My husband and I have learned that the more consistently we create a menu plan, the less we eat out, and the less money we spend (or in our case, waste). So I would encourage you today to create a menu plan. You can write it on a piece of scrap paper each week, or you can put a laminated printable version or a printed blank sheet in a page protector so that you can wipe them clean each week. I personally prefer to have our menu plan in a visible place so that everyone can see it. I have a menu chalkboard on my refrigerator.
(As a bonus, this idea could save you the nightly “What’s for dinner, Mom/Dad?” question. As a side note, I would also encourage you to move frozen meats from the freezer to the refrigerator the day before you intend to cook them and to set out canned or jarred foods, pasta, etc. for dinner each morning. This way, you can point to the refrigerator and counter and menu plan and ask your spouse or older children to get at least a head start on dinner.)
One more thing: Sometimes you will be too tired to cook dinner or you’ll get home much later than you intended because your doctor appointment or your child’s softball game ran late or whatever. I advise that you keep an inexpensive, super easy- and quick-prep food like frozen pizza or hot pockets or whatever in your freezer or an inexpensive, super easy- and quick-prep food like canned pasta (I sometimes buy Chef Boyardee pasta when it’s on sale) in your cabinet. Or if you are determined to keep processed foods out of your home, make a set of freezer meals or freezer casseroles for nights you just don’t feel like cooking dinner or you need to make up an hour or two in your schedule. If you do this, you won’t be as tempted to buy fast food, which could be considerably less healthy and more expensive.
Time required: 90 minutes for me, but only because I sanded and painted mine.