11 Ways to Simplify Dinner Time

In the last couple of months, I realized I was making dinner time WAY too complicated.

We’ve always eaten dinner together as a family, but it was just starting to feel extra onerous to me.

I asked on Instagram a few weeks ago for people’s best tips for simplifying dinner and I’ve condensed them into eleven ideas (you can see all 80+ suggestions here!)

Especially with summer upon us, I hope it’ll help make dinner time a little more streamlined at your house!

11 Ways to Simplify Dinner Time

  1. Sign up for a meal planning service. I used Sweet Peas Meals for more than a year, and since they’ve shut down my favorite resource has been eMeals.  You can try it for free for 2 weeks here – I’ve found a meal planning service so helpful (the key for me is to just commit to following it).
  2. Do a 7 meal rotation. My friend Miranda (who is basically a simplifying GENIUS) does a weekly meal plan where you have the same meals every single week. You pick seven meals that you know everyone in your family will eat and then you just repeat for a year or so. Brilliant! (She actually created a course about how to successfully implement it in your home, if you’re interested!)
  3. Have daily themes. This is a really popular idea where you have a general theme for each day (sandwiches on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, etc) and then you just have to find a recipe that fits that category for each day.
  4. Have some standard weekly dinners. If you don’t want daily themes, doing just a few weekly repeats makes a big difference. We do pizza pretty much every single Friday and I love that I never have to think about what I’m going to make on Fridays. And Saturdays we do take-out or date night, so it’s another freebie night.
  5. Make a list of super simple meals that you can make in a pinch. Our family favorites include tuna melts, pancakes, and this Thai chicken noodle soup.
  6. Start prep during breakfast or lunch. Setting out things to defrost, marinating something, or chopping up some vegetables hours before it’s needed makes a HUGE difference when that dinner hour rolls around.
  7. Double up dinner prep. I need to do this more, but if you pick two meals for two days in a row that have some similarities, you can simplify your life by cooking chicken for two dinners in one night or chopping all the vegetables for both dinners at the same time.
  8. Take advantage of your crockpot or Instant Pot. I LOVE my crockpot because I am high energy in the morning and it’s easy for me to throw things in around breakfast time. Our favorite slow-cooker recipes here!
  9. Plan for a more than a week. Lots of people said that instead of a weekly menu, they plan for two weeks or even a month at a time. I love this idea!
  10. Set a daily alarm to start dinner. It’s easy to let that 30-60 minutes you need for meal prep slip by you and suddenly every on is starving! If you set an alarm for when you need to start working on dinner, it’s a great reminder that it’s time to get the oven preheating or onions sautéing.
  11. Have a weekly snack dinner. There are always leftovers to be used up, whether it’s parts of other meals or half a bell pepper and a few slices of cheese. “Leftover Night” is deeply unappealing, but put a bunch of bits of things on some cutting boards or serving plates and suddenly it’s my kids’ favorite meal of the week.

Any other tips for simplifying dinner time? I’d love to hear!

Simplify Dinner time

If you liked this post about how to simplify dinner time, you might like these posts too:

Photos by Heather Mildenstein

Similar Posts


  1. I know some people detest leftovers, but we only cook 3-4 main dishes per week. If you mix up the sides, it doesn’t feel as repetitious. We also do semi-homemade meals, like using frozen veggies in stir fry, or using Ragu when a recipe has homemade marinara sauce.

  2. These are great tips! My kids love “snacky dinner” nights, and lately we’ve been enjoying breakfast for dinner occasionally too, which is usually super easy. I was a Sweet Peas Meals subscriber and was heartbroken when they closed down, but I will have to check out eMeals–thanks!

  3. These are all great ideas! I switched to monthly meal planning about two years ago and it has changed my life. Each week when it’s time to make the grocery list I don’t have to start from scratch on a meal plan! I don’t always stick to what I had planned at the beginning of the month, but it’s nice to not have to come up with a new meal plan each week.

    My grandma is a huge fan of leftover night. She calls it “Musgo” (as in, everything in the fridge must go). 🙂

    1. Ditto this and I’ve taken it a step further and I basically have a month mean plan template that I use on repeat. It used to take me 30-60 min each week just to figure out what meals to plan and now it’s like 5 min. The key was finding a rhythm that works for us… for now. We can always update as needed. We’re a family of four and our kids don’t eat a ton so we have to do leftovers twice a week and sometimes eat them for lunch to get through them. This is our plan in a nutshell (I shop on Fridays so that’s why my planning week starts there. Commas split up the list to represent each week of the month week 1, week 2, etc.):
      F – pizza, white bean soup, pizza, minestrone soup
      S – baked salmon, husband’s pick – repeat both
      Su – chicken pot pie, kid favorite (hot dogs, chicken nuggets, or hamburgers) – repeat
      M – leftovers
      T – tacos, fajitas, tacos, enchiladas
      W – lemon linguini, spaghetti, broccoli & bowties (lemony), pesto
      Th – leftovers

      Basically figure out when to eat leftovers in the week to avoid food waste for your family. Then plan 2-5 meals for each day of the week and rotate throughout the month. Use the same template each month. Do your favorites more frequently. If you enjoy trying new recipes and have time to find them, plan some days for that (e.g. every Sunday or every other Sunday).

      Good luck feeding your families everyone!!! 🙂

  4. In winter especially, we double or tripple some recipes. We have enough for dinner, lunch leftover, and one full frozen meal. We meal plan on Saturday. We cook those larger recipes on the weekend. Every Thursday night is frozen leftovers (0ften from a few weeks before) while Friday is take out or restaurant. Meals from Monday through Wednesday are recipes that can be done in 30 to 45 minutes.

  5. Yes! This is a great list! I do a combo of 2-4. We have the exact same thing MWF (corn dogs and ramen – dad’s night; tomato soup/grilled cheese & salad; pizza & fruit salad to use up all the iffy produce at the end of the week – either in the fruit salad or on top of the pizza!) I do themes for T&R depending on the time of year/month and sometimes mix in new recipes there (sheet pan, pasta, big salad, grill, stew etc.) I love how you do a main + fruit for your family, totally adopted that whenever I try a new main dish. We always eat out on the weekends but will have cereal for dinner or something from the freezer if we just want to be home instead. I freeze all my leftovers in individual portions using those 8-12 oz restaurant plastic containers. I do this when I serve the plates. Leftovers means is a no-pressure system, great in a pinch because I can take out and adjust to however many I’m feeding that night, and we can always gift them to anyone needing a meal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *