Thursday, April 5, 2012

April A to Z Challenge: E

E = Efficiency

As a single parent, we quickly learn the concept of Efficiency.  After all, there is only one body trying to handle the task list of what would (normally?--as if anything is "normal" these days!) typically be handled by two people.  While another lesson that I've learned being a singel parent involves knowing when to let go and stop beating myself up over the fact that I didn't accomplish all 10,287 things on my to-do list in any given day, I've also learned a great deal about efficiency.  Some things still need to get done (you know, like eating. . .and showering. . .occasionally) so it helps to be able to attack things in an efficient manner.  Here are just a few things that I do to try to make everything run more efficiently in my house:

  • I try (okay, I fail miserably most times but the actual concept still works!) to menu plan our meals at least a week in advance.  That way, I can pull things out of the freezer a day or two in advance or pick up necessary items at the grocery store that I might need.  By doing this, it helps tremendously in my grocery spending (I don't spend hours at the grocery store buying random things that I don't need that week or trying to menu plan a weeks worth of meals while standing in the produce section) and how much I spend in eating out.  You see, I have this horrible tendency to stand in front of an open fridge/freezer and immediately become discouraged or tired and say to myself "Screw it, I don't feel like cooking/there's nothing to eat in here/I don't have time to make something. . .we're going out for dinner".  Plus, I hate to waste food, so when there's chicken already thawed out for a meal that I've planned that night, I am less likely to pull the eating out card.  Also, by menu planning, it allows me to recognize what nights we may need to eat out on account of an activity or something that we have going on (which makes cooking difficult/impossible) so I can either pre-plan a "brown bag dinner" of sorts and bring it with us or I have more time to figure out how to eat out cheaper by using coupons or a "Kids Eat Free" restaurant.
  • We pick out our clothes for any given day the night before.  This allows Tyler some extra time to figure out what he wants to wear (who am I kidding?  He's six and he's a boy. . he doesn't care what he wears!) and eliminates the time spent in the morning trying to pick out clothes and any battles over what he might wear.  Plus, he's at the age where he can dress himself so I just get him up and out of bed and he can do the rest.  That allows me to actually get myself ready and out the door.
  • We pack any lunches the night before and get our breakfast "halfway ready" the night before.  Ty can pour milk into a bowl of cereal but I don't want him attempting to stand on a chair to actually get the box of cereal down.  So, I pour cereal into a bowl the night before, put a paper towel over it and put milk into a cup for him.  The cup of milk goes into the fridge and the bowl (with paper towel over top of it) sits on the counter over night.  In the morning after he's dressed, he pours the milk into his cereal and eats his breakfast.  This, again, gives me time to get myself ready in the morning.
  • All errands are ran on a schedule that works for me in terms of timing and less gas usage.  As we all know, gas is getting ruh-DONK-ulously expensive.  Therefore, I try to conserve wherever possible.  But, my time is extremely important to me too (HELLO. . .we're talking about efficiency!) so I try to run all of my errands on a schedule that allows me to spend less in gas and keep more of my time to myself (or to the other 10,286 things on my to-do list!).  For example, we grocery shop on Thursday nights.  There's no specific rhyme or reason to why it's Thursdays. . .it just is.  I also fill up my car with gas on Thursday nights after grocery shopping.  If there are any other errands to run, I either try to coordinate them so that they can be ran on my way to/from work (saving gas) or I save them for a day when I have other errands to run (if at all possible) and try to pick the most central location that has all of the places that I need to hit in close proximity to one another.  My friends have been subjected before to the irritable-ness that ensues when I have to drive across town for a one off errand.  I HATE THAT!! 
  • I spend any "down" time (waiting at doctors offices, Tyler's school, sports practices, etc) doing whatever I can to be "productive".  That may mean that I'm cleaning out an email inbox from my phone, surfing the internet (again from my phone) to find deals and steals, or writing ideas for things in a notebook that I carry with me everywhere.  Whatever it is, I try to spend those few moments in between things being productive. 
Those are just a few tips/tricks that I can think of right off the top of my head.  What kinds of things do you do to be more efficient with your time or money?  Please share!

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