I was thinking about the organizing blogs I read, and all the homemaker chat that goes on. There’s a lot of it out there. I think as wives and mothers in today’s world, there’s a lot more to balance. And, in some cases, I think our days are busier.
I would be classified as a WAHSAH mom – Work At Home, Stay At Home mom. Except that instead of doing the work part on a part-time basis while the kids are at school or something like that, I do it generally about 8 hours a day. It might start at 5:30 in the morning when I’m pulling follow-up sheets for our staff, and be intermingled with dinner, then checking and responding to emails, hanging the clothes on the line, working on a project, blogging, getting dinner ready… You get the idea. Since my “office” is my living room it can be hard to carve out specific work time and specific home time. And heck, I have a 9 month old! Chris has been a little less busy on the work front in the last few months because he’s delegated a lot of stuff to our workers, so he’s been doing a lot of childcare lately while I do a lot of mission work. I feel pulled between things right now because I feel like my kids have seen my back as I sit at my computer more than they’ve seen my face, but I know that it’s a season and as I keep hacking through the projects on my proverbial plate I know that in a couple weeks there will be less and I can start shifting gears a bit. And I’m looking forward to that.
One thing that is hard for me in seasons like this, while I’m feeling stretched, is when the house seems like we can’t quite catch up. I know I’ve shared recently on here about our FIGHT THE LAZY campaign. It’s working. I’m not gonna lie – I’m not on my game every day (like today when I turned off the alarm and got out of bed 20 minutes later) but there is a difference in things around here. And you know what? It really is the little things that add up to big things. Something as small as taking a couple minutes to grind my coffee and fill the kettle the night before can mean one less thing to think about when I’m still trying to wake up. Doing the dishes and clearing the counters the night before give me a clean slate in the morning. I’m not waking up feeling overwhelmed and am therefore in a better mood first thing.
These changes for the better got me thinking about the other little things that we do in our home that work. And by “work” I mean make life easier. I know that you’re curious about life here, which is why you read, so I thought I would share some of the “little things” I/we do.
One of the biggest helps around our house is my meal plan. Seriously. I love to cook, when I’m in the mood. And I’m not always in the mood. With full days it’s easy for me to forget to think about dinner, so I don’t and then at 4 I wonder what we’re going to eat. Meal planning has saved me so much brain space!
My trick is that I don’t just plan for a week at a time – I do it a month ahead.
I bought a little notepad calendar that is blank with peel off pages. I think I got it at Walmart or a dollar store. You can use it for any month, just write in the dates and there you go. That’s my “scratch pad”. I sit down with my day timer and see what we have going on in the coming weeks, and note it on the scratch pad after I’ve filled in the dates. Then I take the previous months plan which is on the white board calendar on my fridge, and see what worked, what didn’t etc and start writing in meal ideas. I also have a list stuck to the side of the fridge that has a list of all the dinner ideas that have been a hit. I have it categorized by meat type, soups and “other” for things like pasta or dishes that don’t fit into the other categories. I refer to this if I’m having a hard time thinking of ideas. I also look at cookbooks where I might have flagged a page. I think about things like what meals are inexpensive, time consuming etc and plan accordingly based on what’s going on. After I’m happy with the scratch pad version I transfer it to the white board calendar on the fridge. Then, all I have to do is look at it during one of my daily passes and can immediately pull anything out of the freezer that I need that night.
Tips & Tricks:
- Plan the meals you need to. I don’t plan breakfasts or lunches, just dinner. For breakfast we keep it simple with things like toast, eggs or granola which I make in a big batch every other week. We have a window of about 20 minutes to eat in the morning, so it has to be fast and simple.
- Leftover night. Seriously. Once a week specifically plan a leftover night where you pull everything out of the fridge and everyone picks what looks good, heats up their plate and you call it dinner. It means no cooking AND you don’t have things becoming science experiments in the back of your fridge. We do ours on Wednesday night because Thursday is market day where Yonese goes and buys all our fresh stuff. This way I know what I really need.
- Simple Suppers. I know that on weekends we are lazy and that by 5 pm I don’t want to cook much. I finally came to terms with the fact that it’s okay to put “popcorn” on the meal plan as a meal. Sometimes we’ll pop a pot and put on a movie and have family time instead of sitting at the table, and for us it works. Sandwiches are a great simple supper.
- Salad in quantity. I make up a big bowl of salad only about twice a week. I put it in a bowl with a lid so once we’re done it goes right in the fridge. Many nights our dinner might consist of something like a meat, and salad. Because the salad is already made I just focus on the main course and pull the salad out of the fridge, take the lid off and call it dinner. Also, because there’s a bowl already made up it’s easy to pull it out at lunch time too.
- Don’t cook dinner every night. Yes, you read that right. I don’t cook dinner every night. Aside from leftover night and doing simple suppers, I handed off dinner responsibilities one night a week to Chris. I recognize that our situation is unique in that he’s at home most days and around to help out. We’ve designated Friday nights as “Chris Cooks” night. And you know what he makes every week? Baked potatoes. And it’s great. I let go of the reins and let him decide what he wants to make. If it’s baked potatoes that I don’t have to cook, then great. If he wants to get more adventurous, then great. As the kids get older and they can help, they will.
Because I have a menu plan, grocery shopping is relatively easy. I just look at the plan, look at what we have, and make a list accordingly. I know what other staples we use regularly so those get added too. It’s amazing how much money you can save when you shop for the menu plan. We don’t have flyers here, so I can’t keep my eyes open for sales and plan from that. What I do is buy regular quantities of different kinds of meat, for example, and I portion them in bags then freeze. For example, because we buy all of our chicken in 30 lb boxes, I cut the legs and thighs apart and freeze 6 pieces per bag. I know this is enough for a satisfying meal for everyone in our family, and a bit for leftovers. Sometimes when I’m menu planning I’ll think about what we have on hand and work that in to the schedule, reducing the amount of shopping we need to do.
You’ve heard me say it on here before, I don’t love laundry. But, we need clean clothes, so it’s a catch 22.
Tips & Tricks:
- Designate a laundry day to each member of the family. In our home, I do the kids clothes on Monday, mine on Tuesday, Chris’ on Wednesday and linens/household laundry on Thursday. The only reason I do it 4 days a week is because we have to hang dry everything and our clothesline holds one load at a time. Separating everyone’s laundry means less sorting. I take it off the line, fold and put it where it needs to go.
- I sort as I hang. I will literally leave laundry that is dry and not sorted in the basket for days. So, I started sorting it as it went on the line. All the t-shirts together, bottoms, underwear, socks… Now I just fold it right into the basket.
- I don’t separate colors. Gah! Yes, you read that right. The truth is, we live in Haiti and it’s so easy to get dirty here that we don’t have many light colored clothes, and what we do have isn’t usually seen by the general public. So, I don’t sort. It all goes in the machine and it all gets done in the same load.
- Reduce the number of everyday clothes that you have. Seriously. It is not physically possible to wear more than a certain number of clothes each week. I ruthlessly went through my closet a few months ago and got rid of 3 garbage bags of clothes. I was wondering if I would miss them. I don’t. Yes, we have it simple in the sense that we really only need clothes for one season, but you can still simplify even if you have multiple seasons to dress for. If you are most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt during the week, then be selective about how many you have. I do this with the kids too. Less clothes means less to wash.
- Buy mix and match clothes for kids. When you have kids that can dress themselves, or even younger, buy clothes that can mix and match. Olivia has a variety of t-shirts, but her shorts are mostly basic colors that go with a variety of tops. Same with skirts. That way she can pull almost anything out of the drawer and it looks fine. Keeps it easy!
I’m going to leave it at that! It’s time to get dinner ready, but thankfully it’s Wednesday, so it’s leftover night here :)