Frugal and Family Lessons from “Jon and Kate Plus 8”

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Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you have heard of the wonderful show on TLC called “Jon and Kate plus 8.” Well, I am a true fan…an uber-fan, if you will, and I realized while watching a recent marathon of their show, that I’ve learned quite a bit from them.

I’ve been following the Gosselin family since their first special, “Raising sextuplets, and twins” and instantly fell in love with them. I had just given birth to my own son, and couldn’t fathom how a mom and dad could take care of 8 children, let alone 6 of them being little babies. I just couldn’t get it, but I loved Kate for keeping it real and not holding the punches. As soon as I saw how young, yet organized and partially insane she was, I knew I had a kindred spirit located in western Pennsylvania. Here’s what I learned so far from the Gosselins:

1. Coupons are the way to go
In one episode, we got to see Kate take a trip to the market and explain to us how she is able to shop for her family of 10… and rainchecks! She also talked briefly about this thing called a “stockpile” which I had never heard of before. It was pretty quick, but they did show her lovely, organized pile of coupons and bundles of rainchecks and I was instantly in love. When she ended up getting all of her groceries for around 500 dollars, I was in shock. We were paying around that much for our little family of 3. That day I decided that I would “have what she’s having” and look into this coupon thing. The rest is 4 hats history….

2. Organic and frugal do mix
Jon and Kate decided when they had children, that they would do whatever they could to serve them as much all natural and organic foods that they could, whether it was within the budget or not. Kate even says that they sacrificed quite a bit within their household to be able to do this for their kids. “Its something they may not appreciate or thank us for, but its important to us as parents to provide this for them,” Kate says. I had been to the stores and seen the prices for organic items and I just didn’t see how she was able to do it, even though she said that money wasn’t an issue. It was becoming more and more important to me to include a good amount of organic, healthy, and all natural items into our menus but the unhealthy, cheap stuff was, well, cheap! Then, I befriended a wonderful lady named Elaine* and she showed me that organic can be budget friendly if you know how to cherry pick and pay attention. The more I looked, the more I started to see organic and all natural items on sale, on clearance, or even less money than their conventional counterparts(something I see a lot with organic produce). Kate (and Elaine*) opened my eyes to the possibility of providing my family with the best food possible without totally wrecking my budget.

3. Sometimes you just gotta yell
If you’ve seen at least one episode of the show, you know that Jon and Kate tend to do a lot of yelling at each other. It seems so unnecessary at first, but once you realize their situation, you can understand it. They are outnumbered, and most of the time, can’t seem to get their comments across the den of noise that is their 8 kids. Although I only have my one, sweet boy, he does have a boatload of loud, obnoxious, toys that he loves to turn on all at one time. Hence, Hubby and I sometimes have to yell to get our comments across too. It may not be the best thing to do, but its a lot quicker than going to turn off all of sonny Boy’s toys, AND THEN saying what needed to be said. Once the boy is old enough to understand that mommy and daddy only yell because of the amount of noise in the house, then I’ll sit down and explain that to him. Right now, he only cares about the wonder pets.

4.Hand me downs(and freebies) are gladly accepted!
With 8 kids, you have to expect parents to welcome any type of hand me down they can attain, and Jon and Kate are no exception. In one episode we see Cara, one of the twins, get very upset about a pair of shoes she didn’t want to wear. Kate explains that the twin girls, Cara and Maddie, never had any issues with their shoes or clothes until the sextuplets came along and they needed to stop buying new items for the oldest girls and depend on hand me downs from friends and family members. She also stated that it would be something they would have to “get through” because hand me downs would be a staple in their house for the next 18 years. I totally laughed at that since we were blessed with some hand me downs when our little boy was around 2 months. Around that same time, we hit a rough patch in our finances and would not have been able to afford to buy new clothes for Sonny every time we grew out of the old ones(which was often). Just recently I “freecycled” a good amount of the items that were handed down to us so another mom could benefit. Also, to this day, I never stick my nose up at hand me downs.

5. Know your role
When Kate decided to give up her career as a neo-natal nurse to be home full time with the kids, Jon said that it was a decision they discussed thoroughly and realized that it was the best choice for their family. They also had to change their roles in within the house. Because Kate would be working during the weekends, Jon was in charge of the kids and household duties. Once Kate became the full time mom, she had to take on her same responsibilities but do them 7 days a week. At the time that I started to watch the show, I was still working and never thought that I would ever be a stay at home mom. It just wasn’t in the cards for us. Or in the budget. But, God has a plan, and I just wasn’t aware of it. Once I was able to stay home, I really started to pay a bit more attention to the way Jon and Kate ran their household. Kate always has lists for everything…..who gets a bath when, whats for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, etc. She also has about 5 calenders with different dates and times for important appointments or anything she needed to remember. Also, Jon NEVER cooks. We’ve only seen him cook twice: for Mother’s Day and most recently, when he wanted to make a traditional Korean meal for the whole family. Cooking is Kate’s claim to fame in the house. Jon gets his own “honey-do” list as well, for things that can’t simply can’t do: putting together pieces of furniture, fixing an appliance, etc. Although I do make lists to the extent of Kate, the super mom, I do make them and follow them to a tee. This helps me manage my time wisely and lets me accomplish quite a bit during the day. Hubby gets a honey-do list as well, but like Jon, it takes him a while to actually do what I need done. They are both procrastinators…..and I’m so glad I’m not the only one with a Husband like that!

6. Take time for yourself!
This is the hardest thing for me to follow. Since Jon and Kate work so hard to provide for their families, they do take time out to pamper themselves or just spend time together. Most recently, they started to take dancing lessons together, but the biggest pampering gala I have seen on the show was when Kate surprised Jon with a trip to Key West for his 30th birthday! I know that Hubby and I do deserve a real break from it all sometimes, but its very hard for me to justify leaving our boy with someone while we take time for ourselves. A few years ago before Sonny’s first birthday, treated ourselves to a trip to Las Vegas. I felt so guilty the whole week away, that we haven’t taken a trip like that since. Now I can use Jon and Kate as an example that going away does help your family and furthermore, your marriage. I’m now trying to plan a trip to Puerto Rico for Hubby’s 30th birthday. Good thing I have a few years before then to get over the guilt!

7. Treats should be just that….treats!
One thing we don’t see much on “Jon and Kate plus 8” are junk foods, candies, cookies and all that other stuff. Oh no, they do treat the kids to these things, but in moderation. On a recent episode, Kate only had the 3 girls with her for the day, so she decided to treat them to some “monkey munch”( also know as muddy buddies). First off, I was tickled to see someone else make monkey munch…..I had made it as a kid a long time ago and every time I would mention it to someone, they would look at me like I had a third head. But the point is that it was a treat: the girls were so excited to be able to have some because, well, they don’t get things like those very often. Since Sonny Boy turned a year old, we have been following these same ideals. He hardly has treats from the store since I prefer to make them myself. He also hadn’t even tasted chocolate until recently(he didn’t even know what it really was until he was about 2 and a half). He sees fruit as a typical dessert and is pleasantly surprised when mama give him something out of the ordinary. I used to feel like I was really depriving him of the joys of a store bought cookie or candy bar but I am redeemed every time I take him to the doctor and they are amazed at how tall and healthy he is and how he had maintained the perfect weight for his age since he was a baby. I have cousins the same age as Sonny Boy who are fed whatever they can get at the corner store(cookies, candy bars, candy, soda) and weigh at least double Sonny Boy’s weight. The parents of these kids(my first cousins) continue to make fun of my son, saying that he’s too skinny while their own children are on the path to diabetes. Kate doesn’t falter, so I don’t falter.

8. save, Save, Save!
Since we started to see the Gosselin family, they have been saving for something. In the first special, they were saving up for another house. In the next special, they were saving up towards college tuition for their kids, and now in their series, they are house-hunting yet again. They also take the kids on wonderful day and overnight trips and yet continue to be able to function daily within their budget. How do they do it? Well, every once in a while, they are blessed with a free trip to speaking engagements or to be a popular talk show, but for the most part, they save up to do these things for their kids. It is our dream to provide a house of our own for our family within the next 2 years. I know that we can do it because, well, with 8 kids and living on one income, Jon and Kate have been able to do it. They keep me inspired to keep managing our funds properly and saving when it may hurt to do so. We will persevere!

9. Kids remember the little things…
Kate and Jon go out of their way to make little memories for their children. Letting them help pick out their “big kid” beds, helping Mom make snacks, and even playing a game of hide and seek or duck, duck goose. Kids remember those small things that you do, no matter what age. Now that Sonny is 3, I try to do some of those things that Kate and Jon do with their kids. I see quite a difference already in my boy: he’s so interested in everything I do and isn’t afraid to ask Mom what he wants. He helps me “cook” by pushing buttons on the blender or putting things back in the fridge. Daddy lets him help “make music” on the computer and even lets him listen to what they created together. He “helps” Mama clean by pushing the vacuum or wiping down the table after lunch and dinner. I see that these are things he now adores and those lovely trips to kiddie amusement parks or the aquarium seem to come and go. This not only is saving us money, but helping us bond as a family. And last but not least….

10. Love is Love, no matter how strange it may be
The Gosselins bicker, cry, yell and scream like any family of that size would but we also get to see how sweet and lovely they can be to one another. It may seem strange or totally peculiar when they fight and make up within 5 minutes, but that’s their family. Just like in our family, Hubby and I hardly fight and would rather laugh out our arguments. Its strange to our friends and family but that’s how we function. Its strange to part of my family that we base such an emphasis on organic items and are willing to sacrifice part of our food budget to buy those items. My parents don’t understand why we make a point of going to church as much as we can. My parents also don’t get why we take so many trips to Ohio to see Hubby’s family when we have family right here in New Jersey. And you know what? They don’t need to understand it. We get it and we love it. We, also, love each other. No matter how quirky we may be.

Never heard of them? Here are a few great videos:

Kate’s psychotic cleaning addiction (I can totally relate)
Gosselins at Hershey’s chocolate world
The potty training…dun dun dun!

*some names have been changed to protect the privacy of others

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 9.5.08
    Shelly said:

    I love that show!

  2. 9.5.08
    frugalsuz said:

    I love this show too! I wish they’d show her stockpile again and for more than just a second or two. I’m pretty sure I saw bath buddies in her stockpile. Maybe I should’ve sent my extras to her! lol

  3. 9.5.08
    Jmo said:

    First, I love, love, love the pic of Sonny Boy…too cool for sunlight! ROTFL. That’s my “nephew”. What a great entry of frugal and family lessons form the Plus 8 Family. I chose to cancel cable and how I miss their show (and Ellen). Thanks for giving some links at the end of your thoughts, Amiyrah. I feel the same way about a lot of what you wrote–especially how family or friends might think you’re different about stuff. And that it doesn’t matter, cuz you and your wanna-be Paul Bunyon get it. My late Sweet Baboo and me felt the same exact way. Really!
    All I can say is stick with that. We did things other parents thought we were crazy about (cloth diapers for both, extended breastfeeding, Waldorf early education, alternative homeopathic medicine care, no spanking but natural consequences, talking and communicating instead of
    Do what I say, ‘cuz I’m the ADULT scenario, heck, we even bought our Camry off Ebay!…and the list continues) And yes, include in that list paying more for natural and organic foods. Remember, just ‘cuz you may be different than the mainstream, doesn’t mean you are wrong.(Off soapbox now). And look how our little kiddos ended up and who they are and
    who they are becoming. (I sent you pics). That’s when you will know that all your dreams came true, and how you raised them worked. Remember Jenny’s comment last week now that she’s off to college in 2 weeks: “Mom, My REAL life is beginning now!” Here blue eyes were sparklin’ I tell ya!
    OK, yeah, I know I’ve taken up too much space. Wanna fight about it? LOL It’s up to YOU, to edit
    my way too-long comments. After all you have four hats and me has none…LOL

  4. 9.5.08
    Paige said:

    Love that show – I’m ready to be a SAHM, hubster and I are just trying to work through the details. It’s funny how there are lessons everywhere, sometimes you just have to look!

    Love your blog – I read it every few days. Keep writing!

  5. 9.5.08
    Amiyrah said:

    thanks for the comments ladies! I absolutely love this show and are sometimes surprised at how much its taught me. I even have Hubby sitting in to watch it. He loves the off-kilter things that Jon says because they are things that he says (or thinks) too lol.

    Jmo, thanks for the long a$$ post lol! I really do appreciate all you said. I’ve never been phased by being a “weird bird” but its nice to know that weird birds of a feather flock together, like you, me and the other ladies on “the pound”!

  6. 9.5.08
    Amiyrah said:

    thanks paige!

  7. 9.5.08
    Silli Jilli's Life said:

    Jon and Kate are my hero’s!!!!! I watch them as much as possible. With 4 kids/husband/house and now babysitting wonderful nephew it might not be as much. I’m still a bit unsure of natural/organic stuff but maybe I could try it and see. Who knows?

  8. 9.7.08
    Lisa said:

    I also watch the show. I dont always agree with how controlling Kate is though. I’ve not walked in her shoes (and dont care to) so I try to keep an open mind about her controlling nature.

    Have you read any of the other blogs reagarding the show?

    Check them out, you’ll be po’d.

  9. 9.8.08
    Amiyrah said:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. 9.8.08
    MyShelly said:

    I watch this show in amazement and laugh. I felt crazy half the time with 4 small ‘doorsteps’. My hats off to anybody who makes their situation work for them.

  11. 9.9.08
    VA MOM OF 3 said:

    I love “John & Kate”- so does my 11 year old DD! If you are like me, it makes you feel good to know that you aren’t the only parents about to come unglued somedays- and I only have 3 little people screaming “Mommy!” (DH helps out a lot, too…but somedays he qualifies as a kid, too!!!) LOL

  12. 9.10.08
    Joy of Frugal Living said:

    Thanks for sharing this! I don’t have cable, so it was fun to get to watch a little online.


  13. 9.13.08
    Ruby said:

    Great post. I have not watched the show but it sounds like you have learned a lot of great things.

  14. 9.15.08
    Anonymous said:

    I watch the show too, and enjoy it. But talking about frugality, IMO it is worth mentioning that the family is paid pretty well for having the cameras around filming them.

    Also, many of the activities (like the day trips, kids’ special days and vacations) we see on the show are paid for by the production company or donated by the place they visit since they get free publicity. And the organic meat they eat is donated by the farm, from what I’ve heard/read. And, they have a nanny provided for them when they take their time out, which many of us don’t!

    It’s JMO, but even though I love the show too I have heard other moms down on themselves because they can’t do for their 2-3 kids what this family does for 8…

    Sorry for the long post! Just had to play devil’s advocate a little there I guess!! 🙂

  15. 9.15.08
    Amiyrah said:


    yes, thank you for posting those other factors about the family. One thing to factor in though, is that they just recently(started last year) got the nannies. They were provided by Dr. Phil when Jon and Kate visited him on his show. Before that, they had help of family and friends.

    Also, of course they get monetary compensation for the show. It would be quite silly if they didn’t lol.