During the school year mornings can get a little hectic around here – especially when you consider I have three kids to get up and going at three different times to go to three different schools. All three kids pack lunch thanks to the sub-standard lunch options we have in the public schools, and they all need a good breakfast too. Then in the afternoon it’s three different pickup times and three different sports schedules plus homework and dinner times to manage. So, how do I save time, money and sanity during the week? A little planning and prep go a long way!
1. Have a plan
Each Sunday I take about 15 minutes or so to plan out the week, taking into consideration sports practices and other commitments. Then I plan our menu for the week. This year I am adding breakfast and lunch to the menu to help streamline things even more around here. You can check out all my weekly menu plans from weeks past or stop back in each Monday for a new one. Need more inspiration? Laura at OrgJunkie hosts Menu Plan Monday and there are literally hundreds of menus posted each week.
2. Create a lunch packing station
Lunches come together a lot quicker if you are not running from one end of the kitchen to the pantry and back every time you turn around. Set up one area of the kitchen or the pantry where you keep everything you need for packing lunches – from lunch boxes, lunch bags, ziploc baggies, plastic forks, napkins, little containers, to anything else you may need. Same goes with the refrigerator and freezer – dedicate a shelf for the things you need most often. This will also make it easier for the kids to assemble their own lunches when needs be. I’ll be working on getting my stations set up between now and Tuesday since the kids go back to school on Wednesday.
3. Make waffles, pancakes and/or muffins ahead of time and freeze
Buying pre-packaged breakfast items like frozen waffles, pancakes and the like can add up quickly plus they are usually highly processed. You can save a lot of money and offer your family better choices if you make these staples yourself, but who has time? You do. Make a whole batch on the weekend or during the week when you have time and freeze the rest. Karen showed us last week how to make your own muffin mix in bulk from scratch or visit GoodLife (eats) for more on making waffles, pancakes and such ahead of time. Did you know you can even make PB& J ahead of time and freeze it, too? My friend Amanda will show you how to make and freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
4. Cut up fruit and veggies in advance for breakfasts, lunches and snacks
When you get back from the grocery store take a few minutes to cut up fresh veggies and fruits and store them in airtight containers in the fridge. Not only does it save money this way, but you and the kids are more likely to grab for that healthy snack if it is ready to go and looking pretty for you!
How much sense does it make for you and two of your neighbors to all show up at the school for after sports pickups at the same time? None. Get to know the other families in your children’s activities and when possible set up carpools! It will save you time, money and wear and tear on your car, plus my kids are always more excited about going to practice when they know there is some social time involved.
So there you have it – my 5 go-to strategies for a smooth running week (plus a sense of humor when my best laid plans don’t work). What are your strategies for saving time, money and/or sanity once the school year schedule kicks in?