I am not a working parent…well, yes, I am but from home and on my terms. I rise naturally and not with an alarm, I work as I please and when I feel moved to create. I write and have a YouTube channel that generates enough money for me to say I work and be able to afford organics.
But for a working parent or single parent work is an alarm, rising unnaturally and often in the dark, maybe a long commute and working for someone else doing what they want you to do. Not only that but there are children to get to school and pick up, then homework, baths, bedtime. It’s really too much.
Weekends are probably the only time this family has to clean, do laundry and shop for groceries.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and how can the working and/or single parent manage the household and cooking for more efficiency so they have more time to play and rest.
We know that cooking from scratch is the healthiest and most cost-effective way to go. But if you work and commute all the time this can be a downright pain in the rear. A clean and tidy house might be doable since no one is home to mess it up during the day.
I have a big calendar book I buy from JoAnne’s. In it, I can make To Do list and schedule everything. And I do, in colored pens, with highlighters…I decorate this book from head to toe and love it because it is a colorful, visual aid to getting and keeping me organized and on schedule. I used to schedule my cleaning days, baking days, laundry days, write down appointments, birthdays. I’m not into the calendars and reminders on the cell phone. Phones get deleted, stolen and lost. There is something about a book that you touch and look at in full that I love. I keep it right next to my laptop.
I used to even keep track of how many words I would write each day. If you write 2000 words a day you will have a novel at the end of the month. A clever trick I learned.
This all may sound ridged but it wasn’t it was very flexible and I turned it into my daily rituals. One day would be a baking day and I had a pattern and ritual for that day. Even laundry day had it’s rituals, like the part where I have afternoon tea and watch a sitcom on TV guilt free because I was “folding laundry”.
I don’t always stick to this schedule. But I may go back because it felt good. It was organized so I didn’t have to think. I would look at the book and know what my day and week were looking like.
Another book I have is in the kitchen. It is a big, blue binder I purchased at the thrift store filled with binder paper that I also purchased at the thrift. In this book, I do all my kitchen management. I schedule weeks of meals and make a grocery list. I have a section for the building of my pantry and make a list of what to buy to stock it. I also copy recipes in there that I use often or find in cookbooks from the library. I no longer buy cookbooks as they just collect dust.
The envelope system is also a great way to not overspend or spend on extras you don’t need. At the beginning of the month, I pay all the bills and mortgage and then get cash for a grocery envelope and whatever else. I try to not use cards these days. It’s too easy to swipe it and mindlessly spend yourself into trouble at the bank. With cash envelopes, you are aware of what you have for the month and you will become very shrewd and clever in the grocery store. You will find ways to make that envelope last and last. Especially after a month or two of winding up short at the end of the month. Touching money makes you think.
Calendars you can see in vibrant colors, the money you can touch, a real notebook for the kitchen…it all sounds silly but it makes the difference. We are in such a digital age we tap away frantically at our cell phones and have it managing everything. But the old fashioned ways work well because you have to slow down, become present and touch and see pages, write with pens and pencils, calculate and think. I must sit down with my colored pens and calendar and think about my month, setting it up in my mind.
Unless you love shopping, the other way to really save time and money is to build an incredible pantry. Do your shopping once a month and each time you build it in layers until you have everything and anything you need to make meals, bake cakes for birthdays or cookies for the bake sale, even make your own cleaners, laundry detergent, homemade beauty products, shampoos, and playdough for the kids. You could make it into your own personal store and shop from it daily. Almost anything you can think of for the house, stove, and beauty can be made from scratch.
Bulk cooking and meal prep once a week can be fun and make a huge difference. If you have freezer space you could take a weekend to cook mass amounts of food to freeze for the whole month. Or you could take one day a week to prep food for the work week. Another trick is to always cook extra to freeze one. Make two lasagnas and freeze one. Make two or three enchiladas and freeze the extra. It builds up and then you have meals for when you are too tired.
Master the one-pot dishes, especially the crockpot. That crockpot is a dream because you can throw things in there and leave for the whole day, return home at night and you have dinner. I know the Instapot is all the rage but I would rather prep in the morning and come home to a hot meal. A bread maker is also a dream. Fresh homemade bread when you come home from work or set the time so it’s fresh in the morning. Set the coffee timer as well and you will awaken to the smells of freshly baked bread and brewing coffee. What a dream!
As for cleaning, do a hardcore, deep clean once a month and then light clean weekly. If the children are old enough have them help with chores. It’s a community and children need to learn to contribute and how to cook and clean so when they get out into the world they can create cozy homes and tend to themselves and their families.
The biggest way to simplify cleaning is to be decluttered and organized. Everything has its place. Clean out the drawers and downsize the closets. Get rid of the extra stuff. A good purge will reduce cleaning by 25% to 50%. It’s easy to keep the house nice when you don’t have clutter. I watch videos to get an idea or get motivated. I’m in deep with a decluttering myself right now. I sort of feel like the more I declutter the more I have right now. The mind and body crave that space and to have things clean, tidy, and orderly. Not to mention all the hours upon hours you save NOT looking for the missing socks or shirts.
I hope all this helps and please visit on YouTube Coffee with Kate where I show how I manage my time, declutter my home, and make easy homemade meals.