Prep in advance. "I prepare dinner while making lunch or breakfast, so if I have dry ingredients to mix I will get those together and store it in the pantry until I'm ready to combine everything for dinner," says Sarah Kimmel, founder of organizedmom.net.
Make extra. Every family has favorite dishes, so when you prepare those meals, double the recipe and freeze the other half.
Buy items in the form that you need them. "It may be more costly, but you will save time in the kitchen," says Jackie Keller, nutritionist and founder of NutriFit, a home meal delivery service and healthy food company in Los Angeles, California. "Choose shredded or sliced cheese, boned and skinned chicken breasts, and cut-up fresh vegetables."
Find shortcuts. "If a recipe calls for chicken, use rotisserie or frozen grilled chicken breasts from the store. And don't be afraid to buy a part of a recipe instead of creating it, such as marinara sauce," says Holly Clegg, author of the Trim & Terrific cookbook series.
Have breakfast for dinner. Don't have time to make dinner? Simply serve up an early-morning favorite for the family. "Scrambled eggs are one of the fastest foods to make, and in my family, a huge crowd-pleaser," says Audrey McClelland, founder of MomGenerations.com. Kelly Whitehead of Vernon, New Jersey, agrees: "Serve up some cereal and add a serving of fruit, and you have a meal in less than five minutes."
Pick up as you go. "You will cut your cleaning time in half when you pick up after yourself throughout the day," says Michelle LaRowe, author of Working Mom's 411. For example, clean your shower just after you've taken one. All the hot water and steam will have helped soften the soap scum.
Stay organized. Keep your cleaning products all in one container, such as a plastic basket with a handle that you can carry room to room. This way, you don't have to go to the supply closet while cleaning each individual room.
Multitask while cleaning. "When you are cooking and waiting for water to boil, clean the kitchen; scrub down the bathroom while in the shower or right after." -- Chelsea Gladden, founder of BreezyMama.com.
Buy better cleaning products. Cheap cleaners make you scrub longer, period! "Remember that your time is worth money too, and you deserve cleaning chemicals that work as hard as you do," says Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer at Maidpro.
Make it a game. That way, you can get the kids -- even little ones -- to help you. Make it a race to see who can clean up their rooms faster; when picking up toys around the house, see who can find the most.
Hire someone. "Even if it's once a month, it's still money well spent. A cleaning person can do the 'big' jobs, like scrubbing down the bathroom. Children want time with their parents -- not to watch them clean," says Anastasia Gavalas, a parenting education consultant.
Invest in some storage bins. Tucking everything away immediately makes your house look neater. Be sure to hang jackets up as soon as you get home, throw junk mail away and put other mail in a desk drawer, and put a basket by the door for shoes.
It Worked For Me: Parent Hacks
Sort early. "I sort laundry in the evening so I'm able to start loads when I wake up in the morning. Knowing what laundry I have to do and having it sorted is half the battle," says Traci Miller, a mom from New York City.
Treat stains ASAP. Instead of having to inspect each item of clothing on laundry day, pretreat stains as they happen. Then on laundry day, you can simply toss everything into the washing machine.
Shorten your cycles. If your family's clothes aren't that dirty, you might want to think about choosing a shorter cycle during the wash and rinse phase. Why wait an hour for the items to be ready for the dryer when 30 minutes will do? A shorter cycle is also better for the environment and your water bill!
Don't fold. Instead, hang most of your family's clothes and simply lay other clothes flat in dresser drawers.
Buy wrinkle-free. Does anyone enjoy ironing? We didn't think so. Look for clothes labeled "wrinkle-free" or stay away from fabrics that get easily creased (think linen and rayon).
Mom Confessions: If I Could Spend a Day Without My Kids I Would┐
Make a list. Research shows that people who shop with a list spend less time at the store and less money. And Gladden suggests organizing it by aisle. "For example, put all of your vegetables together and all of your cleaning supplies together so you only make one trip down each aisle," she says.
Go at the right time. Visit the market when the store tends to be less busy. You'll save time on the checkout line and at spots like the deli counter and butcher station. "A favorite time of mine is going in the evening after the kids are in bed. It typically is much less crowded than the post-work rush or weekend craziness," says Molly Morgan, RD, and author of The Skinny Rules.
Shop online. "This one has literally changed my life since I found ShopRite's Shop from Home," says Whitehead. Click, click, click, send... done. Just pick up and pay -- or better yet, you can even have it delivered to your house. The fee is minimal, and the site will even save your past shopping carts so all you have to do is add it again to avoid searching for what you want all over again." Other online grocery shopping sites include Peapod (www.peapod.com), Net Grocer (www.netgrocer.com), and Fresh Direct (www.freshdirect.com).
Limit your visits. Try to limit how often you shop; try once every two weeks or even once a month. "When I began shopping once a month, it cut our grocery bill substantially. I do run to the store once a week to pick up bread, milk, eggs, and fruit, but I go with just $15 in my purse to keep me from impulse shopping," says Jill Savage, author of Living with Less So Your Family Has More.
Invest in an extra freezer. This was a popular tip with many moms. Having another freezer in the house will allow you to utilize the large wholesale stores like BJs or Costco so you can buy meat, veggies, and other foods in bulk. Doing that once or twice a month will help eliminate the need to continually go to the supermarket.
Multitask! Moms are masters at doing two (or three or four) things at once anyway, so why not add exercise into the equation? "I do leg exercises while brushing my teeth, putting on makeup, and even showering," says Rhett Templeton, a mom from South Carolina and owner of Templeton Silver (www.templetonsilver.com).
Ditch the car. Need to run to the market? Walk there or take your bike instead. You can even get a buggy or seat that attaches to the back of your bike so you can take the little ones with you.
Pop in a DVD. Going to the gym can take almost two hours, if you include travel time. "Like most busy moms, I don't usually have that much time to devote to exercise," says Loulie Key Scharf, a mom from Wilmington, North Carolina. "Instead, I pop in an exercise DVD, and within 45 minutes I am finished. And I never have to leave the house!"
Take a walk. Take your dog for a walk or put the baby in the stroller for a neighborhood stroll. You need to walk the dog anyway, and Baby can always use some fresh air.
Plan in advance. "I work out in the morning so that there's no excuse of meetings or other obligations getting in the way," says Bridgett Edwards, a mom from Cromwell, Connecticut, and owner of Perideau Designs (www.perideaudesigns.com). "I lay out my workout clothes the night before, charge my iPhone, and plan the exact route or workout so there will be minimal time wasted figuring out the little things."
Get organized. "Lay out your makeup so you have it in the order it will be applied," says Gladden. This way, you won't waste time searching for items in the morning or before a big event.
Do hair last. If you can, let wet hair air dry while you get dressed and put on your makeup. This will cut down on using the hair dryer.
Find simple shortcuts. "Mixing in a packet of sugar with my facial cleanser or body lotion for achieving smooth skin right before my shower," says Carol Margolis, a mom and founder of www.smartwomentravelers.com. "I have no time for long-drying face masks or body scrubs. The sugar works fast and feels fabulous!" Another shortcut: Don't have time to wash your hair this morning? Sprinkling a little baby powder on your scalp can soak up any oil so your hair doesn't look dirty (just be sure to rub in the powder so that it disappears).
Wear a bright gloss. Don't have time for a full face of makeup this a.m.? No worries -- simply apply a rich-looking gloss. "This finishing touch makes you look instantly polished, feel beautiful, and ready to start your day," says Kirin Christianson of Red Haute Mama (www.redhautemama.com).
Lay it out. Just like you might do for the kiddies, plan your outfit the night before. Check the weather and then choose everything from your clothes and shoes to accessories. Leave it all out in the bedroom so it's all in the same place.
Wear a dress. It's one thing to wash, pick out, and put on in the morning. It also saves time on shopping and money since you don't have to try to coordinate shirts and pants.
Shop smart. "Overall, most of my clothes go with each other, so it doesn't take me long to put together an outfit," says Tsh Oxenreider, the editor of Simple Mom (www.simplemom.net). "I'd rather have 10 things that fit me perfectly than 50 things that fit me so-so, so when I open the closet, I know everything fits, is a good color, and works well together. It doesn't take long at all to put together an outfit."
Paying the Bills
Create a command center. Choose an area of the house -- your desk, the dining room table, etc. -- where you can sit down and pay the bills each month. Keep everything you need in a bin nearby: the bills, stamps, checkbook, calculator, etc.
Pay online. Save money and time (goodbye trips to the post office) by taking care of bills online. Many companies will also allow you to set up automatic pay so that set bills (like your mortgage and car payment) are deducted each month from your checking or savings account. Once you sign up, there's nothing left for you to do.
Do it all once a month. If you can schedule it with pay periods, try to pay all of your bills just once a month. At the very least, choose a time of day when you can get it done uninterrupted, like early in the morning before the kids get up or on a Saturday when everyone is out of the house.
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.