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Reduce Stress And Be A Happier Family With Meal Planning


Start brainstorming yummy meals for your family now; it'll make all the tummies at home happier!

Every parent knows the "arsenic hour" — that agonizing space between everyone getting home from work and trying to get dinner on the table. We want to be good custodians of our bodies — and the bodies of our family — but everyone is tired, cranky and frustrated. So, you go for the bag of Goldfish or drive-thru the closest (kind of healthy) fast food spot on the way home.

But it isn’t just young children and parents who experience "arsenic hour." For singles, couples and families of all ages, the “what’s for dinner” while staring into the fridge can be one of the most stressful moments of the day.

When you see all the research on how being hungry makes us easier to anger (hello, hangry), affects our relationships and even our sex drive, you can see why one of the No. 1 recommendations I make to clients for family harmony, less stressed moms and ending the day with love and peace is meal planning.

Sitting down together around the family dinner table has other benefits as well. Research has shown that family dinners help teens maintain a healthier body weight, cultivate a healthier self-image and make them less likely to abuse drugs.

So, what's stopping you? Though meal planning can sound too simple or too structured, it's simply a way to channel your precious energy into quality time with the kids and reduce your overall stress. A little planning means dinner doesn't have to be a grind.

Wouldn't it be nice to walk in the door each night and already have your head above water? 

Here are 9 ways to make meal planning work for your family:

  1. Brainstorm a list of your family’s favorite meals. The first time you do this, you may want to do it on blank 3×5 cards so that you can tactically see the possibilities. You can note the themes of the cuisine, the main ingredient or more.
  2. When you brainstorm your favorite meals, the beginnings of a meal plan will begin to emerge. Best of all, you don’t have to dig around in cookbooks or websites for ideas — your skeleton plan will be based on what your family loves to eat. It also allows you to see patterns and makes grocery shopping less stressful.
  3. Create themes based on the day of the week based on family activities. For example, on days that you know you’re going to be away from the house, that’s a Crock-Pot meal day. One of my clients reported that her son always looks forward to Taco Night.
  4. If you have kids, consider designating one night a week “Kid’s Night.” Let your younger children help pick a favorite meal — and get the older kids involved in making dinner for the family. One of the few things children can control is what goes into their bodies (a.k.a they become picky eaters). Getting them involved in the planning and prep teaches them valuable skills, allows them to have a sense of control and allows them to feel as if they have a voice in the family.
  5. Create a written menu plan for the week. I’ve even created a downloadable plan for you! (Digital Fill in the Blanks Version | Print and Write in the Blanks Version).
  6. If your family's schedule super packed? Make a rotating plan of two or three weeks of meals seasonally. Then, all you have to do is make copies of the menus. If any single meal becomes too tired, then you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you simply have to substitute one single meal in the rotation.
  7. Make that written meal plan your grocery list. No more heading to the store and forgetting what you meant to buy. And if you end up creating two or three weeks of meal plans, you can create rotating grocery lists as well.
  8. Cook once, eat twice. Making a meal plan also allows you to make better use of your ingredients and save some time. And, you can save money by using more perishable ingredients instead of forgetting what to do with that  bunch of arugula hiding in the crisper.
  9. Post the schedule for the week on your fridge every Sunday. No more questions of “what’s for dinner.” And, whoever arrives home first can get the meal started.

I know that meal planning seems too simplistic to be effective, but time and again I have seen this single habit create more loving and harmonious evenings for my clients — and my own life.

One of the biggest changes I made when I understood that it was up to me to create my life was to get a better handle on what foods I chose to put in my body. What we nourish our bodies with allows us to nourish our hearts and souls as well.

And here, my darling, is to well nourished hearts.

Debra Smouse is a life coach and self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle who believes in your need to actively CREATE the kind of life you desire. Connect with her at, on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published at DebraSmouse.Com. Reprinted with permission from the author.


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