As a teacher, I often marveled at how other people manage their 9-5 jobs. How did they ever make it to the doctors or pick up that jacket that was “Dry Clean only?” During my parenting years, I was always grateful to be able to be with my children over the summer. On the flip side of the coin, teachers start their day so very early and a teacher’s schedule is unforgiving. There is no showing up late or working from home!

So, someone asked, “What do you all do to make your home life easier during the school year?” Good question. Here are some ideas from art teachers themselves.

1. One teacher reports taking loaves of bread and assembling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to freeze so she could just add it to a lunch box with a piece of fruit and a dessert like a premade pudding container for themself or a child.

2. In a similar vein, another teacher stashes a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of jelly in her classroom mini-fridge. She can easily pull a basic lunch together on the spot when things are crazy.

3. I always made a shoebox “emergency” container where I put things I might need in a pinch. It included some food like a can of soup, a protein bar, applesauce, etc for days I missed breakfast for forgetting my lunch on the kitchen counter and such. It also included tampons. deodorant, a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and a change of clothes. And yes, I did have to use the change of clothes the fateful day I bobbled a batch of slip, spilling it all over myself.

4. A lot of teachers reported eating a school lunch. I had schools where I wouldn’t touch the lunches if I could help it and others that were very good (kudos to Furnace Brook Middle School and Wellesley Middle Schools for having some really good lunches when I was there). So, to each their own depending on your circumstances and budget.

5. Lots of teachers depend on routine and rituals. One teacher makes overnight oats in small jars Sunday night so easy grab-and-go breakfasts helped on hectic Monday mornings.

Another teacher preps fruit into individual servings (she recommended 1 banana, sliced, plus 1/2 cup of berries of your choice) in bags that are then placed into her freezer. She defrosts overnight in the refrigerator, or on the counter the morning of for 5-10 minutes. Throw in the blender with 1/2- 3/4 cup yogurt, 1/2 – 1 cup milk of choice (she prefers almond milk and in my house, it’s oat milk), a bit of honey, blend and go.

6. Buy toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and cleaning items in bulk to last for a semester. This makes shopping trips shorter and you save money.

7. Grocery shop online and have it delivered.  Instacart and other online shopping programs aren’t just for pandemics (although it certainly did cause many of us to try it out and become more comfortable with the option).

8. Invest in a crockpot, Instantpot, or pressure cooker. So many quick and easy meals to be made. When you can come home to a crockpot simmering and know dinner is almost done, it’s the best feeling ever. I loved my pressure cooker because if I didn’t do it ahead, I could cheat and use the pressure cooker to create stews that tasted as if they simmered all day long.

9. Make dinners with leftovers that you portion out into lunches.

10. Lots of teachers are prepping meals on Sundays. One teacher grills her meats and stores their meat in the fridge or freezer so all one needs to do is reheat and make a side dish. Other teachers cut their fruits and vegetables up to make prep easier during the week.

11. One teacher/parent created a snack station where snacks were made and ready for children. Her children came home and part of their responsibility was to grab and pack a snack for the next day.

12. I don’t know about you, but I brought my kids to school to help prep during summer lulls. You would be surprised how excited they were to help sort materials. I had my tween even organize all my glazes and make test tiles.

13. Take advantage of back-to-school sales. There are some things I just refused to purchase through art catalogs. I was very happy shopping the back-to-school sales for things like markers, rulers, and scissors. This year, you can also think about Covid materials like sanitizers and wipes. *On the topic of purchasing materials from your own budget, I set a limit of what I was willing to do for my own sanity. To each their own on this topic.

At home, I developed a system that kept my own children out of the stores. I often purchased staples super cheap (paper, notebooks, flashcards, pencils, etc) and kept the supplies in a bin that my kids could then “shop” for what they needed. This really kept impulse buys down.

14. Invest in an apron to wear. It will save your clothes. You want one with pockets, like this apron (one-day shipping with Amazon Prime).

15. Choose back-to-school activities for all your classes that are low supplies and high fun. Kids will be transferring in and out of your classes for a stretch. In one school I taught at, they were still waxing the floors a week before school would start and I couldn’t even get into my classroom. So, instead of fighting the system, I enjoyed my vacation and developed strategies that worked with the limited access to my room and allowed me to stay sane.