When it comes time to make dinner, you’ll be prepared with a list of dinner ideas that your family loves! These lists of dinner ideas are now your biggest trick for easy meal planning.

This ultimate list of dinner ideas from ShelfCooking.com is sure to help you with your meal planning!

Did you know that there are serious benefits that come from eating home-cooked meals? This may sound a little far-fetched. But it’s true! Research shows that families who eat home-cooked meals together regularly are healthier and happier. I firmly believe it’s important to cook for your family rather than eating out or preparing processed meals.

I don’t claim to be a master chef, by any means. But I do have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to making home-cooked meals a reality in our home. I’m about to share them with you so that you can help your family reap the benefits of a humble home-cooked meal!


We made a pretty big claim when we said you and your family will be healthier and happier if you make dinner at home. Let’s break it down.

  • You have total control of what you make! You can choose to use less processed foods and less sugar in your meals, which automatically will make a difference in your health.
  • It saves money!! If you meal plan around what you already have in your pantry, you will save boatloads of money in the long run, which allows you to be able to save for more fun family experiences… like a day out on the boat!
  • Determine your portion size – this is an important life skill for children and adults to be able to do on their own that will help lead to healthy choices down the road.
  • Family time! There’s nothing better than sitting around the table with your family and connecting, laughing and eating together. Make dinner time a special time to grow closer and create new memories.


So how the heck do we do it!?!? Life as a mom is stressful and busy and sometimes it’s just easier to run through the drive-through after a long day of cleaning house, running errands and being a chauffeur.

I want to cook meals that my family gets excited about, but also keeps them fueled and growing healthy and strong. Not only that… I don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. I need a variety of easy, low-prep meals that I can cook with the items I have in my fridge and pantry.


My biggest tip for you today is to keep a list of dinner ideas on your fridge or in your meal planning folder that you can easily refer to for ideas! This helps me rotate through a variety of meals and use the ingredients that I already have on hand. It’s that easy! This tip makes your life easier because you don’t have to remember all your family’s favorite dinner ideas when you sit down to plan.


I highly suggest finding a way to organize your favorite recipes into a meal planning binder or recipe notebook so that you have them all in one place.


Dinner ideas printables on a counter from ShelfCooking.com

My suggestion to you is to organize your list in a way that makes sense to YOU! You can create lists by the main ingredient, how they are prepared, etc. It’s really up to you.

Here are a few popular ways to plan out your meals, plus some coordinating printable lists to help make your life easier. Each of these lists has 6 categories with 10 dinner ideas to help inspire you! We suggest that as you meal plan, you pick an idea from each category for each day of the week… add in a leftover night and your whole week is covered. You’re welcome!

Grab your Dinner Idea Lists


This is probably the simplest way to organize your list of dinner ideas and is my go-to!

Here are the top 6 categories:

  • Chicken Dinner Ideas
  • Beef or Pork Dinners
  • Fish Dinner Ideas
  • Pasta Night
  • Rice or Beans
  • Vegetarian Dinners

If you plan with your main ingredient in mind, it’s quick and easy to make an inventory. Then you’ll know exactly what ingredients you have to work with and can easily add to your shopping list.


This type of list will save your life if your schedule varies from day to day. Some nights you need to plan for an easy one-pot dinner. Other nights you may need a super easy slow cooker meal because you’re gone all day.

Here are the top 6 categories:

  • One-Pan Wonders
  • Slow Cooker Meals
  • Sheet Pan Dinners
  • Freezer Meals
  • Oven-Baked Dinners
  • Almost No-Prep Meals

Simply plan out your week according to how much time each category takes to prep and place it on the appropriate day!


If you love to try new foods and are a fan of all the flavors, this can be an exciting way to add some inspiration to your dinner time routine.

Here are the top 6 categories:

  • Mexican Food
  • Italian Night
  • Asian and Mid-Eastern
  • American Classics
  • Island Flavors
  • Comfort Foods

Mmmmmmm-hmmmm. This type of organization means you’ll have some really creative, unique dishes worked into your week! You might also need to be a little more creative when it comes to repurposing these dinner ideas.


A super popular way to meal plan is to choose some fun themed dinner nights. The ideas here are endless!

Here are the top 6 categories:

  • Meatless Mondays
  • Taco Tuesdays
  • Waffle Wednesdays
  • Thrifty Thursdays
  • Friday Favorites
  • Slowdown Sundays

We left out Saturdays so you can use Saturday as your leftover night and call it “Smorgasboard Saturday” – how clever is that!? Remember, you are not limited to these themes. You can create your own. See below.


A really easy, fool-proof way to meal plan is to just plan a specific meal type for each day of the week. This often will help you to repurpose meal ideas and use them in a different way.

Here are the top 6 categories:

  • Crockpot Dinner Ideas
  • Wraps and Sandwiches
  • Soups or Salads
  • Casserole Dishes
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Grilled Dinner Ideas

Another fantastic and simple way to organize your dinner ideas to make meal planning easy!


Printable to create your own favorite dinner ideas from ShelfCooking.com

Making your own list is so easy – just think of your favorite dinner ideas and get them all written down in one place. We’ve included a blank printable to help you do just that! Customize this to fit your family and use it as a tool to make meal planning easy and dinner time a breeze.

If you need some ideas to get you started, don’t forget to check out our detailed lists with hundreds of awesome dinner ideas. We also highly suggest checking out allrecipes.com for recipes. Be sure to read the reviews to make sure you choose a good one!

Grab your Dinner Idea Lists


This is ShelfCooking.com, so you better believe we haven’t forgot about our beloved leftovers! Make sure you plan a leftovers night into your week. Need some tips to help you become a pro at making leftovers something you are excited about?

You’ll find tons of great suggestions on how to repurpose leftovers above.