How to Reclaim Your Weeknights
Home: Glenview, Illinois.
Family: Married, to husband Todd, with four children―Hank, 6½, Nate, 5, C.J., 3, and Roxane, 1½.
Job: Part-time consultant and database manager.
We have a lot of mouths to feed, so we always make extra dinner and freeze it in one-, two-, and three-person portions. That way I don't have to start from scratch every night. If we didn't do this, we would eat plainer foods without much variety. I go for simple and scalable dishes―like pasta instead of sandwiches―because it's easier to throw more in the pot than to make four individual items. Since my kids aren't too picky, I try to introduce new things with the old favorites. The rule is they have to eat a certain number of bites before saying they don't like it. In most cases, they like it and eat the rest.
How I Switch Gears
I turn myself off multitasking mode at 5:30 so I can focus on one thing at a time. I shut down my computer and stop answering the phone.
Streamlining Secret No. 1
Each time we use up a grocery ingredient, I write it on my shopping list, a five-by-seven-inch index card I print from an Excel spreadsheet showing the aisles in the grocery store. With a fully stocked pantry, I can always put together a five-course dinner at a moment's notice.
Streamlining Secret No. 2
The phone in the kitchen―and the ones everywhere else in the house―have headsets so I can have my hands free at all times.
Streamlining Secret No. 3
I buy as much as I can online: books, toys, clothes, food, prescriptions, gifts, plane tickets, office products, home furnishings. I switched to Web shopping when we got a high-speed connection. I know my brands and just stick with them.
6 P.M.: Feed the kids dinner.
7 P.M.: Eat dinner with my husband, Todd, while the kids play. (He gets home after they eat.)
7:30 P.M.: Help Todd bathe the kids and put them in pajamas.
8 P.M.: Read to Roxane and put her to bed.
8:45 P.M.: Read to C.J., Nate, and Hank.
9 P.M.: Clean the kitchen.
9:30 P.M.: Eat ice cream while reading the Wall Street Journal, bake, talk on the phone.
11:30 P.M.: Bedtime.