6 tips I use for getting out of the “what’s for dinner” rut!
I love making dinner, most of the time. I love putting on cozy clothes & slippers, listening to music, trying a new recipe & sipping wine (or sparkling water). For me, the atmosphere makes a big difference. But I can easily get into a rut of what to make for dinner. It’s so hard! And then I’m more likely to either order takeout or use freezer dinners that aren’t the healthiest.
When I do get in a dinner rut, there are some things that help me get out of it. I hope you find these tips helpful if you’re in a rut!
Try a new recipe
Buy a new cookbook. Take a few minutes to look around Pinterest or Instagram and get inspired. Try a new dish that you’ve never made before. Ask a friend for some of their favorite dinner recipes. Ask your kids for some dinner ideas.
Trying a new recipe is the first thing I do if I’m in a dinner rut and it reminds me that dinners can be fun.
During the weekend is a good time to try a new recipe, because you’re not as pressed for time.
- HERE are some of my favorite cookbooks, plus I also included some of my favorite recipes from each cookbook.
- I have a ton of recipes I want to try on Pinterest HERE if you want some inspiration.
- Some of my favorite accounts to follow on Instagram are @gimmesomeoven, @ambitiouskitchen and @halfbakedharvest for delicious dinner ideas.
- I also share what we’re having for dinner every week HERE to give you some ideas.
Make one of your favorite dinners
Look through some of your old cookbooks, or recipes, or ask your kids or spouse for some of their favorite dinners. Some of our family favorite dinners are:
- Fajitas. Simple and so easy. And you can change it up, with black beans, chicken, add a cilantro rice on the side.
- South of the Border Pizza (salsa as the sauce topped with pinto beans and cheese. Once the pizza is baked, top it with guacamole and cilantro.) So easy and the girls love it.
- Spaghetti with veggie marinara sauce. (We add ground turkey and diced zucchini, bell pepper, carrots to jarred marinara sauce.)
- Oven Tacos: not the healthiest, but so good and Raegan especially loves these.
Try to change your mindset around making dinner
This has been such a big help for me. I used to dread making dinner because that’s the witching hour at our house when the girls are crazy, hungry and argue a lot.
Instead of thinking that making dinner is a chore, I’ve worked to shift my mindset to: I get to make something delicious, good for our bodies and teach my girls the importance of real food. I’ve also started using dinner prep as “me” time to think about the day and relax. It seems like such a simple step, to change how you think about making dinner, but it’s a tough one. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about healthy living, it’s that A LOT of it comes down to your mindset. And it’s not an easy thing to change, it takes time and awareness, but it has big perks.
I have a post HERE about how I simplify and enjoy making dinner more. It used to be a time I dreaded, but now it’s a time I really enjoy because it’s my time.
Also, when I’m prepping dinner, that’s when I let the girls watch TV and I don’t feel guilty about it one bit. It’s such a huge help to have them distracted instead of complaining or fighting every 5 seconds.
I know it takes time initially to plan out dinners for the week but it saves me so much time every evening. Because I’m answering the question of “what’s for dinner” one time a week when I meal plan verses every single night. And it’s a flexible plan so if we’re in the mood for something else or dinner plans change, it’s no big deal.
I have a post HERE all about meal planning and why and how it helps save me time and sanity. 🙂
Keep your pantry and freezer stocked with ingredients for quick dinners
We keep our freezer and pantry stocked with ingredients to make super quick dinners. Like:
- Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi (add pesto or marinara and sausage) for the easiest dinner!
- Frozen veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, peas, corn, etc. Great for a quick veggie side dish, or to add to curry, pasta or a one-pan dinner.
- Frozen salmon from Costco (defrost it in a bowl of water; it’s good topped with pesto or teriyaki and baked)
- Riced cauliflower for my favorite easy Cauliflower Fried Rice that we make a lot! (Most of these ingredients you can keep on hand in your freezer for a really quick dinner.)
- Marinara and whole wheat or quinoa brown rice pasta for a really easy dinner. Add some veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper are our favorites) and ground turkey to the sauce and it’s really healthy and filling.
- Canned diced tomatoes and coconut milk for a quick curry dish (also good with riced cauliflower, peas, butternut squash and potatoes.)
- Brown rice and canned beans for easy burrito bowls.
Think about why you’re having a hard time with making dinners
My last tip is probably the most important I think, but takes some thinking and digging into the “why” behind a dinner rut. Sometimes I can trace the why to something unrelated to dinner at all. Like:
- I’m too tired. Prepping during the day really helps, if possible, or buying pre-prepped ingredients. If you can cook rice while you’re making lunch, or chop veggies while you’re making breakfast, it will make dinner come together so much faster, and you’ll feel more relaxed when it’s time to make dinner. Also buying pre-prepped veggies really helps too. (When this is the reason I’m in a dinner rut, I also think it’s a signal I need to focus on getting quality sleep, so I might go to bed earlier, limit screen time at night, take a break from wine at night, etc.)
- I don’t know what to make. Planning ahead really helps me. I’m super indecisive so if I don’t have a plan before dinner time, I can feel overwhelmed with too many options of what to make for dinner. Even though meal planning takes a chunk of time, it saves me time every single night because I already know what we’re having for dinner (or at least have narrowed it down to 4-5 ideas).
- I’m bored of making the same things over and over again. That’s when I try a bunch of new recipes. I look on Instagram or Pinterest or a cookbook for inspiration.
- I’m not enjoying cooking. I know that not everyone enjoys cooking. So if that’s the case, maybe your spouse does and you can take turns. Or try to find super simple meals, that are also healthy too. Simply Real Health has some good simple recipes. Or try to make it more enjoyable by listening to a good playlist (here’s one of my favorites when I make dinner) or a podcast while you make dinner. Another tip is to make double batches of dinners when you do cook so you can eat the leftovers another night (one less night to cook!)
- Making dinner takes too much time. I know that some recipes can be overwhelming and time consuming. I have a post of a bunch of our favorite one-pot dinners that are mostly hands-off HERE; and a Pinterest board HERE full of dinners that take 20 minutes or less. It also helps to buy pre-prepped veggies if you can, and planning ahead.
I hope that these ideas help if you’re in a dinner rut! And if any of these ideas help, I’d love to know. 🙂