What to make for dinner can either send you into a tizzy each evening, or it can be the thing that centers and grounds you when you are settling in after a long day. I choose the latter. How about you?!!
It’s not always easy, and I admit that I groan when my son asks me “What’s for dinner?” the second I have cleared his breakfast plate! I actually plan all of my dinners out for the week so I don’t have to think about the answer to this question on a daily basis. I highly recommend it. It not only takes away the thinking, but it also makes for stress free meal prep because I have done all the shopping for the ingredients I need for each of the meals.
Keeping a dinner meal plan is great, but how do you decide what to put on it? If you’re like me, you want variety. I love to try new recipes each week. I actually have a need for it. I get bored of the same meals over and over again, and use cooking as a creative outlet to challenge myself to do something new. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to reinvent the wheel every day, but a couple of nights a week, I like to try something new or mix things up.
So exactly how do I decide what to make for dinner? Well, there are a few factors involved. My family’s schedule plays a big part. Knowing how much time I’ll have to prepare a meal and what else is going on that day impacts what I’ll have time to cook and serve. Obviously, my family’s likes and dislikes play a big part in what I decide to make each week. As much as I love Indian food, my family does not, so that’s not on my weekly menu! Aside from those obvious factors, I have a few tips I’d like to share today to help decide what to make for dinner.
How To Decide What To Make For Dinner
1. Create a “Recipes to Try” File
You’ll always have plenty of dinner options to choose from if you keep a folder of meals you want to try. You can do this digitally with something like Pinterest (create a board called “Dinner Recipes To Try”) or use a standard file folder and print out or clip recipes inside. You could even do both! Use this folder to pull out recipes to plug into your weekly meal plan. I do this every week to satisfy my need to try new recipes all the time. After I try the recipe, I file it into my recipe file (or ditch it if I didn’t like it.)
2. Create a Theme Night
It’s easy to come up with a meal when it’s Taco Tuesday or Friday Fajitas. You could also make Thursdays Italian night or Monday’s Asian night. Pick a couple of themes that you know the whole family enjoys and schedule them into your meal plan, along with a couple of easy recipes you like to make that fit the theme.
3. Get Inspired by Your Leftovers
Make the most of your meals and take the stress out of the question, “What’s For Dinner” by making extra servings of dinner on Tuesday to use again on Wednesday or Thursday. A surplus batch of chili from dinner on Monday could be used again on Wednesday for chili burgers. Extra helpings of vegetable stir fry on Tuesday could be rolled into Spring Rolls on Friday.
4. Take Stock of Your Pantry, Fridge and Freezer
When I need dinner inspiration, I turn to what food I already have. Lots of zucchini to eat up? Zucchini noodles and marinara for dinner, it is! Surplus of canned beans and potatoes? A big pot of stew is in order. You can never go wrong when you cook from your pantry and fridge.
How do you decide what to make for dinner each night? I’d love for you to share your best tips! Get more dinner meal ideas when you sign up for my free newsletter.