The children can grimace all they want (on the inside: we really try not to allow that kind of disrespect), but what's important is I know my husband's happy at meal time. And by the way that picture up there is totally copied from my website people from their stock of pictures; we don't eat fancy like that around here all the time.
Each week, I try to sit down and look at my calendar. I assess the meal mission. I address any hot spots of logistical combat hostility such as afternoon lessons. Then I plan accordingly. I make a list of meals for the week, based on the previous husband data collection. The list for the week are meals that make sense to have depending what is going on around here. I figure out when my husband's going to be out of town for dinner (sometimes we don't know till right then if he is on call), and I make easier meals if he's not going to be home that night. I save the trickier meals for when he is going to be home.
I look at my calendar to see when we're going to be at activities that begin anywhere after 4:00 that afternoon. That's gonna be a crock pot day. Or an overcooked meat in the oven kind of day. I prepare that earlier in the day when I am home and things aren't hectic yet. If you have 5:00 violin lessons, you can't make dinner starting at 5:00 (duh, you're at violin). If you're going to avoid stopping by and picking up fast food, you make that meal earlier in the day. When my family eats out, it's because we decided to go do something special, not because we don't have anything to eat at home. Sometimes I prepare the meal earlier in the day, keep it in the refrigerator all afternoon and then put 'er in the oven before we leave the house with the oven timer on. That works well with casseroles. One huge help is to have my son brown the ground beef right when it comes home from the grocery store. Then we store it in the freezer in smaller containers and it's ready when we want to have tacos or make spaghetti sauce.
There is no rule that says you have to make dinner at dinner time.
I hardly ever make dinner at dinner time. I set the table at dinner time. But the prep is usually earlier in the day. Even if we're not going to be gone that afternoon, I often do a little dinner preliminary action at breakfast or lunch when the kitchen's a mess anyway, chop up some veggies or make a salad. You can have good meals every day with your family. We pretty much never pick up fast food. It just takes a little planning.