By Vanessa Greaves

What's for dinner? It's the dreaded question we all face at the end of the working day. Here are five tried-and-true strategies that could help you get dinner done faster, easier, and better than ever.

Photo by naples34102

Recipe: Mushroom Chicken Piccata

You'll find tons of advice out there for solving the dinner dilemma, but the truth is there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Here's a more personalized way to help you get dinner done: Take a look at these five easy meal-planning ideas, then use them, adjust them, or combine them any way you want to come up with a solid plan that works for you.

1. Meal Templates

How It Works
Assign a consistent theme for each weeknight, then plan and shop accordingly. For example, if you know you're going to eat meatless every Monday, you're already halfway done; all that's left is to decide on the recipe. And if you know that every Thursday is jam-packed with after-school/after-work commitments, then make that your super fast and easy night: soup and sandwich, leftovers, take-out. Whatever works.

Here's an example of weeknight template themes and recipe ideas to go with them.

Meatless Monday

Taco Tuesday

Pasta Wednesday

Stir-Fry Thursday

Pizza Friday

More meal template ideas to have fun with:
Finger-Lickin' Chicken Night
Big Ol' Sandwich Night
Up in Your Grill Night
Breakfast for Dinner Night
Fried Rice Night
Noodle Bowl Night
Old-Fashioned Casserole Night
It's a Chili Night
More Cheese, Please Night
International Intrigue Night
Put An Egg On It Night

2. Big-Batch Cooking

How It Works
Made a double batch of of a one-pot meal such as chili, stew, or soup, and freeze it in portions. Hook it with up with the Meal Templates and/or Slow Cooker plan, and dinner is a just a reheat away. Big-batch cooking is usually best done on a weekend, but you can also slow-cook a big batch of something on a weeknight while you're doing something else. Like sleeping.

More: Get tips for freezing food and thawing food, including how long things will last in the freezer.

3. Slow Cooker

How It Works
It's the ultimate cook-while-you-have-a-life approach to easy dinners. You just fill 'er up, scoot out, and come home to a hot meal. Check out our highest-rated slow cooker recipes for ideas, and find more inspiration in our entire collection of slow cooker recipes.

More: Use these super easy slow cooker beans in about a million different dishes.

4. Cook Once, Eat Twice

How It Works
Cook enough to turn the leftovers into a whole new meal the next night. Depending on whether you're cooking for one, two, or a crew, you could even have enough leftovers to turn into a third meal. Here's an excellent example of how this cook got four great meals for two out of just one chicken.

More: See 12 ways to use leftover steak that are even better than steak.

5. Prep Once, Eat All Week

How It Works
Prep a week's worth of ingredients all at once and turn them into meals the rest of the week. You'll save a ton of prep time when you're actually cooking, and you'll save money by buying and prepping only what you know you'll use. Here's a full rundown of how it works, complete with recipe recommendations.

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