Laundry and Cooking Tips for Large Families

Emunah/Faith has seven children. And she doesn’t know how mothers with 12 manage. She is looking for laundry and cooking tips:

Laundry (quantity)
Main meals (specifically prep and clean up)
They both take up a lot of my time for my family of 9, and my kids do help. I wonder how a family, with say 12, manages. (i.e. if I do about 12 – 15 loads a wk, do they do the same proportionately or do they wash less clothes? Do their kids wear shirts more then once etc.)

I happen to write an entire blog devoted to efficient cooking atCookingManager.Com. Here’s a sample:

Avoid the Emergency Run to the Store

Eleven Tips for Easy Kitchen Cleanup

And here are two relevant posts from A Mother in Israel:

What’s There to Eat: Saving Time in the Kitchen

Efficient Shabbat Preparations (contains many tips can be used during the week as well).

As for laundry, children have to get involved. Either make them responsible for their own clothes, or for sorting/washing/hanging the family’s laundry.

Readers, please share, whether you have a large family or not .


  1. Well, I don’t wash clothes unless they look or smell dirty. So uniform skirts only get worn 2-3 times. I hang the nicer clothes but I do dry the boys’ t-shirts and short and casual pants.

    I have a meal system that people laugh at, but it works for us. I have a schedule, so Sunday is usually Shabbos leftovers, Monday is always pasta, Tuesday is soup or occasionally meat, Wednesday is homemade pizza, Thursday is pasta again. I spend less time planning meals. Shopping is easier too.

    The children pack their own school lunches as soon as they are old enough.

    I work full time, so I prepare meals the night before (tiring but necessary). I let my non-Jewish babysitter do as much in the kitchen as she is allowed to. She cuts vegetables and fruits, and following a psak we got that a non-Jew can cook anything that is also consumed raw, we let her boil vegetables such as string beans and broccoli. We also got a psak that microwaving is not cooking, so that a non-Jew may prepare anything in the microwave, even if it involved preparing raw foods. (In practice, she doesn’t cook in the microwave).

    I’d guess that in Israel where Jewish help is more readily available, this is less of an issue.

    She also has plenty of time to fold laundry, which is a huge help. And though in the summer she works for slightly longer days, in the school year she’s only part-time: 4 hours a day. Of course, all the kids are now school age.

    That’s what I can think of for now.

  2. I follow the FlyLady method which I know that both you and Faith are familiar with.
    This helps me manage the laundry very well.
    Every morning I stuff the clothes in the machine, and in the evening too.
    I have a big worktop in my mirpeset (balcony) which has baskets on it for each child.
    when laundry is done, each item of clothing is out of the dryer and into the basket. (not folded, I never fold)
    I cannot do another load, until the dry washing is out of the dryer.
    Clothes only get sorted into the baskets, never piled up. If they were piled up, I would not be able to cope.

    All the same, laundry does take up a lot of my time, and I felt like I had a nice rest from it during the 9 days.
    It is my favorite chore.

    (we have 6 kids)

    Cooking, now in the holidays when 2 main meals a day are required, is more difficult, especially with one who thinks our food is not healthy, and wants to be on a diet the whole time.

  3. mominisrael says

    Tesyaa, I’m not laughing at your menu plan. Those who do are probably jealous because they have to think about it all the time.
    Keren, how do the empty baskets get back to the laundry area? I also like laundry, especially hanging it. Not putting it away.

  4. alpidarkomama says

    Laundry, ah laundry. It’s my new favorite not-time-consuming job. During the week as I have time I run the loads through, mostly on Friday. My laundry is in the garage, so I do have a bit of room. I have a basket for each person in the family, plus one for kitchen laundry, upstairs miscellaneous, and downstairs miscellaneous. I just sort it out as it comes out of the drier (I don’t fold, but I do turn it right side out). On Sunday each basket gets put away (I do toddler and 3-year-old’s; DH does his and mine; 4 and 6-year-olds do their own). I also buy NOTHING that needs special treatment. Only things that MUST be washed get washed. Many things get worn two or three times. If my shirt was clean, I’ll wear it again the next day, but then I never see the same people from day to day, except my family! Also, each person in our family has an 8-day wardrobe, plus a couple of extra yom tov/shabbos outfits. The laundry CAN’T build up. For our family of 6, I typically do 7 loads per week.

    The time it takes me:

    15 minutes gathering the laundry
    35 minutes loading the washing machine
    70 minutes sorting the dry clothes into baskets
    30 minutes putting away the clothes of 2 kids

    TOTAL of my time: 2-1/2 hours per week

  5. Hi Emuna,
    I have 5 children and I do not do 12-15 loads a week – about half that. In the summer – in winter it is more.
    My kids hang laundry. I give each kid a towel and they use it for at least a week. You can wear pants more than once (usually). I don’t wash sheets very often. I should point out that I have a 7 Kg washing machine and today you can buy 8 kg. I only do full loads, even if that means I am not rigorous about separating colors.

  6. I also have a basic menu plan by day. It moves a little here and there, often based on if one of the kids has meat for lunch, but otherwise it’s easier. This works for me because my husband and I don’t eat with my kids- I think he’d go crazy on the meal schedule. For us, I buy a lot of salad ingredients and we’ll throw something together with leftover Shabbos food or individual fish pieces from the freezer.

    Laundry- ugh. Don’t mind doing it or even folding it, but putting it away… So I give each kid a pile with their own clothes to put away. Taking care of their clothes, including putting away clean stuff and putting dirty things in the laundry baskets each has in their own room plus in the bathrooms, is how they earn their allowance.

    Like Ariela, sorting by color isn’t so important to me (we have sensitive skin in the family so we don’t bleach). Instead, I sort by what goes in the dryer and what doesn’t. I only dry underwear, socks, linens, etc., because I find that hanging the clothes to dry keeps them the same size for longer. Also, you don’t have to check for stains coming out of the washer, which the dryer would set- I can check as I pull it off the rack later. So this way, the hanging load is annoying but the dryer load goes straight from machine to machine by the armful.

  7. That’s a great menu plan-one less thing to think about…when I was raising my children I usually cooked all day on Sunday, at least as much as possible, and we had leftovers to start the busy week, baking was done, etc.

    I do a load of laundry every day. The dryer warms up the house, so depending on the outside tempature, drying early in the morning in the summer, and do laundry at night during the winter. Also, I put laundry baskets on a plastic shelf (from Walmart) next to the dryer to separate the clothes. I called the utility company and they told me that they don’t have a cheaper rate for off hours. I’ve heard that they do. Does anyone know?-conflicting information…

  8. i can’t believe no one has mentioned the best laundry advice: give it to your mother-in-law as often as possible.

    ok, this won’t go over as well with a family of 10 as it does with a family of 3. so i guess i don’t have any good advice, but reading some of the above comments reminds me that my gratitude for modern technology must include the washing machine.

  9. I only have 4 kids but I find that if I don’t cook or prep to cook dinner in the morning that my late afternoon and evening will be more stressful. I also have a few quick meals whose ingredients can easily be found at my house such as quesadillas (flour tortillas, shredded cheddar cheese, beans, frozen corn, jalapenos and onions) for those days when I can’t seem to get it together in the morning.

    As far as the laundry goes I have hampers in the kid’s rooms that I check before I put the clothes in the main hamper. I find a lot of things that are not really dirty and that this has seriously cut down on the amount of clothes we wash each week. My 13 year old has gotten much better about putting clean laundry in the hamper but my 9,7 and 4 year old still put a fair amount of clothes that don’t need to be washed in their hamper.

    • mominisrael says

      UWSM: Thanks for visiting and sharing your tips. I agree it’s good to prepare in advance and also have quicker options on hand.

  10. My wise advice, get the biggest machine possible. We have a 9 kilo machine and a 10 kilo dryer. It’s the best. It cuts back on the number of loads. I can’t even imagine what people with smaller machines and more kids do.

    • mominisrael says

      That can work as long as you can always keep it full. It’s also more efficient to put away more at once.

    • mominisrael says

      Since my machine is making strange noises today I have to think about the larger machine idea. How inconvenient would it be for me to do laundry less frequently? Would I need more clothes? I don’t have little kids anymore. But I will have two in the army within a few months. I wouldn’t get a bigger dryer as I hang most everything anyway.

  11. faith/emuna says

    thanks everyone.
    i also have baskets for each kid so do not deal with their laundry after it is sorted. laundry is also my prefered chore, which probably explains why i do too much of it. i saw this very clearly after the 9 days when i caught up very quickly, i think some of the kids wore their clothes more often b4 putting it into the laundry and i only did 100% full loads. im also probably too neurotic about seperating loads. in general, though, i find that the shirts need to be washed daily, the younger ones stain them and the older ones are active teenage boys..
    am in the only one who deals with lunch AND supper daily? pasta, omelletes, toasts are supper and lunch is bsari. i have bh become efficient about cooking for shabbat, but bsari lunch for 6-9 people about 4 days a wk is taking up too much of my time. moi i looked at your blog and somehow havent found what im looking for.
    and lion in israel – i dont think my mother in law has ever done my laundry and my mother hasnt in 20 yrs either. hope you appreciate her.

  12. my kids refuse to help with the laundry. Should I take away their privileges?

    My quick & easy dishes are chicken & rice (rice can be made in microwave or rice cooker with frozen veggies & spices thrown in), spaghetti and meatballs (add nothing except chopped onions to the meatballs themselves and use a pre-made sauce – I make it in the oven as that seems to avoid burning whereas it ALWAYS burns on the stovetop for me – might just be a karma thing though) eggs in some style with toast and some type of veggie. veggie burger on bread with ketchup and lettuce and tomato.

    For less healthy, there’s always frozen schnitzel or fish schnitzel and fries in the oven (serve with some kind of decent veggie to make it a little less guilt-inducing)

    for toddlers, cottage cheese with veggies to dip in it seems to go well.

    (I’m not saying anything here is particularly cheap, but everything has protein + carb/veggie and doesn’t require hours of prep.)

  13. mominisrael says

    Faith/Emuna: If you would email me a typical menu perhaps I could make some suggestions.
    Trilcat: Regarding kids helping with laundry, I was talking about large families, not your two who are under 3. Thanks for sharing the easy meal suggestions.

  14. I loved reading all your above ideas. I have six children and understand the endless amounts of cooking and laundry. I love learning from other moms and I always want to improve my home.

    I actually blogged about my laundry room and took pics to explain my system, if anyone is interested in dropping by. Since laundry is one of my favorite chores, I have something to say. I don’t blog recipes. Still seeking advice in that area. :0

    • mominisrael says

      Mindy, I looked at your laundry post. You are so organized that I imagine you are better in the kitchen then you let on.

      • mominisrael says

        And Trilcat–I stand corrected. Here’s an example of a mother with teens who does all the laundry by herself.

  15. faith/emuna says

    thanks for your offer, im waiting ‘lahzor lashigra’ b4 taking you up on it

  16. My laundry is the bane of my life, and I’ve had cereal for dinner twice this week, so I can only accept rather than offer advice right now! (I’m claiming 34 weeks pregnant as my excuse – I’m not always that bad) I did want to share a tip someone just gave me though, that I have yet to put into action. To assist other people, such as her cleaner, to sort her clean laundry, she puts a red dot on the label of her oldest child’s clothes. When she passes it onto her younger sister, she adds another dot, and so on down to number 5. Clothing is easily sorted by the number of dots on the label.