With the start of the Back to School season, there’s an ideal opportunity to start personal parenting routines. Everything from getting the kids off to school to grocery shopping becomes simpler when you have it down to a system. The problem is finding and sticking to a system so that it becomes a habit. Here’s how I organize my week.
- Keep a calendar. In the past, I used an Agenda Desktop Planner, and it was fantastic. Each child had a section for his or her events and appointments. And I loved how the week was spread out in front of you. Last year, however, I switched to Google calendars through my smartphone (which became my not-so-smart phone). I’m the kind of person who would leave her Desktop Planner on the kitchen counter or in my car when I needed to have it with me when I made an appointment or was invited to a party. I never leave my phone in the car or on my kitchen counter, so switching worked best for me. Whether you’re a pen-and-paper-girl or an internet calendar girl, pick one and stick to it–it takes time for it to become a habit, but consistency works. Record everything in there.
- Dedicate your hour. Carve about an hour out of your week, once a week, and plan to repeat the next steps every single week. Explain it to your husband or your kids that that hour is your organization hour so that they all know that you need the time. You’ll find that as you practice and become more adept at a weekly organization, your hour will shrink to 20-30 minutes. But don’t let go of your hour–use it for me time!
- Settle in. Get all the supplies you need for your hour. I use a pencil, a cookbook (mine is a collection of recipes from magazines in a binder), and my computer. If you’re a paper-and-pencil-girl, grab your calendar. Spread out across your table.
- Create a weekly calendar. I use MomAgenda’s Weekly Family Planner, which is magnetic and sticks to my refrigerator. Sort through your calendar and record all of your plans, as well as your children’s. Stop your husband (or text him, if need be) and ask what his plans are for the week so you can record those, too.
- Create your menu. If you’ve never meal-planned before, this is your chance to start another great habit. Here’s a post describing how to meal plan. It really helps to have your calendar completed before you plan for your week of meals. You can always find meal plans on awesome websites (hint hint… like mine), or you can learn to create your own from your favorite cookbooks, cooking websites, apps (I love icookbook) or magazines (Real Simple and Rachael Ray both have great compilations for meal planning for families.)
- Create your grocery list. Now that you have your menu plan, it’s easy to just grab ingredients from your recipes and list them. It helps to create it by the grocery store aisle. Then, go through your refrigerator and pantry, crossing things off the list that you don’t need and adding any staples you do have. Remember to check your ongoing list of things you run out of from your fridge and add those items to the list as well.
- Breathe. Your week is organized! Next, it will be time to organize your kids!
How I organize my week
So often, friends see my calendar on my fridge or my organized grocery list and comment that they don’t know how I do it. And when people hear I only go to the store once a week, they’re amazed. Even this morning, I was sharing my meal-planning technique with 2 friends who looked at me like I was crazy. I swear. I’m not. Well, at least not quite.
Every Sunday, without fail, I sit down with a magazine or two, my family-approved notebook of favorite recipes, Agenda Desktop calendar, and Agenda Family Planner and map out the week. I’ve worked this plan down to perfection, and I’ve been using it for about 3 years now. It’s about time I share it, yes?
First, I look at the calendar, transferring everything from my desktop calendar to my family planner (which then spends the rest of the week on my refrigerator.) Next, it’s time to bring in my husband when I ask him about his plans for the week. Of course, I have to be flexible because I know things will change. But it helps to get an idea of the days he plans to work late, have dinner meetings, or be out of town. These “events” go on my calendar, along with lunch-bunch days, doctor appointments, football practice, and birthday parties.
Then, with everything in front of me, I determine which nights I’m going to cook dinner (usually, it’s 4 nights a week.)
And then I assign a meal to each night. Daunting? At first, yes. The first several weeks I did this, I got stuck on balancing my meals. And then, I wanted to make things that were new and exciting for my family. (I still want to do that!) But I’ve learned that it’s okay to serve family favorites, and a night of leftovers is a good thing, especially when you get creative with it.
While I’m selecting the meals, I also write down all the ingredients I’ll need, making my shopping list. Now, here’s a trick that I can’t believe not everyone does: create your grocery list in sections. Create areas on a paper, categorized by areas of the grocery store. My categories are:
Then, using the recipes, I list the items I’ll need from each department so that I’m not skipping all over the list and, therefore, skipping all through the store. This cuts my grocery shopping time immensely!
AFTER I complete my list, I go to the pantry, fridge, and freezer and cross off anything I already have (usually tomato sauce, spices, etc.) and add anything I habitually need (usually milk, deli meats, spices…).
This routine has made me so thorough that I can now, successfully, go to the store only once a week, which has saved me about $50 each week.
And the relief of knowing what is for dinner each afternoon is a huge help. I can start preparing early if I need to, and I never have to worry, “what am I going to make for dinner tonight?” or “how am I going to find the time to get the ingredients I need for dinner tonight!?”
For more tips on how Save Time And Money By Planning Your Meals, check out the Menu Planning Guide.
Have you tried meal planning and weekly organization? What techniques work for you?