Sustaining a large family

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by Holly Grootveld

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the needs and sustainability of our family. We have six young children, our oldest just turned 12 and our youngest just turned 3 months old. I love the considerations that the article had above and thought I would add a few things that I have considered for our situation. My husband is the bread winner in our home, and I stay at home /homeschool our children. We have always tried to be thrifty and have had seasons that we needed to do without or be creative.  I think that part of the preparation that we have been doing for what is coming has been to start using the new systems and recipes. I have been thinking about how it is important for kids to have a gradual transition into change. We have homeschooled from the time our first child was in kindergarten. I have talked to several moms that began homeschooling when covid hit and were thrown into the deep-end almost overnight. They have expressed how overwhelming that was both for them and their children. Anyway, I think a big part of being resilient with a family, is to start implementing these changes in the home and taking notice of how everyone is handling the changes. Finding out what is going to work long term, what more might be needed or changed, in order for your family to thrive. While also giving your kids a chance to adjust more slowly, and not be thrown into everything at once.

So for our family here are some things that we have been changing or have always done that will help us moving forward…

  • We have switched back to using cloth diapers/ wipes. We have a supply of laundry detergent that we buy in bulk that works for our diapers and general wash. In the past I have also made homemade laundry detergent.
  • Instead of buying paper towels we are using old burp clothes/ rags.
  • For cleaning we invested in a steam mop, norwex products, and basic items that we have used in the past that can be used to clean with, such as hydrogen peroxide, borax, bon-ami, baking soda, lemon juice, ammonia, Clorox, and vinegar.
  • My husband and oldest son hunt. We generally harvest elk, deer, and antelope. We process and vacuum seal our game for the freezer. The last few years we have used some of the ground meat to make our own sausage. Last year my son (11 years old) made elk jerky as well. We make our own dog food out of meat that has been in the freezer over a year.
  • I have stocked up on extra things like rennet, citirc acid, cheese salt, and cultures that we can use to make homemade yogurt, cheese, sour cream, and riccotta. We are learning how to make these. We are hoping to eventually buy a cheese press and learn to do hard cheeses.
  • I am thinking about containers. In the past we would keep containers from the store and reuse them. My grandparents are farmers that grew up in the great depression and they always keep jars and containers that they could reuse. They reuse and repurpose everything. I’ve learned so much from them.
  • I went through our canning items and ordered reusable lids and pectin. We have canned in the past, so I made sure the equipment is all together. Canning jars are expensive now, but I am finding them second hand.
  • During the end of season sales I almost always buy what will be needed the next year for my kids and put it up in the bin for that size. So this fall I bought all of next years summer clothes. I go through each bin when I’m putting kids clothes away at the end of the season and figure out what needs replaced, inevitably there are worn out shoes or holes in the knees on pants. If my kids grow faster than expected than I just look for thrift store/ online market place to get what they need. It if fun though to open a bin up and find a winter coat that was purchased last spring during a big sale or hiking boots that we purchased 75% off that finally fit.
  • We always stock up on all the office and school supplies during back to school sales. This way we have full tub of glue, markers, crayons, construction paper, expo markers, tape, folders, notebooks, pencils, etc. Each year I take inventory of what is needed and restock those specific items. We don’t need to get backpacks or the list of supplies that most students need to get to go back to school, so this works well for us. We also purchased extra ink for our printer.
  • We stopped buying cereal and snack foods during covid. Now I make homemade granola and homemade quick oats. The kids are used to having homemade snacks and things that I can make from the pantry.
  • We started a cellar for long term food storage. My pantry has always been well stocked with bulk items, but we decided to go a littler deeper with our stores.
  • My husband and I used to brew beer regularly until we felt like we didn’t have extra time. We have what we need to start brewing again.
  • We have a garden and have went ahead and purchased the seeds and equipment that we will need for next year all ready. We also have decided to keep an indoor compost.
  • I am thinking about what we will use in future years in our homeschool and have tried to purchase books and curriculum that we are going to be using in future at book sales and such. The last couple of years I have been trying to get some of the consumable workbooks on pdf, so I can print the items for my children as they need the material.
  • My husband is a carpenter, so he has been replacing any tools that are ready to be replaced. Making sure that he has extra blades for saws and things like that.
  • I am sending my sewing machine to get a repair that I have been deferring. I took inventory of fabric, pins, zippers, thread, buttons, and patterns. I also ordered a couple extra iron on patches.
  • We are introducing recipes that would be used in really thin times. Things with beans and rice. Also, we are honing in our cooking skills for things like homemade bread, pizza, biscuits, and tortillas. We have even made homemade noodles.
  • We put up extra fire wood this year and are looking at solar power generators.
  • I am planning to grab some extra bike inner-tubes and things that we generally have to replace regularly on our bikes. It is becoming extremely expensive to fill up our gas tank, so by spring we maybe doing a lot more biking as a family.
  • We are trying to become more resourceful in our neighborhood, developing relationships with our neighbors. One neighbor down the street sells eggs, another has goat milk. We have some shared land. We found wild rubarb this summer, an apple tree, and my oldest son spent the summer learning how to fish in the river on that land.
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Anyway, these are the practical things we are doing in our home. I am continually thinking through what else I can do to help us be better equipped to face this next season, whatever it brings.

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