Grocery Shopping for a large family

With such a large family it takes a lot of planning and preparation to feed everyone. I never thought I could get behind a meal planning calendar but for budget’s sake it needed to be done. I had the kids sit down with me and plan a 2 week rotating calendar. We do this in the fall for a winter meals and again in the spring for summer meals. If I or the kids decide a particular meal isn’t working we just change it.
I have the menu on a clip board in the pantry to whomever has the kitchen for their chore that month can get out the ingredients and possibly prep. Under the menu I have the recipes for those meals clipped as well.

imageBelow that clipboard hangs another one. This is the special ‘shopping’ clipboard that has a lovely spreadsheet clipped into it. (Yea, there are probably a few post-it’s on there too so I don’t forget to add things) The spreadsheet includes items we typically buy in alphabetical order as well as a separate list of what I call the ‘target’ items (toothpaste, diapers, etc.). I don’t buy all of those things at Target (after all we are talking cheap) but that seems to sum up the contents of the list for our family budgeting purposes. As we run out of things we can simply mark it on the spreadsheet or add it to the bottom. So each month when we go shopping (yes, it’s a monthly trip) I bring along a clipboard with the items needed highlighted in yellow and as they get tossed into the carts (yup, we require at least 2 carts) I can cross them off with a blue marker.

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I am a BIG FAN of Aldi although most folks think we shop at Sam’s Club or Cosco. The reality is those stores are great for some items but the vast majority of the grocery items are cheaper at Aldi and I can get the family in and out quicker because it’s a smaller store. (They carry all but a couple items on my list it’s just that they don’t carry a bunch of different brands of the same product) What works best for us is bringing 2-3 quarters for carts, 6 laundry baskets and a baby carrier. I can do all the shopping on my own if I put the little one on my back and the toddler in a cart and have one of the older kiddos push the second cart. The Kids are great at helping put items in the cart and have gotten accustomed to how this operation works. We discuss our budget with them and how that whole process works in hopes that they will be fiscally responsible adults. They have fun trying to estimate the cost at the register.

We purchase most of our groceries at Aldi, a few at Walmart and Sam’s club. I try to get most ‘Target’ budget items at the Dollar Store or Walmart. I also LOVE the thrift stores. I have a big selection of thrift stores to shop at and love that I can find treasures at a great price and the little ones can always find a toy of $1 or less.

After pushing 2 or 3 full carts out to the suburban the real fun begins ;). Those laundry baskets I referred to early come into play. I load the groceries up into the baskets in a manner which my hubby calls “Tetrus” but really I just put the cold stuff in 2 baskets, heavy stuff on the bottom and the lighter stuff on top with one basket reserved for chips, breads, etc. This process can be a quick one depending upon the weather and how the kids are behaving. On one occasion I did have a lady sit and watch me load the whole thing because she said she didn’t believe I could fit it all in. (I kinda enjoyed I proving her wrong .)

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When we get home those baskets then get unloaded one at a time placed in a super cool wagon and wheeled up into the kitchen. To get up into the house through the service door I use a ramp my hubby made for the kids to ride their bikes over but it works just fine for my needs. I can get the whole suburban unloaded fairly quickly this way and the organization helps so I can get the cold stuff put away and take my time getting the rest put away.

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I’d love ideas from other large families. How do you do it? Any tips for me?

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DIY: Organizing closets for 6 kids!?!?!

Preparation for Baby #6 means hauling the baby bins from the basement storage and organizing the baby clothes. This made me somewhat frustrated as ALL of the kids closets and drawers were a mess. We had 2 dressers in each closet for socks, undergarments, pants and shorts. We would hang all of the tops above despite the massive amount of hangers. :/ Trying to put this away was a challenge with so many drawers open and shut. The kids seemed to be constantly breaking the drawers or ‘pushing out’ the bottoms as they stuffed the drawers with the clean clothes. (Laundry day at the Menne house is pretty interesting) I wanted some sort of bins for their clothes but didn’t know how it would work. This is what my hubby came up with.

Closet Organization 1

Each child has a color for their bins and they have 1 bin for each drawer that used to be the dresser. We once again hung up the tops. You’ll notice the shoe storage in the middle. This is my way of keeping sane but I’ll get to that in a minute. Back to the bins, in order to allow the kids to help with putting things away we labeled each bin with words and drawings. It’s hard to see in the second photo but we did our best to draw socks, tights, etc. and then label them with words as well. We used post-it’s and clear contact paper.

Closet Organization 2

Back to the shoe storage bins….At some point on the weekend (when things are less crazy) I take the time with each child to help them pick out 5 outfits for the week including socks and undies and we fill each shoe slot with 1 outfit. This makes mornings much easier on all of us because they know where their clothes are, they match (for the most part) and they have the independence to open the closet and find the outfits on their own.

This project was completed a few months ago and has been going well. I am SO happy with how it all turned out.

How do you keep your kids clothes organized? I’d love to hear your ideas!! Please share 🙂

The Battle of Organization is Always Waging

I’m somewhat embarrassed to share this but as always helping others trumps any amount of embarrassment. Why embarrassed? I seem kinda’ crazy with a storage room full of diaper boxes right? Well trying to keep 5 children clothed without buying new items for each one saves me time on getting rid of them as well as time and money replacing them when the next child needs it. Growing up in a large family I remember “hand-me-downs” and may have grumbled about it but don’t recall being traumatized by it. (Eventually as I got older I know I owned clothing purchased just for me.) When the kids are little not only do they not care if it’s hand-me-down clothing but sometimes they even enjoy it! My kids love getting something from an older sibling and the oldest thinks it is pretty cool to see tiny outfits on his little brothers that used to be his. He often says, “Man-I was that small!?!”

So over the past 10 years I have tried totes, bins, boxes, baskets, etc. but it has been a struggle to keep the clothing organized in such a manner that I can 1-locate it, 2-find the appropriate size, 3-keep adding to it. After moving too many times to recall at the moment and having various spaces for storage of said items I think I finally have it down to a science. Clothing Storage

This is one size of my storage area (Yes, I said MY as my husband has a different room to store his military uniforms and other items because he and I are not on the same wavelength when it comes to keeping things organized). This started with my lovely hubby installing some inexpensive plastic shelving units and as you may notice lots of diaper boxes.

When I first started this process I tried to use plastic storage bins but had difficultly stacking them (they crack and sometimes break) and their sizes tend to differ not to mention they can be costly. I switched over to boxes when my children started using Luvs diapers but as we transitioned back to other brands I kept using whatever diaper boxes I had because they worked and they were free. They stack nicely and aren’t too large to become heavy.

For some time I wished that Luvs would leave a nice empty spot on the size of their boxes so one might be able to write right on the box but somehow I don’t think a diaper company cares about the re-use-ability of their products box. I had to settle for making my own labeling system so I use either mailing labels or post-it notes and of course my favorite sharpie marker. (who doens’t love a sharpie??) labeling

I have them sectioned off with girls clothing on the far left and the boys on the right with some overflow area next to boxes of shoes. I also decided to add some hanging area for some heavier winter coats and such by using a shower rod which works pretty well.

I have a large laundry basket I keep in my laundry room specifically labeled for clothing to go in storage so when I do the laundry I can just grab the items that are too small and toss them in. When I find time (albeit it isn’t often) I can haul that basket to the basement and place those clothes in the right box according to size. At that time or when one of the kiddos needs bigger clothes I just grab the box(es) I need and bring up the clothing.

It’s a bit of work to get started but once you get a system down it can be a life-saver in both time and money.

Happy hand-me-downs my friends 🙂