Inside Britain’s biggest families with 31 children and £300-a-week food bills

Watching the total at the ­supermarket till creep up and up can be a fraught moment for anyone – but imagine if you had to budget for a super-sized brood?

One of Britain’s biggest families, the Sullivans, spend around four times the average family spend of £80 on their weekly food shop.

A conveyor belt of birthdays must also be planned, along with huge energy bills and clothes for growing children.

As for holidays, sleep or an empty washing basket? Forget about it.

Follow three bumper-pack families in an ITV documentary tomorrow that captures the chaos, and fun.

Nicole and Joseph Sutton and their 11 children are on a food budget of up to £200-a-week, Ben and Zoe Sullivan and their 11 offspring spend £300, while Fran and Layden Seymour and their brood of nine have no limit.

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Joseph and Nicole Sutton with their brood of 11
Joseph and Nicole Sutton with their brood of 11 – see below

Each child on average in Britain costs £150,000 to raise, so what motivates these families to keep on growing?

“Bigger is better,” says Fran. “There’s never a dull moment!”

Here the three families talk about what it’s like to live in heaving homes…

  • Britain’s Biggest Families: 31 Kids And Counting The Pennies, Thurs, ITV, 9pm.

The Suttons: Tight budget doesn’t stop the laughter

11 Children

Weekly shop: £80-200

“Big families have more fun than little families,” grins 11-year-old McKenzie Sutton, who lives in a very noisy home in Cumbria with mum Nicole, dad Joseph and 10 siblings – Rhiannon, 14, Lacey, 12, Skylar, nine, Henley, seven, twins Cobi and Parker, six, Hadley, four, River, three, Ocean, two, and six-month-old Navy.

As the 11 youngsters wrap each other up in reams of toilet roll on Halloween, they are all having an absolute blast, which is all Nicole really wants.

Having had a tough childhood, 30-year-old supermum Nicole just wants to have fun with the kids and be there for them. “If you can’t have a laugh with your mum, what have we got?” she chuckles.

She says they survive paycheck to paycheck on Joseph’s £400-a-week coach driver salary. But the savvy mum counts every penny. “That will last at least a week,” she says, as the massive weekly food shop arrives, containing four loaves of sliced bread and five boxes of cereal.

The Seymours are big business - see below
The Seymours are big business – see below

The food shop costs her between £100 and £200, but if they’re having a tough month, she can do it for £80.

“I go round the supermarket and add everything up, I know exactly what I’m spending,” she says, scolding 35-year-old Joseph for buying unnecessary cake bars.

“If something is twice the price it normally is, I’m not buying it. Meals depend on what food is on offer.”

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On Sunday, she works at a chocolate shop in Keswick. Working in the week isn’t possible as childcare is too costly.

Joseph is on daddy day care. “It’s hard because Dad just can’t handle us all by himself can he!” says McKenzie.

Each £95 shift Nicole earns goes in the present kitty – they spend £100 on birthdays and she does all the baking.

Family days out are rare, but Nicole prides herself on being able to budget with next to nothing.

Nicole says: “We embrace everything – the mess, fun, laughter, crying, arguing, I’d never change it.”

The Seymours: Power couple admit a large wallet is help

Nine children

Weekly shop: No limit!

The Seymour Family celebrate Oliver's 19th birthday
The Seymour Family celebrate Oliver’s 19th birthday

A barbecue at the Seymour house includes around 30 sausages and a couple of dozen burgers.

Layden and Fran Seymour live in a lavish home in Suffolk with their nine children – Taylor, 21, Oliver, 19, Morgan, 17, Ashton, 15, Jenson, 13, Tristan, 11, Gemma, nine, Xavier, five, and three-year-old Radley.

The “power couple” set up a string of businesses, including a soft play centre and a planned boutique B&B pub, and don’t spend too much time counting the pennies.

Layden, 50, who has a Rolex collection worth £70,000, says: “We work hard to give our children some luxuries in life. We are not ones to analyse what we need, but it’s a phenomenal amount of money, so I prefer not to think about it.”

Mum Frances and Dad Layden with their nine children
Mum Frances and Dad Layden with their nine children

They have spent £30,000 on tech for the family, and Oliver shows off his sneaker collection, including a £450 pair he’s worn once or twice. “Currently I think I’ve got more cars than children,” says Layden.

Fran, 48, spends £800 buying all the school uniforms.

“When you have a big family, you have to have a big wallet,” says Layden.

But it hasn’t always been easy for the family, who fell on hard times and were forced to live in a friend’s caravan.

“We couldn’t afford to feed all of us, so Fran and I went without,” says Layden. They opened the play centre business leaving pennies in their account, but it changed their luck. For Fran’s birthday, after she’s done five washes and three dishwasher loads before lunch, Layden splurges £2,300 on a helicopter ride and a couple’s massage.

Pictured: The Seymour Family from Suffolk: Mum Frances and Dad Layden with their nine children
Luckily the Seymour parents have a big wallet

Taylor, left to babysit her siblings, says: “If I had to do this every day I’d be exhausted. I can appreciate why they need a break.”

But Fran says without a big family, they’d be bored. “Bigger is better,” she says.

Layden adds: “To be a dad and to see my children follow their dreams, it’s the best thing in life.”

The Sullivans: We need our own cow the milk we use

11 children

Weekly shop: £300

Zoe and Ben Sullivan with their 11 children, including two sets of twins
Zoe and Ben Sullivan with their 11 children, including two sets of twins

In the Sullivan household, the alarm goes off at 5am and Ben and Zoe begin their non-stop routine of breakfast-making, teeth-brushing and getting their children dressed.

“You have to literally be on it from the minute you open your eyes,” says Ben. By 7.30am, Ben heads off to work as an RAF aircraft engineer, while Zoe makes sure Elizabeth, 15, Olivia, 13, twins Isabelle and Charlotte, 12, Noah, 10, Eva, eight and twins Leah and Erin, four, all get to school and nursery.

Then she heads home to look after three-year-old Agnes May and Joseph, two – and to clean up their house with one bathroom.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision to have this many children, we just did,” says 45-year-old Ben.

The Sullivan Family at their home in Lossiemouth in Scotland
The Sullivan Family at their home in Lossiemouth in Scotland

The couple and their 11 children live in Lossiemouth, Scotland. “Life in a big family is fun, but pretty crazy and noisy,” says Eva.

Charlotte agrees: “It’s never too quiet. That’s a bad thing if it’s quiet, it means one of the little ones has escaped or something.”

With an income of around £600 a week, they spend £300 a week on food.

“It’s like a Travelodge,” says Ben, glancing at 15 boxes of cereal. “The milk we get through, we need our own cow!” says 42-year-old Zoe.

She adds: “There are things that we don’t do. We don’t really have holidays.”

The couple save all year for Christmas, budgeting for £3,000 (three times the average family spend). “Seeing their faces is magical,” says Zoe, who would like another baby.

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