Friday, September 27, 2013

Top 10 Working Mom Short Cuts

Every mom has their own playbook. Depending on how many kids, how much the hubby does or work and/or juggling schedules, a mom has to know which play to call at every turn. After all, every good coach knows what play to call next. (I'll stop with the football analogies now. Tis the season!)

I've had a few girlfriends starting new chapters in their lives as mommies. They've had many questions about how to "do" everything. The first thing I say is that I, by no means, "do" everything. I can't. Look at my kitchen floor the next time you are over. But I do prioritize and get all the necessary things done! My necessary things- organic, healthy food/recipes; eating dinner together as a family and quality time with my children!

I've decided to try to collect all my mommy shortcuts in one place for my new mommy friends (or my old!).

1. Always have a plan. Doesn't matter for where or for what. Fly by the seat of your pants and you get screwed!! Know times. Know layout. Know realistic expectations for the kids. Know the escape/abort plan!

2. The husband HAS to help. If you are trying to do it all... stop. With baby number 1, Jason took on the responsibility of all baths for the kids. I've probably given about 15 baths in almost 5 years. With baby(pregnancy) number 2, Jason also took on laundry (not the good stuff!) and vacuuming. The lucky guy has kept his jurisdictions ever since!!

3. Schedule and plan everything. Events, meals, chores, reminders...See previous Google Calendar and Meal Planner posts!

4. Get the kids involved. Cecelia thinks it's the coolest to sweep and wash the kitchen floor (I'm going to use that as long as I can!).

5. Kitchen/cooking tips and tricks to SAVE time:

  • Always have a kitchen garbage bowl when you are cooking. Save those trips to the trash can and just go once at the end. This has been so helpful with all the veggies that have been coming and going through here lately!!
  • Always have a towel over your shoulder or an apron. If it's with you, you can wipe your hands where ever you are instead of always walking back to a towel or sink.
  • If it can be prepped ahead of time, do it. Brown the meat for tomorrow's dinner tonight while cleaning the kitchen. Put the chicken in the crock pot during the day so it's already cooked for the recipe that calls for "pre-cooked" chicken! Some Sundays I will prep all the veggies for the meals for the week so they are all ready to just be cooked when they are needed. (I hate peeling veggies...) Can the casserole be assembled the night before so you can just throw in oven when you get home?
  • No, you don't need a different meal every night.
  • 2 for 1...if you can do it once and it counts for two, do it. I will commonly have two meals a week that call for cubed chicken or instead of just browning one pound of ground beef for a meal, I'll do three pounds and freeze a portion of the cooked for a different week. Need a side veggie for each meal? Prep and cook a bunch on one night and just reheat for other nights of the week.
  •  Embrace and get creative with leftovers. Pair it with a different veggie side = feels like a new dish. Instead of having it on a starch again, can you throw it on top of lettuce? Only one chicken breast left from the grill... stretch it by throwing it into a salad!
  • Know which meals are week night meals and which are weekend meals. Longer preps or cook times can be saved and enjoyed on a weekend. Unless you can use a crock-pot!
  • Always have a few meals on hand if you open the fridge one night to see someone took that night's dinner leftovers to work... grilled cheese/tomato soup, breakfast for dinner, eggs...!
  • What's up crock-pot?!! I would potentially give up my left arm for this Cuisinart Crockpok!
  • One thing I hate the most about cooking dinner is shortening my only time with the kids. Those nights after school/work and dinner are VERY short. This means sometimes the kids are in the kitchen with me. Does this take longer to cook. Of course, but they can learn things and pitch in while I get to spend time with them. Cole is a master at putting trash in the trashcan and closing the pantry door!
  • Go to bed with a clean kitchen and running dishwasher even if it isn't full. You know two days of dishes will never fit and then you have a dish backlog... urgh!
6. Save time where you can. I've started saving a ton of time by only grocery shopping once every two to three weeks. Now this is a lot easier from June until November when I am getting my CSA every Saturday but very doable year round! But it has really saved time on the weekends. But Natalie, how do you cook without any preservatives or prepackaged food when you don't go shopping every week? I'm so glad you asked!!
  • Know which produce will keep longer and purposely eat according to your plan.. there's always a plan! A bag of hard kiwis, mangos, or melon will last more than a week and a half before ripe if you buy when really hard. Eat the berries, grapes, etc on the first week. The others on the second week. Apples in the fridge last more than 4 weeks.
  • Produce saver bags.. yes, those stupid green or yellow bags. They WORK! When berries are really looking good in the late spring months, I can buy a ton, soak in a cold water/vinegar mixture (thank you Pinterest!), let dry a bit and then place in a paper towel lined container. After putting a paper towel over the top to catch the extra moisture, into the green bag the whole container will go. Bam, berries for two to three whole weeks. I have learned that those bags will expire as they no longer soak up the gasses that makes produce rot. You can get a ton for $1.99. Don't skimp. Toss it out when you think it's not working!
  •, not extreme couponer's style! We have a mini stockpile in the basement. I have a pantry backup (or 6) for everything that we use on a weekly basis- rice, flour, sugar, cereal, granola bars, condiments, prune juice, kid's snacks, etc. So, if daddy gets into the cereal bars that Coletyn has been eating lately, no, I don't have to run to the store. There are more in the basement!
  • Fully stocked pantry. This is different from the stock pile. My pantry has all the necessary stuff for many basic recipes. Since it is so well stocked, I usually only need to buy the fresh items in a recipe and the rest is in the pantry or stockpile! Hmmm, I'm feeling a post about necessary pantry stock. Stay tuned!
  • Meat... easy. Freeze the meat for the second week. Don't forget to set that beautiful Google Calendar reminder for the day before on your meal plan event to remind you to take it out of freezer!
  • Milk and other dairy with later expiration dates will either be on the way bottom or way back! The stuff in the front is the stock the store is trying to get rid of because they will have to toss if not sold by exp. date.
  • Use different stores for different purposes. Some go based on the deals. Not me. I decide what my purpose is. For example, I love Trader Joe's for stocking my pantry. They have the cheapest organic around. So, I go once every few months and stock the stockpile!! Woodman's is for the weekly fresh foods shop.. but not the pantry stuff. For that I just have to go down stairs. That means when I shop at Woodman's every other week, I am really only getting the fresh food for the fridge food or that odd ingredient for a certain recipe we are jonesing for!
7. Jason and I make the week's lunches on Sunday. Just as easy to  make 5 than 1. Might as well cross that off the list before the week gets rolling!

8. Share your plan... this may feel redundant, but it isn't. Just because you know what the plan is, doesn't mean everyone does. I still can't figure out why Jason can't read my mind?

9. Routines.. this is been such a time saver. Getting the kids and myself ready every morning is no small feat. Routine saves us! Cecelia knows what to do, how to do it and what order to complete. Does she still need prompts on what to do next, of course, she is 4 but just like Jason, she can complete one step at a time! (Also makes bedtime a breeze. So mommy can blog!)

10. Lastly (for now).. embrace what you do well (or psychotically---I know I am a bit intense sometimes) but also embrace and accept what you can't do.. because in the end, it's not important. My dust is piling up, my kitchen floor is still sticky, you will always have to walk over toys when you come over, there may be a few piles of folded clothes on my dresser....and that's how it is going to be! Tonight after baths and dinner, I got to cuddle and play with the two who are most important.

Older Working Mom posts below!

1 comment:

  1. the best thing about having a psychotic friend is that they understand their friends' (my) craziness. also, toys don't count as mess. my house is spotless. filled with LOooooVVVVe. :-)