Logistically it's not ideal to load up my crew and take them many activities. That's not to say we NEVER venture out, but we tend to stay home (a common summer theme for many large families).
Economically, who can afford to do many vacations? Well, not many large families. Do we suffer and have a boring summer? No way!!!!!
Being large means thinking outside the box and keeping things simple. Most days we are at home playing games and splashing in a small kiddie pool eating popsicles. Occasionally, when the weather gets super hot, we have an afternoon movie day complete with popcorn and rootbeer floats. Summer is also a great time to learn a new craft or to start knitting those Christmas gifts.
The hot days are an opportunity to relax every afternoon so that after dinner we can stay up past dark and catch lightening bugs and play flashlight tag.
We are also fortunate enough to have grandparents who live on a lake and have a private dock. It's really nice because they also have a screened in building with a table and grill and also the water starts shallow at the shoreline and gradually gets deeper. This makes a great area for little ones to play.
This year I promised the kids we would pack a cooler and swim once a week. Tomorrow is a lake day.
I am trying to keep costs down and since it will cost about $20 in gas to get there and back, I must stay creative in selecting and packing food for the day. Seriously, you have to have lots of food when you are swimming, right?
Here's how a mega-family packs for a day of fun at the lake while keeping costs to a minimal.
First, a cooler is a must . We usually pack lunchmeat, etc to make sandwiches or I make PB&J sandwiches before we leave and pile them high into a cake pan. I will cut them in fourths so that the kids can snack on them throughout the day. Tomorrow we are bringing some ham and cheese so I baked up some sandwich rolls. By baking my own bread I save quite a bit plus it is much healthier.
My kids LOVE those jello and fruit cups, however they can be pricey for so many of us and I don't want to limit how much food the kids eat. That would not be fun. We also have cousins who swim with us so I need to have plenty.
This is where I make up my own jello cups.
I buy my jello and canned fruit from Aldis, which makes it very affordable. These plastic bowls and lids can also be re-used so it ends up costing me about $4 to make up 16 jello cups with fruit in them. the kids love them and Rose was excited to see me make them and helped me put the lids on them. These containers can also be used to make pudding cups. These cups are MUCH bigger than the little pudding cups you see in the store too.
We always like something sweet too and store bought cookies are not only expensive but loaded with junk you don not need. Tonight the big girls helped me whip up some peanut butter cookies.
I double the recipe and it makes about 60 cookies. That seems like a lot but there will be 10 kids and a few adults hanging out at the lake. Homemade cookies such as these only took about 30 minutes to make, thanks to my convection oven and cost me only a couple of dollars in ingredients.
Last year I bought soda for the lake. This year that just isn't going to happen. First off it's way too expensive and secondly it's way too sugary. This year I bought each child a tumbler cup that has a travel lid so that we can save by not using paper cups and so we could bring drinks in a cooler. Here is what I have for drinks.
Aldis is also a great place to stock up on some chips or cheese sharks (think Goldfish crackers). Snacks are a big part of what makes these day trips enjoyable. I will also use a laundry basket to pack up extra diapers, sunscreen towels and a large quilt. The little ones will sometimes need quiet time on a quilt and under a shade umbrella.
So this is how we organize it all. I must also mention that the kids MUST clean their rooms and the bathrooms the evening before the lake day. I also do my best to get laundry washed and put away. Typically we get home exhausted so it helps to have the house clean and orderly. This also makes the unloading of the van easier. For dinner we eat a bowl of cereal or yogurt, and then it's bedtime. The kids are usually ready for bed after a day in the hot sun, swimming.
Like everything large families do, it only takes a little planning and day before preparations to take the whole gang out for an enjoyable day.
So what cool and budget friendly things will your family be doing this summer?