Food & Drink, Organization, Viral posts

Dinner idea list and menu

When there’s nothing planned for dinner, my husband can open the fridge and cobble some things together for a delicious meal. I, on the other hand, open the freezer and pray there’s a pizza. I’d say I’m a creative person, but it seems to be lost in the kitchen. It helps me to have a menu planned.

Let me say first that I don’t always get around to planning a full menu every single week, but I’m getting better and better about it because it’s such a huge help when I do! It saves money, we waste less, and I don’t have to panic every day at six o’clock.

UPDATE: After lots of requests for an editable version, it’s finally here! You can find it on my Etsy shop for only $1.50!

Printables for menu planning - dinner ideas and menu chart

This is my jam:

1. Reference a sheet of my frequently cooked meals.
2. Plot out my menu on paper.
3. Find ingredients in my recipe binder.
4. And make my grocery list.

… instead of what I used to do:

1. Wait until there is not one crumb left in the fridge and decide I must make a menu.
2. Think of all the things I can make. That’s about two days worth.
3. Ask Marcello if he has any ideas. I don’t like any of them, so that wasted 5 minutes.
4. Look on Pinterest. Maybe that recipe would be good. I’ll have to remember to buy sesame oil.
5. This is taking too long, so my kids distract me and I have to rescue the cat from the boys’ plastic swords.
6. Well, we have to feed children, so we have to go the the store whether I’m done or not!
7. Wait, what ingredients do I need? I think I can remember …

By having a list of my meals and a binder of my favorite recipes printed out, I can get this done in 10 minutes or less now. And I am finding that this 10 minutes makes my week a bajillion times easier. Bajillion.

Here’s how it goes:

Dinner idea list

Printable dinner idea list to make menu planning easier

I used to wrack my brain for dinner ideas when I was making a menu, or search through my recipes to come up with something. But the problem was I don’t have cheeseburgers or salmon fillet in my recipe pile because they don’t really require too much instruction, so I was forgetting about simple meals.

So, of course, I made a list. Because that’s what I do. Your printable is at the bottom of the post.

I also keep this healthy snacks list handy when I’m making my menu. I made it when I was pregnant, but it still works now!

Personal cookbook

I keep a binder of recipe printouts and magazine pages that I’ve already tried and I know we like. I put them all in a binder to create my own personal cookbook. (I don’t even bother putting in complicated recipes that I think I might try one day when I have time. That day won’t come. And if does, I won’t be cooking.) 

Keep favorite recipes in a binder

I like to put the printouts in plastic sleeves so I can wipe away food splatters.

Use sleeves and tabs for categories to make your own binder of favorite recipes

I added little tabs with categories like: casseroles, Italian, Mexican, Asian, meat, soups, sides and dessert.

Menu board

mini command center with printable menu

Now that I have a dinner idea list, making a menu is pretty simple. And having all my recipes together makes writing out my ingredients on the grocery list easier too.

I write the list right there on the menu sheet. I usually take a picture of it on my phone to take to the store.

I put up a mini command center on a corner wall to help with scheduling and menus. Get the printables here.

I added this mini command center just off the kitchen recently and it’s working really well for us. I hang my menu on a clipboard here. I love that I can take it down and write on it easily.

I save the completed menu after the week is over too, so I can use it again in the future.


Here are the printables! Just click each image to download the high-resolution image. There are more menu variations in this post.

Dinner ideas - printable dinner idea list
Healthy snack ideas list
Weekly menu printable - lunch and dinner

Do you have a menu routine? Or any favorite easy recipes to share with this non-cook?

Menu planning for the non-cook - menu chart and dinner idea list printables


After being asked quite a few times, I finally made an editable dinner idea list! You can buy it for $1.50 over on my Etsy shop!

Dinner Ideas editable printable pins - copyright

I also have editable menus! I’m so excited about this one because I can make a menu plan and keep it for future use as well.

Editable menus - meal planner - breakfast lunch dinner - meal planning ideas

16 thoughts on “Dinner idea list and menu

  1. Thanks a bajillion times for making every day life so much easier! I love your blog! :-) – Tine from Denmark, Europe :-)

  2. Just found your blog and LOVE it! Thank you so much for sharing your great tips!
    I’m a mom of 2 young boys (still trying to figure out this whole parenting thing) and will definitely try meal planning your way – when you described the way you used to do it, I smiled, because that’s pretty much me right now!
    Nathalie, another reader from Denmark ;-)

  3. Hi Nathalie! It’s rough menu planning for small boys, isn’t it?! Have any easy recipes from Denmark? I’d love to try :)

  4. Hello Kate! I’ve recently became a stay at home mom and I want to and have to learn the best ways to save money and menu plan. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful tips! I’m going to try them…..

  5. Here’s how “cooking” goes in my house: Get out slow cooker. Dump in a 48 oz. bag of frozen chicken thighs. Dump in a couple of bags of frozen fire roasted mixed peppers and onions. Dump in a can of fire roasted tomatoes. Dump in a glob of minced garlic and a teaspoonish blob of Italian seasoning. Shove, shove, shove to get it all to fit in my too-small slow cooker. Turn it on low because I think there is enough time. Sit back, pleased with myself. Turn it on high because I realize there isn’t enough time, after all. Check back in a couple of hours. Add salt and pepper, taste, burn tongue, repeat. Serve over linguini. Serves four for two nights plus a couple of lunches for under $15, and it was declared “delicious”, so not too shabby!

  6. I came across your sight and love it. I’m a stay at home mom with a 11,8, and 4 year old and still don’t have it mastered. Doing one chore a day is a great idea. I feel like I am always cleaning and my house is never clean. I also hate cooking. My husband love to but he works out of town so I have to. Thank you for all your wonderful advice all the way to Oklahoma

  7. Hi Leslie! Me too! I try to stick to one thing a day, but I’m easily distracted. Lately we’ve have people over regularly, which is my best motivation to keep up with things. Except laundry. Sigh. I go in phases when I’m sticking to a menu or keeping a clean house, but when I get in a creative mode, everything in the house is a disaster! Do you do this? Anyway, thank your for your encouragement. Sounds like we have a lot in common! xo

  8. I love you. I love you. I love you.

    I never leave blog comments but here I am lol. This was so helpful for me… I struggle with meal planning and your breakdown of the weekly struggle describes me perfectly. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how I can simplify this process and I think you’ve done it. Thanks so much! Definitely bookmarking your site!

  9. Yay! So happy you can use it! I’m always trying to simplify dinner too. Why is it a surprise to me that we have to eat dinner every day? haha!

  10. I love this take on meal planning. It makes it so much easier and organized than writing on a piece of notebook paper that probably gets lost during the trip to the grocery store. I do wish there was a way to edit the dinner ideas for dietary restrictions/ personal preferences though. Loving your blog though!

  11. I love this suggestion. Someone else asked for an editable cleaning list. I think my next project will have to be making editable files!

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