I often hear two-career family people complain about their dinner options and what to feed their kids. There's always the rush home and the routine of trying to get kids fed, washed and in bed at a reasonable time. We have that problem, particularly because the Wee One goes to bed early (~7:00) and we only have one car, which often doesn't leave work until after 5:00.
But my wife and I also really like to cook and are not fans of packaged foods, for us or the Wee One. We have found that the most important small appliance in the house for our weekday cooking needs is the crock pot. If you don't have one and you find yourself turning to boxes in the freezer during the week, go out and buy a crock pot right now. The words will still be here when you get back. I'm serious, go.
Why is the crock pot an incredible thing? Because you can toss a few ingredients in it after the kid(s) go to bed. At that point you can either turn it on low o/n, leave it off for the day and turn it back on when you get home or you can put the whole thing in the fridge o/n and turn it on when you go to work. We tend to prefer the latter, but while you're figuring out how much liquid to put in, it might be a good idea to be home while it's cooking.
There is a misconception that crock pots are for cocktail weenies, Swedish meatballs or that undefinable cheese disaster that Aunt Helen brings to every family gathering, but that's crap. Dishes we regularly make in our crock pot include hoisin chicken, several curries, beef stew, pulled pork and the best damn spaghetti sauce around. If you are at all a fan of slow cooked food, you have no excuse to lack a crock pot.
Normally I cook by The Force, so I'm going to have to estimate the following recipes, but you can't really screw this up.
1 whole chicken (placed upside-down in the pot)
enough chicken stock to cover 1/3 of the chicken
3 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
Basil to taste (teaspoonish unless you like basil a lot, which I do)
cilantro to taste (teaspoonish)
4 crushed garlic cloves
Cover the chicken with the sauce by rolling it a few times
Put it on low for the day and come home to something tasty. Add Rice and a vegetable and you have dinner in 20 minutes.
About a pound of stew beef cut in chunks
two chopped potatoes
three chopped carrots
4 crushed garlic cloves
1 cup of red wine (for the stew, two for the chef)
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Rosemary to taste
Basil to taste
4 bay leaves
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste (don't overdo this one, more can be added later)
Stir and turn on low for the day. This is an all in one meal so it'll be ready when you walk in the door.
Both dishes take about 15 minutes to get into the pot, so I don't want to hear how you don't have time to make a meal. The crock pot does the rest for you, so let it do it's job while you do yours and make your life easier in the evenings.