I don’t normally write these “life balance” posts but now that my kids are back in school, my life’s gotten a little crazier. And if you’re the average mom entrepreneur, I figure yours has too.
Like me, you’re juggling a lot. A L O T.
Business. Family. Pet. Grocery shopping. Cleaning. Budget. Cooking. Schedules. Lots of schedules.
Most days, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve forgotten something verrrrry important. And some days, I have.
I miss doctor appointments. I leave The Dude outside until 8pm, only realizing it when I hear him barking. I forget to buy the key ingredient in a recipe I’m making for dinner — like ground meat for meatballs. I lose Hope and Grace’s lunch forms that need to be signed and returned yesterday. I forget to put the coffee pot under the drip after hitting “Brew” and don’t know it until Hope says, “Um, Mama? There’s coffee all over the counter.”
So I know what you’re going through. That’s why I’m writing this post. To help you by sharing a few things that’ve made my life much easier. Things that may take an upfront time and money investment, but things that save me HUGE time, money and sanity in the long run. Things that help me manage my every day life better so I can put my cape on and be.
When trying to save money, it’s important to lower your monthly expenses and this guide from Internet Advisor can help…and here are a few more tips. Let me know how you like them.
1. Menu Planning — I used to D R E A D planning weekly dinners. I loathed it. I avoided it. I hated it. Then, I read an article on Simple Mom about menu planning that changed my attitude. So I created a menu plan for my family.
I bought a pack of index cards and wrote down thirty dinners on them, like dinnertime flash cards. I listed the recipe on the front of the index card and the ingredients on the back of the card. Now, of course this took some time to do initially — but it’s saved me SO much time and sanity every week since. My son Brendan has multiple food allergies (chicken, turkey, tuna, peanuts and tree nuts) that make meal planning difficult. Having thirty “Brendan-safe” dinner recipes on hand makes my life so much easier and saves infinite time and sanity.
So, go grab your favorite cookbooks (I love Ina Garten and Bobby Flay) or all the recipes you’ve torn out of magazines and spend a few hours writing complete dinners down on your index cards. By complete, I mean full meals — main course and all the side fixins like roasted pork tenderloin, sauteed cabbage and chunky homemade applesauce. Or spaghetti and meatballs with Caesar salad. Once you have your thirty dinnertime flash cards written, put them in a shoebox, file box or Ziploc bag.
Then, each week, choose seven of those thirty dinners for your weekly menu. Write the dinner down by day on your family calendar and you’ll avoid my least favorite question: “What are we having for dinner?”. 😆
Next, take your seven dinner cards and flip them over to the ingredient side. Now you’re ready for…
2. Grocery Shopping — I created a Google Docs Grocery List Spreadsheet that’s organized by store aisle. I take my weekly dinner cards, flip ’em over to the ingredients side and enter the ingredients onto my grocery list spreadsheet along with the other weekly items I’ll need (school lunches, snacks, cleaning products, etc). This saves me so much time because I keep weekly purchases (diapers, coffee, apples, yogurt) on the spreadsheet permanently (no rewriting them every week) and because it’s organized by aisle, it prevents forgetfulness and backtracking — now, I whiz through my grocery shopping, crossing things off my printed list as I go. My grocery list spreadsheet saves me a ton of money because I only buy what’s on the list — no impulse purchases, no forgetting what I need. And if I forget my list, no problem — I can log into my Google account on my iPhone and use that while I shop! My grocery list spreadsheet is for Whole Foods but you can create one for whatever market you go to. See my list here and feel free to save a copy for yourself.
A little “market” humor: Last Friday, my husband, who works for a large investments company, came home from work looking miserable. After he moped around for awhile, I said, “What’s wrong?” and he answered, “The market’s killing me.” My six year old Gracie said, “You didn’t even GO to the market today, Daddy.” LOL! 🙂
3. Children’s Weekly Outfit Planning — This idea originally came from an American Girl book that my daughter Hope was reading last summer called Clutter Control. The book suggested buying a 6-compartment hanging sweater bag to organize your outfits for the week. We purchased two sweater bags last year and have been using them ever since. The girls even decorated each shelf with a picture they drew. 😉
Hope and Grace are in fourth and first grade (Brendan just turned three) and each Sunday, we pick out five days worth of uniform outfits, including underpants and socks, and place them on the first five shelves of the hanging sweater bags.
This simple idea from Clutter Control has made my life (and theirs) easier and our mornings less stressful. I no longer have to pull clean clothes from the dryer and race upstairs with them each morning. I no longer have to calm a freaked-out Hope when she can’t decide what to wear. I no longer have to have to spend ten minutes every evening laying out tomorrow’s outfit for Grace. Like most good ideas, this one from Clutter Control is small and simple but offers big rewards in time and sanity saved.
4. Caffeine Planning — If you’re a coffee (or tea) drinker, skip the trips to Starbucks and save time and money by making your coffee ahead of time one of two ways.
For hot coffee, program your coffee pot to brew about 30 minutes before you wake up — then it’s ready when you are. Just be sure to add the coffee and water before programming it. Oh, and don’t forget to put the actual pot under the drip either. 😉
For iced coffee, brew a full pot of coffee on Sunday, sweeten it while it’s hot and then refrigerate it. Then, pour yourself a cup of icy coffee each morning, add milk and you’re ready to go.
I brew 12 cups of water with 9 tablespoons of Whole Foods Organic Southern Italian Espresso Grind Coffee Dark Roast. Then I add 4 tablespoons of sugar while it’s still hot. I pop it in the fridge and my husband and I drink it all week.
The can of coffee costs $12 each week but saves us $30 a week. If my husband and I each bought a cup of iced coffee every day, it would cost us about $42 per week. Making it at home saves us time and money–it can do the same for you. I’ve actually come to love my own homebrew (also the title of one of my favorite 311 songs) more than Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or Honeydew.
5. A Mogul Uniform — If you work from home, pick a “uniform” for yourself – the same basic outfit and makeup — and wear it every day. This saves time and really gives your brain a much-needed rest, especially if you’re caring for a newborn & the unavoidable sleep deprivation that comes with it. Search Dealigg for money-saving coupons from stores like Gap, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, and Lands End and stock up on your uniform “basics”. You’ll look great every day without even thinking about it. You can even buy a hanging sweater bag for yourself and set out your outfits for the week. 😉
My current uniform basics are:
Joe’s Jeans in “The Muse”: I love these jeans because they have a higher rise–perfect for moms with a pooch slight belly. 🙄 Joe’s Jeans has great customer service too–they’ll help you select the style that is just right for you, your body and your lifestyle. They might be pricey, but they last –and look great– forever and you can wear them with a t-shirt by day and dress them up at night with a gorgeous jewel-toned top, some bling and a nice pair of heels. Cost per wear, people…cost per wear. 😉
Gap Long & Lean Jeans: I love these because they come in petite sizes (I’m only 5′ 4″) and they’re only $59. Gap recently redesigned their jeans and they’re better than ever — the softest denim in so many styles and colors. I’ve been wearing Long & Leans since I saw Oprah wearing them on the cover of her magazine back in 2003.
Tops from Three Dots, Talbots, (don’t laugh) Target and J. Crew: I have about a dozen tops that all look the same (if you ask my husband) and chances are, they come from one of these stores. I like three-quarter sleeve, boatneck tops in neutrals like navy, black, grey or brown.
Shoes: I wear two pairs of shoes 365 days a year. Seriously. During the summer (or until there’s frost), you can find me in Fit Flops. Once the temperature drops below 32 degrees, I’ll be wearing my Ugg Classic Short. (I do wear the occasional pair of adorable orange or periwinkle heels from J. Crew.)
Undergarments: My bras are Victoria’s Secret Body by Victoria and my underpants are Hanky Panky Original Lace Thong. (The most comfortable, wearable thong I’ve found.)
Makeup — I wear the following every day:
- Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation in Beige Ivory
- Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Loose Powder in Pale Yellow
- Bobbi Brown Creamy Lipcolor in Nude Pink
- Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Powder Pink
- MAC Eye Shadow in Shroom
- Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow in Stone
- Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Espresso Ink
- Cover Girl Volume Exact Mascara in Very Black
Pick your uniform and simplify your life.
6. Pet Care — I love my dog, The Dude. But as cute as he is, he’s high maintenance. He doesn’t have a shedding “season” — he sheds 365 days a year. His fur blows around my hardwood floors like tumbleweed.
Luckily, Furminator, a company whose tagline is “Love your pet, hate the shedding?” found me and The Dude on Twitter after hearing me complain about his constant shedding. Furminator kindly sent The Dude their flagship product, the Furminator deShedding Tool and some awesome Waterless deShedding Shampoo. I brought The Dude outside, sprayed on the waterless shampoo and went to work with the Furminator. You wouldn’t believe the fur that came off that fuzzy cutie pie. It was incredible. The Furminator quickly and easily grabbed all the fur that was about to be shed and the waterless shampoo made The Dude smell heavenly. We left an enormous pile of The Dude’s fur behind for the birds to pad their winter nests. 😉 Thanks to Furminator, The Dude’s shedding has decreased and my house no longer resembles the wild West.
Like my son Brendan, The Dude also suffers from multiple food allergies — oats, beets, yeast and honey — all of which are commonly found in dog food. The Dude eats an all-natural dog food called Simple Solutions made by Wellness Pet. It’s really difficult to find and the one store near me that carried it recently closed. Enter K9Cuisine, a quickly growing organic pet food company that offers free shipping, free returns and best of all — auto ship. K9Cuisine is a triple threat, saving huge time, money and sanity for moms with pets. No more lugging back-breaking bags of pet food in your shopping cart and no more exorbitant shipping fees when you buy online. K9Cuisine is a mogul mom’s best friend.
7. Rosie the Robot — When I was little, The Jetsons was one of my favorite shows. It was so damn cool — Judy’s outfits, George’s spaceship and Jane’s ample shopping allowance. When I became a mom, well, that’s when I really began to appreciate The Jetsons — what could possibly be cooler than Rosie the Robot?
iRobot’s Roomba and Scooba, that’s what. Though they come with a hefty price tag (about $400 each), they are truly worth every penny. Roomba, the vacuum cleaning robot, scours hardwoods, ceramic tile and carpets, never once complaining that he just did this yesterday. He picks up crumbs, dog fur, dust and whatever else falls in his path. While I’m cooking dinner, picking up the girls at school or out in the yard playing with Brendan, he cleans under chairs, couches, buffets and dining tables. I love, love, love Roomba — and if iRobot hadn’t generously given “him” to me, I would happily shell out $400 for him. He comes equipped with two dust bins and a new “Max Mode” feature designed for extra large messes like the ones you’ll find at my house. 😉 Complete with an accessory storage case holding extra brushes, filters, cleaning tools and Virtual Wall Lighthouses, the iRobot Roomba 610 Professional Series ensures that high traffic areas stay clean while you tend to other things, like your kids or your growing business.
Scooba Floor Washing Robot, Roomba’s follow-up companion, is iRobot’s answer to traditional, messy, brown-water, back-breaking floor mopping.
Scooba sweeps, scrubs, mops, and even dries sealed hardwood and tile floors. Like Roomba, Scooba’s robot brain lets it map out your room, navigate obstacles, and know when it’s cleaned the whole room.
Once you’ve cleared your room of Legos, hair elastics, books, Barbie shoes, Webkinz and puzzle pieces, Scooba is really simple to get going. You pour two ounces of either the specially-made Clorox cleaning solution that comes with Scooba or, my favorite, white vinegar — I have three kids and a dog and I’m into green-cleaning — measured with the supplied measuring cup— into the clean-water tank and then fill it to the lip with warm, clean water. iRobot states that the solution will clean a 200-square-foot room before the cleaning solution/water mixture needs replacing. I had to fill the tank twice to clean a super-dirty ceramic tile kitchen floor that hadn’t been properly washed in ages. Scooba took about 90 minutes to clean it and got through dirt, dog drool, maple syrup, apple juice, milk, spilled Amoxicillin, red wine and I wiped the sludge off Scooba’s squeegee to prove it.
One of my favorite features of Roomba and Scooba is that they can be programmed to clean your floors at a set time each day. Roomba even has a little “dock” that he takes off and returns to each time he vacuums.
My entire family loves iRobot’s Roomba and Scooba — as you’ll notice, we refer to them as “he”. 😉 My son talks to them like they’re people, asking them to “watch this” when he does tricks and telling them to “tut up” (shut up) when he’s trying to watch a favorite TV show. Roomba and Scooba have made it possible to have a clean house, despite having three children and a big, furry dog.
Like I said, Roomba and Scooba may be pricey, but they have been a real life saver for me, saving me countless hours of cleaning, crippling backache and precious sanity. And if you start making your coffee at home, you can save up your money to buy iRobot’s wonder vacuums in just a few months.
I hope you’ve found a few ways to save time, money and sanity in your own busy life as a mom entrepreneur. Leave me a comment to let me know which of the seven ways has changed your life.