No matter whether you plan in advance or start thinking about it at 5 o'clock when you get hungry, many of us are constantly challenged with the question: What do I want to eat for dinner? Whether you live alone or have a family of five, choosing what to make and/or eat for dinner is a daily struggle.
You may have a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator, but coming up with creative dishes 7 nights a week can prove difficult, even frustrating. Sometimes it's easier just to go out or order in, but even then, what are you in the mood for?
Fortunately, there are many tools at our disposal to help us decide. From cooking shows and recipe websites to new cookbooks from celebrity chefs and even something called the Wheel of Dinner, new ideas are close at hand. How you prepare the food and how far in advance you prepare it is up to you. But the more prepared you are, the less frustrated you'll be when hunger strikes.
Eat in or go out?
First things first. Decide if you want to prepare dinner at home or make reservations. If you decide to stay in, start by looking in your pantry and fridge. You may have things in there you never thought could work together, but actually do.
Let's say you have a can of tuna, a can of black beans, celery and carrots. You can warm the beans in a pot with some salt and pepper and stir fry the carrots and celery with some soy or teriyaki sauce. Then drain the tuna and mix it into a large bowl with some salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. Then add the beans and vegetables and you have a simple, healthy, easy-to-make dinner that has protein, fiber and other nutrients. Obviously, if you are feeding a few people, add more tuna and veggies.
Whether you live alone or have a family of five, choosing what to make and/or eat for dinner is a daily struggle.
Another way to help you decide how to put things together is to again see what you have on hand: beans, rice, various vegetables, dried pasta, chicken, turkey meat, leftover burger, etc. Take a few of the ingredients and pop them into a Google search. So go ahead and enter: "turkey meat+rigatoni+broccoli recipe." You'll be surprised at how many recipes with great ideas will pop up on various websites. You can really do this with any ingredients you have around the kitchen and make a delicious meal.
Make it a game and go out!
If you're tired of everyone complaining about what they do or don't want to eat, have some fun with it. Have everyone write the kind of food they want to eat (Mexican, BBQ, Chinese, etc.) on a piece of paper and put them all into a hat. One person chooses and whatever is picked, that's where you go. Make it even easier and just use the Wheel of Dinner. Click once and wherever it lands, dinner is served — or now you know where you can look to make a reservation! That said, if you don't find those restaurant options nearby, just spin again.
Another way to play your way to dinner? Urbanspoon has a fun function built into its app. If you allow the app to access your location, you can select the "shake" function. Then all you have to do is shake your phone and it'll roll through all the restaurants nearby and land on one. You can keep shaking until you find something you like. Get Urbanspoon for iPhone or Android.
Have dinner flown in.
For people who are super-busy or don't really have the wherewithal to pull together a little more adventurous meal, a number of meal subscription services have launched in the last few years, making meal prep much easier and using locally sourced, organic ingredients when possible.
Plated now services about 90% of the country. This gourmet food service lets users select from weekly chef-created menus and place an order for a specific number of meals. A biodegradable, recyclable box with portioned fresh ingredients, including meat, produce, spices, and instructions, arrives at the door. Meals generally take 30 minutes or less to prepare and cost $12 per plate.
Similar to Plated is Blue Apron, which also ships nearly nationwide. Here, users pay about $60 per week to get three meals that will feed two people, or you can choose a family plan for about $140 per week for four family-style meals (enough to feed four people each.) All meals come pre-portioned and are 500 to 700 calories. The meals are easy to make (about 35 minutes or less) and feature unique ingredients each week to introduce subscribers to new flavors. Users can follow easy recipes and watch how-to videos to learn cooking techniques.
While these services are not inexpensive, they do cut out the time you'd need to go to the grocery store and save on prep time, too.
So are you hungry yet? Whatever — and wherever —you choose to eat, you now have some tools to help you on your road to having a full belly.