A couple who have 11 children have been sharing their tips for coping with the cost of living crisis, saying they refuse to let soaring inflation stop their summer holiday fun.
Joanne O’Rourke, 39, and husband Tommy, 41, are full-time foster carers from North London, and say they’ve resorted to lateral thinking to ensure their children have fun-filled memories while austerity looms.
Sharing tips on Facebook, the pair say they’ve started bulk buying to try and beat rising prices, and have even planned a camping trip in their own back garden so they don’t have to pay for a holiday this summer.
The huge family’s food shop still puts them back over £700 a month – as they feed themselves along with children Mitchell, 19, Lauren, 17, Joe, 15, Riley, 13, Regan, 12, Tommy, 12, Ashley-Dean, 10, Freddie, eight, Danny, six, Neave, four, and Brodie, two.
Joanne O’Rourke, 39 and husband Tommy, 41, pictured are full-time foster carers and have 11 children – Mitchell, 19, Lauren, 17, Joe, 15, Riley, 13, Regan, 12, Tommy, 12, Ashley-Dean, 10, Freddie, eight, Danny, six, Neave, four, and Brodie, two
The couple say they refuse to let rising prices ruin their kids’ summer holidays and have found inexpensive ways to have fun (Pictured: back row, left to right: Michael, Lauren, Joe and Riley. Middle row, left to right: Regan, Tommy, holding Neave, Joanne holding Brodie and Tommy. Front row, left to right: Ashley Dean, Danny and Freddie)
Dad Tommy, a forklift driver, and Mum Joanne, a baby massage therapist, share their varied recipe ideas and cost-saving activities online to help other families who may be struggling.
Joanne explains: ‘We struggle like everyone else but we do find meal planning helps. We will get the weekly shop and stick to it.
‘Just because there’s 13 of us it doesn’t mean it’s harder, it’s no different from doing it as a family of three.
‘We just buy bigger and buy more. We get through six pints of milk a day and up to eight loaves of bread a week – probably double the amount of food as everyone else, but it’s normal now.
‘We do an Asda online shop and then do a top-up shop in Aldi when needed. I do a meal plan every Monday before sharing it on our cooking page. Since doing the budget meals and posting them on TikTok, we’ve had loads of people asking us for help.
Family of 13, from North London, say they just ‘buy big bigger and buy more’ to try and combat rises in prices. They say instead of buying expensive takeaways, they create their own version at home, which works out much cheaper
Party food and a tuck shop at home have helped the couple’s children have a fun summer – with camping in the garden instead of going on holiday one of the activities the family has decided to opt for instead of forking out on foreign travel
‘Tommy and I take it in turns to cook and set the meal plans, some love Mac and Cheese, some love Burgers, while others love lasagne, it’s just about balancing it all out.
‘We do a lot of different themed dinners too. We did a homemade Harvester and a homemade KFC. We’re always coming up with fun dinner ideas, and Friday’s are always pizza night.
‘However dinner times are smooth as we have a working system, that everyone has colour coded plates and we work from youngest to oldest.
‘We all have jobs after dinner as well to help make the cleaning up process easier too.
The O’Rourke’s entertainment ideas have seen them win followers on Facebook – with a doughnut board amongst the fun…although they’ve also shown the flip side, with toys strewn across the living room carpet
It’s not just mealtimes the O’Rourke’s are savvy about. Mum Joanne is never short of coming up with new and inventive ways to keep her children entertained, whether it be fun activities at home or days out – something else they get asked for advice on.
Joanne explains: ‘At the beginning of the summer holidays, I made a plan, showing parents you can do things that cost money as well as things that don’t.
‘I work from home so luckily child care isn’t an issue for us, but it doesn’t always have to revolve around money. We go on free days out to museums, the seaside, parks, but we also do a lot of home activities.
‘Tommy built a campsite in the garden with a tent and we had a camp out, we also put up a big outdoor pool in the garden. At home we also have cooking days, creating our own t-shirts, teddy bear picnics, writing our own story books and shadow drawing.
Making memories: The pair say they want to prove that you can still have fun on a smaller budget and hope they can inspire other people
‘Not all things have to cost money and I like to show parents there’s so much to be done for free. We get a lot of parents asking for ideas on what to do over the summer holidays and people always enjoy our videos.
‘We made our own sweet shop at home and it lasted for quite a while. We spent £150 on the sweet selections and made a pick ‘n’ mix. We weighed the sweets out, which taught the younger ones how to use scales.
‘The older children get pocket money, so we charged them for their sweets, teaching them the value of money – although it’s probably the cheapest sweet shop they’ll go to!
‘We want to show other families the fun big families can have, doing some days out and some days at home. The kids love having a big family, we have so much fun together and they get on so well with each other.
‘I originally wanted six children but we’ve had a few more than that, but I love it! I love having a big family and we all share so many memories together.’