You pick up the kids at soccer practice and realize you have no idea what you are going to make for dinner tonight.

You were just at the grocery store two days ago, but you can’t think of anything decent to prepare. There isn’t a lot of time to spend on dinner once you get home because then it’ll be time for homework, baths, and bed.

As you look up the number to order pizza once again, you realize that this pattern has to stop. All this takeout isn’t good for your health or your wallet. You know that if you just took a few minutes each week to plan your meals, you would be able to have home-cooked meals with your family every night of the week.

Sound familiar? Keep reading for some solutions to this common busy-parent dilemma.

  1. Have theme nights. Make Monday your family’s “breakfast for dinner” night, or designate Friday as pizza night. Theme nights can help narrow down your choices when you are deciding what to make on a particular night.

  2. Bookmark your favorite recipe websites. There are many great recipe sites available to help you find quick and easy meals, such as www.kraftfoods.com and www.allrecipes.com. Keep sites bookmarked on your computer so that you can reference them quickly. Many recipe websites even allow you to keep an online “recipe box” of your favorites.

  3. Always look at the family calendar when planning meals. Don't plan a meal that will take an hour to prepare for a day when you only have half an hour between getting home from work and getting a child to soccer practice. Plan something easy, like sandwiches, on busy nights so that you aren’t spending a lot of precious time in the kitchen.

  4. Reuse meal plans. Rely on a rotation of recipes you use every month to help take the guesswork out of meal planning. Google Calendar is a great resource for this kind of planning—you can have meals repeat every two weeks or every month, which will definitely help.

  5. Have a leftovers night or “fend for yourself” night. This gives you a night off from cooking, plus leftovers in the fridge will get used up.

  6. Keep a folder or file of your family’s favorite recipes. If you make something the family loves, be sure to save the recipe for easy reference. When you sit down to plan meals, pull out this file for easy, tried-and-true (and beloved) choices.

  7. Perhaps most important of all: Set aside time each week to plan your meals! It sounds simple, but sitting down for 15 minutes each week to plan meals may be tough initially. Once you’ve trained yourself to set this time aside, plan your meals and make an accompanying grocery list. This routine will save you time and countless “What do I make for dinner?” headaches during the week.

Use these simple tips, and soon your weeknights will be less stressful when it comes to dinnertime, your family’s meals will most likely become healthier, and you will have an immediate answer to that panic-inducing question “What’s for dinner?”

Laura Pink lives in Wisconsin with her two young daughters and her husband, Brian. Pink writes the Not Just 9 to 5 Mom blog at workingmother.com and a personal blog, notjust9to5.com.