Back To School Tips & Tricks I’ve Learned
If you know me personally then you would know the following things about me: everything in my house has a label, my meals are planned by the month, I’m extremely structured, and I live by my to-do list daily. I will even go as far as to write an extra to-do down that I accomplish just so that I can check it off. Anyone else like me?
Anyway, last year – I posted about how everything is ready for back to school at my house. That post ended up having quite a big reach on Facebook and Instagram, so I figured maybe I should share my tips. Maybe just maybe my tips will help you make things easier this school-year for you! So today I’m opening up my brain and pouring all my info out to you! This post is going to be long, so I apologize for that in advance. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime. I’m always happy to help.
Please note – These ways of living work best for me and my family. All of them won’t work exactly the same for you. But please take these tips & tricks and implement them in your home the way that’s best for you and your family! Also, I don’t want you to read this article and think that I have a perfectly run household. Because that is NOT true! I just have these items set in place to keep us running more efficiently.
- Breakfast: As far as breakfast goes, I believe it depends on your family’s preference. We are breakfast lovers in this house. I usually cook up a batch of bacon or sausage on Sunday for the week. Then every morning I make either egg sandwiches or scrambled eggs and warm up the meat I made on Sunday. I will also sometimes make a casserole or muffins on Sunday and we will eat off that during the week. If you’d really like to prepare, you can cook breakfast and store it in your freezer. Click here for some ideas on breakfast freezer meals.
- Lunch & Snacks: This year for lunches and snacks I’m doing things a little simpler. I got two bins. One bin went in the fridge and the other one went in the pantry. I’ve encouraged my kids (ages 6 & 8) to pack their own lunch every night. They are to pull 2 items from fridge bin and 2 from the pantry bin. For the first month of school, I help them to pack a healthy and complete lunch. The bins are filled with items like fruit cups, sliced fruit, applesauce, hummus, guacamole, cheese slices, pepperoni, deli meat, yogurt, crackers, pretzel, peanut butter, chips, trail mix, etc. (See picture below)
- Dinner: I like to plan a month at a time so my month has balanced meals. I always grocery shop on Fridays using Kroger ClickList. And I make a monthly trip to Costco to load up on the staple, snack, and bulk items. Disclaimer – As a family, we eat mostly paleo style so I plan dinners that way. I use a combo of cookbooks (Danielle Walker) and Pinterest to create our monthly meal plan. I love to meal plan & cook so this works for me. If you don’t like to plan, check out either Eat at Home (provides weekly meal plans and a color-coded grocery list) or Dream Dinners (a local company that works as your prep kitchen and fills your freezer with meals that just need to be cooked).
- All the Incoming “Stuff”: In the area between my kitchen and living room, we have a dresser with three baskets labeled as Inbox, Supplies, & Greg (see photo below). All incoming “stuff” goes in the inbox and weekly I sort through what is trash, what needs to be filed, what are bills to pay, etc. In this same inbox bin, I have a folder for receipts to go in. Each week I go through and enter them in our budgeting tool. We use You Need a Budget (YNAB) because it syncs with your phone and/or web. The second bin labeled “supplies” is for post-its, morning devotion books, pencils, markers, etc. This bin also contains a homework folder where I place activities for homework. My kids will typically do their homework at the kitchen table while I prep dinner. The third bin is for my husband. In it, he puts whatever he needs to. He needed a place so I gave him one!
- Communication: Above the dresser mentioned above, I have a chalkboard that I created (see image below). It’s simply a window that I painted the glass with chalkboard paint. I update this board every Saturday evening. It keeps everyone in the “know” as to what’s going on during the week and what we are having for dinner each night. On Sunday, we do a family meeting during dinner. During that meeting, we all share compliments about one another and then I tell everyone what we have coming up the upcoming week.
- Laundry: Laundry has always been my nemesis. I have tried doing it daily and also doing it once a week. After some trial and error, I’ve found for me it works best to do laundry every other day. On a laundry day, I try to see it all the way through. That means that I wash, dry, fold, and put away. I loathe ironing. Like seriously loathe! I only iron every other week on Saturdays. And I took the summer off from ironing. It was glorious!
- House Cleaning: Because I work full time now I have a house cleaner that comes every other week. The only cleaning that gets done is on Sunday evenings, we all pick up our areas to make sure everything is tidy. I also always clean up the kitchen and living area most evenings so we start the day with a clean living space. Before the house cleaner, I used Clean Mama’s method of cleaning 15-20 minutes a day so your house stays clean and a once a month deep cleaning.
- Abide by Boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries with your family’s time. If not, you will be a frantic family all over the place. I know because I’ve been there and done that! For us, we only allow one extracurricular activity per kid. For the fall season, Finn has chosen flag football and Selah is deciding between gymnastics, acrobatics, or swim. We will discuss spring as we get closer. As for us (the parents), we’re in a small group through Browns Bridge Church and like to go to the gym. So between all that we stay pretty busy.
- Family/Rest Time: “The days are long, but the years are short.” I know there will be a season where we won’t be able to do this. But for now, we try to eat dinner together every night. Some of the best conversations we’ve had have been around the kitchen table. We also incorporated a weekly game night into our schedule a few years ago. The kids love it! During that time, we play board games, cards, hide and seek, etc. We just rotate between each of us to be the one that makes the decision on what we do. Recently, we found a locally made box (PLAtime) that provides the activities and supplies. You can read more about that here. This year we decided to implement a rest day each week. It usually falls on Sundays, but the day fluctuates each week. During the rest day, we just chill at home. By chill I mean we relax – that means no work is done on these days.
- No Technology: Last but not least, we put all devices away around 5pm and it stays that way for the remainder of the evening. This is a hard one – especially for me. But I’m really committed this year! Family conversations are much richer when technology isn’t in the mix. We keep a copy of Here’s a Question around dinner time if we need help stirring up a conversation.
And that’s all my back to school tips in a nutshell. Now I need to have a glass of wine after all that typing! Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. I hope this post was helpful to you! Cheers to being more organized this year, Rachael
Rachael Walkup is a wife, mother of two, and owner of CummingLocal.com – a website dedicated to promoting events & small businesses in Forsyth County. Coffee, good food, and wine are the way to her heart. She’s a lover of comfy clothes and deep conversation.