Below I’ll be examining the Sutton Family on the TV Show Britain’s Biggest Families: 31 Kids and Counting the Pennies Shown on ITV at 9pm Thursday 13th May 2021. all quotes mentioned below are as mentioned in the series on ITV should you wish to watch this yourself. All non-specific opinions given are my own.
As a family of six myself I have always been interested in documentaries about large families since 15 Kids and Counting nine years ago, to see if I can learn anything useful. Very little help is given to us, the audience, of how we can help count the pennies too. I watched this to see if it was any different.
Britain’s Biggest Families in the Pandemic
This ITV documentary is about three unrelated “super-sized” families whose children add up to 32 – despite the title! Their journeys were followed over a year, which also covered the time of the pandemic.
The programme begins by saying how due to the last year we have spent more time as a family. With many of us now feeling the pinch financially. How it is harder when you have a lot more than 2.4 children. Just like the Channel 4 Kids and Counting documentaries the voice-over refers to the children as “Broods.”
Britain’s Biggest Families some Statistics
We are told that Britain is home to around 290 super-sized families; more than anywhere else in Europe. We aren’t told how many children make your family considered super-sized to be in this statistic. A quick Google tells me that families with four or more children are considered large.
We are given some stats on the average British family for comparison:
- Apparently the average British family spends £80 weekly on food.
- From birth to 18 in the UK it costs on average £150K per child.
- The average British family spends £1,000 on Christmas.
The Sutton Family
First we are introduced to the Sutton Family who live in Cumbria. Nicole Sutton (30) and Joseph Sutton (35), who are parents to 12 children.
Although we aren’t initially aware of Hallie’s existence. The voice-over explains the size of their family by saying that they “already have a family the size of a football team to feed.” Nicole says, “We’ve got kids between nine months up to 14 years. Three boys, horrendous boys, and the rest are girls.”
The Sutton Family Children
Rhiannon 14, Lacey 12, Mackenzie 11, Skylar age 9, Henley age 7, twins Cobi and Parker, aged 6, Hadley, four, River, aged three, Ocean 2, Hallie Rose (born sleeping) and Navy aged 6 months.
Hallie Rose Sutton
It is only later in the show that we are aware of Hallie Rose, who was born sleeping on 24th January 2019, when they visit her grave. I want to include her early on as “She is very much part of the family.”
Nicole explains, “I think it’s important for the kids to know that she was here even for the short time that she was. Obviously, if your mum’s pregnant and doesn’t bring a baby home, you need to explain what’s going on, you can’t just erase it.” Adding that, she’s included in everything and gets a birthday cake every year. She’s incorporated in.
Sutton Family Finances
Joseph is a coach driver with income around £400 a week (£20,800). But it is repeatedly said that he earns it she spends it. Joseph works 5 days a week.
Nicole works every Sunday in a chocolate shop. With every £95 shift going towards the present kitty. It’s not worth her working any extra because of the childcare costs. She enjoys the time off from the kids. Joseph can’t remember the names and ages of his children and struggles to look after them whist Nicola works – but this saves £80 in childcare.
Nicole keeps a very tight grip on the purse strings. If Joseph spends something that Nicole feels they didn’t need she is on at him. The Suttons make every penny count. They live from month to month, so there are times when they are skint skint. Nicole says, “I can budget with next to nothing.” It is repeated a lot. She says it is just how it is.
Keeping the Food Shop Down
The Suttons have a food shop delivered spent £180, and Nicola says that it will last at least a week. The food is the biggest spend in their house. Nicole says it’s not a restaurant, “that’s what you’re getting and that’s what you’re eating.”
She is proud that she gets her food shopping spending down to a fine art. She gets it down to one to two hundred a week, but she can do it cheaper. She can feed everyone on £80. Nicole adds up the cost as she goes round and will not buy things if they are twice the price that they normally are.
Shown ordering the food shop on an app Nicole explains that she usually starts with crisps. That is the main thing that goes in their house. That she looks for what is on offer. The same then applies to meat – and meal plans around what is on offer.
Sutton Family Special Occasions
Nicole says that she had a shit childhood so makes her kids her number one priority. She tries to do the opposite of what she got. She says she’s like a big kid. She loves getting among it all. That she just wants them to have a happy childhood and be able to come to their parents if they need anything. That the more children they have the more fun it is.
We see the Sutton family celebrating both Halloween and a 9th birthday in October 2020. They go in the family 14-seater minibus to a pumpkin patch. Nicole gets the children to carry their own pumpkins. Spending just £1 a pumpkin.
When it comes to birthdays they spend about £100 each. Nicole says that sometimes they will go under especially for the little ones, “I’m not gonna waste money for no reason. They don’t need it. Pointless wasting it. The older ones sometimes go over.”
The Sutton Family’s thoughts on a Big Family
Nicole said, “I don’t think there’s any cons to a big family. Having a family of two is amazing but we’ve just got that ten times over.” That, “The mess, the fun, the crying – we just embrace it”. That she was “going to stop when I got an ugly one” – obviously they are all beautiful.
Mackenzie tell us, “I think that big families are a lot more fun than little families.” Also Skylar said, “It’s crazy, it’s loud and it’s fun.”
I don’t have permission to use photos of the Sutton Family so have used my own and those from Unsplash.com