We're all busy. Who isn't busy? Even people who have buckets of free time sometimes would rather do almost anything than think of what to make for dinner.

That's when services like We Got the List, Nourishing Habits and Dream Dinners are a huge help.

Like many ideas, We Got the List was born of necessity. Teacher Stephanie Brucher of Madison took a long-term substitute position and was thrust back into a full-time work schedule while still keeping most of the cooking and shopping duties for her family. She felt stressed each day when she came home from work and tried to cook dinner and drive her three children to their after-school activities.

"When I went back to work, I didn't have the bandwidth to think about dinner, too," she said. "I was also spending a lot of money at the grocery store and nothing I bought was ever on sale. I joined an Internet menu service, but I never cooked one thing. The recipes were too complicated."

Wouldn't it be great to have a quick and easy meal plan and shopping list for the week? Brucher enlisted two friends with culinary backgrounds, Cheryl Hannan and Tina Newman, both from Madison, to help her create an Internet meal-planning service based on sale items at the local Stop & Shop.

We Got the List went live in April. For $10 a month, subscribers receive menus for simple, crowd-pleasing meals and corresponding recipes and a shopping list. The idea is to feed a family of four for a whole week for $150 or less by taking advantage of store specials.

One grade-schooler favorite is sliders, basically mini-cheeseburgers that can be thrown together in 30 minutes. (see recipe below). If necessary, a child could eat this meal out of a piece of aluminum foil in the car on the way to gymnastics or lacrosse.

Fancier meals include lemon-herb marinated grilled chicken New Orleans-style, yellow rice with sautéed onions and red peppers and diced watermelon for dessert. Cooks in a hurry can substitute a prepared rotisserie chicken. There are vegetarian options, fast meals and crock-pot meals.

Currently, We Got the List is set up to serve clients from Maine to Virginia who shop at Stop & Shop or Giant supermarkets.

"It saves time and money and eliminates stress and decision-making. The recipes are simple. If I can make it, anyone can," says Brucher. Find it at http://www.wegotthelist.com.

Flash-Frozen Meals

Dream Dinners, a national chain with Connecticut locations in Berlin, Branford, Manchester, Plantsville and West Hartford, goes one step further. They provide a menu, flash-frozen meats, spices and other ingredients, and a clean, cheerful place in which to assemble meals that you then bring home and place in the freezer.

"Guests," as they're called, log on to the Dream Dinners website to choose a time to prep their meals. Within an hour or less, you can fix the main dishes for 12 family dinners to be used throughout the month. Not only does the family know what's for dinner, but it's in the fridge and anyone old enough to use the broiler can follow the simple directions and get the chow on the table.

"All of our recipes were developed by a registered dietician and diabetes educator," said Laura Pantani, co-owner of the Branford franchise. "Everything is portion-controlled. A lot of people who are finishing Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig come to us for maintenance."

In fact, one Branford client lost 70 pounds in a year on Dream Dinners.

In June, Dream Dinners featured Buttery Peanut Chicken with brown rice at 357 calories per serving and Italian Pomodoro Burgers with a bun for 583 calories, for example. Dream Dinners are designed in three- or six-portion serving sizes. The three-portion option costs about $150 for 12 dinners. People wishing to try out the concept can buy six dinners for $75.

"The best thing about it is the time you'll save," Pantani said. Visit http://www.dreamdinners.com.

Nutritional Counseling

While services like We Got the List and Dream Dinners are based on the USDA Food Pyramid and the traditional meat-starch-vegetable dinner model, Nourishing Habits is a customized nutritional-counseling service. Kai Hersher aims to get people to change habits slowly and introduce more organic and raw, living foods, like home-grown bean sprouts, into their diets.