Serve fish on Fridays is one of the life hacks that will make your home run smoother. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Serve fish on Fridays is one of the life hacks that will make your home run smoother. (Jennifer Bardsley)

A housework cheat sheet for the busy parent

Here are Jennifer Bardsley’s best life hacks for meal planning, tidying up and other homefront duties.

Keeping a household running is hard. Here it is, all on one page, my best tips and tricks for maintaining order when you are short on time. Consider it your cheat sheet.

Meal planning: Planning a shopping list based on grocery ads and your favorite cookbooks is great, but if you don’t have time for that, don’t worry. This is all you need to remember to plan a week’s worth of food: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wheat-less Wednesdays, Throwback Thursdays, Fish on Fridays, Spaghetti Saturdays and Sunday Chicken Dinners. Walk into the grocery store with that game plan, and you’ll be fine. Find proteins on sale, add a bag of potatoes, select multiple bags of frozen vegetables, and round it out with tortillas, brown rice, pasta and fresh produce, and you’ll have a week’s worth of dinners. Throwback Thursdays is when you’ll use up the leftovers.

Tidy up in no time: If your kids are little, give yourself a break. It’s OK for your house to be a disaster. Seriously. Anyone who judges you by what your house looks like is a jerk. That being said, you can make a huge impact in five minutes. Your kids can help too, especially if you turn on music and make a game of it. I set a timer for myself almost every day especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed by a sink full of dirty dishes. Race against the clock and see how much you can accomplish in five minutes. It will be time well spent. If you have extra time, spend five minutes cleaning each room.

Double up: Here are tasks you can combine for maximum impact. Brush your teeth while you make your bed. Unload the dishwasher while you brew coffee. Read the newspaper while you eat breakfast. Listen to audiobooks while you fold laundry. Wash dishes while you cook dinner. Pack lunches while you put away leftovers.

Invest in a robotic vacuum: The future is now. Why work when robots will do the job for you? I’m a Roomba devotee, but there are other brands out there that cost around $150. Let’s say the vacuum lasts for three years of daily use. That’s 15 cents a day. If there’s a rug with tassels holding you back from making this happen because you think the vacuum will become stuck, get rid of the rug. No rug is worth a thousand hours of vacuuming. Your environment will be healthier without all that dust in the house.

Let technology remember stuff for you: Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri and Google has an Assistant; use tech to help you. Set reminders so you know when to take kids to soccer or pick them up from orchestra practice. Heck, you can even use technology to nag your kids on your behalf. “This is a reminder. It’s time to turn off the Xbox and brush your teeth.” Your kids can be annoyed with Siri for nagging, instead of you.

Household labor is usually unpaid but it is incredibly valuable work. It might not feel important, especially if your family takes you for granted, but it is. Good job for making it happen.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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