Prioritizing and Planning Family Meals in a Hectic Home

How can our family make time to eat together when we're so busy? I'd really like to achieve this goal, but we face so many obstacles in making it happen, I'm almost afraid to try. Busy schedules are the rule in our household, and mine is no exception. By the time I get off work, battle rush hour traffic, and finally arrive at home, it's already 6:00 in the evening. At that point I know that if I make the effort to prepare a nutritious dinner, my family will be starving and the night will be half gone before I can get it on the table. How do I get around this challenge?

Try thinking outside the box. If you’re a working mom with a busy husband and kids who are involved in lots of extracurricular activities, you’re probably not going to be able to put together the kind of family dinners your great-grandmother used to serve up on the farm seventy-five years ago. That’s okay. Don’t throw in the towel and admit defeat just yet. Instead, change your strategy. Approach the problem from a different angle.

Remember, shared meals don’t always have to happen at dinner time. Nor do they necessarily need to be a regular feature of your daily routine during the busy working week. Sometimes this just isn’t feasible. If you can manage three family meals a week you’ll be on the right track. And you can achieve this if you’re willing to stretch your plan to include weekends and other mealtime slots (breakfast, for instance). The idea is to compensate for your lack of time with a little creativity and ingenuity.

One way to do this is to prepare meals beforehand. It doesn’t have to be terribly time-consuming to cook up two or three entrees over the weekend. These can be frozen and heated up later in the week as needed. You can also double your recipes so as to make enough food to last for two or three days. If you need help in this area, there are several cookbooks available with lots of practical tips for planning and preparing meals on a monthly basis. A couple of good ones are Once-A-Month Cooking and Once-A-Month Cooking: Family Favorites, both by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson.

For assistance with the practical side of meal planning, you may want to take a look at subscription-based services such as those offered through
eMeals. They offer customized meal plans, recipes, and correlated shopping lists that help you focus on the relational aspect of mealtimes by taking the stress out of food preparation.

If you don’t want to get involved in planning that far ahead, you may be able to simplify things just by changing your ideas about dinner. The evening meal doesn’t have to be a big production. The point is to have some family time around the table, not to win an “Iron Chef” competition. People don’t need a three-course banquet to get together and talk. They can do it over something as basic as soup and salad or scrambled eggs with chopped broccoli and toast.

If you need more ideas or think it might be beneficial to talk person-to-person with a member of the Focus team, please give us a call. Our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone for a free consultation.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Once-A-Month Cooking

Once-A-Month Cooking: Family Favorites

The Hour That Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal

One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion Starters

Homemade Meals for Busy Families


Fun Family Faith Activities

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