As soon as I became pregnant with number four, we gave in to the call of the minivan, started looking for a bigger house, and began researching large families. I knew I was going to have to uncover some secrets and learn the ropes of managing our new, larger family. While I haven’t quite found or mastered all the tricks, here are a few I’ve come to rely on.
Keep lunches simple (and make them at night).
I do not focus on variety. My kids don’t like variety. And I don’t like making food and throwing it away. So I stick with what works. Lunches follow a basic formula — one main food, one fruit, one veggie, one cheese stick, milk box or juice, and a treat. I finish it off with a sweet note from mom. That’s it. Every day. All four lunches are made at once, the night before, and placed into the fridge. In the morning we heat up any hot food and put it into a warmed thermos, tossing in an ice pack to keep everything else cold. I even prepare lunches for my two who stay home. When it’s time for lunch, no matter where we are, the food is ready to go!
Have a basic monthly food plan.
I’m still working on this one, but I hear it’s wonderful once you get into the routine. So far I’ve categorized my days for each meal — Mondays are chicken, Tuesdays are Tex/Mex, Wednesdays and Thursdays are slow cooker, and Friday is an order-in kinda night. Beef, leftovers, and/or eating out are reserved for the weekends. I hope to eventually use these categories to plan the meals for the month based on what I know how to make and what the family enjoys eating. I’m using basic planning templates from the internet to keep it organized. From the calendar, I should easily be able to compile a grocery list twice a week. Check out these posts for more great ideas on meal planning.
Have it ALL delivered.
We have groceries delivered through Peapod or Prime Now (Whole Foods). We get our diapers from Amazon and Honest Company. Paper supplies and pantry food are delivered from Amazon’s Prime Pantry (Target also has great prices for these items), and our cleaning supplies are delivered by Grove. Most of these companies offer a subscription, so the goods are automatically delivered. This works great for us, especially for oversized and heavy pet supplies. I never worry about about taking care of our three cats! Anything else we need, such as gifts, hand towels, birthday party supplies, event-specific outfits, and general day-to-day items I order on Amazon when I can. I pay for Prime so my items arrive in a matter of days. Because we are a large family, we run out of something every day. Having most of it delivered has saved us many trips out.
Fold the laundry right out of the dryer.
I have four bins next to our washer and dryer. One bin (differentiated by color) for each child. I fold the clothing item and put it directly into the correct bin. I can do this for several loads before I have to put the clothes away. Eventually, the goal is to have a day set aside where the kids collect their bins and put their own clothes away. While my oldest is capable, the girls are still a bit young. The plan is in place, though! As for my own laundry, I simply stack it and put it away.
Keep a potty and a trash bag in the car.
I have two toddlers and two young “big kids,” so this tip is a must! A trash bag hangs off a hook on one of the front seats and is taken out of the car full every other day — and my car is still covered in socks, cookie crumbs, and clutter. I can only imagine what it would be like if I didn’t have a trash bag there!
As for a potty, we’ve avoided many accidents, kept potty training in place, and nurtured confidence due to the availability of a travel potty. It comes in handy on the road when no bathroom is in sight, when going to the beach, during or after potty training, and when in a toddler (or little big kid) emergency.
Simplify the bag.
I carry only what I need. The days of toys, books, extra snacks, and blankets are no longer. Diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, my wallet, event-specific gear, and a book are all I take with me. I usually tuck it all into a small purse and ditch the diaper bag at home. The kiddos eat less food on the run and more food when I prepare it. If they want a snack, they get it and bring it along (and, in theory, throw the trash into the car trash bag!).
I’m constantly getting rid of stuff. Outgrown clothing, broken and unused toys, tchotchke, and multiples of an item are all constantly coming in and going out of our house. I try to donate as often as I can. Big Brother Big Sister comes to our town monthly and picks up donation items at the house. Savers takes most everything and is an easy drop-off. The transfer station in our town takes clothing and book donations. I have donated extra Lego to local schools, passed baby and maternity items on to expecting and new moms, and freely shared items we no longer needed with friends and strangers. Next, I want to have a yard sale!
Having a big family is a lot of fun, and with the day-to-day systems working for us we can keep the focus where it should be — our family.