Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 15: Plan Ahead

The last two days I wrote about how I use lists and calendars to keep things running smoothly in our home. When I'm really on top of things I like to prepare for things ahead of time. This comes in many forms, so I'll give you some examples.

I make a plan for meals days in advance. There have been times where I have had a meal plan for the entire month. I check the day before to see what dinner is the next night. If needed, I take out anything that may need to thaw and place it in the refrigerator. Since some meals are multi step, I will start one of the longer steps earlier in the day. For example, chicken tacos. I like to bake the chicken in the oven, let it cool, then shred or dice. I later heat the chicken meat and add seasoning. Baking much earlier doesn't necessarily save time, but makes the process feel shorter in the busy evening. This is another meal that doubling the meat cooked could net two meals with half the work. In this case I usually freeze the doubled portion for later in the month.

We have the habit of preparing our coffee the night before. We have a coffee maker that will start on a timer if we add the water, new filter and coffee grounds and set it ahead of time. It's so nice to come into the kitchen with the coffee already made. And since we clean up our nightly dishes after our meal and run the dishwasher at night we have a clean kitchen and clean dishes to start our day.

Another way to prepare for mornings is to decide what you will wear, or at least what your kids will wear if they are young enough to need help. You might consider setting out in the same spot so a child who can dress themselves knows just where to find their clothes. We would also make sure all homework or items needing to go to school with our child the following day were packed and ready to go. I've heard some people go as far as making sandwiches at night and freezing them days ahead of time. We have never made the sandwich ahead, but have made our own packages of fruit or vegetables.

Busy Days
We've have some busy days (even weeks) during the school year that allow for little time to eat dinner. When making the meal plan I mentioned before, I try to take into consideration which nights do not allow for a sit down meal. I either make a simple meal of a soup or sandwich, or even a microwavable dinner, or have something ready to serve up from the slow cooker.

And on busy days, having all the things you need for the various activities with you and ready to go is crucial. When my girls were younger and in dance classes, they each had a bag with their dance shoes. We would lay out their dance clothes and bag the night before so those items were ready when it was time to get ready or leave for the activity. Don't forget to fill a water bottle for yourself or your child during the busy days. Stopping for a snack and drink at a convenience store takes more time and costs more money!

Although I would have to drive my children to activities I wasn't particularly busy, so it was important for me to prepare for waiting. I would often squeeze in a phone call to a friend, clean my purse, menu plan or catch up on any reading...which meant remembering to pack the coupons or reading material with me.

Think Ahead
If you aren't in the practice of planning ahead, I'm sure planning a months worth of meals seems very overwhelming. Simply start by planning for the day ahead the night before. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes. You probably won't end up sending your child in a dirty uniform because you checked the evening before and were able to get it washed. The more you put the daily habit of planning ahead into practice, the easier it will be in time to think farther ahead. At least that has been my experience. And remember it's a journey, you don't need to become a perfect planner overnight.

What kinds of activities do you plan ahead for? Do you have a evening or morning habit that helps things run smoother in your household? How far ahead to you plan meals?

This post is part of my October series titled 31 Days of Decluttering and Organizing. 

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