A mum-of-seven who claims she saves £2,400 a year on family expenses has explained exactly how she manages parenthood on a budget – including how to tackle dinner time and the age-old pocket money conundrum.
Tess Giddings, 32, from Bournemouth, is mum to Jacob, 14, Savannah, 12, Amiah, 11, Zion, nine, Nevaeh, five, and twins Hezekiah, and Levi, three.
Over the years, the super mum says she has managed to get into a routine to keep things in order.
She also does it on a budget, saving £70 a week on food through discount shopping, mealtime planning and other easy tips and tricks.
Being a family-of-nine – including Tess, her husband and the kids – means the food shopping takes the biggest chunk out of weekly expenses at around £160 a week.
However, the mum notes that friends who have smaller families can often spend even more.
To keep her meals cheap, she always makes a meal plan for the entire week and stocks up on special offers like two-for-one or buy-one-get-one-free.
And whatever remains after dinner is made into leftovers.
Tess said: “Leftovers are often made into dinner or lunch for the next day to so I am not wasting food and money.
“This will easily save £50-£70 on a family day out by just taking our own food and drinks.
“My favourite supermarkets include Aldi and Lidl but I also often do an online shop with Tesco or Asda, as you can scour the deals properly,
“When you go to Aldi shortly before closing there is also a lot of food marked down that can be frozen to keep for longer, such as meats.
“I have often picked up a whole chicken or rump steaks for a few pence.”
When it comes to the dinner table, Tess lives by a golden rule: “if you don’t like it, there’s nothing else to eat”.
She said: “If my children moan about their dinner or that they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it but there will be no pudding – like ice lollies or yoghurt – afterwards.
“I will make nice, tasty meals – so if they’re just being fussy by not wanting it, then they go without.”
Although the mum and her husband both work – Tess is a digital content creator for social media and Chris is an engineer – and have monthly incomes, they like to save wherever possible to keep costs low.
Tess has always been good when it comes to managing money and rarely pays full price for anything.
Instead, the mum uses discount coupons and will source various items second-hand, such as furniture for her home.
She said: “People always comment about how well-furnished our home is and how lovely the furnishings are but I have got pretty much all of them off Gumtree for next to nothing.
I have upcycled many pieces of furniture too, transforming items that would have been fit for the bin into amazing pieces.”
The mum also sets aside a set amount of money each month to cover Christmas and birthdays, and uses a sewing machine to tailor the kids’ clothes when they outgrow them – giving them at least another year of wear.
“Children thrive off a routine and it’s so important to stick to it,” Tess told Jam Press.
“During the week, I am very strict with our routine, otherwise everything falls apart quickly – especially with so many children.
“I like to prep everything the night before; so school uniform, lunch boxes etc are all laid out for the kids to just get ready quickly in the morning.
“Bedtimes are the same too, I like the children to be in bed at a set time.
“The younger ones are normally in bed by 8pm, the middle ones by 8.30pm and the older ones by 9.30pm.”
“They’re usually pretty good– but if they really play up, there are consequences like they’ll lose their device the next day or miss out on a treat.
“But that’s only if they are really naughty and after three warnings. I’m strict but I’m not militant and unfair.”
Running a busy household inevitably means there’s lots of cleaning to do – but Tess manages to stay on top of it and makes sure to get the kids involved too, with the help of a little incentive.
She said: “I am quite house-proud, so I love to have a clean and tidy home, but obviously with seven children it doesn’t stay that way for long.
“I spend a lot of time on housework in-between everything else but we make sure the children all chip in and help.
“I would never put too much responsibility on them as at the end of the day, they are children – but it’s a great way for them to earn pocket money each week and it’s a good life lesson.
“For instance, the twins are only three so I don’t expect them to do more than put their toys away.
“But the older ones can do things like clean the bathroom while the middle younger ones really enjoy things like hoovering – and all the kids earn pocket money from it.
“On the weekend, we also usually do a fun family day out whether it’s swimming, a beach day or driving somewhere for a nice walk in the country.
“Before we leave, they all get a task – like making sure their rooms are tidy – and they’re really good at getting it done as they know we won’t leave until it is.”