Life with littles can be chaotic, however there are a few things you can do to help your week run a bit smoother and make everything feel a little calmer.
1. Weekly Planning Session
Taking a few minutes over the weekend to run through the calendar with your partner, or with any family members who might provide childcare, to see what’s happening the following week is so important. Check if you, or any of the kids, have important appointments. If you share a car, see are there any days you or your partner definitely need to have the car. Are either of you going to be missing for dinner or bedtime during the week? Just having a clear picture of the week ahead, will make you feel calmer, and less like you’re lurching from one thing to the next.
Myself and my husband do this every Sunday, it only takes a minute or two but it makes life so much easier. We share a google calendar so a quick flick through that is usually all that’s needed.
2. Meal Plan
This is something else we do on a Sunday. Once we know what the week ahead looks like, what evenings people are in or out, and which evenings are likely to be busier than others, then we can plan our food accordingly. We usually only meal plan for dinners, and only Monday through Friday. For lunches and snacks we just make sure we’ve lots of fruit, veggies, eggs, cheeses, hummous and bread, so we can generally whip up a variety of things. At the weekend we might end up having dinner out or at one of the grandparents, or else we might just pick some food up on Saturday afternoon.
Usually we will pick one thing to cook each. I know some people don’t like eating the same dinner two nights in a row, but it’s never bothered us and it means we’ve less cooking to do. If I’m doing something like a lasagne or pasta bake I might even make triple the recipe so I can put one or two meals into the freezer to have another time. We will also make sure we have the ingredients for something quick and easy for the fifth night, so that might be something made from pantry staples or else I might pull something out from a previous freezer session, and once a month or so we’ll have take out as a treat.
Knowing what we’re having for dinner takes a lot of stress out of the day. There’s no staring at the fridge at 5.30pm wondering what we’re going to feed the kids, or no panicked stop at the shops on the way home from work.
We’ve been meal planning since I went back to work after our eldest was born, and it is honestly one of the best things we do to make life less stressful, and it generally only takes a few minutes.
3. Shop Online
Going grocery shopping with kids is not my favourite thing to do. To be honest I don’t really like going to the supermarket in general. They constantly change the layouts, I spend ages trying to find stuff, queueing to pay, trying to find somewhere to park etc. Time I would rather spend doing something else!
We started shopping online years ago, even before we had kids. Nowadays, we do our online shop on a Sunday after our weekly planning session and meal plan is done (honestly this all sounds very efficient and complicated, but it’s literally a few minutes chat of ‘what are you doing this week? what do you want to cook? ok, grand i’ll cook X’).
We shop with Tescos and they have an iPhone app, so during the week if I notice we’re running low on something I’ll add it straight to the shop there and then. Then on Sunday I just add the ingredients for the meals we’ve decided to cook, run through our last few orders to add our usual weekly items and I’m usually done and dusted in 5 minutes (usually while nursing the baby – high five for multi tasking!). We also have the delivery payment saver option set up, so each delivery only costs about €2.30.
Our shop arrives on a Monday so that means we’ve a fully stocked fridge to see us through till the weekend.
4. Give Your Kids Some Jobs
I’ll do a full blog post on this at some stage, but getting kids to pick up after themselves, even if they are little, can make the world of difference. Our eldest is only 3 but he picks out his own clothes in the morning and makes his bed, he puts his own rubbish in the bin, he puts his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper, if we’ve been out he puts his own shoes and jacket into his basket in the hall, and he tidies up all his toys before we go to bed. They are all small things that help keep the house picked up, means less for parents to do and also gives him a sense of responsibility and ownership.
It makes such a difference to come downstairs once the kids are in bed and to have a tidy sitting room to hang out in. You feel much calmer and chilled when you’re not looking at the contents of a toy shop strewn across the floor!
5. Get Help
Lastly, if you’re in a position to, get help! Outsource what you can! Can you shuffle some things around in your budget so you could get a cleaner to come in a couple of times a month? This is something we do, and having someone to deep clean the kitchen, bathrooms and floors makes a huge difference. It means we don’t spend our weekends doing it, so have more time to hang out with the kids.
Or maybe it’s the garden you could do with a hand in? Is there a local teen who might mow the grass for you once a week for some extra pocket money? Or even someone to watch the kids for a couple of hours so you can get some jobs done (or have some time to yourself!).
Whatever it is, try to figure out how you can make it work. If you and your partner cut out the take away coffees, or buying lunches out, even a couple of times a week, that’s money you could use for a cleaner or babysitter. Even if you think you can’t afford it, take a look at your budget, I think you’ll be surprised how easily you might be able to shave a few euro here and there each week. Even getting help in once a month can do wonders for the stress levels!
So there you have it, my 5 top tips for helping life with kids run a little smoother. If you’ve any other suggestions please let me know in the comments!