If you prefer whipping up artful meals each day from whatever you happen to find at the local market, bless you, this post is not for you. If you despise planning, this article is not for you either. If you like to go with the flow and make your choices based on what you feel in the moment, this article is definitely not for you.
This article is for those of us who, every single night, dread staring at the dismal contents of our fridges trying to figure out what to make after a long, long day. It’s for those of us who stand bleary eyed in front of a closet wondering just what the heck we’ll wear that morning. This article is for those of us who want to squeeze any extra drop of time we can out of our busy, busy days.
Here are my 6 time hacks that save me more than 3 hours every week that add up to a whole week every year. May they be helpful for you too.
1. Plan dinners a month in advance
Do the hard thinking once a month instead of every night. I grab a printout of my self-made template, pull out my recipe books, and fill in the blanks with delicious meals.
This takes me about 30 minutes. Before it would take 5 minutes or longer every day simply choosing what to eat for dinner. That’s about 2.5 hours every month. Monthly time savings: 2 hours.
Weekly time savings: 30 minutes
2. Grocery shop once per week
I would love to do fewer shopping trips than once every week, but my veggies won’t last that long. So I pull out the pre-chosen recipes, and tick off ingredients and fixings from a pre-printed, free, and modified-for-me online template. This takes about 15 minutes. The grocery shopping, including the trip to and from the store, takes 1 hour.
Before, I would also shop weekly, though without a set menu so I would run out of or be missing something and have to go back. Or I would choose canned baked beans and popcorn for dinner. Again. So with easily three trips to the store each week, they might be shorter – about 45 minutes – but that adds up to 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Weekly time savings: 1 hour
3. Prep all veggies once per week
As soon as I get home from the grocery store, I plug into a podcast, audio book, or TED Talk and wash and chop my brains out. I fill a huge container with pre-washed lettuce, spinach, and radicchio and grab handfuls of it for quick and delicious salads topped with salad-sized chopped veggies for lunches and dinners. Snacks and dinners get their own bite-sized carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery. We either chomp them raw or steam for a quick side dish. I also wash, spin dry, and separate my cilantro and parsley. I sprinkle these onto pretty much everything.
For meat, I’ll separate meal-sized portions into freezer bags. Sometimes I’ll add seasoning, and later enjoy putting a defrosted and marinated meal on the barbeque with zero effort. For more ideas on freezer cooking, check out this and this and this.
My weekly chop session takes me about 2 hours so it’s pretty much break-even on this one. The health benefits on the other hand, have been enormous. Plus I no longer have liquefied cilantro or hairy carrots in my fridge. Instead, I have very little food waste, a healthier family, and a lot of extra fridge space at the end of the week.
I also never used to make a salad every day—it was way too much work and time—so again, no savings here. However, if I compare it to how much time it would take me to make all the salads and fresh veg I eat these days, I’d be looking at a minimum savings of 20 minutes every day for a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Weekly time savings: 20 minutes
4. Cook weekday breakfasts once a week
I make an enormous batch of regular rolled oats oatmeal once a week and mix it up with amazingly delicious flavour combinations thanks to Oh She Glows (minus the sugar and syrups). Then I smoosh it into a glass container, smooth with a spatula, and refrigerate. Then next morning, I cut it into portions, zap my bowl in the microwave, and enjoy healthy, hot, steamy, creamy oatmeal every week day morning. (I like to keep my weekends free for pancakes, waffles, or poached eggs – yum!) While grabbing and pouring a box of cereal is way faster than cooking anything, I opt for health over time. I could go on a tirade about the sugar in cereals or instant oatmeal that comes in a packet. But I won’t. This is about saving time.
My oatmeal making takes about 5 minutes for food prep and then about a minute to pour it into the container once cooked. At 6 minutes every morning for my previous routine, that totals 30 minutes.
Weekly time savings: 24 minutes
5. Choose all work outfits once a week
I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner. It takes me about 10 minutes to pull together all of my outfits for the week in this one session and line them up so I just grab and go in the morning. Before, I would spend at least 5 minutes every morning staring at the closet thinking, “I have nothing to wear.”
Weekly time savings: 15 minutes
6. Read while exercising
While I have seen people walk and read, I don’t recommend it. So don’t read with your eyes. Read with your ears. Download an audiobook and listen in while you work out. Just be careful. If you read Fifty Shades of Grey (like I’m reading right now) make sure you work out hard enough so you can blame your flushed cheeks on the exercise.
Before doing this, I didn’t have time to read, so I hit the jackpot with this revelation. I don’t always listen to audiobooks, so to be fair, let’s say it equates to two 30-minute workout sessions every week. That’s an hour that I would have spent reading and doing nothing else.
Weekly time savings: 1 hour
Adding it all up
Total weekly time savings: 3 hours and 15 minutes
Yearly time savings: 7 days and 58 minutes. That’s a lot of time to contemplate your life’s purpose.
What about you? What time hacks do you use? Click here to share your tried and trues and help save us all more precious minutes this week.