How to Answer the Infamous What's for Dinner?

Smoky Turkey Chili

Smoky Turkey Chili

Everyday it's the same ole question, "What's for dinner?" This question used to haunt me until I learned how to answer it with a meal plan. For the past couple of months I have been learning how to properly meal plan. Who knew that meal planning actually meant to sit down and write out what you will eat on each night for the week? 

I previously thought that meal planning meant to pick a bunch of ingredients at the grocery store that can make up multiple meals during the week... wrong! This proposed plan would leave me stressed at the end of the workday when my husband would ask the infamous "What's for dinner?" question. I would answer with, "well, I have some ground bison that I could make some bison burgers with but I don't have anything for a side.." and so on. He'd usually opt for something like a sandwich so he wouldn't have to wait forever on me to decide or overthink a meal. 

I technically don't have to cook. My default was to have us just order takeout each night- I mean that's how I grew up... I didn't grow up with parents that cooked, I think on average my mom would cook once or twice a year and it was either a crockpot beef stew or pork chops with wild rice casserole. My dad can scramble eggs with too much cheese and that's about it. My younger sisters and I survived on eggos, boxed mac and cheese, cereal and Chick-fil-A.

 I enjoy cooking because I have learned how to cook on my own as an adult and what I've learned so far is that it's not really a hard thing to do. Like most things in life, it's a process. I am thankful for patience, the movie Julie & Julia,  learning the difference between reduce and simmer, and so on. Hopefully one day I'll find my own style of cooking because right now I'm just working on following a recipe.  

Written Meal Plan

Written Meal Plan

After thinking I would just live on takeout, I sat down wrote out on a piece of paper: Monday- Bison Spaghetti, Tuesday- Chili and so on. I assembled the list of ingredients as well as some breakfast/lunch options with ZipList and went to the grocery store. I was amazed how I spent LESS money, had all of my groceries and meals planned for the week.


I'm sure most people reading this might think "Awh bless your heart.." especially if you're in the southeastern part of the United States but I seriously had no idea. 

Since meal planning I have learned to:

  • keep one meal something simple like a roast beef sandwich with sharp provolone and horseradish (toasted of course!)
  • add a slow cooked meal for midweek meals
  • utilize leftovers
  • keep an ongoing list of recipes you enjoyed (I like to use Ziplist)
  • wear shoes and an apron while cooking
  • try something new at least once a week

Finding recipes can get overwhelming with all of the cookbooks, blogs, pins on pinterest and so on. The first few weeks I picked meals I knew how to cook well and enjoyed. These past couple of weeks I have picked all new meals from my new cookbooks or my pinterest board that I have been wanting to try.

I also reserve the I-really-want-to-learn-how-to-make-this-recipe for the weekends. When there is more time and no stress for getting a meal ready. For instance a couple of months ago I made Curry Pork Pies from Chef Edward Lee's Smoke & Pickles cookbook. This recipe took me 3 hours to make. I made everything from the filling to the crust but it was worth the extra time. Bonus: I learned how to make pie crust from scratch and that ground pork is different from ground sausage. 

These past few weeks I planned my meals out which I listed below and went grocery shopping. Note to self: if you do go grocery shopping on the weekend make sure you go early, because if you wait until the afternoon everyone else in the world will also be there. Second Note: If you live below the mason dixon line and the word snow is in the forecast beware of the crazies buying all of the milk and bread.  

2 weeks ago:

Asian Pork Sliders |

Last week: 

Mediterranean Salmon |


This week:


Sometimes you don't want to have what is planned for that day so you make a swap but the best thing is knowing that you DO have something to make and you won't be stressed trying to throw something together. 

Ultimately I would like to prep my vegetables as well as lunches for the week but slow and steady wins the race.

I hope that this post helped those of you who like me were intimidated by the "What's for Dinner?" question. When I hear that question now I am so relieved to look at my plan and say "Tonight we are having fill-in-the-blank".

 If you have any meal planning tips or questions please let me know. Thanks for reading. 



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