We are fairly laid back about the whole dinner thing in our house these days; because we are a family of three adults. Currently, our household consists of my 24 year old daughter, my 27 year old son, and myself. On any given day, different people may be going any number of directions, and everyone is more than capable of getting themselves fed. On most nights, either my daughter or I will cook, and occasionally my son will. It is not unusual though, to simply have a "catch as catch can" night, where everyone just fends for themselves. Basically, it is not a big deal for us these days.
That was not always the case though, of course. When my children were younger and my husband was alive, life was usually pretty hectic. Back then I had to run a pretty tight ship if I wanted to have a hope of keeping up.
Each week before I went to the grocery store I would plan out a detailed menu. I still do a simplified version of that, but I am pretty loose these days about what may get eaten when. Back in the day, I scheduled specific meals for each night, according to what the day and evening plans were.
For example, if I was going to be running around all day, I would throw something in the crockpot before I left. Sometimes I would even do the prep the night before and have it in the fridge, ready to start in the morning.
Other days I might plan something that only took a few minutes to put together or that could be assembled ahead of time, so that it could then be cooking in the microwave or oven, while I oversaw children doing homework, getting ready for church, etc. Meals that required more preparation were planned for days that I knew we would be home and I would have more time available.
Another trick I used was to have a "master plan" that I used to choose my menu each week. For example, it might have looked something like this:
Sunday - Dinner out with friends after evening church service
Monday - Casserole night (tuna, chicken noodle, etc.)
Tuesday - Mexican night (tacos, fajitas, etc.)
Wednesday - Crockpot night (soup, chili, pot roast, BBQ, etc.)
Thursday - Sandwich night (hamburgers, hot dogs, sloppy joes, subs, hot roast beef, etc.)
Friday - Italian night (spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti, etc.)
Saturday - Main dish meat night (steak, baked chicken, meatloaf, etc)
Each week the particulars might change, so we would not eat the exact same thing every week. The general structure was in place though, to help me to plan the details more easily. Of course, I was flexible and adapted as necessary and changed the structure from time to time to fit our schedules, suit our tastes, and so on.
Of course, I made appropriate sides to go with the various dishes. I found it handy to have an extra small crockpot or two, so I could have veggies cooking separately, that would also be ready and waiting when we got home.
Those were fun days, when my family was young, even with all of the hustle and bustle involved. Sometimes I miss them, but most of the time I relish the slower pace we have now. :)