Britain’s Biggest Families: 31 Kids and Counting the Pennies Part 2: Sullivan Family

Below I’ll be examining the Sullivan 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.

The Sullivan Family

The second family we are introduced to are Zoe and Ben Sullivan. They are in their forties living in Moray Scotland with their 11 children. It is the Hann family who are currently Scotland’s largest family however, with 13 children.

Also they are not to be confused with The Sullivan family from 16 kids and counting – Mike and Tania.

Sullivan Family Ben and Zoe

About the Sullivan Family

Ben is one of 5 children and always knew he’d have a large family. Zoe says she’d fit more in easy (to the house)! Ben says you’d have 20 in here, to be honest. Says there’s space in their room!

The pair say that they didn’t consciously decide to have a lot of children – they just did. “We never said stop,” they tell us.

Sullivan Children

There is Elisabeth 15, Olivia 13, Twins Isabella and Charlotte 12, Noah 10, Eva 8, Toby 7, Twins Leah and Erin 4, Agnes May 3 and Joseph aged 2. Although it appears some of these children have had birthdays since this was created!

The Sullivan Family

The Sullivan Family Finances

To be fair we do get a little insight into the “Counting the Pennies” side with the Sullivan family as they tell us over and over how they stick to budgets and plan things.  Zoe is a former accountant and she balances the books. With a hand written ledger tracking every penny they spend.

Ben is an RAF craft engineer and there are lots of references to it in the voice-overs terminology. He has an average weekly income of £600 a week (31,200 a year) but with higher outgoings.

The Sullivan Family Food Shopping

Zoe says that shopping is their biggest expenditure. Stating that they spend over £1,000 a month. But Ben says it’s over £300 a week. They get through a lot of milk. They have a huge range of cereals for the children to pick from for breakfast – but the children are fussy and say they don’t like any.

large family breakfast

The Sullivan Family Daytrip

The Sullivan family don’t waste money but they also do not let the kids go without. They got rid of their two seven seater cars, say that they (the parents) don’t go out together, and don’t have holidays: Although they would like to.

Instead of a holidays they saved up for 3 months for a super-sized day trip to a local wildlife park. They only do them on special occasions because it is quite expensive. Ben tells us that it can be anything up to £80-100 extra on food, fuel, tickets for the park – which will probably cost up to £200. That the day out is likely to cost £600.

Charlotte, aged 12, tells us that don’t have enough seats in the car to just go and drive to days out. For this trip Ben had hired a 12 seater minibus and they prepared as much as they could the night before, including getting all the car seats in ready.

Zoe says that she thinks that it means that little bit more to them because they don’t do it that often.

Middle Piccadilly Spa Retreat

Money and the family day out

When they arrive they have early lunch. “It’s always cheaper for us and easier for us to get a picnic cos we can just get it as soon as we get there and they can eat.”

Ben tells us, “It’s cost a lot of money today but if that was our constant barrier, we’d never do anything”.

Sullivan Family Christmas

Christmas is the biggest time of year. With months of careful planning as soon as the summer holidays are over. Wrapping for two weeks.  About 300 presents to unwrap. It’s the time when everyone is at home.

Ben says that they “don’t want the kids to feel that they have had to dip out because we have so many kids. And that’s really important to us. They are part of a large family, we can afford to have that large family. And we don’t want them to miss out”.

Christmas tree and presents wrapped up

Zoe says, “We budget probably about £3,000 maybe for Christmas.” The children have a limit of £225. With Ben saying that, “The worst thing to happen for us to get a loan out to cover Christmas so we try and be as savvy as we can, really.” Zoe adds, “We’ll spend sort of £400-500, Christmas food.”

Things We Discovered about the Sullivan Family

Things I noted were that the babies appear to be bottle fed. I do find this interesting as a lot of the big families I know have breastfed. It is, in my opinion, easier as well as cheaper. This is not a judgement, just as I say, something I find interesting.

The Sullivan Family School Run

Ben helps until the school run and then goes to work.

One of the older girls tell us that “The mornings in our house are crazy because we are all trying to get ready at the same time. Trying to get in the bathroom cos we only have one bathroom.”

That before the children go to school they are on tech, ask Ben tells them they have to get off now. The older girls are out by half past eight. There’s only two left at home who aren’t at school or nursery.

My opinion is it didn’t look very crazy! It looked calm and organised. Ben says one of the children is hiding (in sight) but he’s very calm. He seems very chilled and a really good dad. He always seems to be talking to the children, as well as helping to take care of them. We also later see him reading to a group of the children. It is nice to see that although he works he is also very hands on with the children.

The Children’s Thoughts

Eva said, life in a big family is fun, but pretty crazy and pretty noisy. Charlotte said – It’s never, like too quiet in the house because that’s a bad thing if it’s quiet. That means one of the little ones have escaped or something. They tell us that “Agnes is a runner. You have to keep your eye on her.”

Zoe Sullivan

The voice over says that after the school run mum Zoe’s day is just getting started – like she hasn’t been doing stuff all morning! Note she clearly has! Zoe says she’s always tidying up with at least 3 or 4 loads of washing a day. Ben talks about how Zoe put some expensive school jumpers on the wrong wash. It is clearly a very loving way he gently mocks her.

Zoe Sullivan - 31 kids and Counting the Pennies

Sullivan Family Socials

We are told that Ben has his own TikTok.

I don’t use that but you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (Ben) , (Zoe) and YouTube.

Photos of the Sullivan Family are copyright of The Sullivan Family and are used with permission.

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