What's for dinner? It's the dreaded question we all face at the end of the working day. Here are five tried-and-true strategies that could help you get dinner done faster, easier, and better than ever.

By Vanessa Greaves
Updated July 30, 2020
mom and baby in the kitchen working on a computer laptop
Credit: vorDa/Getty Images

You'll find tons of advice out there for solving the dinner dilemma, but the truth is there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Here's a more personalized way to help you get dinner done: Take a look at these six easy meal-planning ideas, then use them, adjust them, or combine them any way you want to come up with a solid plan that works for you.

1. Meal Templates

How It Works

Assign a consistent theme for each weeknight, then plan and shop accordingly. For example, if you know you're going to eat meatless every Monday, you're already halfway done; all that's left is to decide on the recipe. And if you know that every Thursday is jam-packed with after-school/after-work commitments, then make that your super quick and easy dinner night with soup and sandwiches, leftovers, make-aheads, or take-out. Whatever works for you.

Here's an example of weeknight template themes and recipe ideas to go with them.

More meal template ideas to have fun with:

2. Slow Cooker Solution

How It Works

It's the ultimate cook-while-you-have-a-life approach to easy dinners. You just fill 'er up, scoot out, and come home to a hot meal. Check out our highest-rated slow cooker recipes for ideas, and find more inspiration in our entire collection of slow cooker recipes.

More: Use these super easy slow cooker beans in about a million different dishes.

3. Big-Batch Cooking

How It Works

Made a double batch of a one-pot meal such as chili, stew, soup, or casserole and freeze it in portions. Hook it with up with the Meal Templates and/or Slow Cooker plan, and dinner is a just a reheat away. Big-batch cooking is usually best done on a weekend, but you can also slow-cook a big batch of something on a weeknight while you're doing something else. Like putting your feet up.

More: Get tips for freezing food and thawing food, including how long things will last in the freezer.

4. Cook Once, Eat Twice

How It Works

This approach is also known as "intentional leftovers." Cook enough so you know you'll have leftovers to either reheat or turn into a whole new meal the next night. Depending on whether you're cooking for one, two, or a crew, you could even have enough leftovers to turn into a third meal. Here's an excellent example of how this cook got four great meals for two out of just one chicken.

More: See 12 ways to use leftover steak that are even better than steak.

5. Prep Once, Eat All Week

How It Works

Prep a week's worth of raw or cooked ingredients all at once and turn them into meals the rest of the week. You'll save a ton of prep time when you're actually cooking, and you'll save money by buying and prepping only what you know you'll use. Here's a full rundown of how it works, complete with recipe recommendations.

Chicken cutlets with mushrooms, lemons, and capers
Photo by naples34102
| Credit: naples341102

More Easy Dinner Ideas