Favorite Dinner Ideas: Meal Planning in 15 Minutes


Really! You can plan a week of family dinners in just 15 minutes, and I’ll show you how step-by-step!

Simplest meal planning system ever! I love the idea of creating a favorite dinner ideas list. Simply brilliant!

The Favorite Dinner Ideas Method Explained

You’ve tried meal planning before. It goes fine for a few weeks, but just when you start feeling successful at it, life gets busy. Old habits of dining out, fast food, and cereal for dinner take over. Dinner time becomes a source of stress and your food budget gets out of control.

Let’s just go ahead and accept it. Life gets busy. Instead of being caught off-guard by the busyness, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a plan for when it happens? During these busy, stressful times I use my Favorite Dinner Ideas list to plan family meals. This method allows me to create a menu plan for the entire week in 15 minutes or less.

1. Print the Favorite Dinner Ideas List

This simple strategy begins with creating your own Favorite Dinner Ideas list. Here’s how you do it.

Download and print this free, blank Favorite Dinner Ideas sheet to organize your dinner ideas. There are 10 categories plus a few blank spaces to add your own.

2. List Your Favorite Dinners

Think about the dinners your family eats on a regular basis and write them on your Favorite Dinner Ideas List. As you list them, place them in the appropriate category such as Chicken, Pasta, Mexican, Beef, etc. There is also a category labeled “other” for dinners that may not fit nicely into any of the other categories. Brainstorm as many dinner ideas as you can with a goal of having 5-10 under each category. Get the whole family involved and ask what their favorite dinners are, too.

Remember, you’ll be consulting this list during your crazy weeks. Your list of Favorite Dinner Ideas should be simple, go-to dinners you can make with ingredients you normally keep on hand. Try new recipes and plan more time consuming meals when your family is having a less-busy week.

Need some inspiration?

Here are the categories for dinner ideas and a few examples to get you started.


If pasta is the main ingredient, list the dinner here.


Think beyond tacos and include anything you would order in a typical Mexican restaurant.


List your family favorite meals cooked in a slow cooker.


If your family likes chicken as much as mine, this may be the longest section on your Favorite Dinner Ideas sheet!


List all kinds of beef dinners including ground beef, steak, cubed beef and roast.


All types of pork dishes go here including pork chops, loins, roasts, and more.


Shrimp, shellfish, tuna…there are lots of dinner possibilities here!

  • Baked Tilapia
  • Teriyaki Salmon
  • Shrimp Skewers


Include deli style (like turkey, ham, pastrami) and hot sandwiches (like meatball subs).

  • Grilled Cheese
  • Sloppy Joes
  • French Dip
  • Philly Cheesesteaks

Soups & Stews

All day slow cooked stews, canned soups, or anything in between goes here.


If it doesn’t fit in any of the other categories, list it here!

Examples: Pancakes, Waffles, Leftovers, Quiche, Dining Out

Consider your list of Favorite Dinner Ideas an ongoing list. The idea is to have 5-10 dinners in each category, but this method will still work well with only 2-3 dinners in each section. Keep adding new dinners to your Favorite Dinner Ideas list as you discover new family favorites.

You did it!

You’ve created your own Favorite Dinner Ideas List!
Now you’re ready to start meal planning in record time.

3. Use Your Favorite Dinner Ideas List for Meal Planning

To use your Favorite Dinner Ideas List for meal planning, download and print a Weekly Meal Plan Sheet. Print out several of these so they are easily available when things get busy. Preparing early will save you time and money later.


Choose one dinner from different categories on your Favorite Dinner Ideas List to fill in your Weekly Meal Plan. For example:

  • Monday you could server a Chicken dinner
  • Tuesday is Mexican night
  • Wednesday make a pasta dish
  • Thursday is soup night
  • Friday make a crockpot meal

Selecting dinners from different categories will give you a nice variety without any effort.
See how easy this method is? You’re Favorite Dinners Idea List does all the work for you!

As you list dinners, create your grocery list on the right side of the Weekly Meal Plan Sheet. Quickly check to see if you have some of the ingredients on hand so you’re not purchasing items you already have.

Congratulations! You’re done! The next time life gets a little crazy, you’ll be able to plan your family meals with ease. There are plenty of things in life we cannot control.

Dinner? We’ve got this!

Want more Meal Planning Resources?


Get the Meal Planning Starter Kit

You’ll get 10 full color printables that include everything you need to get started Meal Planning
in just 15 minutes a week!

The Meal Planning Starter Kit also includes Bonus Items to get you off to a quick start:

  • 70+ Side Dish ideas
  • 100+ Dinner Ideas

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Simplest meal planning system ever! I love the idea of creating a favorite dinner ideas list. Simply brilliant!

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