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Figuring Out What to Have for Dinner

September 24, 2022

Another Way for week of September 16, 2022

Figuring Out What to Have for Dinner

Second of a three-part series on organizing meal planning.

Perhaps you’ve seen the meme: “Who knew that the hardest part about being an adult is figuring out what to make for dinner every day for the rest of your life.” Yeah.

But if you’ve read my book Whatever Happened to Dinner you know I’m a big proponent of eating together as a family or couple. And I’m not just talking about holidays. I’m talking about the everyday.

My confession is I’ve never been much to plan ahead. I have frequently said I love meal planning, though, during the sweet corn days of August-September. We normally grow three to four plantings of sweet corn which spread out over those months and very often my meal planning is complete when I’ve settled on a meat for dinner—plus sweet corn and tomatoes or green peppers. How sweet it is. (I get tired of corn for supper quicker than my husband, but it does make meal planning a breeze.)

Who doesn’t like sweet corn … well I do know a few folks ….

The rest of the year, I am never happy on a given day until I’ve settled on what to fix for supper. And while my husband is a happy griller and helps out that way, he doesn’t cook much else and I’m happy that way too. Truth be told, he messes with my way of doing things—wants a special pan or utensil for specific things and doesn’t know where to find them—and after all these years, I just prefer to cook.

But not plan. I did not teach my daughters good meal planning skills, I must admit. Next week you’ll hear from each of them!

However, this year, after becoming better acquainted with my cousin’s wife, Sharon, which I shared last week, I have been working on doing a better job of planning ahead. And I love it, when I do it!

My meal planning now still boils down to what meat or main dish to have. Stuart is a big meat eater (although he has cut back on servings) but a meal is not a meal for him if there is no visible meat. But, he readily enjoys dishes like spaghetti, taco salad, lasagna and some chicken and rice/noodle casseroles. So when I’ve settled on a meat or main dish, the rest is, shall we say, a piece of cake. (But not for dessert! Cake, cookies, or pie are saved for special occasions and usually we just have ice cream or fruit for dessert, or fruit on ice cream.)

Here in no particular order are some of our go-to meat entrees: pork chops, grilled or baked; meatloaf; pork barbecue; sloppy joes; grilled hamburgers or hot dogs (sometimes he cooks a big batch of these at a time and we freeze for easy meals); country ham (the salty kind); steak or steak and cheese sandwiches; baked fish fillet; a bean and hamburger casserole; Costco roast chicken; BLTs; taco salad; beef roast; hamburger stroganoff; pizza; goulash. For sides we add various veggies or salads, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, mashed or baked potatoes, fried potatoes. I’m sure this sounds way too boring and meat centered for many readers but it works for us. The helpful thing about planning is making a list—which you then have to refer back to.

We both enjoy beef stroganoff: on rice.

I must confess we do eat out a lot more now than when the children were home. Which is a pattern I observed in my parents and their siblings—they went out to eat much more often after we left home. Duh.

Speaking of the later years: if you are single or have lost your partner, what then?

Of course, that’s a way different story and I remember when my mother, widowed for 15 years, reverted to often just eating cheese and crackers for supper, saying that’s what she liked. Plus, a bite or two from her beloved chocolate bars. She had her healthy noon meal with others at her retirement facility and often saved entrees or dessert to eat for supper, and that was ok, but gradually she lost weight and became quite frail. Which led to two major falls. Plus, it was not much fun to eat alone in your room amidst the worst of the pandemic.

If you have a companion or friends to share meals with from time to time, that can make up for lack of family. And I hope you’ll look for my daughters’ meal planning helps next week! Bon Appetit!


I’m giving away FREE copies (as long as they last) of my 2010 cookbook Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime. Just pay shipping of $3.00.

Send cash or check and your request to: Another Way, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

What are your go-to meals? How do you do meal planning?

Comment here or send to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Today I made Mother’s vegetable soup recipe dish, beginning with searing some good beef. We’ll have 3-4 leftover meals, with some to freeze. So “What’s for dinner?” is solved for a few days.

    When we visited Curtis, the college freshman living in an apartment with three other fellows, he said they each plan meals and actually eat evening meals together most days. I was astonished! His “roomies” must come from homes that featured sit-down meals, a wonderful way to bond.

    I’ll look forward to your daughters’ meal planning tips–after I sneak a peek at your responses to my manuscript.

    • Way go to Curtis and guys! They will be ready to wow whoever/whenever they decide to marry! I am pretty astonished too, although one of the highlights of my sophomore year at EMC was living in a community household (chaperoned properly by a faculty couple also living in the house) and we all took turns preparing the evening meal (maybe it was in teams of two, for a table seating about 14 of us.) Always a highlight of the day. And kind of nerve wracking until I got in the groove.

      Yes, veggie soup is a great thing to warm up and warm up again. I know I have the makin’s for a big pot of soup if I dig into the freezer. Great idea for later this week!!

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