When my four boys were babies, they didn’t eat a whole lot. When they were toddlers, they ate even less, pretty much existing on Goldfish crackers and air. Why do people always say feeding kids is so expensive? I’d wonder as I effortlessly stayed within my meager grocery budget. But then their appetites caught up to them, and these days I wonder things like: Where are they storing all that food? Didn’t I just buy 3 gallons of milk? What the hell happened to my checking account?
I love having a big family, but I’m not gonna lie, nothing makes me question our decision to have “just one more” like grocery shopping time. I’m a tightwad by nature, and buying the entire inventory of a Sam’s Club makes me cringe. With each beep of the scanner at checkout, I clench a little more tightly.
But buying in bulk is pretty much the only option when you’ve got so many (apparently ravenous) mouths to feed. There is no cereal box big enough; “family-sized” is more like “one breakfast and just enough left to fight over later.” And speaking of breakfast, gone are the days of using a few eggs and a half-pound of bacon. Now I cook eggs by the dozen and bacon by the pound. A gallon of milk doesn’t last more than a day and a half.
Of course, virtually nothing lasts more than a day and a half around this joint. I can stock the fridge to its full capacity, only to look in hours later and discover nothing but an empty space big enough to go spelunking in. My voice echoes as I holler, “What happened to all the groceries?” to which my kids reply, “Speaking of groceries, Mom, will you please pick up some more mini-muffins next time you’re at the store? Those things were good.”
When I got a new blender for Christmas, I was excited—okay, mostly about margaritas and daiquiris, but also by the fact that now I can make smoothies for my family! Vitamins and minerals and freshness! My happiness was short-lived, however, when I realized just how much it costs to make smoothies by the industrial-sized pitcher. Where most people can whip up something with a banana and a few chunks of fruit, I have to use a whole bunch of bananas and a $6 container of berries and part of my soul-—for one smoothie which my children will gulp down, then ask if they can have a snack.
Heaven help my cupboards if the kids have company. They say, “Can my friend come over?” but I hear, “Can my friend come over and eat all the things because they’ve got boring food at their house?” Multiple children + multiple friends = plowing through the contents of the kitchen like a plague of hungry locusts, as though that doesn’t happen enough already.
At mealtime, whether or not we have guests, you can find me stirring huge vats of food. All my little standard-sized pots and pans had to be replaced by cookware that holds the quantities we consume. A regular pan won’t hold three batches of Hamburger Helper. I make soup by the gallon, and my meat loaf is more like a meat log.
I enjoy eating out so someone else can do the super-sized cooking (and the cleaning up—ugh!) but going to a restaurant is a whole different ballgame with a big family. When they’re little and still in that eating-like-a-bird stage, you can get away with feeding them things off your plate or splitting a kids’ meal between a couple of them. But pretty soon it’s a kids’ meal each. Ka-ching. Then they’re wanting to order off the grown-up menu. Ka-ching, ka-ching. And then they’re asking for appetizers and/or desserts. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-POW! (That’s my head exploding.) Even dollar value menus aren’t so cheap when you have to order two thousand of everything.
I wouldn’t trade my big, loud, hungry household for the world, but it would be nice if my kids weren’t eating their way through their college fund, one economy-sized pack of string cheese at a time.
At least with all that food, they’ll have the energy to panhandle.