List of 100+ Dinner Ideas to Make Meal Planning a Breeze!

Feb 16, 2022 | Food, Meal Prep Made Easy, Recipes

Ever wonder what to make for dinner? We've got this! Choose from our list of 100+ dinner ideas and make meal planning easy! Even picky eaters will LOVE these simple crowd-pleasers!

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Meal planning can be a little overwhelming for everyone, especially during busy weeknights! It's not my favorite thing to do, but I have found a few things that make it a tad bit easier to answer that nagging question, “What's for dinner!?!”

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I am all about easy, no fuss, kid-friendly food that keeps everyone happy! I hope these ideas help you as much as they help me… get out of your dinnertime rut, and try out a new dinner idea! You may find your next family fav!


FIRST, A MEAL PLANNING TIP

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You ready for it? It's so easy. I keep a big list of dinner ideas by or on my fridge. This is SUPER DUPER helpful in terms of coming up with a variety of meals that can be made with things I typically have on-hand. It's also a great way to come up with uses for leftovers.

You can even separate meal types based on the main ingredient, meals that can be frozen, how they are cooked (crockpot, baked, grilled, etc.), meals good enough to serve guests, etc.

I also keep all of my favorite recipes in one place, like my recipe binder! Print our your best Pinterest recipes and keep them together where you can easily find them. If the recipe comes from a cookbook, photocopy it and keep it in the binder. That way you never have to say, “Now, where was that awesome chicken recipe again?….”

While I am sometimes bad at planning ahead for dinner, I firmly believe it's important to cook for your family rather than eating out or preparing processed meals. It's not only cheaper, but it teaches your family healthy habits and keeps you close as a family!


PRINTABLE LIST OF 100+ DINNER IDEAS

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Making your own list is so easy, especially when you use our printable list of over 100 awesome dinner ideas! Take your favorite meals from your recipe binder, Pinterest, your cookbooks, and everything else, and add them to your dinner ideas list!

Pssstttt… If you want an even more customized dinner ideas list, check out our dinner ideas post on ShelfCooking.com where we break meals down by themed dinner ideas to help.


THE ULTIMATE LIST OF DINNER IDEAS

Here is the list I have to help me come up with what to make for dinner! If any of these require recipes, I'll try to post them over time and will update this list with links to the recipes. Otherwise, I recommend a site like allrecipes.com for recipes (be sure to read the reviews)!

EASY PAN DINNER IDEAS

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  • Hard tacos or tostadas
  • Huevos rancheros
  • Stir fry
  • Burritos
  • Fajitas
  • Burgers or hotdogs
  • Quesadillas (plain cheese, steak, chicken, or pork)
  • Meatballs and rice
  • KFC bowls (mashed potatoes on the bottom, then corn and breaded chicken bites on top)
  • Sloppy Joes

Pro Tip: Burritos freeze really well! Add all your ingredients to a tortilla, roll it into a burrito, wrap in cling wrap and add to a freezer bag. It's one of our favorite traveling dinner ideas!


CROCKPOT DINNER IDEAS

  • Chicken and rice
  • Pulled BBQ chicken (sandwiches, put on a salad, etc.)
  • Pot roast (leftovers can be made into sandwiches)
  • Crockpot salsa chicken (makes into great burritos or salads!)
  • Ribs (grilled, baked, crockpot, etc)
  • French dip sandwiches (roast in crockpot + au jus sauce = French dip)

Pro Tip: Throw a liner in your crockpot for easy clean up! All of these easy dinner ideas can also be made in the Instant Pot if that's your jam.


BAKED DINNER IDEAS

Homemade pizza on a plate, from Fun Cheap or Free

Pro Tip: Learn to love your leftovers by taking pretty much any leftover meat and turning it into a casserole! It'll bring a whole new meaning to your weekly leftovers night when you dress it up into something else.


CHICKEN DINNER IDEAS

  • Chicken parmesan
  • Fried chicken (baked or fried)
  • Chicken cordon bleu (easier than you would think, and so impressive! Great for guests.)
  • Breaded chicken (can bread with Italian bread crumbs, graham crackers, saltines, potato chips)
  • Chicken nuggets (homemade…so easy!)
  • Chicken wings
  • Cheesy bacon chicken
  • Dijon chicken
  • Chicken fingers
  • Chicken and broccoli casserole
  • Orange chicken
  • Cilantro-lime chicken
  • Lemon chicken

Pro Tip: Pre-cook some chicken breasts, shred it in your stand mixer, and freeze it in meal-sized portions! It'll make dinner prep that much easier.


BEEF/PORK DINNER IDEAS

Ham on a plate, from Fun Cheap or Free

Pro Tip: Ham is the meat that keeps on giving. Make a large ham for your next Sunday dinner and be amazed at all the leftover ham recipes you can make with it!


FISH DINNER IDEAS

  • Salmon
  • Salmon patties
  • Fish sticks (homemade or store-bought)
  • Fish ‘n chips
  • Crab cakes
  • Fish tacos
  • Smoked salmon bagel

Pro Tip: Fish freezes really well! Don't be afraid to buy extra if it's ever on sale and it fits within the budget. As long as you freeze it properly to prevent freezer burn, you'll always have what you need on hand!


SOUP DINNER IDEAS

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  • Taco soup
  • Minestrone soup
  • Chicken noodle soup (homemade…serve with grilled cheese)
  • Creamy potato soup
  • White chicken chili
  • Clam chowder
  • Tomato bisque
  • Italian wedding soup
  • Chicken enchilada/tortilla soup
  • Cheeseburger soup
  • Corn chowder (various recipes, ham & corn chowder is good too)
  • Tortellini soup
  • French onion soup
  • Jambalaya

Pro Tip: You can turn pretty much anything into soup! Leftover meat, limp veggies, random pasta… Build your own soup and it'll make the best that you've ever had!


PASTA DINNER IDEAS

Pro Tip: A lot of these dinner ideas freeze really well! We always suggest to double or triple what you're making and freeze it for an easy weeknight dinner. It's so much cheaper than grabbing take-out on those busy nights!


SALADS OR SANDWICHES FOR DINNER

Salads in a jar, from Fun Cheap or Free

Pro Tip: Make mason jar salads for easy grab-and-go dinners during the week!


GRILLED DINNER IDEAS

  • Grilled chicken (season or marinade with whatever, and grill!)
  • Steak (grilled or broiled)
  • Kabobs

Pro Tip: The grill isn't just for your meat! Put your veggies in a steamer pack made out of foil and cook them on the grill. They turn out so delicious and it keeps you from dirtying any dishes in the kitchen. Winning!


BREAKFAST FOR DINNER

Pro Tip: Make a boatload of breakfast foods over the weekend, freeze, and pull them out as you need them for a quick and easy breakfast or dinner!


LEFTOVERS FOR DINNER

When you're trying to come up with fresh and new, easy dinner ideas, don't forget about your leftovers. If you have cooked food that is already in your fridge, EAT IT or use it to create something totally new out of your leftovers! Unless you like eating leftovers how you originally made them, there are plenty of ways to repurpose your leftovers. Don't believe us? We came up with over 70 different meals to magically transform those “boring” ol' leftovers into something new and different!

So the next time you're standing in your kitchen, trying to figure out what to make for dinner, remember your leftovers! Incorporate a weekly leftover night that helps to make meal planning easy. Use our tips to reheat your leftovers like a pro and never throw out your wasted leftovers that have been hanging out in the back of the fridge for a little too long again. We promise, the amount of money you'll save because there's less food waste will have you loving your leftovers in no time!


So what is YOUR go-to dinner?? Share it with us in the comments below!

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Happy cooking!

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23 Comments

  1. lauriel manuel

    l really appreciate what you posting and l am a girl who loves cookin and eating nice food ,so l would love you to send me lost of recieps so that l can also learn how to cook , l am an african

    thank you so much

    Reply
    • Yuey

      I diDnt find anything but honestly I’d probably eat plain pasta

      Reply
  2. Sue

    Need non meat receipes as my aunt is 95 and can’t chew meat.

    Reply
  3. Ashley

    Love it! Although it would be nice to know the recipes that pass the freezer test… I know a few would!

    Reply
  4. Wendy

    Oh my god, thank you so much for posting ideas for the classics that have graced the American dinner table for decades! I have been looking for this list for a very long time!

    I love food from all cultures, but don’t usually make it at home because I don’t know how, don’t keep the ingredients and don’t feel like facing the learning curve just yet.

    If you are looking for post ideas, may I suggest a similar list of side dishes?

    Much appreciated! πŸ˜€

    Reply
  5. Foodtechhh

    I love this post , U are providing a great stuff on your site keep it up

    Reply
  6. Alaina

    Love coming here for ideas when meal planning!

    Reply
  7. Erin

    This is such a great list!! I’m in the process of making a master list of things we can do on our themed nights and this is so helpful!

    Reply
  8. Megan Domgaard

    Ohhh I love this!! Gave me so many new ideas to update the weekly menu! Ha thank you!!

    Reply
  9. Amber Nelson

    I loved this list!! Thank you! I just found your channel online and your site. Thank you for sharing all your wisdom!

    Can you share the tomato bisque soup recipe? I have a favorite from a spot in Montana, and I crave it! Would love to try one that compares.

    Thanks so much for pouring your passion into helping others! God bless you!

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Thank you for your kind words! I haven’t done a post on that recipe but I need to once it gets colder! So keep checking back for it πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  10. Mary

    Great list! Your advice to keep your own family favorites recipe book has been so helpful for me. I don’t know why I never thought to print them and put them in a binder earlier!

    Reply
    • Jordan Page

      I know, it’s something so simple that most people don’t even think about! Pinterest is great, but sometimes it’s hard to find what you’re looking for on there and it’s nice to be able to hold something physical in your hand. XOXO

      Reply
  11. Supriya Kutty

    Oh my god thank you so much for sharing with us these amazing recipes that can be cooked at home for dinner, thinking what to prepare for dinner is the hardest thing a woman that goes through as she has to fulfil her husband and her kids wishes as well, this post will help us to select the requires dish that could be prepared.

    Reply
  12. Kim in Kansas

    Oh my goodness. You can’t believe what a wonderful post you have created. I just had broken ankle surgery which for a while leaves the cooking up to husband and son. They are good cooks but never enough ideas. This is fabulous. Thank you for saving meal time at our home!!!

    Reply
    • Fun Cheap or Free

      Oh goodness, broken ankle surgery?! So glad to hear that your hubby and son and take over the cooking for a while! They definitely have plenty of dinners to choose from, now! πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  13. Karen Smith

    Great list thank you! If you have more dairy free options please do share.

    Reply
  14. Ramona

    Thank you so much for the list and pdf! I so appreciate the work that you put into this, you’ve made my meal planning so much easier!

    Reply
  15. Anna

    Thanks so much for this. You are truly amazing!

    Reply
  16. Amy

    This is my favorite post. It has helped me out so much when it comes to meal planning. πŸ₯°

    Reply
    • Fun Cheap or Free

      So glad you found it helpful! Happy meal planning!!

      Reply
  17. Rylie

    helpful

    Reply
  18. Chelsie

    I LOVE all your good ideas and tips!! Thank you SO much for all the time you spend helping the great of us freebs out! I tell everyone I know to follow you!

    Reply

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