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Parents: The "What's for Dinner Dilemma" Solved!

A wonderful member of the Committed Change Health Community responded to a request I sent out to parents and caregivers last week asking, “What are you struggling with most in your approach to personal health and wellness?”

The responses were vastly different, but one repeated response in particular caught my eye, the never-ending dilemma of what to make for dinner. It seems there’s a lot of angst around this topic!

Who knew?!

I answered the question briefly online, but this was such a good topic I had to expound upon it with a full post!

So, here we go!

We all know dinner ideas can be tough, but it all comes down to planning.

I know, I know, planning Courtney! 😩

But it’s true. I have wrestled with this over the years and solving this problem came down to observation and planning. Execution is a breeze if steps 1 (observation) and 2 (planning) are successful.

Let’s break it all down.


First, look at what your family eats now (likes, dislikes, tolerance, etc.) and what your typical schedule is "supposed" to look like during any given week. That’s tough because things are always changing but do your best to get a general idea of the nights you will be home.

Keep an eye on what gets eaten in your house and what stays in the fridge and panty a nice long time. This will support what ends up on your shopping list. Track the items that go quickly and those that aren’t that popular. You’re going to want to phase those out; save money, save space, save time.

Start to compile a list (or mental notes if yours still work😁), of the items that get eaten the most. Those will go on the list in combination with supporting items and can be used as the “staple” snacks and in the planning of the meals which we will talk about next.


Next, using the list of “preferred” foods compiled during the observation phase, plan to prepare dinner 5 nights out of a 7-day week and plan to eat out for 2 nights (it’s gonna happen anyway so just plan for it).

Use the list of items your family likes and uses the most as the structure of your meals and fill in the blanks around them. You will be incorporating other items to expand your list from a 5-day week to a 10-day week if needed.

Important note: As you embark on this new adventure of setting a dinner schedule, remember that dinner is food, not an “experience” so pay no attention to the groans when they don’t like what hits the table. The point of 10 meals is always having something everyone likes, something you know how to cook, and have on hand.

When planning the meal always account for a protein, veggie, and a side. If you structure it this way, the meal will be easy, balanced, and healthy. (I’m I health coach, I had to go there!) 😂

What Goes on the Plate:

  • Protein – Likely beef, chicken, fish or shellfish.

  • Veggie – Whichever you get the least pushback on but enough variety to keep it interesting.

  • Sides – Could be a salad, another veggie, quinoa, rice, lentils.

There will be variations based on time to prepare and tastes so don’t feel you are locked into the items above. Work from your list and adjust as needed as you will see below.

Because you have done the observation work and compiled your list of items, you can start to do your shopping. Here are a few tips that will help in getting the items you need to plan and prepare meals quickly. Also, keep in mind what last longer and what needs to be cooked sooner versus later. Spoiled food is wasted money, time, space, and effort.

Frozen foods to the rescue!

While we should always strive to have fresh meats, fruits and veggies, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with frozen foods. Here’s a few tips on what you should strive for.

  • Organic is best; always look for organic veggies. They retain a lot of their minerals and nutrients and will not go bad. Steam them and go!

  • Meat should be organic and grass-fed; fish should be wild caught. Just thaw the night before you want to use them.

  • Casseroles are King! Heat and eat, set it, and forget it!

  • Skillet meals; one stop shopping for sure.

Say “No” to Stress-cipes!

Don’t get tied down with recipes. If you think meal planning is bad, try working from a recipe every night. No thank you! That’s why I call them “stress-cipes!” If you want some recipes to be a bit more creative, here are my recipe rules to live by.

  • Keep things quick and simple, with few instructions.

  • Look for one pan/pot options; multiple pan options are complicated and messy.

  • Meals you can make in the crockpot are a lifesaver. Load it all up, come back, and eat it later.

Fast-food at Home

If you start to cook at home a lot, the kids are bound to get cranky. Trust me. So, remember to incorporate “fast-food” like meals at home as well. You can save something they really like for one of those “eat out” nights.

  • Get foods like grass-fed burgers, chicken wings, shaved steak for the occasional cheesesteak sub.

  • Turkey meatballs work well for meatball subs and can come frozen. Just add sauce.

  • And yes, pizza, with cauliflower crust!❤️ Frozen and fabulous! Just add a salad.


Finally, it’s time for the execution phase! You have a list of “go to” items based on preferences and some suggestions for healthy meals. Now, it’s time to put it all together.

Remember, you only need 5 to 10 meals that you can mix and match to keep it interesting and easy.

Your 10-day meal schedule could look something like this:

Week 1

  • Sunday – Pot roast with veggies; throw the roast and veggies into an oven bag or crockpot with seasoning.

  • Monday – Spaghetti and turkey meatballs. Add a side salad. You can use Miracle noodles instead of past noodles to keep is super healthy.

  • Tuesday Eat out

  • Wednesday – Salmon with broccoli and brown rice.

  • Thursday – Barbeque chicken breast, sweet potatoes, and green beans

  • Friday – Eat out

  • Saturday – Grass-fed burgers and sweet potato fries.

Week 2

  • Sunday – One skillet entrée or casserole from a recipe or bagged option.

  • Monday – Steak, asparagus, and quinoa.

  • Tuesday – Crabcakes, corn on the cob, and Cole slaw.

  • Wednesday – Cauliflower crust veggie pizza with salad.

  • Thursday Eat out

  • Friday – Shrimp with broccoli. Throw some frozen shrimp and frozen broccoli into a pan with a premade sauce from your condiments aisle. Just watch the amount of sugar in the sauce.

  • SaturdayEat out

And don’t forget, the option of “breakfast for dinner is always a winner!"

These are merely suggestions, but you can see the variety that each night has and good options from all the food groups that do the heavy lifting.

If you feel inspired, make a monthly schedule. Having a schedule will help with shopping so you know what to buy. Once it’s in the fridge or pantry, you switch it up as much as you want.

As I mentioned earlier, you are bound to get some “pushback” on the dinner schedule but there is a solution for that as well!

Dinner by Committee and Family Involvement

Again, dinner is food, not an experience. If someone in the family has something specific in mind for dinner, they need to voice it. I’ve gotten my son into the habit of making suggestions for things he wants or would like to try. It really takes the guesswork out of it. So, make sure to implement these two points:

  • Get suggestions on what’s for dinner; they can’t complain if they requested it.

  • Cook together as a family; provide them with an opportunity to learn how much goes into the planning and preparation of a meal and have them be a part of it. They will surely get more vocal about the likes and dislikes as well as hold their tongue a bit more when they don’t like what has been served because they know what it takes to get it on the plate!

Now, if on any given night your partner or spouse offers to “take care of dinner,” jump on that offer with 2 feet! There’s no better meal than the one YOU don’t have to cook!

I hope you’ll be able to take some of the ideas in this post and make your dinner dilemma just a little bit easier.❤️

A close second to the "What's for dinner dilemma?" was what to pack kids for lunch. Word on the street is that's a tough nut to crack too. Let me see what I can do...🤔

In the meantime, keep the suggestions coming. I’m here to support you in being Better4U and Better4All!

Let’s get cookin’!

Take care and be well,


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Woman trying to decide what to cook.
Dreading the words, "What's for dinner" everyday? Let's explore how we can solve the nightly dinner dilemma for good!


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