This is one area where families must be flexible and rigid at the same time. It is very important that you come together as a family for meal times. However, sometimes we sit in the living room and watch a TV show or movie together, sometimes we eat at the kitchen table, and other times the kids ask if they can take their food outside to eat. It is important to eat together often without the TV on and just visit, but this doesn’t have to be at every meal. Initially, to encourage conversation at our meals and reduce bickering we would often do “good and bad.” This is when we go around the table, starting with the person who said grace for the meal, and name one good thing and one bad thing that happened to us recently. This gives you a good idea of things happening in the kids’ lives. It also teaches them to wait their turn and listen to what others are saying.
The other question that always arises in large families is what to do when kids don’t like certain foods or “won’t eat their vegetables.” This is one lesson where I tried everything I could think of and finally found a method that works well. Don’t require kids to “clean their plate.” However, maintain an expectation that they should eat most of what they are served. If they don’t want to eat most of their food, don’t try to force them or plead with them. Simply don’t allow them to have snack foods until after their next meal. You can even place their plate in the oven. If they get hungry later, they have that for their snack. However, I have maintained that they don’t get snack foods if they don’t eat “real food.” After all, it is important for them to learn to enjoy a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Often, kids in foster care were raised on take-out or a diet of mainly starches. It may take awhile for them to develop a taste for healthy meals. This approach has worked perfectly. There is no pleading or punishing. The kids eat enough 99% of the time without any difficulty. And yes, this includes eating their vegetables.
I have learned so much about how to grocery shop and provide for a large family. First of all you might consider, getting a Sam’s or Costco Card. This may more than paid off for staples such as dry goods and cleaning products. However, not all things are less expensive at Sam’s or Costco. At our local grocery store, all of the meats that are getting older (but still in date) are placed in a discount bin first thing in the morning. So the earlier you can go, the better deals you get. I shopped garage sales and found a freezer on sale, purchased it so that I could stock up on meats when they are discounted. Then thaw them as we need them. Local stores often also offer less expensive bread than the larger chain retailers. Our family saves a great deal of money by only making a large shopping run once a month. When we went weekly or biweekly, we just purchased more instead of using what we had in the kitchen. Therefore, we go to Sam’s once a month and to a local grocery chain weekly to purchase only meat, milk and bread. Don’t take the kids to the store with you, if possible. I tend to purchase more when they are with me, not items like candy or chips, but I stay longer in the store, instead of getting what I truly need and getting out. Also, it saves money if you don’t purchase items such as flavored rice and macaroni and cheese in the boxes. These sound inexpensive enough, until you calculate that for a family our size, we must cook five boxes at a time. Instead, purchase the largest bag of rice they have and get a five-gallon bucket to store it in. We can purchase a 50-pound bag of rice for around $17.00. We learned some really great rice recipes (included in the recipe section at the end of the book), and now I prefer our rice to the boxes of rice you can purchase at the store. The same concept applies to macaroni and cheese. Beans are also a great item to purchase in a large bag, and then cook homemade, instead of buying them from a can. You will literally save hundreds of dollars if you use these methods. In addition, the food is much tastier and healthier than the kind that is pre-packaged with all of the preservatives. I really like the Duggar Family’s book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, as well as their website for ideas related to saving money.