By Katy Killilea

Families do all kinds of kooky things to save money and/or time. Shopping at a warehouse club, for example: It takes forever to maneuver the giant cart around the place, and then the line to pay is long, and something like a case of pens or forearm-size loaf of goat cheese finds its way into the cart, making the savings in time and money nil. But then there are things that other families do that are pure genius.

Here are the very best convenience tips I’ve learned from other parents this year:

Efficient Household Management:

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  • Wash and dry laundry in a catch-as-catch-can style, but fold it only once a week, while you watch a TV show that doesn’t demand undivided attention. (The Biggest Loser is just about perfect.) Put the folded clothes away intermittently, during commercial breaks.
  • Have children select the next school day’s outfit the night before. If they don’t care what they wear, select the outfit for them and place it bedside.
  • Vacuum under and behind sofas/chairs/rugs when building tipped-over furniture forts. No rush on taking down the forts.
  • If you have more than one child, have each of them observe and critique the other’s tooth brushing, so you can step away from the sink and do something else.
  • Buy many pairs of each family member’s favorite sock to facilitate  matching.
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  • Stick to a fairly rigid after-school routine: Wash hands. Snack. Homework/reading. Parents get to sit down to read during that time too.

Shopping Avoidance Techniques:

  • Don’t read sale flyers. You don’t need to know–it will be on sale when you get there whether you’re prepared for it or not.
  • CVS and other pharmacies will automatically refill the prescriptions your family uses if you ask them to. An automated system will call  to let you know that your refill is ready for pickup.
  • Order groceries online. If you’re nasty, you can arrange to have them delivered while you’re out but your spouse/babysitter will be there to put them away.

Voila! Food:

  • If you neglected to defrost the whole chicken you had planned to serve for dinner, you can place it, rock hard, in your slow cooker and it will be luscious and cooked in time for dinner. Read the ridiculously easy instructions here.
  • Strange but true: You can pick up Sockeye and Wild Coho salmon fillets in the freezer section at Target.
  • While there, you can also get all the ingredients for our friend Mrs. Gower’s Top Secret Chicken: frozen breaded chicken cutlets (we use Morning Star Farms faux chicken), sliced provolone cheese,  a jar of sauce, and pasta. (Put water on to boil and heat oven to 350. Layer the sauce, then the chicken/faux chicken and cheese in a pan, and bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water to serve with the chicken.)
  • Stop thinking about what to pack in kids’ lunch boxes and copy other people’s smart ideas. Let them buy pizza and chocolate milk on Fridays.
  • Put dinner planning on automatic pilot. Have a burrito night, a soup night, a fish taco night…a night for whatever your family likes to eat. This greatly reduces brain strain for the meal planner. And if you don’t tell anyone (shhh!) that Tuesday is pasta night, they won’t complain when you inevitably stray from the pattern.

A Streamlined Lifestyle:

  • Go on a Facebook fast, inspired by Ramadan in function if not in spirit: refrain during daylight hours.
  • If you run or go to a gym, sleep in your workout clothes.
  • Spend time with the people you love, and block out the merely so-so ones as often as possible.
  • If you have long hair, learn to take a shower without getting it wet.