The hardest part of being a working parent, is the evenings. Everyone is tired, a little grumpy and short tempered; yet dinner still has to be cooked and homework still needs to be done. So how do you juggle, what is in essence,conflicting deadlines? What do you focus on and what do you let slide? The truth is, there are appliances and spaces you can create that can make workday evenings better, from decreasing the stress of cooking to increased multi-tasking of domestic chores.
There are a handful of home appliances that really can make a difference to your evenings. Sadly, whilst an automated washing, ironing and folding machine would be ideal (I can hear you shout ‘shut up and take my money!’), we’re still waiting for a proto-type to be released. Until that time, here is our list for those without a thermomix, slow cooker or live-in maid;
– Deep freezer. Having pre-cooked dinners in the deep freeze can really make a difference. If you’re concerned about energy consumption, the truth is, a deep freezer will cost your household around $96 – $200 a year to run, depending on the star rating. It is most cost effective for those that prefer to serve home cooked meals at home. And don’t mind cooking in bulk.
– Oven with timer. If your pre-cooked frozen dinner requires heating an oven with timer can be really invaluable. Pop the food in the oven and turn the timer on. The alarm will advise when dinner is ready to serve. This gives you time to focus on things like homework, cleaning, bath and next day lunches, without burning dinner to a cinder.
– Microwave. Is there anything more to say? Microwaves are brilliant for quick heating and cooking. If your looking for a quick solution to bake potato, pop the cubed potato in the microwave for 10 minutes, then lightly oil and let the oven do the crisping. Roast vegetables in a fraction of normal cook time.
– Washing machine with timer. Most washing machines these days have de-lay timers. These are a fantastic feature, particularly in summer. You can load the machine in the morning and have the wash complete only minutes before you yet home. No more washing going smelly in the machine.
– Drier. Driers are handy, specifically during rainy weather. No, they are not very economical, but if you’ve forgotten to wash uniforms or your currently navigating a child through nappy free nights, they are invaluable.
You’ve probably heard this before, but food planning really is the savior of the working parent. Mapping out your families meals a week at a time, that includes school and work lunches, really does make a difference to decreasing the stress of your work week. Here’s a few tips for food planning;
– Baking double or triple. Muffins, raw biscuit mix, bolognaise, lasagna, quiche etc all freeze well. It’s not that much effort to add a little more to your cooking, thus having a meal in the freezer ready to go.
– Pre-cut vegetables. If your family loves stir-fries, look at pre-cutting the meals on days off or in the mornings and storing in air-tight containers in the fridge. If you’re using really fresh vegetables, they should last up to 4 days without issue. Alternatively, look at frozen vegetables. They are quick and save time.
– Salad. As with vegetables, you can pre-prepare salads. For longer salad ‘life’, keep tomatoes and ‘squishier’ vegetables separated. A fresh salad will last about 3 days.
– Frozen sandwiches. You heard me right. You can freeze school sandwiches. If you’ve never considered this before, give it a go, it can spare you time in the evenings (or mornings) when you normally prepare school lunches. Cheese and sandwich meats (ham, chicken, roast beef etc), in particular are ideal. Best of all you can prepare school lunches a loaf at a time, cut into size and deep freezer in an air-right container, until required.
Getting through homework is one that generally generates the most arguments in the evening (besides ‘can you put your school shoes away’ and ‘it’s bed time’).
One way to assist your children with homework and still get through the evening domestic chores is to set up a study nook in the kitchen/dining area. Study nooks in general living areas are increasing in popularity, often included in the design and layout of the modern kitchen. The reason for their popularity is the fact that you are on hand to offer assistance when required, without having to leave dinner cooking on the stove unsupervised.
It’s actually astonishing how little space is required to establish a functional study nook and if you’re not a ‘handyman’ by nature, a cabinetmaker can do the work for you.
So if you’re that busy parenting struggling to navigate your way through the working week or simply considering a return to work, but wondering how to juggle it all, think about implementing some or all of the suggestions above. A appliance upgrade, baking that extra lasagna or having an allocated study nook in a general living area, can all make a difference to your work week and make evenings a much more pleasurable experience.