Practical Shortcuts for Busy Parents
A chalkboard calendar hangs on the wall in my kitchen announcing our agenda for the week.
Football games, practices, Scout meetings, events, you name it, neatly crammed into squares so we remember what day it is. I don’t think I’m the only one in this boat.
With a one-woman team running a two-person show, shortcuts keep us on pace with the calendar and with some semblance of peace.
Color-coded file folders
In the age of electronic everything, it’s hard to believe I still have to keep up with papers. As long as there are receipts and information from school, there will be papers. I don’t keep many, but there are some that end up saving me time over the short and long haul. I keep an orange folder for all medical bills or receipts for prescriptions and doctor or dentist visits. This is simple, fast, and in order as I put the most recent on top and close it. This came in particularly handy when my flex spending account decided it wanted proof of every time I accessed it. When my kids’ dad asks about medical expenses, the documentation is in one place. I also take pictures with my phone, but the original is nice to have in the event of iCloud catastrophe.
The blue folder contains everything I plan to take off my taxes. Every time I make a donation or receive something in the mail I know I’ll need in late January, I put it in the tax file. Last year, I filed my return on January 28. I have a red and green folder for each of my kids containing information from school or their activities. As they get busier, I think I should split these into two for each, but I’m not quite there yet. The last folder contains action items that are not right now. I go through this folder on weekends to see if there’s anything that requires my attention and handle it. I put coupons here that I might use, like Gap cash or DSW rewards. That way, I know right where they are.
Make-Ahead Meals & Snacks
I plan meals for the week on the previous weekend because there’s no getting around it if I want us to eat together. I also find this saves me from buying things I don’t need or won’t use. I used to plan meals in my head at the grocery store and buy accordingly. It never failed that I would either forget what I had planned to make or forget a major item, like tortillas for enchiladas. I chop, portion, and freeze usually on Sunday afternoon or early in the morning when it’s quiet. Bagging up 1- portions of grapes and carrot sticks makes lunch prep a no-brainer too! I require my kids to pack their own lunch because I believe in handing them responsibility, but I don’t mind making it easier for them. Bonus: I also portion tons of healthy snacks like raw veggies, cheese, boiled eggs, and fruit for those times I am famished but just need to grab something and go.
Why not? This is new for us. Since both of my kids use google drive for school now, it’s easy for them to connect with me this way. I shared a list and calendar with them to avoid the “Oops, I forgot to tell you….” scenario. So far, my daughter added cotton balls and strawberries to the grocery list, and my son provided his Christmas Wish list with URL links to expedite purchasing. How thoughtful. So not exactly what I was going for, but I have a feeling it’ll get there. At least they have access to know what each day holds in store, and that is much less stressful than my first after work conversation consisting of our agenda for the evening.
These few simple tricks provide small breaks in the action of our lives. Those times give me the opportunity to listen, ask questions, or just sit with my kids and admire the young adults they are so quickly becoming. What shortcuts keep you sane?