I have three young kids and our schedule is insane. It's been a challenge for me to design a schedule that reduces stress from week to week. Especially since school started. We have to get my eldest son who's five to school. My three-year-old son has to get to daycare. Then my "teething" 1-year-old is at home with me. I take her along with me to drop the other two off.
I've had to build a strategic game plan to tackle this schedule without feeling so overwhelmed. Since school started, I've stepped it up. Here are a few tips I've used that I thought would be great to share with all the struggling moms out there.
1. Get Your Baby in their Own Room
This topic can be controversial for some moms, but it's just what's worked for me. Your experience might be different. It was so important for me to get my youngest in her own room. It's almost as if as soon as she had her own space. She couldn't sense me and became less dependent on me feeding her every hour or two throughout the night. Even though she's still breastfeeding and teething. I still don't have to get up as much now that she's in her own room.
One big change that really helped me out was making sure she had everything she needed in her own room. I kept delaying it because she didn't have a stand alone change table. I found a really nice one on Wayfair for 50% off. I saved a lot compared to any other place. Their sales are better than anywhere else and I've since talked to my husband about getting a new table for our family room too! I see crazy sales in their newsletter daily.
2. Use a Shared Calendar With Your Partner
Our family has several things scheduled weekly. My son has Picture Day, needs a haircut, my one year old daughter has swimming, my three year old son has swimming. This doesn't include things that my husband and I have planned. Grocery shopping, going to the gym, paying bills,etc.
Lately we've been sharing a Google Calendar. If he adds something to it. I can easily see it, and vice versa. It makes life so much easier.
- We don't ever double book things.
- We don't get stressed about a busy day, because we can see it well ahead and move things if it get's too busy.
- It makes it a lot easier to schedule things because it's all in one place.
3. Meal Plan for the Coming Week
I've had too many nights where we get everyone home from the weekday and it's 5:00 pm. My husband and I look at each other and say "What should we do for dinner?" Often times this leads to making something that's quick but unhealthy for dinner or even worse, ordering take out.
My biggest change has been writing down meals every weekend before we go shopping. I'll go through the recipe books and look at any great deals in the grocery flyers for my weekly recipes. Then I'll write down which meals are for which day of the week. Which helps me know when to pull out any frozen meat or vegetables in the morning, so they can thaw throughout the day.
Pro tip here.. I use a few services to make some big cost savings along with some couponing. The biggest tool without a doubt is Shopkick. I just scan my purchases on items I buy. I've made $25/week at times.
Having a five year old, three year old and one year old. It seems like I've been buying diapers forever! I use Huggies for my one year old. But Pampers for my last one. Whatever works right? If you use Huggies or Pampers. Make sure to sign up for their reward programs. If you're buying diapers like me. It just makes sense to get some rewards for it. With 3 kids, they've added up.
Also, have a look at Amazon Family and get a subscription for your diapers (up to 20% off to begin with). My husband and I looked at Walmart, Costco, Target. We couldn't beat costs on a subscription with an Amazon membership. Another advantage is never having to leave our home to get diapers.
4. Make Cooking Easier for the Week Ahead
As I already mentioned: 5:00 pm during weeknights are not a good time to plan dinner!!!
I've vented about this to my Mom as well. She had 6 kids (including me) I asked her how she did it, how did she feed us quality foods every night? As it turns out, my Mom is a huge advocate of meal planning & cooking on the weekend, and it's saved me a lot of time during the week.
After I get my shopping done on Saturday or Sunday. I plan to cook one meal for dinner to eat during the week and one for lunches.
I usually make some kind of casserole and double the recipe. I put one in the freezer and I put one in the fridge. Then I cook one big soup or stir fry for lunches and put it in containers for the week.
Here's How a Full Week Looks:
- Double the casserole recipe - weekly. (One in the fridge, one in the freezer) So you always have at least 1 or 2 casseroles pre-made in the freezer if you roll this over from week to week.
- Because you make a soup or other meal for lunches. You'll have enough dinner leftovers in the fridge that you don't need for lunches. Which means you can have a leftover night during the week.
- A Slow cooker meal prepared in the morning and ready for dinner.
- Two 30 minute meals made during the week. I'll usually make something like: Salmon with beans and rice, pork with sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.
TOTAL Week =
1 casserole - no cooking required
1 slow cooker meal - 15 minutes prep required
2 quick meals - 30 minutes cooking
1 left over night - 10 minutes warming up food
2 weekend meals - free for all
5. Be Smart and Get on a Budget that Works
As you now know from my shopping tips, I'm pretty smart at saving cash. I've gotten better at this since being home with my youngest. Because I'm still home past the 3 month maternity leave, we've had to become financial ninjas to make it work.
A few tips I really like are cash budgeting and cutting bills where you can cut bills. I'll explain.
My husband and I meet monthly and go over a budget. We have bills that never change.. like mortgage payments, and car payments. But other bills that are variable. Like gas and groceries.
We made a spreadsheet. We put our static costs in one column and our variable costs below. We set a "static budget" for each of those variable costs. Example. We budget $200/week for groceries. Some weeks I have been such a good shopper using my tricks above like Shopkick. I can save $100. Then I create a separate jar at home for all of that cash I saved.
Don't think it ads up? There are so many advantages:
- We paid for our last vacation from doing this.
- It keeps us honest. We don't just swipe cards and not know where the money went.
- I'm competitive with it. I want to save on groceries, gas and other things. Just to see how much I can put in the jar.
- You're able to see your money come in and go out more easily every month. This allows you to save more and plan more for the future.
Cut Bills Where You Can
When I went on maternity leave. My husband and I crawled over all of our bills to try and lower any of them that we could. Everything from mortgage to internet to car payments.
- I found a different phone company for our home line through Costco, it's VOIP. But it still works great and is a lot less money per month than our old company.
- We had our mortgage come up for renewal and shopped for a cheaper company through a brokerage. This was a huge savings.
- We switched home insurance and car insurance companies. What's great is that all of this went back into our overall income coming in vs. going out.
A few key companies we used were: Lemonade for home insurance & Zebra for car insurance. We saved a ton using both companies. Because they both find the cheapest options amongst a bunch of companies. It's worth it when it goes back into your pocket.
I hope these tips work well for you. Because they've definitely changed the way that we've run our household. It's not easy everyday and we're not always consistent. But, when everything is lining up perfectly. These are the key parts putting it together.