Mum-of-16 reveals how she budgets for groceries each week during the cost of living crisis

How Australia’s largest family budgets for groceries for 18 people each week amid rising cost of living – and her go-to pasta recipe that serves 28

  • Aussie mum-of 16 Jeni Bonell has shared exactly how she budgets for food 
  • Jeni keeps costs down by being clever with food and never wasting meals 
  • They have an average weekly grocery bill of $450 
  • It follows after she revealed how to make creamy chicken pasta for the family 

One of Australia’s largest families has shared exactly how they budget to keep their grocery bills down amid a rise in the cost of living

Jeni Bonell and her husband Ray, from Queensland, have a super-sized family consisting of 16 kids – nine sons and seven daughters aged between seven and 32. 

At the moment nine still live at home, and over the years Jeni has learnt a number of helpful ways to keep the costs down, including cooking in bulk, being clever with your meals and having no wastage.

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Jeni Bonell and her husband Ray, from Queensland, have a super-sized family consisting of nine sons and seven daughters, aged between seven and 32

Jeni Bonell and her husband Ray, from Queensland, have a super-sized family consisting of nine sons and seven daughters, aged between seven and 32

At the moment nine still live at home, and over the years Jeni has learnt a number of helpful ways to keep the costs down, including cooking in bulk, being clever with your meals and having no wastage

At the moment nine still live at home, and over the years Jeni has learnt a number of helpful ways to keep the costs down, including cooking in bulk, being clever with your meals and having no wastage

Whenever she budgets, Jeni always gets the kids involved to teach them about money and the spending process

Whenever she budgets, Jeni always gets the kids involved to teach them about money and the spending process

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

‘If you want to make a good budget, and a reasonable budget, you have to know exactly what’s coming in and exactly what you’re spending,’ Ms Bonell told 7NEWS. 

‘We use the same amount of meat for 11 people that a family of four might eat for themselves.’ 

Whenever she budgets, Jeni always gets the kids involved to teach them about money and the spending process. 

Jeni previously told FEMAIL she 'didn't plan' on having any children, but Ray (pictured, right) wanted between four or six kids

Jeni previously told FEMAIL she ‘didn’t plan’ on having any children, but Ray (pictured, right) wanted between four or six kids

How does the Bonell family budget?

Make lists for everything you need

Teach the kids how to spend money wisely

Don’t buy kids what they want, buy what they need

Ensure no food goes to waste 

Involve the kids in the budgeting process 

Be wise with your food and meal planning

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Jeni previously 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. 

They have an average weekly grocery bill of $450. 

Jeni also swears by making lists for everything you need and ensuring there's no food wastage

Jeni also swears by making lists for everything you need and ensuring there’s no food wastage

Last year Jeni shared her simple family recipe for creamy chicken pasta – and it is so easy the mum of 16 gets her kids to make it.

The Bonell family uploaded a video showing off how to make the creamy pasta dish on Youtube, with youngster Damian taking the lead.

The young boy was assisted by his older sister Sabrina – who helped remind him how to make the bulk pasta – which serves 28.

Jeni also swears by making lists for everything you need and ensuring there’s no food wastage. 

Last year Jeni revealed her simple family recipe for creamy chicken pasta - and it is so easy the mum of 16 gets her kids Sabrina and Damian to make it

Last year Jeni revealed her simple family recipe for creamy chicken pasta – and it is so easy the mum of 16 gets her kids Sabrina and Damian to make it

The pasta was served alongside some broccolini and crunchy bread

The pasta was served alongside some broccolini and crunchy bread

He starts by chopping the chives while his sister chops the chicken.

‘I am just cutting the chicken today, while the younger kids are just learning to cook the older ones will usually do the cutting,’ Sabrina says. 

Damian then takes control of the video and shows off the bowls of ingredients.

The recipe calls for a kilo of chicken, a kilo of bacon, three bags of pasta, 500 grams of mushrooms, two onions, 300 grams of cheese, a can of evaporated milk and a potato bake recipe base as well as garlic and chives from the family’s garden.

Damian smiles proudly at the camera as he cooks the evening meal for his huge family

Damian smiles proudly at the camera as he cooks the evening meal for his huge family

The youngster confidently stirs the chicken pieces in the frying pan

The youngster confidently stirs the chicken pieces in the frying pan

How can I make creamy chicken and bacon pasta for 28 people?

INGREDIENTS

 1kg chicken

1kg bacon

Three bags of pasta

500grams mushroom 

Chives 

 Two onions

300 grams of cheese (to serve)

 Evaporated milk

Potato bake recipe base

Garlic 

METHOD

Slice the chicken into strips, bacon into cubes and vegetables finely.

Place the pasta in a pot of boiling water.

Cook the chicken in a pan and then add the bacon and cook well.

Mix the evaporated milk into the potato bake recipe base.

Add the onions to the hot pan with the chicken and bacon.

Allow the onions to become soft and then add your mushrooms, garlic and chives.

After a few minutes stir in the sauce.

Mix through the cooked pasta and serve with cheese. 

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The meal was served with crispy bread and broccolini which added about .75c per serve to the total cost of the meal. 

‘We just use a potato bake recipe base, you can make your own for scratch but we use these for convenience.’

The kids then cook and drain the pasta before setting it aside.

They then add the evaporated milk to the potato bake mix before frying up the chicken pieces.

The kids love helping with dinner preparation with one of the younger kids often paired with an older sibling while mum supervises

The kids love helping with dinner preparation with one of the younger kids often paired with an older sibling while mum supervises 

What’s typically in the Bonell’s weekly shopping trolley?

  • 4kg potatoes
  • 2kg carrots
  • 2kg royal gala apples
  • 500g white cup mushrooms
  • 2 x bags of grapes
  • Thai-style salad kit
  • Crunchy noodle coleslaw kit
  • 400g of green beans
  • 1.5kg homebrand spaghetti
  • 700g homebrand pasta sauce
  • 3 x 12 white dinner rolls
  • 3 x cheese and back rolls 
  • 4 tins of corn kernels 
  • 2 tins of apricot nectar 
  • 500g homebrand peanut butter
  • Leg of ham under 1kg
  • 2 x 250g champagne leg ham
  • 2 x 80g roast beef
  • 10L of water
  • 4 x 700g homebrand bread slices
  • 24 rolls of toilet paper 
  • 18 hot dog rolls
  • Vegemite 280g 
  • 6 x bottles of 3L milk
  • 125g Salmon and lobster spread
  • 245g homebrand cream cheese
  • 250g homebrand mustard
  • 120g homebrand roast meat gravy
  • Nescafe instant cappuccino
  • Nescafe instant latte
  • 500g light tasty shredded cheese
  • 250g Mil Lel parmesan cheese
  • 2kg homebrand vanilla yoghurt
  • 600mL thickened cream
  • 3 x 12-pack Yoplait yoghurt
  • 12-pack Paul chocolate mousse
  • 6 x dozens of cage-free eggs
  • 3 x Ritz dips
  • 1kg short cut bacon
  • 4 x homebrand cereal
  • 2 x Uncle Tobys cereal
  • 3 x bottles homebrand lemonade
  • 24-pack Anzac biscuits 
  • 750mL homebrand canola oil
  • 400g homebrand canola oil spray
  • 4 x 1L Cottee’s cordial

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Once the chicken is cooked the tow cooks add bacon to the pan.

The onion is next to go in, followed by the mushrooms and chives.

Jeni, 51, can be heard in the background giving the young boy tips as he prepared the huge batch of pasta.

‘Always be aware the pan can be hot,’ Jeni Bonell said.

The meal fed 14 people - the pasta cost just $1.40 per serve, 75c per serve was added for the sides which consisted of broccolini and crunchy bread

The meal fed 14 people – the pasta cost just $1.40 per serve, 75c per serve was added for the sides which consisted of broccolini and crunchy bread

The sauce is then added to the mix. Once this was cooked through they added the pasta and the dish was ready to be served with a sprinkle of cheese, some crusty bread and steamed broccolini.

The meal served 14 on the night with the other 14 serves put in the fridge for later.

And the family said the meal is easily cut down if you don’t need to serve so many portions and can also be frozen and reheated in a microwave.

To find out more about the Bonell family, you can follow them on Facebook here 

How much does it cost to feed a family of 18? 

The ‘weekly shop’ usually comes in at about $450, but this doesn’t include mid-week top ups or take away meals.

In one of her mid-week shops, she picked up six bottles of 3L milk, three loaves of sliced bread and an array of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The haul included 2kg carrots, four punnets of strawberries, two punnets of blueberries, 1kg grapes, 400g of cherries, 600g of grape tomatoes, 4kg potatoes, two salad kits, a punnet of peaches and a bag of apricots.

‘When you just need milk, bread and some fruit and vegetables,’ Jeni wrote on Facebook, alongside a huge grocery haul of her ‘quick shop’.

Her grocery bill came to an estimate total of $132.67. 

A Friday night takeaway order  can set the family back over $131.

Recently they took home four large family bundle meals from Hungry Jacks.

This included eight beef flame-grilled Whoppers, eight cheeseburgers, 40 chicken nuggets, 16 fries and 16 soft drinks – and cost $131.80.  

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