What’s for dinner? If you’re like many others, trying to come up with unique meal ideas every single night can feel overwhelming, and even frustrating at times. With a little meal planning and organization, figuring out what to make for dinner can be as easy as checking your calendar.
Family Dinner Ideas
Coming up with a go-to list of family-friendly dinners is a good way to start planning. Think back and write down easy meals that are typically met with approval. The pickier the eaters, the more important it is to keep track of meals the whole family can agree upon.
For some simple family dinner ideas, try using themed nights to keep your schedule on track and put diverse foods on the dinner table. To reduce food waste, consider establishing a “must-go” night, when everyone gets to sample and finish the leftovers accumulated throughout the week. Here’s an example of what a week of meal ideas might look like:
- Meatless Monday: Take a plant-forward approach to the beginning of the week with a day dedicated to vegetarian- and vegan-friendly meals. Easy Vegetarian Lasagna with Spinach or Quinoa-black Bean Burgers are satisfying options the whole family can get behind.
- Taco Tuesday: Keep the week going with taco night. Whether it’s Chicken And Bean Tacos, Barbacoa Loaded Tacos or more adventurous Taco-dilla Wraps, these quick and easy crowd-pleasers are a guaranteed hit. For an easy enchilada recipe, our 5-Ingredient Chicken Enchiladas is a quick and delicious recipe, with a quick clean up.
- One-pot Wednesday: Ensure an easy cleanup with one-pot meals in the middle of the week. One-pot Chicken and Rice, One-Pot Chicken Artichoke Rigatoni and Tuscan Mac & Cheese are all easy mid-week options.
- Souper Thursday: Comforting, filling and easy, soups and sandwiches make a great near-end-of-week dinner combo. Try kid-friendly options like Chicken Noodle Soup, Greek Lemon-Chicken Soup or make sure everyone’s eating their veggies with a Ground Beef and Vegetable Soup.
- Pasta Friday: Celebrate the end of the school and work week with a Sausage and Mushroom Pasta Skillet, Chicken Parmesan Meatballs or Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese.
- Sheet Pan Saturday: One pan is all you need to create Meatball Hoagie, One Pan Vegetable and Chicken Stir-fry or veggie-loaded Steak Fajita Bowls.
- Must-Go Sunday: Use this day to eat up any leftovers or get creative with ingredients that didn’t get used earlier in the week. This is also a great day to write down next week’s dinner ideas.
Try a Taco, Pizza or Burger “Bar”
Another way to please a finicky crowd is to give everyone the opportunity to personalize their meal in a way that suits their particular tastes. Set up a “bar” with various toppings, and then give everyone a taco shell, pizza crust or bowl of whole grains and watch the pleasure they take in mixing and matching the perfect meal. These quick dinner ideas aren’t just fun, but they’re also an easy way to get the whole family involved. Here are some ingredients to include in your topping bar:
- For tacos: lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cheese, sour cream
- For pizzas: cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, onion, green peppers, black olives For grain bowls: leafy greens, roasted veggies, chicken, avocado, salad dressing
- For hot dogs: ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, sauerkraut, chili
- For spaghetti: tomato sauce, pesto, crushed red pepper flakes, dried herbs, grated cheese, meatballs
- For burgers: ketchup, mustard, relish, cheese, barbeque sauce, bacon
Quick and Easy Meals
For last-minute easy dinner ideas, start with a base that can serve as a blank canvas for your culinary creativity. Some terrific and quick options include:
Pasta: Whip up a quick, fresh tomato sauce or toss it in olive oil or butter, then add any toppings of your choice.
Flatbreads: Easy to keep on hand, these can be tailored to your own tastes. Choose a sauce (pizza sauce, hummus, Alfredo, etc.) and some toppings (meats, greens) and you’re good to go.
Sandwiches: One or two slices of bread and some fillings of choice keep things easier than ever. Layer on the meats, veggies, sauce or homemade condiments, or you can even stuff your sandwich with leftovers – the possibilities are endless.
Meal Prep Ideas
Plan ahead by cooking a little bit extra on one night, then enjoy a revised and transformed version of that item on nights to come. If you’re cooking beef, for example, you can make a slow cooker pot roast one night, then use the leftovers in enchiladas the next night. Make dinner easier by prepping the veggies during your lunch break. Or, with a little extra effort on Sunday, you can have an entire week’s worth of meals prepped and ready to cook as needed. For more meal prep ideas, check out our 5 Days of Meals and easy meal planning solutions.
Better-for-You Meal Ideas
Supporting your nutrition goals is easier when you have a meal plan. Choose recipes that include at least three different food groups and emphasize lean meats, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. A few of our favorite dietitian-approved dinner recipes include Greek Chickpea Foil Packets, Grilled Tilapia Tacos, Orange Citrus Chicken Breast and Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza.