Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Go, go, go? Make life easier & more efficient with 10 simple tips!

I only have two eyes, two hands and two ears, yet life seems to demand that I do more with these limited resources. So how do I keep from melting down into a ball of stress?

Well, make things as easy and efficient as possible, of course? I think all moms develop their own time-saving tricks, but here are my 10 to try. Maybe they will work for you, too!

1. Make a large batch.  At least once a week I make enough either in the crock-pot, or as a casserole or soup to get us through a few meals. I am not ashamed to stretch this through lunches or dinners. So, I made kale ravioli one night and used the excess ravioli filling to toss with tomato sauce and pasta for a baked ziti the next evening. Then served up some ziti for a quick lunch. Easy! Bonus points if I also have some to freeze and eat at a later date.

2. Don't fight the day. Instead of fighting with my children on a busy morning, let them either wear their p.j.s for the day or let them pick their clothing. It keeps us all happier and the day flowing faster.

3. Cook Ahead! My toddlers can be picky eaters. I really like cooking from scratch, but don't have time to whip up every meal. So instead of a pre-packaged cheat, I like to make extra. When we have pancakes or waffles I make a double or triple batch. That leaves enough for several quick meal days. Just pop them in the toaster and off we go.

4. Freeze smarter. I love shopping at the club stores and Costco saves us so much money! I really enjoy buying meat there. When I get ground beef or chicken I often freeze it ahead in amounts that work with my favorite recipes. My meatloaf takes 1.5 lbs, and meatballs take 1 lb. I mark the bags and it is easy to grab a corresponding bag to go with my meal.

5. Sort faster. I hate sorting laundry! I bet we all do. In order to easily tackle our mountains of laundry, I have several baskets both upstairs and down. There is one small basket for each load, whites, colors, dark & one for non-dryables. This lets me see exactly when each load has enough for a load, and cuts down on my time spent sorting a large pile. Even as toddler my children are getting used to seeing the sorted piles of laundry & can help.

6. Meal plan for banishing the dinner dilemma. I know we have all been there, 5:00 rolls around and the hunt is on for what to make for dinner. I cut down on the headache by meal planning every weekend. Writing down a schedule helps me prepare what to thaw, what we need to buy on our weekly shopping trip, and it also keeps me eating healthier. The real trick is to plan out breakfasts and lunches, too! We have saved money on our grocery bill and I have more time to devote to other things.

7. Smartphone sharing. I adore my Android phone. I have really enjoyed sharing information between my husband and myself. We have used it to schedule and share appointments, share a combined grocery list and other fun things. This has saved us a lot of confusion.

8. Slice, Chop & Dice ahead. I love the fact so much is fresh and readily available in the Summer. The only downside is it goes bad much faster in this heat. To save my produce as well as save me time day-to-day I like to prep my veggies ahead of time. Pick one day a week, preferably right after shopping when the veggies are fresh, to prep them all. Onions are a big one. Grab a bunch and process in the food processor. This saves not only the eyes, but time. Then pop these in a ziplock bag to freeze. Just use them as needed! Also chop and refrigerate peppers, or other veggies.

9. Don't forget the crust. I know my family rarely gets through a whole loaf of bread before it goes bad, and they never touch the crusts. Well, I hate to waste food and in an attempt at efficiency I do two things with it. I save the heels to dry and make bread crumbs out of. I also take a few slices to throw in the freezer for either bread pudding or a breakfast casserole. The breakfast casserole is a great item to pull out for brunches and holidays.

10. Invest in lots of storage. I live in a sea of toys, ity bity parts and random lose things. To save me a constant headache, and save cleaning time, I have a bunch of buckets, tubs, toy boxes and places for this growing collection of "stuff". Kids are phenomenal "stuff" magnets, so instead of constantly fighting this law of nature, I am working with it. Now it is easy for even my 2-year-old to help clean-up and keep our house pretty clutter free. On the flip side, we gave the kids a room of their own for toys and mess to dwell.

Yes, there are many more headaches in my busy life to tackle, so far these 10 tips have helped me cut down on a lot of wasted time. Of course my day is handled much better with my morning coffee to perk me up. Maybe caffeine should have been listed as my #11 tip! So, do you have any ideas to add? I would love to hear some new ways to not only make my life easier, but more efficient.

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