The school season is a busy time for families. During the summer, the family has a bit more freedom, but the fall months bring more structure and routine to everyone’s life. While you can’t change the amount of tasks on your to-do list, you can incorporate these tips for mom (and the whole family) into your day to make it all seem less overwhelming.
From outsourcing some must-dos (looking at you groceries) to keeping your car prepared for those days you simply forget the kids had after-school activities, here are some of our mama-approved back to school hacks that’ll save you time—and a whole lot of stress.
Start the school year on the right foot with these time-saving back-to-school hacks
1. Outsource groceries & snacks
Everyone is running around from place to place during the school season and sometimes you just don’t have time to make it to the store. We love outsourcing groceries and snacks for those busy weeks as it ensures the pantry and fridge is stocked without having to spend an hour or more at the store.
Boxed is amazing for non-perishable goods, household supplies and snack staples your kids love. Instacart and Fresh Direct can fill in for fresh produce, milk and meats directly from your local grocery store. And, when in doubt, Amazon Prime it.
2. Pre-organize your purse
Work, girls night out, date night, school drop-off—the list goes on and on. You probably spend way too much time switching out bags and the items you need for each event. While there’s no one bag that does the job for everything (if you find one, let us know!) there is a nifty solution.
ToteSavvy was created to transform any bag into a diaper bag, but you can use another one to keep all of mama’s top pieces in one place—makeup, wallet, keys, band-aids, etc. We love this one from a collaboration with Fawn Design because it’s compact enough to fit in almost every bag we have. Simply load it up then pop it into whatever bag you need.
3. Let technology take some of the mental load
You can automate just about anything with smart devices, and the tech is only getting better. A few of our favorites? Assignable reminders of the Google Assistant—you can create reminders for everyone in your family so you don’t have to. Try asking your Assistant, “Hey Google, remind Sophie that she’s going to do great on tomorrow’s test” or “Hey Google, remind Ben that he needs to complete his chores tonight.” And, if you can’t seem to make time for those activities you want to do (think: family time or date night) your Google Calendar can schedule goals for you, blocking out time on your calendar to do what matters most to you.
If you have an Amazon device instead, you can create morning routines for both you and the kids. With an Echo Dot Kids Edition , you can tell them breakfast is ready or customize alarms or checklists to guide them. Even better, add their favorite character to help them wake up in the morning (Disney’s Moana, for example!). We love digging into new features, like the Chompers skill that provides brushing tips, reminders and jokes for the full two minutes they should be brushing.
4. Have a ready-to-go bag in the car
If you’re going to be running around, you might as well use your car’s space to your advantage. Grab a large bag and fill it with items that your family always seems to need.
Some items to get started:
- Extra set of clothes for the kids
- A pair of flats,
- Wet wipes
- Plastic baggie
- Baby’s favorite pacifier or toy
- A $20 bill
Keep it in the trunk of your car and refill it as you use things from the bag. This will save you a trip back home or an adventure to the store.
Pro tip: A canvas bag is perfect to have on hand for a quick trip to the grocery store, too. This tote from The Little Market is large, sturdy and customizable. Plus, it’s eco-friendly and handmade by women in Bangladesh so your purchase gives back to other women.
5. Sync calendars with your partner
Sometimes life can get *so* busy and the best of people can forget important tasks, or you have to switch up schedules last minute so your partner needs to pick up the kids from daycare when you usually do.
Find a way to manage a calendar that works for you both and sync it up every Sunday so everyone knows who is doing what and going where. Paper planners or whiteboards in the kitchen are great, but we like doubling up with digital calendars because it’ll send an alert or reminder.
6. Create snack bins
Get a bin or a box that fits in your cabinet or pantry that’s only for school snacks. Make sure it’s ready to go at the beginning of each week and encourage your kids to pick out two items to go in their lunchbox. This will not only save you time, but will get your littles involved in helping out with packing lunches.
Even better? Create a sandwich section in the fridge where you pre-make sandwiches a few days in advance. Children can grab a bag, two snacks, and be ready to head out the door.
7. Establish a command center
If you’ve ever spent an extra 20 minutes searching for your kid’s homework folder at 7 am or looking for your keys, you’re not alone, mama. Mornings are often the craziest time of day for any family.
Set aside an area in a common space that serves as a command station. Maybe it’s a mud room, or you have a designated spot in the kitchen. This is where keys, phones, chargers, homework, notes that need signed and anything else important needs to go.
Get the family in the routine of putting everything there when they get home so you never waste time looking for things. If you’re limited on space, an on-the-wall organizer like this is a great solution.
8. Prep meals in batches
While most parents would love to take the time to make a fresh meal every night, it’s just not realistic in a busy season. First, give yourself grace to order pizza or pick up to-go food. Then, plan ahead and prep batched meals.
Put chicken and veggies in one freezer bag for a sheet pan dinner, toss sauce and pasta in another for Italian night, or have potatoes, beef tips and carrots ready to throw in the crock pot. You’ll save tons of time of prep work and only need to thaw it out in the morning, then cook it all together in the evening.
A version of this post was published August 27, 2019. It has been updated.