It may have been designed as a day of rest, but when you're a parent, Sundays are a perfect opportunity to prepare for the busy week ahead. From half hour power cleans to enlisting the kids' help, these clever hacks will set your family up for a week of smooth sailing—and still leave you time to relax. Because, after all, isn't that what Sunday's supposed to be about?
There's a percentage of people who take great joy in a Sunday afternoon meal-planning session, followed by a Sunday evening meal-prepping session. Then there's the rest of the population. For many people, meticulously planning and prepping the week's meals isn't exactly enticing, but the truth is: It helps. If you're not one to meal-plan to a tee, but want to dial down the stress at dinnertime during the week, Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory, authors of Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity, suggest making LOOP meals—leftovers on purpose. "Make a double portion with a plan," suggests Lipp. "For example, if you're doing a roasted chicken on Sunday, save a portion of that shredded chicken for chicken tacos on Tuesday night." Also, if cooking ahead—in any capacity—is too daunting a task, try washing, chopping, and storing veggies for upcoming dinners. Having half of the prep work done in advance will save serious time.
Don't wait until Wednesday to find out you only have one juice box or yogurt tube left—ensuring a last-minute trip to the grocery store—if your kiddo's a brown-bag lunch type. Instead, take inventory of all the stuff you need to pack a week's worth of lunches before the school week starts, so even if you don't actually make them ahead of time (#goals), you know you've got what you need. (That goes for your lunches, too!)
Whether you're style-obsessed or a "whatever's clean" kind of mama, planning your kids'—and your—outfits at the start of the week can be a lifesaver. While it isn't necessary to know what everyone is wearing from top to bottom, having a loose idea of what you're going to wear all week can save serious time on hectic mornings. If the idea of outfit planning doesn't really feel like your thing, think like a boss and contemplate a "uniform" or color scheme for the week.
While prepping supper for the week can be a rather large undertaking, prepping snacks is not. Having freshly chopped fruit in containers and individual bags of raisins and nuts can serve as a major sanity-saver when shuffling kids to various practices and playdates. No more hastily digging through the pantry when you're already late!
Avoid start of the week mayhem by allotting 15 minutes or so on Sunday evening to fill out your planner—and be sure to include things other than doctors appointments and errands. "Anticipation is a happiness trigger. So every Sunday, make a fun discussion out of the question, 'What are you looking forward to this week?'" says Valorie Burton, life strategist and author of Successful Women Think Differently. "This forces everyone to see the good in the week rather than dread it." Burton also suggests keeping any and all prep-time separate from downtime on Sundays. "If you're a morning person and you need to get things out of the way before you can relax, schedule prep time on Sunday morning," she notes. "If you're a night owl, schedule it at the end of the day. Either way, isolate your prep time so the rest of the day is clear to rest and have fun."
Even if you're not one to make coffee the night before, it's not a bad habit to get into on Sundays. Lisa Roche, a mom of one from New Jersey, says that Sunday is the one day she's sure to prep the coffee pot. "I'm never 100 percent ready for the chaos of Monday morning, so having coffee ready-made is one less thing for me to do," she says.
Mom and Dad may bear the brunt of Sunday prep, but they shouldn't be the only people involved. "The work it takes to run a household and make sure everyone is successful throughout the week should not belong to the parents alone," says Burton. "Teaching children how to prepare for the week is teaching them a vital life skill." Burton suggests creating a Sunday checklist together with the kids and letting little ones add stickers or graphics to personalize it and make it feel like their own.
For many moms, it's hard to be calm and serene Monday morning if the bathroom's a mess and the kitchen's even worse. But who wants to spend all of Sunday cleaning? Instead of setting out to clean the house from top to bottom, try a "30 Minute Power Clean." Set a timer and enlist your partner, and the kids if they're old enough, to clean anything and everything they can in a half hour. You'll be surprised at how much you get done.
A common mistake parents make is leaving everything for Sunday. Bad idea. Not only is it unlikely that you'll get to it all, there's a good chance you'll wind up feeling frazzled. Tick a few things for the upcoming week off your list before Sunday hits, so you can enjoy most of your day. "It's smart to start thinking about Sunday night on Friday," says Gregory. "Do a backpack dump on Friday afternoon, and go through a checklist with the kids regarding homework, papers that need to be signed, and lunchboxes that need to be cleaned out." Gregory also suggests doing a load or two of laundry every day, so you're not waist-deep in dirty clothes by the end of the weekend.