September is synonymous with back to school—and a return to scheduling chaos. These
three local companies are devoted to saving you time in the never-ending parent marathon. Read on and reclaim your time!
Time Saver: Back-to-School Shopping
Kids grow like weeds—and keeping them in clothes that fit can be a challenge. That was definitely the case for Sarah and Caleb Ballard, who both have busy government day jobs. Says Sarah, “One morning I walked into my daughter’s room and thought ‘Oh, she has nothing in 6-month sizes.’ We can’t be the only ones with this problem.” So, the Great Falls-based parents of two launched Isaac & Isabel (named after their children), a subscription shopping service that solves this common problem. Sign up, and the mom-and-dad duo will send you a brand-new box of seasonal basics every three months from size newborn to 4T. Each box contains five shirts and bottoms, a set of PJs, a seasonal warmer top, five pairs of socks and even five pairs of underwear (infants get bibs and extra onesies). “The goal is to get you through the workweek,” says Sarah. “The clothes are solid colors, basics. The idea is Grandma is going to buy the special things. We don’t want to get into the business. We’re the backup, we’re the filler.” The service also comes with a pay-it-forward component: Each order comes with a prepaid shipping label for you to mail gently worn clothes in your shipment’s box to a designated charity that helps children in need. // $99 per quarter
Time Saver: Birthday Party Planning
Birthdays are a big deal when you’re a kid—and, let’s be honest, a big stress when you’re the parent tasked with planning it. Yvonne Brandon, a mom to an elementary school-aged son, launched Kidsmart Carnivals two years ago with that in mind. The up-and-coming company offers turn-key birthday parties with options like carnival booths, water play toys for warmer weather and oversized lawn games, including Connect Four, Jenga and Kerplunk. The former Fairfax County teacher used to volunteer to coordinate fairs and fundraisers at her son’s school. But, when bounce houses were prohibited due to safety concerns, she had to come up with an alternative. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s our wow factor. What are we going to do?’” She rented some carnival games and “they showed up dirty and broken. It was so unacceptable,” she recalls. “I was so angry and I thought ‘I can do better than this. I have things nicer than this.’” And Kidsmart Carnivals was born. Brandon’s rentals include handcrafted and custom-made carnival booths and games. “I know as a parent, it’s so hard,” she says of planning a successful birthday party. “There aren’t enough venues. It’s very expensive. I can’t offer a venue, but I wanted to offer something that could be really cool—your own fun fair.” Kidsmart offers party packages that range from $400 for a full carnival to stand-alone lawn games (the trio of games rents for about $130). And, in a nod to her school-carnival roots, the company also offers rentals to schools and churches (“If you’re the volunteer for those events, it’s an unbelievable amount of work,” she says.). Brandon is booking parties about two months in advance and hopes to expand her offerings this fall. “Basically,” she says. “I wanted to be the rental company I wished I could find.” // prices vary
Time Saver: Family Meal Time
That elusive end-of-day family dinner can feel like an impossible task (The menu planning! The prep! The cooking!), but a DC-based company is making weeknights much easier with kid-friendly, ready-to-eat meals delivered to your door. The chefs at Galley Foods cook up healthy meals in a commercial kitchen in DC’s NoMA neighborhood every morning and deliver that night—all you have to do is heat and eat. “There’s no chopping, no shopping, no prep, no cooking, no cleaning,” says the company’s marketing director, Alexandra Lawrence. “That, in and of itself every night, is probably an hour worth of time saved that you can get back to be with your family.” Founded by two former LivingSocial employees, entrepreneurs Alan Clifford and Ian Costello got the idea when they were working long hours and in need of healthy meal options. Galley doesn’t only cater to families, but they do offer options including kids meals (think sloppy Joes and chicken quesadillas) and family meals that serve four. Sweetgreen, the company with DC roots that turned eating salad cool, acquired the company earlier this year—so expect to see healthy, locally sourced ingredients remain center stage. Bonus: Galley offers “Give Back Weeks” that allow customers to turn meal delivery into a fundraiser. Sign your school up and 20% of related orders are donated back to the school. // Kids meals, $7-$9, family meals from $32; same-day delivery available in parts of NoVA, 24-hour notice required in others