Have a set morning routine and stick to it! I have always felt that this time of day sets the tempo for me and my family for the remainder of the day. Probably because I am not a morning person, I have always done the same things, in the same order, every weekday. I have always encouraged my growing family to do the same. When my youngest daughter asks to do something “out of routine,” I simply say, “When all of your work is done, and if there is time left, yes, you can do that.” Our “work” as a family is the set routine we always follow in the morning.

Get organized! I am the queen of organization. A while ago, on a trip to IKEA, I purchased all sorts of wall hooks, baskets, and organizing pieces to assist me and my family with our stuff. Upon entry into our home, there is a large seating bench with space underneath for baskets. I have arranged hooks in two long, vertical lines to hold backpacks, purses, envirobags, etc. Every day our children come home, they stuff their shoes under the bench, hang their backpacks and coats up (yes, of course, the Queen of Neat often does this for them!) and scoot off for a snack. Knowing that each backpack is in its place makes it easier for later in the evening when we have to retrieve homework, agendas, and school notes. My husband and I each take the time to “review” the day with one of our children and to go over anything important from the backpack. We create conversations about the day, talk about any concerns or stresses, get the child underway with homework, and generally touch base about their day. I believe in this way we have shown interest in their day and how much we love and care about what is happening in their lives.

Plan meals in advance and write up a menu for the week. Meal planning and meal preparation is another area that, with a bit of thought and organization, can save you time, energy, and allow for nutritious, home cooked meals that will be shared around your family table, not a restaurant table. We typically grocery shop on the weekends. I buy bulk items like diced tomatoes, corn, beans, and the like in a flat of eight cans. We do our “big shop” once every six weeks. I have created a pantry area in my laundry room to store all of these items. We purchase a ¼ of a side of organic beef every fall to put up for winter. We shop at a local farmer’s market every Saturday morning and I only buy what’s in season. Having a menu written out and posted also saves a lot of time and stress at the end of the day. We typically like to come through the door and know exactly what we need to do to get supper on the table in half an hour. You will probably have to train yourself to take something out of the freezer in the morning, but then everything can be ready to prepare when you come through the door. One thing that we do when we’re having mashed potatoes with our supper is that we ensure we have tossed in a few extra potatoes for a Shephard’s Pie later in the week. I have never been one to make three casseroles at a time and freeze two. I can handle preparing a larger quantity of ground beef to be used in chili or for a spaghetti sauce later in the week. I think I work one week at a time in my head. Typically if we’re at a bit of a loss for what to eat, we cut up veggies for a veggie platter and then work from there. Our meals are not necessarily gourmet, but I would classify them as good Canadian cooking. Some evenings we simply have open-faced tuna melts or grilled cheese and tomato melts under the broiler with a veggie platter. I believe that if it is a balanced meal nutritionally and we’re sitting around the table together, it’s the “us” being together and eating well that matters the most to me. Oh, and my favourite time saving kitchen device… the crock pot! Again, good, wholesome Canadian dishes that bubble away while we’re at school and work.

Make time every day for you and your partner. There are so many articles published about women doing too much and running on empty. One simple rule in our home is that the living room is clear of children for nine p.m. No, we do not have a family room, so my husband and I have carved out our own time by insisting that we have our own space at nine p.m. This goes for weekend nights too unless we’re having a family game or movie night. I have always appreciated having just our parent time to de-fuse, cuddle, and just touch base for the day. I think this should be done every day because if you’re waiting for a holiday to re-connect with your partner, that can be a long time to wait!

Allow uninterrupted play/down time for your children every day. It is so important to ensure that your children have plenty of down time every day, time away from any organized activities to decompress, dream, read, or simply to do nothing. My youngest daughter loves her time to play with her Play Mobil and to create a whole town in her room. When asked, I will join in and help her to build a pet store or grocery store. I truly appreciate this time more with her, creating conversations with her, than I do standing on the sidelines of a soccer pitch, cheering her on from the distance. My husband and I have always insisted that our children have limited activities outside the home. I always say to friends and family “I love having my children around, sharing the same air as me!”

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