I recently lined my basement storage area with shelves, to systematically hold my large supply of grocery and toiletry items. Friends call it "Goss-Mart."A common question that I am asked is "how much [fill in the blank with a given food or toiletry item] must YOU go through?" or I get the comment "I can only imagine what your grocery bill is feeding EIGHT kids!"

I guess to a mom of a "normal" sized family (what is considered normal anyway?), our quantities are gargantuan, but to me, those large break-your-arms quantities feel very commonplace after this many years of lugging car load after car load of items in the front door!

Because so many have asked me about "how much" of this or that over the years, I will attempt to answer all of your pressing quantity questions here with our current figures beginning at the start of the day.

A normal breakfast consists of a dozen and a half of eggs, about one to two packs of bacon, an entire loaf of bread, and a two-liter bottle of apple juice, diluted to 50 percent juice and 50 percent water.

Lunches, depending on what I pack for all eight kids, which I do EVERY day, is another loaf of bread, half a pound of meat or more and the same amount of cheese, a 32-ounce tub of yogurt, an entire family-size bag of chips or pretzels, one to two large cucumbers (sliced), a 16-ounce container of hummus, eight home-baked cookies, 16 juice boxes, a one-pound bag of grapes, and an entire box of granola bars for school snack. And, well, this example would be considered a "small lunch," so I'd likely throw in a pack of fruit snacks each or an ounce or two of almonds into each lunch box. Whew, and that was only lunch!

Now moving on to toiletries ...

We use about three, maybe four, rolls of toilet paper a day, but that's just a guess. Paper towels fly off the roll here due to the frequent spills and messes that go with the territory, so I'm sure we use at least two rolls of the "quicker picker uppers" per day.

I run my dishwashers up to twice a day each (I am blessed with two!) and I use my bread maker every single day, at least once, but often twice!

Shampoo and conditioner and lotion and toothpaste type of things? Let's just say that when I buy those items, I fill my entire cart and, literally, before I know it, I'm back pushing a red cart to do it all over again!

I always run at least 10 to 12 loads of laundry each week and start that organized process each Sunday afternoon. I also have two washing machines and two dryers, so this cuts the time in half. Saving time? I think that's my middle name! Regardless, 'til the laundry is all washed, folded, hung up, and put away, the process starts all over again!

Are you overwhelmed? Well, we haven't gotten to dinnertime yet! I typically cook two to four pounds of meat, one and a half pounds of pasta, and three pounds of vegetables for dinner. Dessert wouldn't happen here without an entire gallon of ice cream and, of course, eight sugar cones!

When I buy chicken or beef, I buy it organically in bulk and rarely purchase less than 300 pounds of each. I also buy 50 to 75 pounds of organic flour every eight weeks and home-make all of our bread, rolls, and pizza dough. I take advantage of the price decrease that typically goes along with buying anything in bulk, and I fill my five chest freezers full ... but as you can probably guess based on the above quantities, it just doesn't last very long in this house!

A long time ago, I realized I'd need to become very savvy very quickly because caring for eight children in today's economy was enough to make anyone on any sized budget turn pale! I have always incorporated an element of financially responsible living into my kids too. It was incorporated into me when I was a kid and I've carried it on. You can hear me saying a hundred times a day, "When you leave a room, turn the light off!" or "Shut the door. I don't want to heat/cool the outside!" or "Recycle that. We can use that bag again."

We often discuss cost effectiveness as a family in terms of grouping errands or which vehicle to take based on the logistics of a given trip. And my kids are becoming "bargain shoppers" too because I teach them, even at these ages, how to figure out the best deal on pretty much everything!

To me, teaching my kids how to make the most of our budget is one small piece of the responsible parent puzzle. I take my role as a mom very seriously, and that seriousness includes how I allot and spend our money and how well I can make it stretch in order to meet all of our many needs and some of our wants too.

But, I do have to admit a little something to you: I really, really enjoy the budget stretching and economics of making it all work. Sure, it's extremely stressful as a single mom of eight to ensure that the budget is balanced, and I'll also admit, there are some sweaty moments at the bill paying table when things aren't what they should be, but isn't that my job as a mom? To take the stress and cover over it with a smile to let my kids enjoy their childhoods just as they should without worry? Yep. It sure is! I consider it a challenge and a privilege to successfully run the house that my kids enjoy!

And, hey, don't forget the fringe benefits I receive as the provider for my eight! I don't have to spend money to go to the gym to lift weights! I've long since developed well defined arms due to the daily lugging of food and supplies in bulk-sized proportions for nine people (and don't forget our large and perpetually hungry German Shepherd, Shoka!).

Now that's what I call efficiency -- lifting weights right into the kitchen where dinner prep begins, yet again!

 

Image via Kate Gosselin