Preparation is everything. In fact, I save time, money, and excuses by being as prepared as possible every day.
I prep everything from laundry to dishes to dinner. Everyone has their own way to prepare for what is coming their way, but I believe one of the best ways is a list. The old-fashioned note pad and pencil kind of lists. Tangible, where I can stick it on the fridge or leave it out on the desk so I don’t forget it. Apps on the phone are good, but once you close it, you can forget what you made the list for in the first place. In nearly 18 years of marriage and managing the lives of two working parents and four kids–including two teenagers–lists of every kind have kept us organized, on budget, on time–and sane. Here are the top 5 ways to prepare your lists and make every minute of your day count.
1. MAKE LISTS. What do you need to do? Write it down. I have a calendar. I have a menu planner. I have a shopping list. I have a budget tracker. I have a honey-do list (don’t freak out, hubby and I share this list). I actually keep a notepad in my desk for potential vacation dates. (You have to have something to look forward to, right?) By making lists, you know exactly what you need, when you need it, and it helps with mommy-brain. It cuts down on your excuses and makes you feel more productive. (Chore lists help with the kids, too!) The trick to so many lists is to THROW IT OUT as soon as you are done with it. Clutter is a nightmare and if you don’t need it, out it goes. If you need help finding or planning lists, Pinterest is a great resource.
2. PLAN YOUR MENU. Menu planning can save you money, time, and those annoying “What’s for dinners” as soon as the kids get home from school. Plan your menus based on seasonal selections. We eat a ton of salad in the summer because almost every single vegetable is in season and it’s inexpensive. But be careful to just plan out a week in advance. Sometimes schedules change and if you plan too far in advance, you may have just thrown away some good money at the grocery store not to mention the planning that went in to your menu for 4th of July weekend. Just to get an idea of how our week looks, we eat at home 6 nights per week. One night is a dine-out night. And we always have at least one night a week for leftovers. Not my kids’ favorite, but it needs to be done.
3. SHOP FROM YOUR GROCERY LIST. I plan all of our family meals, all the way down to snacks, for the week and shop from my list. Believe it or not, I can feed our family of six on an average $100 per week of groceries. And it’s because I shop from a list. Shopping from lists also helps cut down on those “Oh crap, I forgot lettuce at the store and tonight is chicken caesar salad night,” which also result in spontaneous purchases. Believe me, I’m the queen of spontaneity, so I know it happens. You just need to stay diligent and use your shopping lists. Keep a tally on your calculator (I use the one on my phone) and be honest. Use coupons or check grocery websites for sales. If you plan your menu based on what’s on sale and in season, you will save loads of money. Then use that extra money for a splurge. I try to get in one splurge a week. It’s a challenge and sometimes not fun, but once you start figuring out how to shop and save, it gets to be more fun than challenging.
4. USE A CALENDAR. This isn’t a new concept for most people, but I tried to get away without using one for about a year after I went back to work. It didn’t work very well for me. Now I use a couple of different calendars. I keep a family calendar right next to my desk. It is 100% just for keeping schedules straight. I write down my work schedule, my daughter’s work schedule, family appointments, and anything I need to remember on a daily basis. I only update my desk calendar a month in advance, so it is the most current and up-to-date. I also keep a calendar on my iPhone. This calendar links my schedule, my husband’s schedule, kids’ schedules, and anything else that I need to remember from the near and far future.
5. MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT. More important than lists is time (it’s a big thing with our family). This is a tough one for me because I am a procrastinater at heart. I love to meander. And the more I have to do, the longer the meandering becomes. So, how do you snap out of it and just do it? GET OUT THAT LIST OF STUFF TO DO–AND DO IT! I save my luxury time for when I’m done with my to-do’s. Don’t wait to do your 3 loads of laundry until you’re 30 minutes away from picking your kids up at school. Don’t wait until the rain clouds come in to get your run in. Do it now. Don’t wait. Then relax and bask in the fact that your do to’s are done.
If you have any tips or ideas that work great for you, share them! I love to hear how other mommies (and daddies) are making their time work for them.