How to generate meal ideas

This week, over on my Facebook Page, I asked how long people had to cook on a typical weeknight. The answers varied: from nearly an hour to however long it took a meal to heat up in a microwave – 2-3 minutes. But the thing that kept coming up was striking: people felt they cooked the same dishes again and again. Today, I want to show you how to generate meal ideas so you don’t feel like you’re stuck in a rut.

I think we all like some variety in our diets, and we know it’s good for us. I also know that for most of us, time and budget are the biggest factors in choosing what we eat – besides taste, of course. But when we’re short on time, we don’t want to be experimenting with new recipes. We haven’t got the time for that!

This week, I want us to really kick-start our meal planning by making some lists of the meals we like to eat. This is exactly how to generate meal ideas.

How to generate meal ideas

Use categories

We do eat meat, although we aim for a vegetarian meal once a week and we try to eat fish a couple of times a week. That shapes most of my meal planning to be honest. That, and my attempts to use up whatever we have in the fridge which needs using up. But we’ll come to that next week. So I’ve split my meal categories up into red meat, white meat, fish and vegetarian.

You can use my categories, or you can create your own. Then start listing the meals that fall under that category. So under ‘Chicken/Turkey,’ I might have Chicken Fajitas, Chicken Stew, Roast Chicken, Chicken curry… By generating a big long list of the things your family likes to eat, you’ve got a great starting point.

It’s funny, when you actually think about the meals. You’ll start thinking of one dish – That green curry with chicken, for example – and that will make you think, “Oh, we could actually have Thai green curry with salmon sometimes,” and you’ll write that down. That might make you think of another Thai fish dish – Laksa, for example, with prawns, and you’ve got another meal. Before you know it, you’ll have loads of ideas.

Meal Planning Inspiration

If you’re struggling, for inspiration, have a think about what you’d serve the main with:

  • Pasta?
  • Rice?
  • Bread?
  • Salad?
  • Tortillas?
  • Stir fry vegetables?
  • Baked potatoes?

Or the kind of cuisine you like to eat: Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Swedish, American…

You could also think about the cooking method: roasting, slow-cooking, frying, steaming, grilling…

Go through your recipe books and remind yourself of the recipes you did enjoy. Bookmark the ones you’d like to try and pencil them in too.

This is the kind of activity that it’s really nice to do with the whole family too. Kids do really like to feel involved in making food choices.

As you’re making your list, try to divide the meals into cooking times. Be generous with this, especially if you have young children. I know from experience that a quick meal can take much longer to prepare if you do it while entertaining children or supervising Play Doh.

Grab my free printable on how to generate meal ideas

I have made a free printable for you to help you with this task. You can download it here by clicking on Meal ideas.

How to generate meal ideas

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