Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Cost of Feeding Our Hive - Tips, tricks and cost of feeding our large family

Feeding a large family is like hosting a party every day and the guests never leave. As you can imagine feeding a family of 12 is expensive! Groceries are our second largest expense after our mortgage. A long time ago, one of our kids told their preschool teacher that my job is going to the grocery store, he was right. One of my job’s in our family is feeding our family healthy food on a tight budget. I wanted to share what a week’s worth of groceries for our family looks like and costs; as well as some tips I use to stretch our budget. 


Before I go shopping:

  •   I meal plan for the week – Our meals are simple and don’t vary that much from week to week. I ask for the kids input and I will have our older kids help plan and make a meal. Having a meal plan helps me stick to our budget.

              Here is one of our weekly meal plans:

o  Monday – Crockpot Sausage and Peppers with Pasta

o  Tuesday – Taco night – Ground beef tacos with rice and beans

o  Wednesday – Greek Night – grilled chicken, orzo, veggies, hummus and pitas

o  Thursday – Breakfast for dinner - Breakfast casserole and fruit

o  Friday – Make your own pizzas and salad

  •  I shop for 1 week at a time. We don’t have the storage space or budget to buy more than a week at a time.

  • I clean out the refrigerator and check our pantry that way I am not buying duplicates of items.     
  •  I buy store brand whenever possible and sign up for instore rewards card for coupons and often gas savings.
  • Even though I have a meal plan and a list in my hand, I try and be flexible if there is a big sale on an item.
  • I check for reduced items in the produce section (often they just have small blemishes or imperfections and are marked down).

A week’s worth of groceries costs around $550 for us (we rarely eat out so that cost includes breakfast, lunch and dinner for 12 for 7 days). A typical week looks like:

4 gallons of milk
1 tub of spreadable butter
4 sticks of unsalted butter
6 large boxes of cereal
2 loaves of bread
36 eggs
12 indiv cups of yogurt
15lbs of bananas
12 lbs of apples
6lbs of grapes
large bag of clementines
2 Cucumbers
Bag of Bell peppers
Large bag of carrots
Large bag of Kale or Arugula
3 lbs of potatoes 
6lbs of chicken breasts
3lbs Italian sausage
6lbs of ground beef
6lbs of pasta
3 jars of Marinara Sauce
Large bag of chicken nuggets
Large bag of shredded Mexican Cheese
Large Bag of shredded Mozzerella
1 lb of cheese slices
3lbs of lunch meat
Large box of frozen waffles
Large bag of pitas or Naan Bread
Large tub of hummus
Lots of snacks
A few treats
Paper Towels
Toilet Paper
* Once a month we will restock cooking oils, spices and baking supplies

We now live in the Pacific Northwest and I have found that produce and meat are a little less expensive than on the East Coast. We are spending about $30 less per week now. We shop at
Fred Myers (Kroger Brand) and Walmart for groceries and Costco for bulk meats, paper goods, diapers and wipes.

I would love to know the weekly cost of groceries for your family and any money saving tips you have.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Club I Never Wanted to Join

Miscarriage club

I am a member of several clubs I never wanted to join; lost parent, hyperemesis gravidarum and miscarriage. None of these clubs would you volunteer for, but once in, only your fellow members truly understand your grief and pain.

15 years ago we lost a baby. It seems like a lifetime ago but also feels like yesterday. I can remember the doctor flippantly and coldly telling us there was no heartbeat and immediately turning off the screen. I can remember how we sobbed. I can remember how kind the nurses and doctor were when I went in to have a D&C. I can remember wanting to reach out to all my friends who had miscarriages before me and apologize for not knowing what to say because I didn’t understand until now. I remember how much the loss effected my husband. I remember how that loss colored every pregnancy afterwards, I don’t think I took a deep breath until the 20 week sonogram for all of my subsequent pregnancies. 


Around our oldest daughter’s first birthday I found out I was pregnant. We had just moved to a new state, I was navigating the first year as a new parent and I had mixed feelings about the news. After the initial shock we were excited and made an appt. for a 10 week sonogram. Our conception and pregnancy with our oldest was extremely easy and we naively thought all would be well. Being in a new state we went to a new OB. She started the sonogram, we saw the baby and she immediately said coldly and unemotionally, “there is no heartbeat.” Bill and I were in shock and maybe more shocked by the tone, it all happened so fast. I wanted the doctor, who was a woman, to say she was sorry. I wanted her to explain what happened, or tell us “why”, but none of that happened.  We held each other and cried. The OB came back in and told me I would need a D&C Dilation and Curettage Procedure . Her office scheduled me for the next day and we went home. Our heads were spinning from sadness and unanswered questions.


We arranged for my in-laws to watch our daughter and we went in early for the D&C. We got to  the hospital and they didn’t have me scheduled until the next day. I was beside myself, the doctor’s office had given us the wrong information. It felt like a kick while we were already down. Everything had happened so quickly the day before that I had so many questions about the baby, could they tell when the baby had died? I had nightmares that the doctor shut off the sonogram so fast that maybe she missed the heartbeat. We were able to schedule a level 2 sonogram that afternoon. The technician and doctor that performed the sonogram were so kind and patient in explaining what we were seeing and that the baby really was gone. 


That night, as we grieved, our daughter got really sick and was running a very high fever. We called in some reinforcements and my mom drove 2 hrs to help out. The morning of my D&C my mom was with me in outpatient surgery and Bill was a floor above us in Pediatric Emergency Care with our daughter. It felt surreal and unfair. I can remember how kind all the nurses and surgical staff were to me. I am not sure they would say this in today’s medical environment, but they told me it would all be okay, that I was young and would have more babies. After the D&C we went home. That night we had ice cream sundaes and watched Finding Neverland, probably not the best choice since I sobbed through most of it.


The physical recovery from the miscarriage was pretty easy. The mental recovery was much harder. I felt like I was in a fog, just going through the motions and feeling numb. I also felt a lingering guilt, did I DO or NOT DO something that caused the miscarriage. Having our beautiful busy one year old kept me going those weeks right after. The loss really impacted my husband too. I think we were both taken aback at how strong our grief was for a baby we had loved for such a short time. In that time we had already started to dream, would that baby be a boy or girl, would that baby look like me or Bill. In that moment in the doctor’s office when we were told our baby was gone, all those hopes and dreams evaporated so quickly, so coldly and without explanation. I was also surprised by how many people we knew had had miscarriages. After we lost our baby so many friends and aquaintances told us their stories. I got pregnant a few months after our loss. The miscarriage really colored the subsequent pregnancies. I held my breath during the 10 week ultrasounds and really didn’t take a deep breathe until the 20 week sonogram.


At the time we had HMO health insurance and we didn’t have a lot of options for Obstetrics.  When we spoke with a different doctor, we had the opportunity to tell her our previous experience and I felt like she was genuinely sorry.  It was nice to be able to talk about it and we’ve generally had excellent care.  We’re much more knowledgeable these days and one of the lessons we learned from this experience was to be an advocate for yourself and not be afraid to express when you’re unhappy, unsure, or need more information.  It might make the difference in your mental state to feel like you have all the information necessary to care for yourself physically. 


To all my fellow miscarriage club members; I see you. I am so sorry for your loss. You are not alone. Your grief and sorrow are real. No one should ever tell you how to grieve; this will look different for each of us. Support your partner and vice a versa. Reach out and talk to others who have lost a baby. Prioritize your mental health.





Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Solo Challenge: How I manage 10 kids solo with a spouse that travels weekly for work

I have 10 kids aged 15 years and younger and my husband travels weekly for work. My husband has been traveling for work since our second was born. He has taken jobs that involve travel because they have paid more and allowed me to be a SAHM. With each job change his work travel has increased and the more children we have added has made it challenging. When he first started traveling I was a wreck, I had a toddler and a newborn and I was out of my element. I quickly realized that in order to manage being solo with lots of kids I needed to plan. Three years ago, my husband started a company and it has been a lot of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice from both of us. His travel has picked up tremendously, but we are a team and support each other 100 percent. Instead of complaining about being solo, I plan for it.

My husband and I have a couple of rules when he is traveling. If he is gone more than 3 days it is going to be messy when he gets home. We also have a text only rule when he is away. I don't really want to hear about his nice hotel room or client dinners while I am changing my 10th stinky diaper of the day and negotiating with a tyrannical three year old. He knows if I call him there is an emergency.

Here are some of the tips/tricks I have learned over the years.

1. Have an easy meal plan
I do the meal planning and grocery shopping, but my husband is the cook. He will often meal prep some meals on the weekend before he leaves. A tray of baked ziti and a breakfast casserole can be a life saver. I also plan easy meals that I know the kids will eat and not complain about it. I make sure I have plenty of food in the house before he leaves. No dinner plan and hangry kids is a recipe for disaster.

2. Have 2 days worth of laundry done
With 10 kids I do a load or two of laundry everyday, but I make sure I have two days worth of clean clothes for the kids as the week starts. There is nothing worse then trying to get everyone to the bus stop solo and the kids don't have pants, the blue shirt for field day etc...clean.

3. Do school/lunch/activities prep the night before
This is a hard one, especially when I am beat at night, but the extra 10 minutes is worth it to not have an ugly morning. I make sure everything is signed that needs to be signed, homework is completed and lunches are prepped. My big kids help to do their own lunches.

4. Set up carpools, ask for help and delegate
When I know my husband is traveling, I make sure to look at the week's schedule and set up as many carpools for the kids activities as we can. I have a large whiteboard calendar in our kitchen that has all of the kids activities for the current month. We are very lucky to have families that will help us getting kids to and from events. We live in an area where many of our friends have spouses that travel or are military and we support each other. I also have my older kids help out by unloading the dishwasher, dinner prep/clean up and reading bedtime stories to younger siblings.

This whiteboard is our family's master calendar, my kids joke that if it is not on "the calendar" it is not happening. My littles make sure I put their birthdays on there right away. We have had this calendar system from Pottery Barn for over 10 years.

5. Hire a babysitter during the dinner and activities rush
We have a couple of nights a week where we have 4-5 kids practices on the same night all within a 2 hour window and some later evening practices for older kids. When I am solo on those nights I have our good family friend and long time babysitter come and help me. In our house 5-8pm is the "witching time" I call it. Trying to get dinner on the table, kids out the door for events, and managing meltdowns is challenging. If I can have a second set of hands during that time it makes the evening go better for everyone. We have a local university near us and have found fantastic babysitters in the past advertising there.

6. If you can swing it, belong to a gym
My gym membership has saved me many times. Being on one income our budget is extremely tight, we do not have money for any extras. Our gym membership has been 100% worth the money. We belong to Lifetime Fitness. The child care center staff is awesome and are so good to my kids. Some weeks when my husband has been away it is the only hour I get to myself and the only chance I have to shower. When we have had power outages or snow days and I have been solo we head to the gym.

7. Be kind to yourself
When I am by myself for the week, there are certain things that aren't going to get done around the house. The kids aren't going to get showers every night, if everyone is melting down one of the younger kids may not make it to soccer practice that night. I will use paper plates for easier clean up and the kids may have chicken nuggets or cereal for dinner twice that week. The clean laundry isn't going to make it off the back of the couch. It is all okay.

Full Disclosure:
My husband's work trips are usually 2-3 days long, with the longest ones being 5 days. Right now he is traveling several times a month. Managing kids solo during the week is much easier then the weekend. Weekends are tough and so is the summer. No matter how much I plan things happen; sick kids, bad weather, homework projects kids forgot about. Recently, my husband was away and half of us including me came down with the stomach bug. In that case you go into survival mode, the kids eat pizza and cereal and watch extra show time.

I get a taste of solo parenting several times a month and it is hard, single parents and military/government/shift work spouses are my heroes.

What are some of your tips for parenting solo?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Lunchbox Love: School lunch ideas, tips and tricks

Between my school age and preschool kids I will make approx 1350 lunches this school year. 

I have many parenting weaknesses but one of my strengths is making school lunches. I have been making them for 12 years and have another 12 plus to go. It drives my hubby batty but I do make individual lunches for each kid. Usually the fruit/vegetable and treat are similar but the main part is different. It is a long school day, I want my kids to eat their lunch, so I pack things I know they will eat. If they are having a tough day I want them to know that at lunch their favorite sandwich and treat is waiting for them. It is like a hug from me. Disclaimer: By May everyone gets the same lunch and it doesn't look nearly as pretty as the first week of school!

The picture above shows some of my kids favorite lunches.
Top Left: Cheese quesadillas (I make them in the morning then wrap them in tinfoil), carrots, and gummy bears 
Bottom Left: Sandwich, apples, and Oreos 
Top Right: Cheese, Crackers and Pepperoni (I use silicone reusable cupcake liners to keep them separated), grapes and carrots
Bottom Right: Pita Quarters, single serving of hummus from Wegmans, blueberries and carrots
Some other favorites are: chicken nuggets (I cook them in the morning and wrap them in tin foil), lunch meat and cheese roll ups, salads and burritos.

Most mornings I feel like Fred the Baker from the old Dunkin Donut Commercials..."Time to make the lunches"

I want to share one of my favorite lunch tools - easylunchboxes bento boxes. A friend introduced them to me over 3 years ago and they are awesome! The ones that I use have 3 compartments and a lid. They are sturdy, dishwasher safe (seriously, they hold up really well in the dishwasher) and only 2 pieces!! I love that the lid stays on but the kids can still get it off at lunch time without struggling. I also love that it cuts down on our use of plastic sandwich bags. My favorite part is that a set of 4 is only $13.95!! This is not an ad or sponsored post, I use them everyday for my kids school lunches. 

My tips and tricks for no lunch drama for mama in the morning are:
  • Do as much prep work the night before as you can. A week's worth of PB&J sandwiches can go in the freezer and be taken out the night before and put in the fridge to thaw.
  • Get the kids involved. My older girls make their own lunches the night before and my younger kids let me know what they want and pick out their snacks and treats.
  • Have some options left for the end of the week when the groceries are running low, i.e. bagels and cream cheese can work as a sandwich, oranges when the strawberries run out.
What do you pack for your kids lunches? 

Do you have any favorite school lunch tools and tips?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Last Picture

C:\Users\Brosseau Home Office\Documents\C\Users\brosseab\Documents\Jane\My Pictures\Dad and the girls.jpg
My Dad with my three oldest girls - December 2009

2018 marks 9 years since my dad passed away. I can’t believe it has been that long ago, some days it feels like yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago. Losing my dad has had a huge impact on who I am as a mother.
This picture was taken on Dec. 27th 2009. My dad passed away on January 8th, 2010. Right before Christmas we had received the devastating news that my dad’s lung cancer had spread everywhere and that he had little time left. When this picture was taken we didn’t know how little time that would be. 
A quick back story, my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer the end of September 2009. He had no symptoms except for a cough, we were completely blind sided. He battled bravely undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. That December we found out that the cancer was everywhere and my dad said no more treatments. December was a blur, we quickly baptized our 3 daughters, it was something that my dad felt really strongly about and the only thing he and I ever argued about. My parents had come to stay with us for Christmas. Our good friend Amy is a fabulous photographer and I had asked her if she could take family pictures for us after Christmas. My dad had been really sick and I thought several times about canceling the photo shoot. We went through with it and I am so grateful that we did. Cancer treatments robbed my dad of his signature dark thick hair and mustache, but his smile and the twinkle in his blue eyes was still there. These pictures have become treasured gifts to us. I don’t think I can ever put into words how thankful I am to my dear friend for leaving her family right after Christmas and taking these pictures for us.
I miss my dad every day. He was only able to meet 3 of my 9 babies. Shortly after he passed away we found out that I was pregnant. We did not find out the gender of the baby and when the baby was a boy, I sobbed. Our first boy! I think everyone in the delivery room cried with us.  I knew it was my dad sending me a sign, that he was still with us in a different way. We named his middle name after my dad and Roo is so much like him. He has his smile and the same twinkle in his blue eyes, thankfully not my dad’s ears, just kidding dad. Several of my kids have my dad's mannerisms and it makes my heart happy. Since my dad's passing he has become a cross between a saint and a super hero to my kids. My dad was not perfect, but he was a good kind person. I love that my kids ask questions about him and that I can share stories about him. My dad was an only child as well and I am not sure what he would have thought of our big loud crazy family, but I would give anything to have one more day with him and have him meet all my kiddos.
When you lose a parent you become part of a club that you would never ask to be a member of. The grief I feel from losing my dad is always with me. It has changed over the years and changed me. The loss of a loved one is not something that you get through or over, it is always with you in some form. Right after my dad passed was the loneliest I have ever felt. My husband and friends were wonderfully supportive, but being an only child I did not have any siblings to share the grief or burden of helping to pick up the pieces. In hind sight that experience may have set me on the course for having a large family. I know having siblings doesn't guarantee that you will have their support or a wonderful relationship with them, but I am so happy that my kids have each other.

This past October, for my 40th birthday, my mom and Bill sent me and my oldest daughter to England and Wales for a week to see my dad's side of the family. It was an amazing trip to see all our relatives and visit the places that I went with him as a kid. I felt his presence often on that trip.

My dad always loved birds. The house I grew up in had big sliding doors that looked out onto a deck. My dad would sit on the couch doing a crossword puzzle and watch the birds at the bird feeder. His favorites were the cardinals and blue jays. Over the past nine years I have often seen cardinals and think that they are a sign from my dad. A friend who also lost her dad posted this, "A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. When you see one, it means they are visiting you. They usually show up when you most need them or miss them..."
Hug your loved ones extra tight and take all those family pictures. Life is precious and time is short.