If you are like me, you have plenty of recipes you want to try, but you suffer from decision fatigue.
If you are anything like me, you occasionally find yourself in a dinner rut. A regular meal rotation can be very helpful when times are busy, and you just can’t make one more decision. It always provides comfort and stability to the family when favorite meals are regularly served.
But sometimes you want to try something new. If you are looking for ways to shake things up a bit, here are a few suggestions:
I check out cookbooks from the library every couple of weeks. It is my absolute favorite way to find new recipes. Most likely, your local library has a wide selection of cookbooks, from grilling to gluten-free to soups. Find a couple of books that grab your attention–it’s ok to pick a book by its cover in this situation! Maybe you only find one or two recipes that you want to make, but those couple of recipes have brought some excitement into your week!
Thrift stores, churches, and the local Junior League often have cookbooks for sale. Make it a fun project to cook one “local” meal a month. Maybe you will find something you love, and maybe you will be inspired to create your own recipe for submission to a future publication!
Swap with a Friend
Find a friend who is willing to split meals with you. This typically works best with two families of roughly the same size. Here’s how it works–you make meals for half the month, doubling each and giving half to your friend. She makes meals for the other half of the month, doing the same. You will each end up with a month’s worth of meals and only half the cooking! Ensuring that all allergies and food restrictions are accounted for, put no limits on what you both make. You are bound to find a new favorite recipe or two that your friend can share with you. Don’t be surprised when she asks you to send her one of your recipes, too!
You’ve likely heard of Meatless Monday and Taco Tuesday, but have you ever tried other theme nights for your meals? Our family goes through seasons of weekly theme nights, and everyone is involved in choosing meals that fit each theme. Our themes are:
Soup Sundays–One of our favorites in the colder months, we make soup or stew on these nights.
Meatless Mondays–On Mondays, we eat big salads, pasta, lentil or bean-based recipes, and, one we really love, Greek night. The table is set with a large serving board full of veggies, hummus, pita bread, olives, and feta.
Try-It Tuesdays–Tuesdays are for new recipes that we have found and want to try.
World Wednesday–On these nights, we focus on a meal from another country. It is fun to discuss that country over dinner and look up facts about it!
Throwback Thursday–Reserved for family favorites, I rotate through these recipes so that I’m not always cooking the same ole’ thing, but we are still able to enjoy the recipes we love.
Fish Friday–We eat any kind of seafood on Fridays. A stretch for some, especially children, I have found that these nights encourage them to try something they wouldn’t normally sample.
Kids Saturday–An extra fun night where the kids get to choose the meal…and make it!
Our theme nights shift when we are in a busy season, and sometimes we put them on hold for a while. But anytime I feel the need to mix up the menu, I rely on theme nights to guide me.
Take the decision out of your hands by checking out this dinner spinner. If you are like me, you have plenty of recipes you want to try, but you suffer from decision fatigue. A fun spinner like this focuses my mind on just one category of food to make. You can also customize the spinner if you would like to program in several recipes and have the spinner decide for you that way.
There are numerous recipe and meal-planning apps. Many of these include a grocery list, recipe database, and nutritional information. Take a look at a few and decide which one works best for you.
There are also multiple podcasts about meal planning and recipes. Some are lengthy, with backstories and detailed information. Others, such as “Recipe of the Day’ are short, typically seven minutes. Podcasts can be helpful and entertaining ways to learn new recipes and help you plan meals.
There are countless websites full of recipes. When your dinner menu is needed in revamping, check out a website and have each family member choose a meal that you would like to try. Work your way through all of the recipes on that site, page, or even just in a given category of food. You will find something everyone likes and can add to your normal rotation of meals.
Ask your friends! You have likely seen a social media post in which someone asks for some new recipes. You can do the same and make some of your friends’ favorite meals, or you can join a group that focuses on recipes.
Try a New Ingredient
Go to the grocery store and find an ingredient you have never used before–a spice, a vegetable, a meat. You may even want to look at a specialty store, such as a local Asian or Hispanic supermarket. Don’t think too hard about it–this should be fun! Buy something that looks good or interests you or that you have no idea what it even is. Now, head home and get to work with the fun part. The internet is full of wonderful information for new adventures! Search for this new ingredient and learn about its flavor profile. Find recipes and side pairings that work well. Your recipe might be a new favorite, or it might be a disaster that becomes a new favorite family story. The point is that you tried something new, learned something new, and had fun in the process!
Involve the Kids
Children of almost any age can help with dinner. As I write this, my 12 and 11-year-olds are making dinner. They are taking way too long and not doing anything the way I would, but they are learning independence and responsibility, and our family is going to eat a new recipe tonight.
When the kids can choose a meal, you have one less decision to make, and they are invested in helping. Little ones can help stir ingredients or set the table. Elementary school kids can measure and begin to learn to chop. By the time they are in middle school, most children can make an entire meal by themselves. Involving the kids in meal prep is an opportunity for quality time and teaching them life skills. Some meals may be as simple as spaghetti, and some may be as silly as cereal. Older kids can look through cookbooks or online for recipes they want to make. Whatever they choose, the whole family will enjoy knowing that the kids were involved, and you may even end up with some interesting new recipes.
However you decide to revamp your dinner menu, know that you can always go back to your standard routine. Changes don’t have to last forever, and repeated favorite meals are comforting and provide memories for the family.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/pondsaksit
Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.