Watch: Family of 13 document day in life of coping with cost of living crisis in summer holidays
Foster carers Joanne O'Rourke, 39, and husband Tommy, 41, from North London, plan meals in advance to help keep their food costs - of over £700 a month - down. Tommy, a forklift driver, and Joanne, a baby massage therapist, are keen to make the financial burden that bit lighter for all by sharing varied recipe ideas and cost-saving activities across their social media pages.
The couple care for Mitchell, 19, Lauren, 17, Joe, 15, Riley, 13, Regan, 12, Tommy, 12, Ashley-Dean, 10, Freddie, eight, Danny, six, Neave, four, and Brodie, two.
"We struggle like everyone else but we do find meal planning helps. We will get the weekly shop and stick to it," says Joanne.
"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."
Their savvy methods can be adapted and applied to a family of any size.
"We do an Asda online shop and then do a top-up in Aldi when needed. I do a meal plan every Monday before sharing it on our cooking page," Joanne explains in more depth. "Since doing the budget meals and posting them on Tiktok, we've had loads of people asking us for help."
These include posts on how to make quick and cheap pasta that can be adapted for both kids and adults, how to prep for 13 people daily (which involves using three different types of mice to make different meals; sloppy joe burgers, spag bowl and chilly), making home made chicken curry and egg fried rice for everyone, and combining food and activities together, making ice cream sandwiches.
@orourkesmaddnesandmayhem Home activities for the kids they loved 🥰 this one #familytime #famikytok #recioesforyou #orourkesmadnessandmayhem #fypシ #fy #fyp #foryourpage #fyviral #foryoupageofficiall #ffy #foodie #food #foodlover #sunmerhoildays #sunmer2022glowup #bigfamily #bigfamilycooking #largefamily #largefamilylife #largefamilyliving ♬ original sound - joannewebborourke 🌟13ofus🌟
"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," says Joanna.
"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 Fridays are always pizza night."
Aside from actually shopping for and feeding 13, it's hard to picture such a large family dinner without chaos. "However," Joanna explains, "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."
But aside from providing the kids with cheap-but-interesting meals, Joanne is also passionate about keeping them entertained, whether this is with fun-filled activities at home or big days out, crucial for the long stretch of summer holidays.
She 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."
And there are no bounds for creativity inside the O'Rourke household.
"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 out own story books and shadow drawing," says Joanna.
"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."
They also show how, in some instances, spending a bit of money, can help you to save a bit of money and provide an activity to do more than once.
"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," explains Joanna.
"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!"
The O'Rourke's are all about balance. "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," says Joanna.
"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."
For more of the O'Rourke family's top tips visit their Facebook page.