We all know the importance of the family meal, but just in case you're a little fuzzy, allow me to review the benefits. Eating together as a family can lead to lower rates of drinking, drug use, and teen pregnancy, and higher levels of self-esteem in your kids.

While all that is great in theory, when you're running around during the pre-dinner witching hour, looking for a few ingredients to pull together into a palatable meal before the kids head off to sports practice, homework, or Boy Scouts, dinnertime can mean one thing: Stress. But it doesn't have to be that way! If you're stuck with how to get that oh-so-important meal on the table, check out one of these books for ideas and inspiration:

100 Meals for $5 or Less by Jennifer Maughan. Dinner doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, says author and mom Jennifer Maughan. The book includes frugal shopping tips as well as (you guessed it) 100 meals for under $5, divided into chapters on soups & salads, vegetarian dishes, main dishes, and leftovers. (Yes, there are a lot of bean dishes!) My favorite section is the five-step plan to create before you shop, as well as the tips on starting a price list.

Dinner for Busy Moms: Easy Strategies for Getting Your Family to the Table by Jeanne Muchnick. Think you're just too busy to get dinner together? No way, says mom of two Jeanne Muchnick. This book is your one-stop shop for inspiration, recipes, and commiseration. There are sections on using your freezer effectively, organizing your pantry, and enlisting help from the troops -- and dozens of tips from over-committed moms just like you. A-plus from me: The fun and relaxed attitude that will have you chuckling while you cook.

Saving Dinner: The Menus, Recipes, and Shopping Lists to Bring Your Family Back to the Table by Leanne Ely. No matter how picky your kids are, there's a menu guaranteed to have them asking for seconds in Leanne Ely's cookbook. But it's not just a cookbook -- it also includes the menu plans and shopping lists to create your palate-tempting meals, all arranged by season. I love that each recipe comes with serving suggestions and do-ahead tips to get dinner on the table faster.

The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Gugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr. Not only is this book full of gorgeous photos, it's replete with great recipes and tons of information about good food -- the kind made from scratch and devoured in a sitting. It's divided by main ingredient (flour, milk, eggs, fruit, meat, etc.) and is a great primer for those just starting to learn about whole, nourishing foods. I loved the section on making your own butter.

Got a favorite family dinner tip or recipe? Share with us in the comments, and we'll publish a selection of your ideas in an upcoming post!