It starts while I'm putting groceries away. My daughter, Ava, 12, tells me I forgot "her" shampoo while my 14-year-old son, Cole, picks through the bags in search of deodorant I didn't buy because he never asked me to. Then Dan, my husband, asks, "Did you get chili powder? I want to make chili on Sunday." (Great, but this is the first I've heard of his plans.) If these requests were to pile up all week, by Friday I'd have a list of errands as long as my arm. So instead, I rely on my laptop, smartphone and Web connection to take care of appeals as they pop up—preserving weekends for sleeping in, gardening and enjoying my family.
Check out my strategy in action:
Friday, 7 a.m. At breakfast Cole says he needs new sneakers for phys ed. He's known for weeks but didn't get around to mentioning it—and he's supposed to have them today. Well, clearly that's not happening. Among the choices I pull up at 6pm.com are Pumas he deems "cool." This designer-goods sale site, owned by Zappos.com, won't overnight the shoes for free, but I paid half of typical retail, and they will arrive before his next gym class. I order as he runs for the bus.
8 a.m. As I enjoy a cup of coffee before I head into my home office to start working, I realize that a few things slipped my mind at the grocery store last night. So I go to Alice.com and drop said items in my cart, along with the eco-friendly cleaning supplies I like but can't find at my local supermarket. The prices are great, coupons are applied automatically and shipping is free as long as I order six items. Done.
8:30 a.m. A few seasonings we need are bouncing around in my head: candied ginger, popcorn cheese and artisanal sea salt. A quick trip to Thespicehouse.com yields these, plus the chili powder for Dan, at excellent prices.
12 noon When I open the fridge to grab lunch, the dairy shelf promptly falls off, shattering into a hundred pieces and splattering milk everywhere. (Ugh.) After everything is cleaned up and leftovers are heating in the microwave, I find a replacement part at Repairclinic.com. The photos make it easy to find the right one. A new shelf is en route before I'm back at my desk.
4 p.m. Cole comes home from school and tells me he's exhausted because he can't get comfortable at night. He's been sleeping in the same bed since he was fastening his shoes with Velcro, and he's now 6'1". Guilt kicks in. Despite a ton of work on my afternoon agenda, I take 20 minutes to compare options online. For my money, the best deal is at Overstock.com. Shipping is just $2.95, and a mattress set gets white-glove delivery service. With a few clicks, my son should be snoozing better in about 10 days. For good measure, I snap some pictures of his old bed to post on Craigslist.org to try to snag a few bucks for it.
8 p.m. Friday means once we're done with dinner it's Movie Night. We log on to Amazon Unbox from the set-top box connected to our TV and browse a list of movies to rent (or buy). The kids choose while I make popcorn. The movie simply expires three days later. (Go to Amazon.com to find out if your TV will work with this service.)
10 p.m. Ava has been coughing. Before she goes to bed, I scan the bathroom cabinet only to discover we're completely out of medicine. Come to think of it, I could also use some night cream.
I make her some herbal tea, then log on to Drugstore.com to restock and pick up some cosmetics at its sister site, Beauty.com. Once my combined purchase is $49, shipping is on the house.
Saturday, 8 a.m. No errands! I grab coffee and go back to bed, Kindle in hand. Since the New York Times is automatically delivered to it (and removed just as silently), I don't even have to recycle newspapers this weekend.
Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.