Christi Gillentine, author of the ebook Freezer Cooking on a Budget (30 Day Gourmet), knows about hectic mornings. As a mother of three toddlers, it's essential she make mornings as smooth as possible. One trick up Gillentine's sleeve is freezer cooking. "Mornings would not be the same if I didn't use freezer cooking to help me along," she says. Gillentine prepares breakfast foods in advance and freezes them in single servings. She begins by preparing a large batch of pancake batter. "Then I pour about six or seven cups into quart-sized freezer bags, seal, label and freeze. When I plan to cook pancakes for breakfast I put a bag of the batter into my fridge the night before to defrost," Gillentine says. "In the morning, I just heat up the griddle and clip a small hole into a bottom corner of the bag." Squeezing the batter directly from the bag saves time and cleanup. Frozen Assets (Champion Press) author Deborah Taylor-Hough also maximizes the morning hours by preparing ahead. "Taking an hour or so on a weekend to prepare breakfast items for the freezer can take much of the insanity out of the weekday morning rush," she says. Forget cold cereal! Coming up short on a list of what you can make and freeze for breakfast? "Sausage and egg casseroles, egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos, pancakes, French toast, waffles, muffins, baked oatmeal," Taylor-Hough suggests. Now that's a lineup any weekday breakfast table would be proud to host. Another way to ensure your family leaves the house well-fed is by planning ahead with mixes. On Sunday, prepare a big batch of a dry oatmeal mix, muffin mix or granola mix. During the week, you can whip up a batch of muffins to bake while you're getting dressed, or sit the kids down with a bowl of granola and their choice of toppings – yogurt, honey or fruits. Set a bowl of oranges or bananas on the table for easy eating.

Kill the Chaos

What really makes a morning rush hour derail into a disaster? Lack of routine. Establish a reliable routine, and you'll sail through the morning with ease. For that, we turn to the woman known to tens of thousands of loyal Internet fans as the FlyLady. Marla Cilley (nicknamed FlyLady for an affinity for fly fishing) empowers her readers by offering them baby steps toward an organized lifestyle. At the top of her list? Her "Before Bed" routine. "It's my favorite routine," Cilley says. Cilley advocates preparing for the morning rush hour as early as the afternoon prior. "When the kids come in from school, dump the backpacks, clean up the lunch things, and get things lined up at the door," she says. You'll be that much ahead in the morning when you're trying to get your children off to school. Then at night, "Start with three simple things for an evening routine," Cilley says. "Make sure the kitchen is clean. Lay out clothes for tomorrow. Look at the calendar." As you look at your calendar, take note of what is happening the next day so you won't be surprised in the morning. Is there a soccer game? Get the soccer gear laid out. Need to get groceries on your lunch break? Write out your list, and tuck it into your briefcase so you're not scrambling for ideas in the morning. Gather what you need for the next day – the night before. The idea, Cilley says, is to ensure you don't have to rush around in the morning – everything has already been taken care of. "It's about going on automatic pilot," she says. "Not having to think because your routines are your foundation." And Cilley's final word of advice? "Go to bed at a decent hour. Set a bedtime and stick to it. You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your family properly."

Sleep Well

Just as you can't expect to burst out of the starting gate if you haven't gotten enough sleep, you may not do much more than limp out if you haven't gotten proper sleep. Rachel Harris, practicing psychotherapist and author of 20-Minute Retreats (Owl Books), suggests taking time before drifting off to focus on yourself. Instead of saying, "I'm exhausted," and falling into bed, Harris suggests taking that minute before slumber to focus on your breathing or practice a simple mental retreat. "It puts you into a state of calm before you drift off to sleep," she says. "It sets you up for a different night's rest." Awaking refreshed and calm can make a big difference in your attitude when you walk out of the bedroom to be greeted by morning surprises. "What we want is to be our best with our kids," Harris says. "We need to have the inner psychological discipline to respond to our children rather than react." One way to achieve inner discipline is to take time out for yourself during the day, establishing a bank of spiritual strength to withdraw from when you need it most. If you respond to your family in a consistent and predictable way, you can eliminate any disruptions early in the day and send everyone off happy and confident. What more can you ask for?

Feel the Power!

Keep your sense of humor. A grim outlook isn't a solid foundation for a great day. When your routine is shaken, roll with it in good humor and make adjustments for the next time. The key element to a successful morning is preparation. Whether you are freezing a week's worth of waffles on a Sunday, checking over your calendar at 9 p.m., or focusing on yourself before you drift off to sleep, being prepared turns your morning rush hour into morning rush power.

Peaceful Home Front

To ensure a friendly home front in the mornings, establish – and enforce – a few simple rules and organization tactics. You'll be glad you did!
  • Stick to an early bedtime for your kids as best you can.
  • Make a rule that only nice words are allowed, especially in the mornings. Arguments and insults can add tension to an already hectic atmosphere.
  • Establish a bathroom schedule and use a timer to guarantee that everyone gets in and out in due time.
  • Use incentives like stickers or small treats for being ready for school on – or before – time.
 — By Kathleen Reilly