I’m a pretty busy woman. I work full-time, I have three children — one in high school, one in middle school and one in preschool — and a fairly large house.
A long time ago I decided that I can’t do it all; in fact, much of the time it’s hard to achieve the bare minimum. But there are a few things I have, over the years, come to insist upon in family life, and I’ve developed a method of achieving them. One of these is to eat a family dinner every night. Another is to drink coffee every morning. Both of these noble goals are reflected below.
And so … in the interest of raising the national level of sane food consumption and simplying daily living for working families, I offer these Top Ten Tips for Busy Chicks. Really, it’s just things that work for me. They may not work for you. You may not find interesting or absorbing many of the things I do (cooking with fresh herbs). You may rather spend your time vaccumming (low on my priority list).
So take a look, take what you like, leave the rest.
10. Grow your own herbs. Anyone who’s whining that they always kill houseplants need only to make the life-affirming decision to internalize these three words: Water. The Plants. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. Water them.
Start small and build up. You don’t have to install some giant intimidating kitchen garden off your patio. In fact, you can just grow one plant. I recommend parsley. If you make a lot of spaghetti sauce it really sparks up the flavor. You can also cut it up on your garlic bread. Throw it in your salad. Right now I’ve got a pot of parsley and a pot of basil. Even if you only do it for the color, it’s worth it in terms of presentation. You’ll feel gourmet. And you’ll have a houseplant.
9. Latex gloves. If you make a lot of chicken like I do, you know you have to touch that slimy stuff. Grody to the max right? Well, you can purchase disposable gloves that fit you like a … well, they fit snugly and enable you to remove boneless chicken breasts from the package, rinse them and cut them up without ever touching the horrifying things. They’re also handy for washing dishes, potting plants or any number of repulsive jobs you don’t want your precious hands to touch. You don’t have to buy medical-grade gloves but they were the only ones I could find at the store this week. Tras claims they sell them at Lowe’s. I used to buy them at Meijer’s in the laundry section but they’ve chumped out on me.
8. Frozen vegetables for stir fry. Yes, you can stir-fry using frozen veggies. They’re usually available in the cheaper store brand and the quality is fine. Put oil in your wok or skillet, heat, and dump in the frozen vegetables. Stir-fry as usual. It takes a little longer to cook because you’re working from frozen, but it’s so much easier than standing there cutting up 5 million pieces of 86 different veggies. Sacre bleu.
7. Laundry. It’s hideous, right? Especially if you have children. So, the answer is give them each a basket for their room, and train them to throw their clothes in it and then — and this is the clincher — take the basket to the laundry room. This sets up your Evil Plan for later, when you actually require them to take the laundry to the laundry room or basement, where you have several baskets waiting for them to deposit their white, light and colored clothing. Get them trained on this system and by the time they’re in middle school they can put the clothes in the washer and TURN IT ON. You will feel so free.
6. Oh, and by the way, if you’ve got ’em, use ’em. And by this I mean the free labor of children in your household. They aren’t going to magically learn how to clean a bathroom when they leave for college, so you’d better make sure they learn it now. And hey: it gets you out of the work.
Do it now. Give each kid a turn cleaning the bathroom, mopping it on alternate weeks. They’ll be trained for a lifetime! If you’ve got boys, especially, this is a must. Their future wives will thank you — particularly if you also make them put the seat down when they’re done peeing. My theory is, I wiped your poopy bottom and kept you in clean diapers. Now if you’re going to piss on the floor, YOU can clean it up. It’s outta my realm.
5. Take care of your shoes. So if you know me you know I’m completely insane on the subject of shoes, right? Well, this makes sense: if you love your shoes as I do, you’ll take care of them so that they’ll look good for their entire darling little lifespans.
Save all the tissue paper that comes with the shoe. After you’ve worn the shoe each day, stuff the paper back down in so that the toe retains its shape. For boots, put the cardboard back inside the shaft so they don’t bend funny. Keep the original box and replace the shoes after wearing, and tuck them gently in with tissue paper so they don’t get mud and crud on each other, or scratch the leather. If your shoes came with shoe bags, use them!
4. Three words: frozen ground turkey. It’s ridiculously cheap and better for you than ground beef. And best of all, depending what you use it for, no one — especially your children, they of the unschooled palate — will be able to tell the difference. You can even add things like zucchini to it when you make burgers and increase the nutrition. And — especially if you use my recipe — it’s delicious.
3. Eat breakfast. You’ll do yourself a diet favor by not snacking later in the day, save money by eating at home, and up your nutrition by eating oatmeal. Think it’s too mushy? Give steel-cut oats a try. They’ve got more texture and a nutty flavor. I make a large pot nearly every Sunday (16 cups water + 4 cups steel-cut, or Irish oats). Buy them in bulk; they’re way cheaper.
Toast the oats first in a dry skillet, add to salted boiling water and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool and place in a container or ziplock freezer bag. If you have access to a fridge at work, store it there, and eat it all week reheated in the microwave. We like to top ours with applesauce, walnuts and cinnamon. Or you can just reheat and eat it at home, if you have 10 or so minutes to spare.
2. Make coffee. If you like a hot delicious cup of coffee in the morning, don’t promise yourself you’ll run through Starbucks or McDonald’s. Reward yourself for being fabulous by making it at home. Just don’t do it in the morning. Do it the night before.
Here’s what I do: prepare the coffeepot before you go to bed. Set out your mug (or mugs if you have a husband or someone else you need to caffinate). When the alarm goes off, switch on the coffeemaker before you go pee or whatever. If you poke around like I do, your coffee may be ready by the time you get in the shower. If not, it’ll surely be ready and delicious when you step out, and you can sip while you get ready. Pour any leftovers into a travel mug. Leave.
Bonus tip: If you have the space in your bathroom, consider just putting the coffee pot right there next to the sink, bed ’n’ breakfast style. Or you can pour a small thermos full and take that to the bathroom, and dole it out to yourself as needed.
1. Zinc Oxide is MIRACULOUS for burns. Now, we all do dumbass things periodically, and late last week I took it to ridiculously new lows. After sauteeing some mushroom caps for stuffing, I decided to go ahead and bake them in the sautee pan. Everything went fine until I removed the pan from the oven …. set it on the stove …. removed the mushrooms …. and then moved the pan out of the way. With my bare hand. Holy Mary Mother of God.
A half-hour later I still couldn’t take the cold pack off my hand without shocking pain. Claire and Tras went on a mission of mercy to the grocery store for aloe, but in addition to the gel, Tras returned with a tube of zinc oxide the pharmacist recommended. When at last I could remove the cold pack, I slathered it with the zinc oxide, applied some gauze and Tras wrapped me in an Ace bandage. I slept all night with the ZO on the wound, and slathered some more on the next morning.
When I removed the bandages that evening the pain was completely gone. GONE. No swelling, no hideous blisters. The whole shebang just sort of dried up, as you can possibly see in the re-enactment photo yonder.
I’ve burned myself numerous times, and this was by far the worst yet. Possibly second-degree, although that’s in my 25-years out-of-date EMT medical opinion.
So … drum roll there you have it, to start your week: my accumulated housewifely knowledge in David Letterman List form.
Hope it all works out for you if you try any of these. Let me know how your shoes, in particular, are faring under the new regime.