30 Dinner Ideas When Meal Planning is Hard

Many of us have experienced a new set of challenges in grocery shopping and meal planning over the last two months. Early this year, we were working full time outside the home and enjoying the Empty Nest life. Seemingly overnight, we both began working full time at home and our youngest child returned home to finish college online. Our meal plan and strategy changed just as quickly – and it wasn’t a smooth transition! Dinner ideas felt like the hardest part.

Home Office Progress

For decades I routinely

  • Planned meals weeks or a month at a time
  • Shopped and prepped for bulk cooking
  • Doubled meals for the freezer
  • Ate leftovers for lunch

Those habits got a hard reboot in March, and it was honestly overwhelming at first.

The mental load of figuring out what groceries we had, what I could get at the store, making meals and maximizing leftovers was exhausting.

So, I started where I do anytime I don’t know where to start: a list.

I started tracking what we had for dinner each day in my planner. We didn’t always have a plan and it wasn’t always healthy, but I tracked every single day for 8 weeks.

The result is a list of meal ideas we can pull from and continue tweaking to improve the healthiness of by incorporating better ingredients.

Chips and Dip

30 Dinner Ideas When Meal Planning is Hard

  1. Pancakes & Bacon
  2. Grilled Cheese – hubby suggests Gouda
  3. Steak & Mashed Potatoes
  4. Homemade Pizza – load up the veggies
  5. Honey & Garlic Chicken with Rice and Snow Peas
  6. Beef Tacos
  7. Chicken Sausage skillet cooked sliced with bell peppers & onions, over pasta
  8. French Toast
  9. Burgers & Fries (we mince jalepeno and onion to mix in the patties)
  10. Frozen Beef & Broccoli with Rice
  11. Sausage & Egg Grit Bowls (cheese, obviously)
  12. Chicken Tenders & leftover sides
  13. Mexican Chicken Casserole (just layer up your favorite ingredients)
  14. Tuscan Roast  with mashed potatoes & brussel sprouts
  15. Spinach Tortellini Soup
  16. Grilled Chicken with Asparagus & Mashed Potatoes
  17. Stromboli
  18. Risotto with Ham and Peas
  19. Fried Fish and Grits
  20. Meatball Subs (homemade this time with bread from Costco)
  21. Charcuterie Board
  22. Carnitas with Cilantro and Onion (ready to heat meat from Costco)
  23. Chicken Wings
  24. Arroz con Pollo (ready to heat rice from Costco)
  25. Red Beans and Rice
  26. BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
  27. Shrimp in Oil & Garlic
  28. Spaghetti & Meatballs
  29. Leftovers
  30. Take Out

I hope this list will spark some creativity in your meal planning. What’s your favorite go-to dinner idea?

fish and grits