Have you ever wondered what to make for dinner?

Dinner buffet


I recently wrote a chapter for the Wish We Had Known Volume 2 book through Madison Area Business Consultants and it involved a dinner conundrum. This specific one involved frozen broccoli, but this What to make for dinner? doesn’t have to involve a kid with a green vegetable to still be an issue.

My mind goes through a wondering process that has a variety of paths when dealing with the dinner decision. I don’t mind the journey as long as we get to the final sit-down-and-eat outcome without a rushed panic. It really bothers me when the food prep is frantic.

Here are some of my mind-wandering dinner approaches.

The Random Approach: I see a can or bottle in the back of the pantry and realize, Oh, I need to make something with this before it expires. Sometimes I need to do a quick search on my phone for ideas because I don’t remember why I bought the item in the first place…Bottle of scallion-ginger oil? Hmmm. Not sure anything can be done with this? Other times the idea is clear and obvious…Packet of premade taco seasoning? Done.

The Aisle-Know-It-When-I-See-It Approach: This is where I shop for the week’s dinners while walking aimlessly through the grocery store. I see what looks good or new. What haven’t I bought in a while? It could be fried onion crunchies or saltine crackers…Any ideas? This is the most useful when I see some ingredient and then get a craving for a dish – say, spinach and sausage lasagna – and load the cart from there. This approach can get impulsive however if I ping pong around with multiple ideas. I get home and unload the bags and go, Huh? Arugula, ground turkey, cornflakes, nutmeg, soy sauce, and…M&Ms? Ok. How about PB&Js? My husband is notorious for taking this approach, especially at specialty stores like a butcher or a local roadside stand or even a convenience store. He says, Everything just looked so good! It was right there! So I thought, let’s just take it home and cook it ALL up!

The Leftovers Must Be Eaten Approach: This is where our dinners can get even weirder. I will put the plate down in front of a kid and they will say, What is this? Chicken? His looks different than mine? What did you get? Is that fish? I know we are out in left field when they can’t identify anything on the plate. Or I take a quick peak around the table and one person is having tortellini, another soup, another a deli roll with cold cuts, and someone has a pork rib. I guess it’s good we didn’t mix it all together to make Rib-Pastrami-Noodle-Soup with a Roll. But then again, that sounds kinda good! None the less, we press on, no matter what the approach, thankful that dinner is served.

But it does make me wonder, How do other people decide what to make for dinner? Is there joy in the wonder? Does it change if you feed others compared to solo? Is there a pattern? Consistent pace or rotation? Non-negotiables? Avoidances?