■ Chronicle News Service
(StatePoint) The new school year brings hectic mornings, piles of homework, endless events, practices, games and school conferences. When you’re a busy parent, day-to-day tasks can consume your thoughts and energy. Stay organized and sane by following these simple tips to handle the crush of the school year.
Communication is key when it comes to organization. Stay in sync with your family by using a digital calendar. Smartphone apps such as Hub allow multiple users to share to-do and shopping lists, appointments, commitments and more. In addition, many apps have messaging capabilities to ensure users can share specific details and instructions (“Bring treats for the holiday party Tuesday”) and last-minute changes (“Grandma is picking up the kids today”) with one or more family members.
If your family prefers a physical calendar, incorporate it into a complete “home command station” in an area everyone passes, like a nook in the kitchen or a corner in the family room. Build out the space as the central location for organization. Use chalkboard paint to create a reusable messaging wall for daily assignments and appointments. Include a shelf or cubby with an inbox and outbox so permission slips, bills and important documents don’t get lost.
Make this station even more useful by adding a dedicated space for children to do homework. Include a desk, computer, school supplies and a bright desk lamp. Encourage success by posting recent “wins” nearby, like that aced spelling test or impressionist masterpiece. Utilize file cabinets, labeled folders or pouches to separate print materials and USB flash drives by subject, so homework can be handled with less stress.
Modify meal prep
Before heading to the market, map out meals for the week that share common ingredients, to increase efficiency and reduce waste; then create a shopping list packed with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Maintain a consistent supply of fresh, delicious produce with subscription boxes or community-supported agriculture membership.
Prep breakfasts and lunches the night before to save time in the morning and ensure your family consumes healthy, whole foods, versus pre-packaged convenience foods.
Smoothies provide a nutritious breakfast or snack at home or on-the-go. Prepare and freeze individual servings of chopped fruits and vegetables in resealable bags. When you’re ready to use, place the frozen produce into a high-powered blender, add almond milk, soy milk or water and blend on high until the desired consistency is reached.
For lunch, prep power-packed meals with items like almond and seed butters to provide protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Mix unsalted, roasted almonds and canola oil in a high-powered blender to create homemade almond butter; or blend sunflower seeds, flaxseed, sesame seeds and sunflower oil for an allergy-friendly, no-nut butter. Pair these delicious spreads with jam on whole-wheat bread for a twist on a traditional lunchbox favorite.
Staying organized is not easy. There might be occasional disarray, but making just a few small changes will help you reap the benefits of a more balanced life this back-to-school season.