Five Easy Ways to Break Out of a Dinner Planning Rut

Grab a few ideas for how to break out of a dinner planning rut, including printables to organize meals and tips & tricks for meal planning for busy families!

five easy ways to break out of a dinner planning rut.

Guys, it happens. No matter how much you love cooking (or don't love it), no matter how much time you have (or don't have) on your hands to meal plan, we all get in a rut when it comes to finding new/interesting (and crowd-pleasing) recipes. The last thing you want to do is resort to the same old spaghetti and tacos week after week, but finding creative ideas that your family will actually eat is tricky.

The real question is: how do you snap out of it? I have found a few tricks that always help me spice up (pun intended) a meal planning routine, including ways to integrate healthy and different kinds of meals into our nights.

1. Every week for a month, find a new food genre that your family doesn't eat.

Think outside of the box! For a whole month, try a specific genre of food once a week. That only requires you to find four new recipes (hello, Pinterest) and will add some variety to your family's meal plan.

list of meal ideas.


This little schedule is a great guide for what to try when. For example, in October, you'll find four new soup recipes your family hasn't ever tried before. Put one in your meal plan each week! Getting out of a meal planning rut doesn't have to be done all at once; sometimes baby steps are good. This is a baby step that is so easy to integrate into your routine and can really give your dinners some variety.

2. Once a month, have a “Chopped Challenge” week.

Oh I love this one; this is something I recommend to my Freezer Meal Boot Campers to clear out freezer/pantry space before prep day, but it's really good for adding variety to a meal plan too. Plus, it's kind of fun! 🙂

The week before your chopped challenge week, take an inventory of everything you have in your fridge/pantry (I have printables in The Year of Intent for kitchen inventories). Then, using a website like, match up your ingredients to recipes (using their ingredient search at the top).

This is a wonderful way to clean out older food that needs to be used and often leads to new recipes that you just might love. We've found several new dinners this way!

3. Make a quick “brain dump” of your family's favorite 10 meals. Then, find 10 new and different recipes.

recipe brainstorming printable on a desk.

I'm sure we could all sit here and rattle off a few recipes that are favorites in our home. Even with me having to test meal plans constantly, my family has a few favorites that I have to make at least every few weeks. But, with those favorites, it's easy to fall into a habit.

recipe brainstorming printable.

With this printable (download here), write down 10 of those favorites in your home. Then, take a few minutes to brainstorm/research 10 new recipes that you think your family would love. Try to spot patterns in your favorite meals (all Mexican food, all with chicken, etc.) and avoid those when finding the new recipes.

writing on a dinner brainstorming printable.

Nothing wrong with keeping those favorites around, just use sparingly! Next time you feel the need to resort to one of these, take a peek at the ideas column and match it up with ingredients you already have, or…

4. Make a dinner rut jar.

jar with blue and pink paper strips inside.

Now that you've got your list of 10 new and different meals from the last step, write each one on a sheet of paper and put it in a jar. The next time you feel like you have no ideas and are tired of the same ol', same ol', use the jar to switch it up! Simply draw a meal out of the jar to add to your meal plan. As you draw meals out, find a new one to put in.

5. Try out pre-made meal plans.

Now, if all else fails…I've got you covered. 🙂 Over at the Freezer Meal Boot Camp site, I've got full meal plans (including grocery lists, prep instructions, and recipe cards/meal labels) that include many different types and genres of food. There are even specialty meal plans available…as a matter of fact, there are two brand new sets available today!

screenshot of covers of budget pressure cooker freezer meal boot camps.

Budget Pressure Cooker Plans #1 and #2 are made for cooking in the Instant Pot (or another electric pressure cooker) and each feature 10 meals that can be made for around $100. There is a variety of ingredients in each one and I try to incorporate different genres of food so dinners don't get boring. You'll definitely keep some variety in meal planning with these! They also make meal planning an absolute breeze – just prep all of the meals in a few hours one afternoon and have weeks of super easy dinners on hand. I am absolutely obsessed with this method of cooking – once you start, you'll never go back!

You can check out the newest meal plans here. I also just added an option for a Lifetime Freezer Meal Boot Camp Membership – buy all current and future meal plans at one low price! All info is on this site.

Have an amazing weekend, friends!

xo, Leslie - blog post signature at the end of post.

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