Time-Saving Hacks for Busy Moms
Share with us @tryverima or comment below your best time-saving hacks!
Last week, I discussed the Hidden Costs of Start-ups for Moms, and came to the conclusion that the biggest cost that we have to pay dearly for is time. At the risk of sounding cliché, it really is our most precious and finite resource. So, it made sense to me that I share some of my favorite time saving hacks with the hopes that firstly, it will help some mama find even an extra few minutes in her day and secondly that you will share yours with me!!
Years ago, I purchased two large wicker hampers, each one with two hanging laundry bags inside. I placed these in a central location (In the kids’ bathroom or in the hallway) and that created four separate compartments for dirty laundry. I then labeled each section with color squares, my personal sections are labeled: “Whites and Lights”, “Blacks and Darks”, “Red, Orange and Purple”, and “Blue and Green”. This was before my kids were reading, so they are perfectly capable of doing this from a very young age!
First, I taught my kids that whenever they undressed, they had to turn every article (especially the socks!) right side out. This takes maybe a minute for each of them, but I explained to them that doing so saves ME 20 minutes of right-side-outing on wash day.
Then, they take their dirty laundry and color sort their own into the hamper sections. After a few days when a certain colored bag gets full, that bag gets brought downstairs (currently by me) and put in the machine. The plan of course is eventually as the kids get older, they will bring the full bag down and actually start the washing machine!
This one I adopted admittedly much later than I should have since young children are capable. But it definitely was a result of the copious amount of dishes home-schooling and working-from-home were dumping into the kitchen sink. So, the old rule was that after every meal, each child brought their cups, utensils, and dishes from the table, and left them on the counter next to the sink. I would then scrape, rinse and load the dishwasher. However, the new system goes something like this:
Every morning before breakfast, the children empty the dishwasher. The youngest sorts and puts away the silverware/utensil caddies, the middle child stacks the bowls, plates, and cups into like piles and the oldest puts them into the cabinets.
Then after each meal, each child takes their own kitchenware, scrapes leftovers into the compost bin, rinses the plate, and then loads it into the dishwasher. It is so nice to come out of my office and not see a pile of dishes in the sink! The same rule applies with lunch containers when my kids restarted eating lunch at school. Pre-pandemic, they used to just leave the entire lunchbox next to the sink. Now, they know to empty each container, rinse it out, and then load it into the dishwasher.
OMG, the cups. . . So many cups. As we sheltered at home, . . . I said goodbye to the cups. It occurred to me that each child already had their own unique/easily recognizable water bottle labeled with their own names, so why only use them for school? So now, each morning everyone gets their own water bottle and that’s what they use all day. We do use glasses for beverages at dinner, but going from 20 glasses a day to 5 has certainly saved time and freed up precious top-rack real estate in the dishwasher!
ON-GOING SHOPPING LISTS
I hung a magnetic pad of paper on the refrigerator door so as soon as we run out of anything, we can jot it down. This has saved me time as well as freed up the brain space from not having to keep a mental list of things we’ve run out of each day. This idea came courtesy of my kids telling me they were out of toothpaste. Not low on toothpaste, but OUT. . . which then required an extra trip to the store to purchase toothpaste (because they all refuse the mint flavor that the adults in the family use). Now they know if they take the last tube of toothpaste, milk, apple, etc. they need to add it to the list. Also, for myself when I think of something I just write it down straight away, and then I can let go of it. Later, when it’s actually time to order/buy groceries, I’m not sitting there wondering what it was I remembered I needed yesterday.
SLOW-COOKER/PRESSURE COOKER/INSTANT POT
A few years ago, convinced by my friend Divya’s rave reviews, I purchase an Instant-pot. The entire box sat on my counter for about a month before I unpackaged it. It then sat unboxed on my kitchen counter for another month before I actually turned it on. Fast forward to now, when I use it about once a week. On particularly busy days, I have go-to recipes that I can essentially just throw ingredients into the pot and come back to a delicious, hot, home-cooked meal. Divya (my Instant-pot guru) sets hers the night before with steel-cut oats and her children have delicious hot oatmeal every morning. I have no affiliation with the company and I am sure many companies make equal quality pots. Some easy family favorites of my family are this carnitas recipe and this delicious bolognese!
The other hack for this is to double the recipe or at least make more than you need. Especially for soups and sauces. Anything that freezes well is golden because it just saved you even more time two weeks later when all you have to do is thaw and reheat!
Oh, and while I’m on meals, during the early days of the pandemic when days just blurred into each other, I started keeping a food log of sorts just to keep track of what we were eating each day because I honestly couldn’t remember if we had spaghetti for lunch that day or for dinner two weeks ago. What I ended up with was a list of 25 or so meals that I knew my family would eat, including many that I had forgotten about and dusted off and revived. Just having this list of go-to meals was a wonderful reminder of not only how much say red meat or veggies we were consuming, but also just having visual access of the list helped me answer the “what’s for dinner?!” question. A quick glance at the log and I can easily spot we haven’t had roasted chicken in three weeks so let’s have that tonight.
So, if your kids are anything like mine, their stuff ends up everywhere. Legos, toys, art supplies, socks, Legos, books, did I mention Legos? So instead of either running up and down the stairs all day every day (though I could use the cardio!) putting things away, or nagging three children all day every day about putting away their belongings, I put a basket at the base of the stairs. Anything left out for more than a day ends up in the basket. Then before Sunday dinner, they must go through the basket, and anything they still want must be put away in its proper place. If not, whatever contents are still in the basket by Sunday night get donated. This has reduced friction in many ways. One, I am not constantly out-cluttered by toys on my desk, kitchen table, counters, and let’s face it, any horizontal surface. Secondly, children understand they are responsible for their belongings. Thirdly, I can see what my children truly enjoy playing with and what they no longer need. When I first implemented this system, I of course didn’t immediately follow through and donate their things, but I did put them away in my closet to see if/when they would miss their things. More than once, they never asked for a hidden item again (then it really gets donated). A few times, there was a child’s momentary panic, which then turned into a teachable moment of responsibility. Plus when a child yells, “Mom, where is my _______?” I can always reply, “Did you check the basket?”
I hope some of these have helped. I know we could do an entire article just on time-saving recipes, which we might just do! And, mind you, my children are not little soldiers and I still have my fair share of balled up socks, day-old lunch containers, and take-out pizza for dinner. But, once implemented, these little things not only save valuable time but as I mentioned earlier, free up valuable brain space so we can focus on more important things like planning our next family vacation! Stay safe moms and I would love to hear back with your time-saving hacks!