Monday, September 14, 2015

Five Routines Keeping Me Sane This Fall

With our fall schedule in full swing, I'm starting to appreciate the structure of our week and relying on some pretty firm routines to help keep things under control. We're a pretty extreme case as we go from everyone home all day in the summer {read: no schedule} to a whacky routine that changes every 3 months based on my teaching assignment and what childcare we need, but we're starting to get in a groove that works.

Anyway, I have some methods for making the weeks run smoother that I thought I'd share, and that I can look back on in case I need reminders should I fall off the organized track.

1. Meal plan. I don't want to be overdramatic, but this has literally changed my life. About a year ago I realized that I would get anxious and frustrated whenever dinnertime rolled around, especially when Jason asked "what's the plan for dinner?" So, I had this novel idea: make a plan! I use printouts I found here {but if you search Pinterest for "meal plan printable" there are lots of great options} and have them hung in the kitchen in picture frames so that I can write on them each week with dry erase markers. On Sunday, I write out our schedule for the week and use that to plan our meals, taking into account if Jason or I will be gone some evenings for meetings and the like. 

There are so many reasons I love this. First, I use a meal planner with a grocery list next to it, so I include any needed ingredients in the shopping list for the week. This actually makes our grocery bill lower, too, because we're not buying unnecessary ingredients or things we already have in the house. Second, it makes it easier to use up food so it doesn't go to waste. For example, if I'm buying certain veggies for one meal, I make sure to include another with those ingredients so we can use up the rest. Third, it makes us try new recipes. I am admittedly not an awesome cook {luckily my husband enjoys cooking}, so if I don't have anything planned, it's not easy for me to whip something up with ingredients I happen to have in the cupboard. A day with no plan usually results in frozen pizza or pancakes for dinner {Don't get me wrong. Sometimes pancakes is the plan. What is life without brinner, really?}. When I have all the ingredients I need for a recipe though, I have found I enjoy cooking more and I think I've gotten much better at it since including this blessed weekly ritual. And most importantly, it has completely eliminated the anxiety that used to come from the question, "what's for dinner?" 

2. Snack plan. Okay, so this could be included up above, but I recently decided to be more intentional about planning out snacks along with dinners for the week. It's a big money-saver {not to mention healthier} to make things like granola bars and muffins, rather than relying on store-bought snacks. So as I make our meal plan, I also decide on two or three snacks to make throughout the week. This way I include ingredients I need on the grocery list and even plan out which day I'll make each. Again, it makes our food stretch further and helps with the budget, too.

3. Don't sit down until the dishes are done. I'm definitely still working on this one. I find that in the evening, once dinner is done and the boys are headed to bed, my preggo feet are ready for a rest and all I want to do is sit on the couch, get some work done, or watch Seinfeld with Jason. But this usually results in the kitchen not getting touched for the rest of the night, which means I wake up in the morning to dirty dishes in the sink and no time to do them before leaving for work. So, my new rule is that I can't sit down in the evening until the dishes have been done. A clean kitchen in the morning is a really beautiful thing.

4. Alternate bedtime with the kids. A few months ago Jason and I found ourselves in a conundrum every night. Each of us had work to do and secretly hoped the other would volunteer to do bedtime with the boys. This actually was causing some animosity between us each evening {stress and pregnancy hormones and exhaustion may have played their part, too}. So, we took an idea from some friends who had been alternating nights doing bedtime with their kids. I think we have both said at some point that this method has saved our marriage {we're all about the melodramatic around here}. It's not that I don't love reading books and singing my kids to sleep, but as teachers we both always have work to do at home and usually need the evening to prepare for the next day. Plus, the boys put up a huge fight for Jason if he only does it sporadically. By taking turns, our kids are now used to both of our techniques, go to bed easily, and we never have to discuss whose turn it is. This works great for our family and may or may not have saved our marriage...

5. Have a designated laundry day. Everyone has a chore or two that they just can't stand. Laundry is mine. I usually let it build up or just throw in a load or two when there's something specific we need. This makes for such a hassle! I could be {and was} doing laundry every day of the week at that rate, and since it's such a dreaded task for me, this was definitely not working. I decided to make Tuesday my laundry day, since I don't teach that day and I know I'll be home to get it done. Everything gets washed, folded, and put away every Tuesday. I start the first load as soon as I get up in the morning, after stripping the beds and gathering all the towels and I usually put the last load away before I go to bed at night and say goodbye to that chore for the rest of the week. Hallelujah! 

While we're only two weeks into the semester, I really feel like these routines are going to help us stay on top of everything as life get crazier and closer to the holidays and baby-time. Any other good tips for a girl just trying to play the part of a real adult?

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