What’s for dinner today?
No other sentence I think to myself can be so frustrating, or leave me so blank.
Planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, eating and then cleaning it all up to start again. The repetition can wear you down.
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On a good day some Googled lists and my old favorites are enough to get me through. Some days though, the thoughts that run through my head about COOKING DINNER are . . . less cutesy than the lists. To be blunt, my internal thoughts include a lot more F-bombs.
If you’ve ever had these thoughts before it’s time to open the fridge door (again) and try to will the food to cook itself, these links are for you. For each type of mood that accompanies meal-planning I’ve written down ideas and a link to some recipes to get the inspiration flowing and make that part of dinner, at least, a bit easier.
1. “Oh crap I got so busy this afternoon I forgot to cook”
Soup is your savior. Seriously, you can just toss everything and anything left over into a pot with chicken or vegetable broth, add any kind of side, and pretend you meant to make soup all the time. Twenty five to thirty minutes later the dinner you totally had planned all day, no really I meant to make this is done.
2. “We literally need some veggies tonight or we will all get scurvy”
I feel you. Keeping constant fresh veggies on hand is enough of a struggle without adding in how to cook them in a tasty way or, worst-case, hiding them inside something else to trick your broccoli-are-death screaming offspring.
Try PASTA PRIMAVERA via Giadia de Laurentiis and Food Network. VEGETABLE STIR FRY WITH NOODLES via Budget Bytes (with a delicious homemade sauce that takes three ingredients.) Or 14 VEGGIE RICH RECIPES from Better Homes and Gardens. *Side-note, yes I know scurvy isn’t caused by lack of veggies.*
3. “I am NOT IN THE FUCKING MOOD!”
Breakfast for dinner. It’s quick and hardly anyone will complain about it because everyone loves breakfast.
Always a good standby-egg and meat sandwiches, like Daniel Seidman lists on DELISH.COM. Maybe good old pancakes like THESE ONES via Incredible Egg.org. Or try 18 HEALTHY AND HEARTY BREAKFAST IDEAS. by Mara Betsch via Prevention.
4. “Seriously, I just fed you guys yesterday”
I think the endless repetition of prep-cook-clean is actually worse than the cooking itself. It’s like shoveling while it’s still snowing, while snowmen stand around the driveway asking, “What’s for dinner? What is that? I don’t like that.” Go away, snowmen. I fed your little snow bellies yesterday.
Leftovers are your friend in this mood. Rachel Ray, experienced mom that she is, has recipes she specifically made to be re-used as leftovers. Like her TURKEY BOLOGNESE (via Rachel Ray.com) that turns into Turkey Tomato Soup or Turkey Chili, all from one recipe. Or how about 22 LEFTOVER HAM RECIPES from Taste of Home.com?
5. “I don’t even want to look at the stove, it’s like 1,000 degrees outside”
The one sure step to a spotless kitchen is never to cook anything in it. That tends to be impractical. But you can’t stand the thought of washing all those dirty pots, so what can you cook with the minimum of mess and without using the stove?
In this case, bust out the crock pot meals. These little pots are a gift from heaven. Maybe GARLIC PARMESEAN CHICKEN AND POTATOES via Damndelicious.net. Or just throw some sliced onions on the bottom, salt, pepper and boneless skinless chicken breasts (one per person, at least) on top, cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours for some delicious baked chicken. If you don’t have one/ are not into crock pots, try 14 EASY WRAPS from Betty Crocker.
6. “We will be everywhere BUT at home today”
Late meetings, events, the kids have after school games or practice, and the temptation is strong to stop by a drive-through on the way home so you all can eat at least a few minutes before it’s time to brush teeth.
If you know it will be a late night in advance, crock pot meals are your friend again. Throw in ingredients in the morning, come home at night to a meal. Try CROCK POT GROUND BEEF STEW via Food.com. Or PORK CARNITAS via Recipetineats.com. For a whole honkin’ list of ideas try 29 HEALTHY SLOW COOKER RECIPES from the folks at Delish.com
7. “I’m not hauling 3+ kids around the store alone, so we have no groceries”
The desperate whining for foods that will never actually pass their lips. The soul-shredding, migraine-inducing gauntlet that is the seasonal aisle (why are there toys for St. Patrick’s Day?! Surely a holiday for alcoholism doesn’t need to be marketed to minors?) It’s not hard to talk yourself out of a trip if it means you have to take the kids, but the end result is that you save your sanity and lose the groceries you may need for dinner.
To the rescue comes-Chili. If you’ve got some frozen ground meat and cans in the pantry you’ve got chili. No frozen meat? You’ve got vegetarian chili. Try CLEAN OUT THE PANTRY CHILI from Stephanie O’Dea. Boil up some chicken and whatever grains or noodles you have in a box in the pantry. Or try 10 QUICK RECIPES FROM THE PANTRY via Cooking Light.
8. “If I see another dirty dish, I’ll break it”
I don’t belong to the camp that insists you have to wash measuring cups after measuring plain water in them, and still I end up with more dirty prep dishes than can possibly be healthy for my sanity. Why does cooking take so many bowls?
One pot meals. Like ONE POT PENNE via Add a Pinch.com, ONE POT MAC AND CHEESE from Jennifer at Show Me the Yummy.com, or 22 EASY ONE POT MEALS from Beth at Budget Bytes. (Beth is amazing. If you only click on one link from this whole thing, let it be hers because Budget Bytes is fantastic.)
9. “You can eat this or STARVE.”
There are days when I held it together all through the morning drop-off chaos. All through many diverse daytime challenges. All afternoon during pick-up, HOMEWORK and whine time. And then, with a lovingly prepared dinner presented on our cheap plastic Disney princess plates (my husband likes the Jasmine one, don’t believe what he tells you) my beautiful children refuse to eat. Because a fleck of green herb has touched their protein. And all my shit is now lost.
It’s taco time. Picky eaters can add as much or as little as they like to tacos. Maybe CHICKEN TACOS from Jessica Merchant and How Sweet It Is.com or EASY BEEF TACOS from Betty Crocker. If all else fails, 29 TERRIFIC TACO RECIPES from The Latin Kitchen.com-there has to be at least one your finicky eater will like.
10. “When I asked what you wanted for dinner you said food. So that’s what you’re getting”
Ha. You are allowed to want to feed them nothing but wilted lettuce if they answer your plea for inspiration with “food”.
If you’re a better person than I am, you can try this list of 50 ALL-TIME BEST DINNER RECIPES from Food.com or show them this post. Just open it up and tell your helpful dinner planner to close their eyes and point.
And then THEY CAN MAKE IT THEMSELVES, since you are 100% over cooking dinner for tonight.
And, if you’re looking for even more ideas, check out OUR GROWING LIST OF RECIPES right here on That’s Inappropriate.