One of the most stressful times of the day in our household is between 4pm and 6:30pm. It's completely crazy with picking up the house, baths and making dinner. I have found that meal planning helps out not only my time, but my budget and sanity as well.
When you already know what is on the agenda for dinner you can start early enough in the day to get it done on time and stress free. Plus, you don't spend 30 minutes looking through the pantry and fridge thinking, what am I making tonight. I look at the menu calendar each day to see if I need to thaw any meat and get a general idea of how much time I will need later or if I can get it put together, ie: a casserole, while Reese is napping and just pop it in the oven about 30 minutes before Terry gets home.
Each pay day I make a menu for the next several weeks. I start by marking the days that Terry won't be home. Generally, those are mac and cheese or frozen pizza nights. Then I go through all of my cookbooks and past menus to see what I am in the mood to fix. Since we only have three people eating, I plan at least one night when I make spaghetti or a large pasta casserole. That allows for the leftovers the next night. We also usually eat take out at least one night. You would have to do whatever works best for your family. I know some husbands who don't eat leftovers, but it is a big budget saver for us.
Speaking of a budget, I make my grocery list off of my menu. As I write down what we are having for any given day, I then add those ingredients to my grocery list. This keeps me from buying items I don't need or would throw away before we were able to use them. It is also a good idea to have menu items that use the produce and fresh fruits in your house earlier in the week, so they are still fresh from the store when you eat them. I have even started to do this with breakfast and lunch!
I not an anal or type A person, but I am very budget conscious--so this really works great for us. I am also flexible enough to switch nights around if needed. I will post one of our menus soon. I would love for anyone to share any great recipes that are easy and taste great also!