A Trip to the Store!

Today we made a trip to that really big nationwide discount department store. That normally would be no big deal and is something that houseparents all over the country do on a regular basis; however we decided to take all the children with us while we did our shopping. The children in our cottage range in age from 4 to 11 so you can only imagine what it was like with their whole focus on trying to get us to buy stuff they wanted and visit the departments they find most enjoyable.

Thinking back to my early days of houseparenting is wasn’t any more fun to do the trip with teenagers. I remember walking into the store with our kids and the first words you hear over the PA system is something like, “All departments on zone defense” which meant, “Here come the group home kids, make sure they don’t shoplift.” The easy thing to do would be to just leave the kids at home with your spouse and avoid all the hassles of taking them to a public place. That is the choice we usually make, but I have to ask, “If you never take your kids out into public, how will they ever learn how to behave in public?”

Our kids weren’t perfect but they are one step closer to knowing that you can go to the store without getting everything you ask for, that you are expected to behave in public places, and that things don’t just come from the kitchen or supply room. In a few weeks we will recover from this trip and do it again so that they can learn even more.

We should all remember that the easiest way of doing things isn’t always the best way, especially when it deprives the children in our care an opportunity to learn.


That is awesome advice! The easy way is not always the best way.

Here is a little praise report about the whole grocery shopping with kids thing…

We have six teenage girls in our home. My husband and I do all the shopping for the facility we work at (there are only two bunkhouses to shop for right now though). We usually shop during the school day. Well, since school has been out, we have been taking the girls shopping with us every week.

The first week – nightmare!! Two girls got into a LOUD argument with each other, one girl was lost for a while, two girls run down the aisles screaming “mommy, daddy”, and one girl is found laying on her stomach on the ground trying to find spare change under the coke machines!!!! My husband was mortified – vowed to never step foot into Walmart with this group of Neanderthals again.

Well, he did not stick to his promise and we returned the next week. We wore bags over our heads so that we could not be recognized – but things went much better this go round.

In the following weeks, we began to divide the shopping list. Each girl is assigned a shopping partner, and they are given a portion of the list. The girls go and get the assigned items, and then we meet back at the front. I check their carts and we check out. Throughout the experience, we all communicate with walkie talkies.

I now love to shop with the girls. They make things sooo much easier on us. Sometimes, my husband and I will even sit in the snack bar for a “Walmart date” while the girls do the shopping! I am sad that school has started and we will have to go back to shopping without them.

Moral of the story – don’t take the easy way out with your kids. Put in the time and effort up front, then sit back and reap the rewards!!

What time is it?

We have a 9 yr old boy who – after asking what time it was – went to the Walmart Jewelry Dept and started looking at all the watches. After spending quite a bit of time looking for a watch, my wife asked him what exactly he was looking for. He said he wanted to buy one with the correct time on it.

Operating Budget


My husband and I will be starting a new HP position in January. We will be given a monthly operating budget. Does anyone else receive a monthly operating budget? How much do you receive, and do you feel that it is adequate for monthly purchases?  Do you find yourself spending your personal money to take care of household needs on a regular basis?



My wife and I receive 6 thousand a year, but our groceries, expendables, and office supplies come from their own separate budgets. Our house management budget does fairly well at six thousand, but our kids allowance comes out of it so there goes about half of it unless you have a lot of misbehaved children. From the three thousand we have left after allowance, we have to buy 13 girls birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and any other item we may want for our kids or home. You have to be fairly skilled to make it last but it’s not like you live off on nothing either.



We get a monthly budget. Our breakdown is as follows:

$300- Recreation

$120- Allowance ($20 per boy x six boys)

$800- Food Budget (Supplemented with food bank)

$180- Clothing ($30 per boy)



I’m just going in to our job so I’m not sure about exactly how much but so far I’ve been told 1,500 for food and household every two weeks. I’ll let you know when I get a better picture. But yes, we get lump sums as well.



We don’t have a household budget, most everything is provided through the central agency. Groceries, Supplies, Gasoline, allowances & Work Program Money, etc.

We don’t get anything for recreation that is budgeted. My cottage receives about $200 a year in designated money donated for recreation, other cottages receive much more. We also have enterprise projects where the cottages can grow and sell plants with the profits going into a recreation budget. We don’t participate in that because our children are too young and I don’t want to do all the work. Instead I have a payroll deduction that comes out of every check for our Fun Money Fund. Next year we will probably start growing plants to supplement our fund.

Items not provided by the central office are purchase through a purchase order system on a case by case basis. We do have a cottage checking account for purchasing clothing, school lunches, field trips, Church functions or anything else that the children do or wear. Clothing budgets for the children are based on age and range from $150-$500 a year.

As far as spending personal money on the children or the house, you don’t have to but WE DO, A LOT. I would guess that we spend about 10% of our salary on various things for the children or the house. We didn’t spend near that much early in our career, but for some things it just seems easier to pay for it than deal with the red tape to get it approved and it is nice to be able to eat out and go to a movie, the zoo, etc.

Hope this helps

More Food Service

We have a food service at our facility that prepares many of our meals. They are an outsourced food services management company and it just seems to me that our meals are very institutional. I would very much prefer purchasing my own groceries and doing my own cooking.

Does anybody else have food service and if you do what do you think of them? For those that don’t have it, what are your thoughts? Would you like it or not?

We have an on campus grocery store and we enjoy that, but next year we are going to an ordering system. I’m not sure which I prefer as I spent my first 12 years as a HP with an ordering system. Here, we will still have the option of ordering the food cooked or uncooked. That seems ok, but to me it’s all going to depend on that variety. With an ordering system, if there’s not a lot of variety you’re going to have that “institutional” feeling.

At my first HP job we had a central kitchen that made all meals. I certainly didn’t like that because you got what they made and could request no variety at all. More times than not the kids hated what was made no matter how hard you tried to teach them to appreciate it. I know I hope I never see that where I currently work. VARIETY is the name of the game in regard to working with kids and meal preparation.

We have to cook all meals by ourselves. We get some of our basic groceries from the commissary here on campus (meat and fresh fruit is not too good) and have a budget of $75 per month per child for groceries bought elsewhere. We have 11 kids, it gets hard sometimes. There is almost always someone who does not like something. Our kids range in age from 1 to 14, so factor that in. Things I never would have done before working as an HP (buying frozen lasagna instead of making it from scratch) I do quite often. Between 4H, sports, appointments, school, church, scouts, and then just being tired, it is hard to cook every meal. We get two days off a month, so we cook every day. We are trying to show a family model, so that is what we do. I get to plan my own menus, which I like. We have found that is the best time to get one on one time with a single child. One adult and one child prepare the meal for everyone else. We try and teach the older ones basic kitchen things, and just listen to what they want to talk about. The younger ones can help in some ways, and it is a way to just have quality time with them.
Since my husband and I alternate, our way works well for us. But there are days I could never cook again – especially like this past holiday break. We have to serve three meals and two snacks per day. I do try to do the Cook it once, serve it twice way – but that don’t always work.

My wife and I often wished we had had more control over what the kids ate. We did the cooking in our separate homes, but most of the food was donated so we didn’t get to select it. Several of the kids that were on behavior altering drugs probably could have done without them if we had been able to avoid certain food additives and dies.


Our youngest son was diagnosed ADHD. We put him on the fiengold diet and within three days we noted a marked difference. His grades went from C’s and D’s…..to A’s….and the school teachers couldn’t believe the difference in his social skills. After about a week…he told my wife…..”mama…..I didn’t realize how much I hurt.”

My husband and I are responsible for preparing dinner every night. During the school day, breakfast and lunch is provided by the school. Lunch is also served on Sunday after church. There are funds for an occasional pizza night or going out night. Sometimes restaurants are generous and donate meals. (Rarely though) I prefer cooking over prepared meals. There is room for variety.

At our facility, there is a set menu that consists of mostly frozen, prepared meals. (Lucky for me, my husband happens to be the person in charge of setting the menu!) There really aren’t too many options to put on the menu though. To add a little variety (and food with flavor and fresh ingredients), we just got an alternative option for Saturdays approved. Every Saturday, one girl gets to be in charge of making up dinner. The girls are really excited about this. Most of the girls have some old family recipes that they want to show off. (This coming Saturday we will be having lasagna pizza.) For the girls that don’t know any recipes, they are excited about using cook books and online recipes. Usually our food is pretty mundane, but hopefully this new idea will help to spice things up a little bit.

We’ve got a budget of $525/mo for our cottage of up to 8 kids plus the H/Ps. This is for consumables only. We have a commissary that supplies a lot of canned goods, hamburger, eggs, etc. plus an additional budget for “household items” such as toiletries, cleaners and paper goods. We cook all of our cottage meals ourselves and then turn in a menu history sheet every month for licensing purposes. I’m very blessed to have a wife that loves to cook and is GREAT at it!

We just moved to a new facility- Here they a cafeteria during the school day for breakfast and lunch. We prepare meals at night and on weekends.
We get a budget for food about $1000 a month. My wife does the shopping while I push the cart, otherwise it would be porter house steaks and grape soda every night.

Houseparent Expenses


Since housing, utilities & food are taken care of for houseparents, what is left to use the income on? I know there are things like personal hygiene, clothes, personal vehicle/gas expenses, etc. But, we have to take care of those now with the major expenses on the income we get now from my husband’s job (which seems to be about the same as allot of houseparenting positions). Are there any other expenses (major or minor)??? I want a good life for the house children, but I want to make sure my birth children have a good life also.


Well, you ask a good question and make me feel a little guilty for spending the kind of money that I do. My wife and I own a 2005 Chrysler Crossfire and a 1997 Chevy Blazer. Payments on those are very high (especially the Crossfire). Other places we spend money is on food. Yes, we can eat here but I am a very picky eater and my wife uses the Atkins diet so we end up buying our own groceries most of the time. (But we do eat with the kids!) I am talking about lunch (when kids are in school) or other times when the kids aren’t here, etc.

I also pay for high speed internet on my computer. I have to use satellite because the house we are in won’t carry the cable connection. It’s sickeningly expensive and I may drop it. I also have Direct TV hooked up in my apartment. We have a nice plasma TV and I want a high def signal with as many channels as I can get (especially sports).

When we are off duty we like to try and go OUT. Since we are so often shut up in this house or on this campus we have a strong desire to go somewhere and do something entertaining so we tend to spend a nice amount of cash on entertainment. This also happens on our vacations, we like to take NICE ones.

But, if you are disciplined, don’t need a new car, don’t need to buy your own food (especially this one!!!), and don’t need other “nice” things, you can save a TON of money, especially where I work. As for the kids in the house, we get a budget (on a credit/debit card) to take care of them with. I do spend small amounts of my personal money on them from time to time but it’s nothing much and certainly not enough to worry about.


My race is on rain delay so I will take time to answer this question now instead of later.

Besides our house that we keep, most of our other income goes to our children. School, clothing, orthodontic work, camp, birthdays, Christmas, etc. My 6th grade daughter wants to go to Norway as an exchange student when she is a Jr, so we are now saving for that.

We travel on vacation once a year, I have an old Pick-up and small fishing boat, a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan, a retirement account and a savings account. Compared to most of society we live a somewhat modest lifestyle

We do spend a good amount on the children in our cottage. I have a payroll deduction that goes into a special fund for cottage activities. I also spend close to $200 a month for cottage stuff like Lunchables for field trips, Gatorade for field days and sports events, as well as special groceries that we are unable to get from the food service people. We have some kids that really enjoy steak and shrimp; I can’t afford to take them out and the kitchen won’t provide it, so I buy the groceries and cook it at the cottage occasionally.

I will also spring for pizza every now and then and have been known to purchase a DVD or two a month for our cottage movie library.

The savings in being able to eat at the home, use their hot water and electricity, burn their gasoline, and washing with their shampoo, soap, laundry detergent and toothpaste makes a huge difference in what we are able to spend our salary on or not spend on and save. I don’t mind using the cheap stuff, but others do and will by their own stuff.

I have also known many houseparents that don’t pay anything out of their pockets for cottage expenses, which is their choice as well as houseparents that spend a bunch more than we do, you just have to make your choice.