“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” — Virginia Woolf

Every parent knows the arsenic hour – that agonizing space between everyone getting home from work and trying to Prevent Arsenic Hour with Meal Planningget 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-through 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.That’s why one of my favorite go-to-tools for anyone that wants to live a less stressful daily life is to create a weekly meal plan.

Yes, meal planning is one of the first recommendations I make to clients for family harmony, less stressed moms, and ending the day with love and peace.

Though creating a meal plan may feel a little too structured, what it allows you to do is get your head above water and relieve the pressure. It also doesn’t have to be a grind.

Here are some ideas for transforming arsenic hour into harmony hour:

  • 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.
  • Lay the cards out and see the beginnings of a meal plan 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.
  • You can also 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 crockpot meal day. One of my client’s reported that her son always looks forward to Taco Night.
  • 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 (aka 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.
  • 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)
  • If your life is super busy, I really advocate making 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.
  • 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.

When I revealed that Custodian was one of my touchstones for 2015, I promised to share ways YOU can be a better custodian of your time, your gifts, and your body. 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.