What do you want for dinner?
This is probably my least favorite question in the world (and I’m a teacher, so it is outranking a LOT of questions from surly teenagers).
The worst part is, I’m usually the one asking it.
My least favorite response: I don’t care.
Now, if it were true that the speaker did indeed not care, then these would be probably be my favorite three words; however, he does care, and so instead it just irritates me.
I know I have it easier than all the busy moms out there who have to please at least two other people, but I can’t feel any extra sympathy–I don’t care who you are, it sucks having to decide what’s for dinner every. single. night.
There are a few meals that are in our bi-weekly, if not weekly, rotation. Homemade meals such as tacos, spaghetti or lasagna, calzones, and stir-fry will probably make it onto the meal plan at least twice a month. They’re easy, tasty, and reliable. We do order pizza every other week, but for the most part, we cook all of our dinners, and you know what? Despite preferring home cooked meals, it can still feel like a chore.
In truth, I don’t mind the chopping of vegetables or the cooking or any of that, I just hate deciding what we’re going to eat. UGH.
Menu planning to the rescue, right?
Well…. Yes and no.
I love to plan, but I hate to commit (ironic?) just in case I change my mind, so a meal plan makes me nervous. It’s just a tiny bit to rigid. There have been days when I write spaghetti down for Monday, but when I get home I don’t feel like cutting up onion and garlic to make sauce, so instead we have leftovers and move spaghetti to Tuesday. Those people who can plan a whole month of dinners? Dang! I am a little bit in awe, but, alas, that kind of planning is not for me.
So instead of a meal “plan”, we have a meal “list”.
My husband and I each pick two or three meals for the week (tacos and pizza don’t count!), I write them down, buy whatever we need on Sunday and then each day we have whichever thing we feel like. Unless we had a crockpot meal planned: we save those for busy or late evenings so we have minimal prep.
While this has solved most of our daily “what do we want for dinner” dilemmas and vastly cut down on our grocery trips, there is still the issue of coming up with ideas on Sunday.
I love to open Pinterest and sift through my recipes board, but then 30 minutes in I’m usually overwhelmed with choices, so I close all my tabs and make none of the potentially life-changing recipes.
Enter the What’s for Dinner? Choice Board
I created this little organizer so we have a quick cheat sheet to glance at when we need inspiration. When we try and like a new recipe, it is added to the appropriate category on the board so it’s in rotation for our Sunday plans.
It’s not pretty (I’m a simple girl) but you can use this link to get your own. Just make a copy and then you can type on it or print and write on it.
I keep ours in a page protector on the fridge so it doesn’t get trashed. I also write our meals down each week in my Living Well planner, so I can look back to see if it’s too soon to have beef stroganoff again.
On Sunday mornings before I head to the grocery store, we glance at our chart and pick a few items. We either build a meal by choosing one from each of the top three columns, or choose just one from the Standalone Meals section.
This isn’t rocket science, but it has made our lives just that little bit easier. Granted, we still have those “I don’t know” moments, but that’s where Pinterest comes in. (Check out my “Good Eats” board for recipes to try and my “Tried and True” board for my favorites).
Thanks to this handy dandy chart, I am not annoyed after work when I have to prep for dinner–I already know what we’re having, I have all the ingredients, and I can change my mind if I want, because I have everything for the other meals too! Win, win!
What about you? How do you simplify your meal planning?