Simplified Menu Planning: Day 8 – List Dinner Ideas with the Master Pantry List

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31 Days to Simplify Your Menu Planning

31 Easy Steps to Real Food Meals Every Day

Set up your pantry, grocery list, menu plan, and dinner recipes to simplify and streamline the process. Dinner happens every day. Be prepared. 31 Days to Simplified Menu Planning will show you how to develop a simple, easy, and effective strategy for feeding your family every day: without an arsenal of recipes.

Yesterday we talked about setting up a short list of breakfast, lunch, and snack ideas, and today we’ll do the same thing for dinners.

Note Your Constraints

Before you begin, list out your various constraints on what dinner ideas will work for your family. These constraints will actually make your meal listing easier! So many recipes and meal plans abound that ruling a bunch out before beginning makes the process more simple and less stressful.

Are there taste and preference constraints? Budget constraints?

Now, look at your master pantry list you created for yourself as you cleaned out your food stuffs. This is also a constraint. If you want menu planning and grocery shopping to be simple, you need to eliminate any meal that requires special ingredients (special occasions get exceptions, of course). You want all your meals to rely on what you have committed to keeping on hand so that you don’t have to keep a special grocery list and make sure you get to the store before having a planned meal. Plus, this makes grocery shopping so much simpler, because you go in knowing what you buy, and you can ignore the rest.

Decide on 5-8 meal types

Before delving into the world of cookbooks and recipes, limit yourself further. What meal types will constitute your go-to selection?

  • Pasta
  • Mexican (tortilla-based)
  • Rice
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Casseroles (maybe ones that freeze, so you can double them some nights and eat freezer meals a few times a month?)
  • Roasts
  • Cuts of meat (pork chops, beef steaks, chicken thighs)
  • Beans or lentils
  • Bread & cheese
  • Leftovers buffet

The easiest way to do this is to pick one meal type for each day of the week. You can always remain flexible and move them around within a week, but if you have 6 or 7 different types of meals and each one only getting table time once a week, you get the benefit of seeming variety but the ease of regular routine.

List specific dinners

Now we get more specific and add the final constraint to our dinner plans.

For each meal type you picked, list 3-5 specific dinners, with recipes. You’ll end up with 18-35 dinner choices — plenty for variety but not so many you forget them or have to go searching Pinterest or trolling message boards for “What’s for dinner tonight?”

Remember to select only recipes that you can adapt to use only your master pantry list, so you don’t have to menu plan before going grocery shopping. Go grocery shopping based on what you need off your master list and menu plan off your short dinner list, and everything comes together without elaborate schemes.

Of course, you can skip this step entirely if you simply want to adopt the Simplified Pantry master list and go with Simplified Dinners‘s list of (and instructions for) meals. Remember, during the month of October only, you can use the discount code 31days to receive $4 off the eBook and immediately take the mental effort out of dinner planning.


easy, fast, flexible whole foods cooking
Join us here tomorrow as we decide what ingredients we should buy and which we should make ourselves.


Mystie Winckler began menu planning at 11 years old when her mom delegated one dinner a week to her. Marrying at 19, she’s had a lot of practice over the years. But between growing and homeschooling her family, meal planning often requires brain power that just isn’t there any more. Simplified Dinners is her solution to take the effort and thought out of healthy, frugal cooking. And now it is available for you, too! During the month of October only, while this series is running, use discount code 31days and receive $4 off!

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