The countdown to a more organized school year is on. And while the pandemic certainly continues to throw a wrench into things (deep breaths), we’re still eager to find the strategy that will give us the most bang for our buck when it comes to nailing the routine, day in and day out. Enter Julie Morgenstern, organization and time management guru. She says there’s a singular zone in your home that can pave the way to success: The fridge.
Why is the fridge so critical to organization? It’s really the fridge and pantry combo that can make a huge difference when back to school rolls around, Morgenstern explains. Knowing your food routine, especially for lunches, dinners and snacks, can save so much time and energy as we navigate so many other variables (think hybrid schedules, the transition out of summer and more).
So what’s the right approach? You want to have it organized so that it’s clear what’s for lunch and dinner at a glance. A good approach, says Morgenstern, is to put all the lunch options in one acrylic bin in your fridge and all the dinner ingredients in another. “The night before, you fill the bin: This is what’s for dinner—it’s salmon and this broccoli and this pasta and whoever gets home first can cook it,” she explains.
Meal planning is also essential, but you don’t have to make it hard. “For anyone with kids old enough to talk, sit down as a family and come up with 10 meals that everyone agrees are your go-tos,” Morgenstern says. “The criteria is this: 1) We all have to like it—or at least some version of it (i.e. ‘I like the pasta, but not with the cheese’) 2) The meals can all be made in 15 to 30 minutes or less and 3) Everyone can help make it or learn to make it or pitch in to help make it, depending on your age.” From there, you can build a shopping list with the ingredients for your go-to meals. All you have to do each week is pick which one you’re serving and on which date.
A few other back-to-school organization strategies that work. Per Morgenstern, you need a calendar/information hub—in paper form ideally, so that everyone in your household has a visual that’s always on display to track schedules, assignments, hybrid schedules and school pickups. You can also encourage kids to edit their closet. “What are my 10 outfits for back to school? Which drawers are for school clothes vs. weekend/play clothes? Help them label those sections, then they know where to look to get dressed,” she says. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of night-before prep. “Pull the clothes you’re going to wear, separate the dinner ingredients, prep the lunches. All this together will save you time—and stress.”