Menu

8 back to school hacks that'll save you time, mama

The busy season is about to begin.

8 back to school hacks that'll save you time, mama

Starting (or heading back) to school means a busy season is about to begin. 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 some hacks into your day to lessen the overwhelm and make processes smoother.

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.

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,
  • Flashlight
  • 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.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You might also like:

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

Keep reading Show less
Life