What Should We Eat For Dinner? – How to Never Ask (or Get Asked) the Question Again
If there’s one question that becomes dreadful and stressful to answer time after time, it’s “What should we eat for dinner?”. This is especially true when there is no proper meal-planning strategy in place.
- What's on the Menu: Tips For Weighing Out Menu Options
- The Benefits of Planned Meals and Meal Planning
- Meal Planning FAQs
- How can meal planning help avoid the "what's for dinner?" question?
- What are some good ways to organize meal plans?
- How can you find new recipes to include in meal plans?
- What are tips for grocery shopping with a meal plan?
- How can you save time cooking planned meals?
- What are good make-ahead meal options for busy nights?
- How can you get kids involved in meal planning?
- What if your family doesn't like something you planned?
- How can you avoid food waste with meal planning?
- What are tips for transitioning to meal planning if you’ve never done it before?
The lack of meal planning means that there’s no assurance you’ll have the ingredients in your house to prepare your daily meals. Worse yet, lack of planning leaves you to use your imagination on the fly when you’ve just arrived home from work or when you have limited time to prepare your meals. After all, some meals do indeed take longer than 45 minutes to prepare.
So, as in many areas of life, sometimes the best solution is prevention. But how can one prevent this question from ever rearing its little head? The answer lies in meal planning.
You can plan meals on a weekly basis for your more immediate meal needs or on a monthly basis for those who are more ambitious. Whatever duration you choose, a meal plan ensures that you’ll have premade organized meals so that you don’t have to whip something up without the necessary preparation.
Whether we’re talking breakfast, lunch, or dinner, meal planning will simplify a busy and complicated life: No More Guesswork.
- Easier grocery shopping: When preparing a meal plan, you will know all the ingredients you’ll need for the duration ahead of time, enabling you to shop without over-buying or under-buying.
- Reduces stress: You may also buy all the ingredients at once, prepare your meals, and then freeze them for use as the needs arise. Whatever works for you, the bottom line is to have an idea of the meals you will make each day to reduce the stress that comes with wondering what is for dinner.
- Saves time: Creating a meal calendar only takes a matter of minutes and is well worth the time. It will actually save time in the long run.
Many helpful resources related to meal planning can be found online. Also, as you already know, the internet allows you to find whatever creative and tasty meals you and your family could ever want. Nowadays, it’s easy to find any number of meal-planning apps and strategies that make meal preparation a piece of cake.
You should also consider dropping in your and your family’s most beloved traditional recipes over the stretch of your planning duration. That way, you won’t exhaust all your favorite meals in just one week’s time.
What’s on the Menu: Tips For Weighing Out Menu Options
If you’re not much of a planner, that’s fine, and this really isn’t too difficult. Actually, if you’re used to deciding what meals you’ll prepare just one day in advance or less, meal planning will be an absolute breeze since you’re already accustomed to quickly deciding meal choices. You’ll just need to map out your meal choices over the coming days or weeks all at once.
If you’re having trouble or can’t come up with enough ideas for your meals, check out the tips below.
Meal Planning Tips:
- Using seasonal ingredients. Some of the ingredients making up the meals should be seasonal. Incorporate these items into the plan for year-round diversity. This will also enable you to purchase locally-grown produce while supporting your local farmers.
- Take advantage of sales. Purchase what is on sale at the grocery store or supermarket. This can help trim excess expenses. Since you’re planning your meals, you can also strategize when you buy specific ingredients following regular and periodic supermarket sales.
- Check out your pantry. What you have in the pantry can give you many great starter ideas for your meal planning calendar. You’re probably already doing this if you haven’t been planning your meals, so this isn’t at all difficult. Go ahead and get 5-10 meals on your list just by looking at what you’ve already got in the kitchen (beans, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, etc.)
- Have a picture of the plate when planning. Picturing the plate can help you to know which ingredients to include. We all have our own ideas of what a healthy diet should include.
- Should half of the plate be fruits and vegetables, one-quarter lean protein, and one-quarter whole grains?
- Do you want to cut the grains and feature mostly protein?
- Do you opt for only whole food plant-based foods during the week? This is what we do in our family to ensure we’re getting an optimally balanced diet.
- Whatever the case, you can customize your meal plan to any nutritional plan you have for you and your family.
Also, think of how handy this would be if you or your husband needed to lose some weight. When you’ve got a plan, there’s no chance of the occasional unhealthy meal in the middle of the week. Prepare your plan, then stick to it.
It may take some time and practice to get used to meal planning. However, this habit will become habitual over time until it becomes second nature. You’ll be able to build up a massive repertoire of planned meals and recipes that can be reused over and over again.
Think about it: Once you’ve got 25-52 weeks’ worth of meals planned, you can move your meals year after year for additional variation. When trying brand new recipes or selections, swap them out for something on the calendar.
That means that you’ll, in essence, have an entirely functional meal calendar that will never need to be changed again. You’d have a customizable family meal menu; how cool is that? In addition, if you’re not dieting or trying to lose weight, you can add some flexibility to your meal plan.
For example, you could leave your Fridays unplanned to cook up something new and exciting with your kids for a family fun night. Or, if you don’t want to use a calendar, you could just purchase enough groceries for 14 meals (2 weeks of dinners), then eat your premade options on whichever days you choose.
Life happens, and any of the above strategies will make meal planning and prep incredibly more manageable, especially during busy weeks.
The Benefits of Planned Meals and Meal Planning
- Always have the groceries that you require. This reduces the need to keep rushing to the grocery store to buy what you do not have at the worst possible times.
- Leads to less eating out. With a planned meal, you are not likely to eat out because you’ve already “arranged” dinner. Without a plan, there’s a tendency to eat out more often in order to avoid the hassle of thinking about what to eat, buying groceries on the fly, or cooking.
- Reduces unnecessary waste of groceries. With a plan, you will buy the groceries that you need and not those that will end up being wasted. Goodbye, impulse grocery shopping!
- Being prepared on busy days. Planning and cooking a meal on a busy day can be challenging even for the strong-willed. Having a preplanned meal makes it easier to put dinner together, even on a busy day.
- Eating fewer prepackaged meals. By having a well-thought-out meal plan, there isn’t a tendency to get pre-packaged meals. As most of us know, pre-packaged meals are pumped full of preservatives and other food additives.
- Saves money. Intentionally purchasing groceries with purpose, eating home-cooked meals, and limiting trips to the grocery store are three huge improvements when it comes to saving money. Eating out costs more, and impulse shopping will make grocery store owners very wealthy. It should also be mentioned that you’ll waste a lot of fuel on all those unnecessary visits to the store.
- Saves time. With a meal plan, you only need to travel as far as your refrigerator to find the ingredients for the food you wish to prepare. Better yet, you may even have prepared entire frozen meals. The story is different when there is no plan because you may end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what to cook or going to the grocery store to buy the required ingredients.
- Promotes healthy eating. With a meal plan, you strategize new and healthy meal ideas. Furthermore, you can plan when you’ll have junk food rather than whenever you feel like having junk food. Are you on a diet? You can plan your meals for weeks or months at a time, successfully meeting all your nutritional needs without splurging.
- Better food and more options for your family. Unlike the meals that you thought up in the past, everyone in the family can contribute to your meal plan. All of your family members, including your children, can take part in the planning process. Whoever said meal planning couldn’t be fun? Think of the endless exciting ideas you all may have on your weekly or monthly meal planning night!
- Easy to deal with allergy needs. It can be mind-boggling to cook for a family with special food needs, especially with a lack of planning. For example, those with allergic reactions to soy or wheat probably won’t be able to safely eat over half of what could be found in the grocery store. Therefore, having a meal plan keeps you from needing to deal with these difficult needs on the fly. Better yet, it will allow you to plan for more variety for the loved ones who may have these needs, making their dinner experience a lot more enjoyable.
- Substantially decreases stress. It can be stressful after a long day to stare into the refrigerator abyss and wonder what to make for dinner. Plus, isn’t it stressful knowing that you’ll have to make a trip to the grocery store after a day of hard work instead of spending that valuable time with your family? How about feeling bad after you eat those nasty pre-made meals you bought from the grocery store because you didn’t feel like cooking? Having a meal plan definitely reduces stress.
- You (or your loved ones) will never ask yourselves, “What’s for Dinner?” ever again! If someone wants to know what’s for dinner, they can be ever so politely “referred” to your calendar or meal list. That’s right, you can indeed take the thinking out of meal prep.
It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief instead of feeling burdened when you think about dinner. What a great way to spend more time with your loved ones, too.
Meal preparation is the best solution to avoid what many think is an unavoidable question.
- No more unplanned trips to the grocery store, no more random splurges
- No more nasty pre-packaged preservative-filled foods
- No more stressful dinner preparation on busy days, and no more money down the drain from impulse buying at the grocery store.
Get organized, get a plan, and never get asked what’s for dinner again.
Meal Planning FAQs
How can meal planning help avoid the “what’s for dinner?” question?
Planning out a week or month’s worth of meals in advance takes the guesswork out of what to make each night. This leads to easier grocery shopping and more predictable habits overall. You can rely on your meal plan, and that means less pressure on you each week to decide on meal options.
What are some good ways to organize meal plans?
Use a whiteboard calendar, planner, or app to map out recipes for each day/week. Collaborate with your family on this, too, it can actually be quite enjoyable to plan everything out,
How can you find new recipes to include in meal plans?
Cookbooks, food blogs, Pinterest, and social media are great sources of inspiration. We have a number of recipes here at Enticingly Simple.
What are tips for grocery shopping with a meal plan?
Shop for all ingredients for the week in one trip using your meal plan as a master grocery list. Since we have a large family, we also like to purchase in bulk whenever we can. That includes things like bulk beans, rice, oats, pasta, etc.
How can you save time cooking planned meals?
Make a point of doing prep work like chopping veggies on less busy days to spread out the workload across your meal planning schedule. Also, if you have an especially busy schedule, pack in your meal calendar with as many easy-to-prepare meals as possible. That would include things like casseroles, stews, or similar options.
What are good make-ahead meal options for busy nights?
Casseroles, soups, chili, and freezer-friendly options like meatballs work well.
How can you get kids involved in meal planning?
Have them help select recipes, do age-appropriate cooking tasks, and set the table. Additionally, have them pick 1-2 new recipes every time you prepare a new meal plan. That will instill the healthy habit of trying new foods and meals, whereas children can often get into the rut of being too picky when there are limited meal options.
What if your family doesn’t like something you planned?
Keep back-up convenience foods like frozen pizza or stews on hand for picky eaters. Also, it may be possible that you need to work on your cooking skills a bit. It’s not always the case that kids are picky; it’s also possible they just prefer different seasonings or methods of cooking vs. what you’re currently doing. Don’t put it all on them; change your cooking style once in a while.
How can you avoid food waste with meal planning?
Only buy perishables for 1-2 weeks out. Adjust plans based on what needs to be used up, like produce, meats, etc.
What are tips for transitioning to meal planning if you’ve never done it before?
Start small with a few go-to recipes. Use apps or templates to organize gradually.