern Washington. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I knew I didn’t want to have an only child, but I didn’t think I’d have 10 kids.

Our oldest is 19, and our youngest just turned 4. We have every age in between, and we don’t have any twins. Our oldest is starting her sophomore year of college, so we have nine at home.

I’m a stay-at-home mom with a blog, but I’m mostly active on social media. It’s been a great outlet and connector for me.

I’ve met large-family moms across the country via social media. It’s been fun to trade tips and tricks, and my online community has become my real-life community.

My husband works full time in sales and travels weekly for work, so it wasn’t economical for me to work in tandem with childcare. I earn some income from affiliate partnerships, but it’s not consistent.

People always compare large families to reality-TV stereotypes

When people hear we’re a large family, they immediately compare us to the Duggars, but that’s a negative stereotype of big families. I think large families are still regular families.

Moms of large families are often seen as supermoms, but we have hard days just like everybody else and need help sometimes. When I share that on social media, I get a lot of pushback, with people saying: “You asked for this.”

Every year that we had another baby, we lost friends. After our fifth child, even family and close friends would make comments.

Having a big family is like hosting a birthday party every day

Having a large family is like hosting a birthday party every day. The amount of work, effort, food, and logistics that goes into hosting a birthday party at your house is what I do every day — but the guests never leave.

Inflation has taken its toll on us. It’s been stressful. The increase in the costs of gas and groceries has taken away any extra we had each month.

We’re not wealthy. We stick to a strict budget and meet all our kids’ needs. Big families are master recyclers and waste little.

A lot of people are drowning financially right now. We might not be in the same boat, but we’re in the same storm.

How I budget groceries for a big family

I don’t have the luxury of time or energy to visit multiple grocery stores to find the best deals.

Before I leave the house, I always have a flexible meal plan. I plan meals where if one ingredient turns out to be very expensive, I can swap it out. Or if something’s on sale, I can swap in.

I also check my pantry, freezer, and fridge before I go to the grocery store so I don’t buy duplicates.

I use rewards cards at our local grocery stores — usually Fred Meyer, Walmart, or Costco. I log into the store’s app before I get there to use digital coupons and reward programs as I shop.

There are a lot of things that I used to buy that I don’t get anymore. Treats are now a luxury — even from the grocery store.

We’ve found that chicken drumsticks are a great deal — you can get a gigantic family pack for $5 or $7. We also are buying more frozen fruits and vegetables because fresh produce is so expensive.

Even with cutting out the treats and buying generic brands, we still spend $600 a week on groceries.

How to budget for Christmas and birthdays with a lot of children

For expensive times of the year such as Christmas, we stick to a budget to stay on track. Last year, we budgeted $250 a child for gifts and stocking stuffers.

We also budget $200 for a “family” gift, $100 for gifts for my husband and me, $50 for grandparents’ gifts, and $100 for teacher and bus-driver gifts.

It’s hard, but to make it easier we use cash-back and reward programs, shop on Facebook Marketplace or in secondhand stores, and regift gently used or new toys friends have given to our children. Sometimes we also have family help.

For the back-to-school season, we shop sales for supplies and use supplies we have from previous years. We also don’t buy our kids first-day-of-school outfits.

I use the cash-back app Rakuten for both back-to-school and Christmas shopping.

How to find affordable housing for big families

Housing has been a huge stressor. In August 2020, in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we moved from Northern Virginia outside Washington, DC, to southern Washington state.

We sold our house in Virginia and were renting to own when the market blew up. We’ve been renting for the past three years, and we’ve had to move yearly because of rising rents.

We’d owned our home in Virginia for 16 years, so we hadn’t thought about the bias we would face as a large family trying to rent.

At one point, I was looking around the area for parks where we could do short-term stays because nobody would rent to us.

We came out West naive — we should have done more research.

It’s been a tough journey, so we’re heading back to the East Coast after this year because we just can’t afford the high housing costs, the gas, and the groceries.

A family of 12 isn’t easy, but it’s worth it

My older kids probably wish we didn’t have as many kids, but it’s all the younger ones have ever known.

I told them about my childhood, when it was just me and my parents, so books were my friends. They always say: “Mom, that’s so sad.”

We have our share of sibling squabbles, but it’s an amazing thing, especially because I’m an only child, to see their bond. I don’t know many people who can say that they have nine other people who have their backs no matter what.

It gets me every year looking at all 12 stockings for Christmas. I created my army.

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