I’m a mum-of-13 – shoppers accuse me of selfishness when I clear the shelves & why I’d NEVER go on benefits | The Sun
UNIMPRESSED shoppers gawp at Tracy Lewis as she piles her supermarket trolley high with discounted products, including 50 toilet rolls, 70 loaves of bread, 30 bottles of shampoo and 12 boxes of tampons.
But the 58-year-old, from Poole, Dorset, isn’t a Doomsday stockpiler or bargain-mad shelf sweeper, she’s just a normal, working mum doing her weekly food shop.
“People always stare at me when I’m filling my trolley and I’ve even been trolled for snapping up reduced items,” Tracy said. “But they’re stunned when I explain why.”
Tracy is the matriarch of one of the UK’s biggest families.
The admin receptionist and her husband Pete, 63, are proud parents to 13 children: Carly who is 40 in July, Tracy Junior, 38, Samantha, 37, Charles, 36, Lyndsay, 35, Danielle, 33, Chantelle, 32, Charlotte, 30, Georgia, 29, Candice, 27, Shannon, 24, Shaznay, 22, and 19-year-old Portia.
The Lewis family has now given an exclusive insight into the lives of their mega brood for My Supersize Family, an exclusive new Fabulous series.
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“I just have a lot of kids!” laughs Tracy. “When I tell shoppers my overflowing trolley will only last us a month, their eyes widen.”
According to the Office of National Statistics, Tracy and Pete’s big brood is a rarity in Britain. Figures released in 2021 revealed there are 3.46 million families with one child, 3.45 million families with two children and 1.24 million families with three children or more.
That number plummets to just 5,800 families with eight children or more just like the Lewis clan.
Tracy came from a family of seven children and Pete was one of four. They had originally planned to have just four kids but, after welcoming their only son Charles in 1987, Tracy admits she was still broody.
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“I loved being pregnant, giving birth and being a mum,” she said. “We decided to have a couple more children and our family just kept growing after that.”
Tracy, who married Pete in December 1983, has faced a lot of prejudice for her big family, with bullies mistakenly assuming she’s a “single mum on benefits” or has a “different dad for each child”.
“They couldn’t be more wrong,” she said. “It’s super saving and hard work that pays our bills. I always set the record straight. I feel sorry for people who judge or tut at me for simply doing my shopping. I am not ashamed of having a marvellous mega family.”
Tracy and Pete, who met in a nightclub in Bournemouth in 1981, have never relied on government handouts. The family live in a four bedroom detached house in Poole. The kids all shared bedrooms when they all lived at home, and the youngest two slept in their parents’ room.
When I tell shoppers my overflowing trolley will only last us a month, their eyes widen
Pete works as a coach builder and Tracy often juggled numerous jobs at a time, including working in a supermarket, a pharmacy and a car dealership, to make ends meet.
“I always went back to work four months after having each of my 13 children,” she said.
Tracy hits Sainsbury’s, Tesco or a local cash and carry every Saturday morning and is an expert at spotting the best deals.
She has dubbed her method the ‘Lewis Logic’, which includes sticking to a strict weekly budget of £200, bulk buying, using meal planners and shopping around for the best bargains.
“When the children were all still at home we survived on £25,000 and that included paying the mortgage, paying all the bills and ensuring the children had a new blazer and uniform when they started secondary school,” she said.
In order to feed their brood, every week the Lewis’ snap up a 50lb sack of potatoes from a local farm shop, 11lb bag of carrots, six cabbages, one large sack of onions and four bags of ‘wonky’ vegetables to bulk out their staple meals, including stews, shepherd’s pies and pasta dishes.
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Tracy also buys 240 packets of crisps and 100 chocolate bars every week as treats for her kids. The milkman also delivers her eight packets of broken biscuits from a nearby factory, which costs just £2. “There’s nothing wrong with them, they're just rejected because they are not perfect for packaging,” she said.
From the local farm shop, Pete also picks up four trays of 80 eggs for just £1 each, plus all the family meat. “We go through seven kilos of mince, five kilos of stewing steak and at least six large chickens a week,” he said. “We bulk buy the meat and usually pay about £1.50 a pound for the mince.”
But their thrifty ways go beyond the food. Pete has a genius solution to keep the family phone bill down. “I bought a pay phone from Argos for £75 and the kids have to use their own money for each call. It was a great way to ensure we didn't go over budget,” he said.
Pete also put a lock on the snack cupboard to ensure all the treats aren’t gorged in one day. “It’s the ultimate way to keep portion sizes perfect and save money,” he said. “I lock up the treats and hand them out in person.”
Tracy and Pete keep childcare costs down by signing their kids up to a range of afterschool sports clubs, including netball, football, Brownies and Cubs. “The group activities were cheaper than childcare and the kids got fit and learnt new skills,” Tracy said.
Tracy has two industrial washing machines and dryers and does at least six loads a day. “I fold and iron everything. It’s bonkers. I often fall asleep leaning on the ironing board,” she revealed. “Powdered laundry detergent is the cheapest and gets the best results. I’ve banned pods and laundry liquid because they are too costly.”
As for trolls who want to think the worst, we don't care. Our family is brilliant
The Lewis family also get through 50 toilet rolls a week, at least a dozen boxes of tissues and 24 packets of make-up remover wipes. The family also chooses bars of soap over bottled shower gel because they last “five to six times longer”.
DIY-fan Pete also found a clever way to stop his 12 daughters losing their hairbrush. “I tied one to a piece of string and attached it to the hall mirror. Now they always have one to hand!”
The pair have passed their savvy saving ways to eldest daughter Tracy, who is a proud mum to nine children: Shaznay, 18, Chantelle, 16, Candice, 14, Warren, 12, Reece, 11, Callum, eight, Ellie, six, Riley, two, and 14-month-old Kye.
“Not only did she have a big family like me but she inherited my love of money saving tips,” Tracy said. “I taught her all our big family budgeting beliefs.”
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Tracy and Pete are proud of their family and ignore any criticism.
“When people say they can’t get by with one child on £50,000 or more a year we just smile. We did it with 13 kids and half that budget. As for trolls who want to think the worst, we don't care. Our family is brilliant.
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