News, Culture & Society

Australia’s largest family of 18 reveal how they do Christmas without breaking the bank

A couple with 16 children who have been dubbed ‘Australia’s largest family’ have shared a glimpse into what Christmas is like in their busy household. 

Jeni and Ray Bonell, from Toowoomba, Queensland, feel like Santa and Mrs Claus when preparing for the festive season – as they start planning on Boxing Day and make seemingly endless lists of presents to buy. 

Jeni told FEMAIL this festive season they have spent a little over $4,000 on Christmas gifts, decorations and food for all the kids, their partners, grandchildren, extended family and charity donations. 

She added how planning ahead and budgeting are key to running the massive household. 

The couple have nine boys and seven girls – Jesse, 32, Brooke 30, Claire, 28, Natalie, 26, Karl, 25, Sam, 23, Cameron, 22, Sabrina, 20, Tim, 19, Brandon, 17, Eve, 15, Nate, 14, Rachel, 13, Eric, 11, Damian, 10 and Katelyn, seven.  

The mum and dad from Australia’s largest family have answered the questions they are always asked when it comes to Christmas time in their household (the Bonell family pictured)

Ray’s an electrician while Jeni is a stay-at-home mum who transports the children around using a 16-seater bus. 

Jeni told FEMAIL she ‘didn’t plan’ on having any children, but Ray wanted between four or six kids. 

‘I thought that was crazy but I agreed to having one, maybe two. I loved being a mum so much that it was me that asked if we could have number three and we just went on from there,’ she said. 

‘Having a big family is not for everyone but it’s perfect for us. Family is everything.’ 

Some of the older children have also gone on to have kids of their own – making Jeni and Ray grandparents to six.  

One of the most expensive aspects of having a large family is the food - with a weekly grocery shop costing at least $700

One of the most expensive aspects of having a large family is the food – with a weekly grocery shop costing at least $700 

Jeni told FEMAIL she 'didn't plan' on having any children, but Ray wanted between four or six kids. 'I loved being a mum so much that it was me that asked if we could have number three and we just went on from there,' she said

Jeni told FEMAIL she ‘didn’t plan’ on having any children, but Ray wanted between four or six kids. ‘I loved being a mum so much that it was me that asked if we could have number three and we just went on from there,’ she said

One of the most expensive aspects of having a large family is the food – with a weekly grocery shop costing at least $700.

Jeni budgets when shopping for groceries and relies on staple items purchased in bulk, such as pasta and rice, as well as frozen vegetables.

She often buys two full trolleys worth of food to feed the family, which she says is always a ‘really big job’.

In a YouTube video, Jeni showed all the items she purchased on one occasion after visiting Coles. 

The food haul included four packets of meatballs, mushrooms, fruit, sausages, instant noodles, garlic bread, 1kg yoghurt, pasta and coleslaw salads, two blocks of cheese, six bottles of milk, soft drinks and Devon luncheon meat. 

Jeni budgets when shopping for groceries and relies on staple items purchased in bulk, such as pasta and rice, as well as frozen vegetables

Jeni budgets when shopping for groceries and relies on staple items purchased in bulk, such as pasta and rice, as well as frozen vegetables

This Christmas, the Bonell's lunch menu will feature legs of ham, roast chicken and turkey for the main course and a range of fresh salads

This Christmas, the Bonell’s lunch menu will feature legs of ham, roast chicken and turkey for the main course and a range of fresh salads

‘We don’t do the full grocery shop at one supermarket. You can really save money by grabbing bits and pieces from different stores. It’s worth it to shop around,’ Jeni told 7News Lifestyle. 

When it comes to shopping for treats for Christmas, Jeni opts for ‘quick sale stickers’ on supermarket biscuits and cookies, suggesting the goods can be frozen.

‘One of my favourite things to find in a grocery store. All of these biscuits/cookies will get frozen and be ready for school lunchboxes,’ she wrote on Instagram.

This Christmas, the Bonell’s lunch menu will feature legs of ham, roast chicken and turkey for the main course and a range of fresh salads.

For dessert, the family will enjoy ice cream, custard, plum pudding and fruit salad. 

When it comes to shopping for treats for Christmas, Jeni opts for 'quick sale stickers' on supermarket biscuits and cookies, suggesting the goods can be frozen

When it comes to shopping for treats for Christmas, Jeni opts for ‘quick sale stickers’ on supermarket biscuits and cookies, suggesting the goods can be frozen 

When it comes to buying gifts, Jeni asks her kids to write down their wish list in July and makes use of end of financial year sales.

‘We have a lot of kids, so a lot of different personalities, which is challenging to buy for them all,’ Jeni said in a YouTube video.

This year she has also been making use of popular app Shopback – a reward program where users can receive up to 30 per cent cash back from 500 brands in Australia.

‘I can go into that site and there are so many different places I can buy from, and I can account for everybody’s different personalities all in the one spot,’ she said in the video.

The couple said they have so many children because they love having kids, and looking after them at home (pictured: takeaway for the family)

Jeni's main piece of advice to other parents when shopping for Christmas gifts is to 'know your budget and stick to it'

Jeni’s main piece of advice to other parents when shopping for Christmas gifts is to ‘know your budget and stick to it’ 

Jeni’s main piece of advice to other parents when shopping for Christmas gifts is to ‘know your budget and stick to it’. 

To ensure she doesn’t overspend, Jeni budgets all year round and starts planning on Boxing Day.

‘You’ve got to know what you can spend. Too many people try and outdo everybody else, and I think gifts are more important that come from the heart and not what they cost,’ she said. 

To find out more about the Bonell family, you can visit their YouTube page here.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk