My Favorite Activity: Let’s Spend Forever Deciding What to Eat!

This is getting out of control. Despite my appreciation for culinary delights, I find myself wishing every day for a magical food pill. How has this not been invented yet? I had such hopes after astronaut ice cream! I would welcome a food pill simply because I loathe “figuring out what to do for dinner”. I realize many people enjoy this opportunity to be creative, expand the palate and to delight the taste buds; I just want to get it done. Growing up, it was never an issue because my parents decided what would be on the menu each night. (Ugh. How did they do it?) From college through residency, I simply had meal “uniforms” to avoid making the dreaded dinner decision. I ate the same damn thing for every meal just about every day, unless one of my lovely friends presented an alternative that didn’t require my input. Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed straying from my routine, as long as I didn’t have to take part in the “what to eat” debate.

Getting married, well, now there are two of us to complicate the matter. Nightly dinner decisions with two human variables? Impossible. I wish I hadn’t taken my years of easy nightly dinner plans for granted. Every night it’s the same. We get home from work in rapid succession and talk for a bit. I try to mask my hypoglycemia and hunger/anger, as long OR days rarely allow for even a full snack. We passively avoid the topic and finally the inevitable rolls around: “Soooo… what should we do for dinner?” NOOOOOOOOO! I hate it! And every night, again and again!!!! I start twitching and want to lunge for almonds or so many carrots that my skin turns spray tan orange. We both just agree that we want to eat, but say that we “will eat anything”. Well, that willingness to eat anything is not productive. Not at all. This goes on for what seems like forever. Every. Night.

So, we are learning to deal with the nightly dinner debacle. (Yes, I know there are bigger fish to fry coming down the line, so it’s best to address the little stuff now.) These are some ways to decrease the supper stupor:

1. Have some regular take-out places. They make reliable default choices for when you are stuck.

2. Form a meal “uniform”. We usually make some stir fry-esque assortment of veggies and tofu and whatnot.  Stir-Friday anyone?!

3. Trade off nights. Whoever is “on” has to decide what to make and deal with it thus bypassing any joint decision-making.

4. Try to make dinner an adventure. We have some good friends who pick a spot on a globe and cook the corresponding cuisine. This takes a degree of planning that we are not quite advanced enough for, but it’s a fantastic idea.

5. Trader Joe’s Microwavable Brown Rice. Seriously. This has saved me, in many ways.

6. It’s okay to do your own thing. Take a night off from dining together and just do your thing. Saltines with jam while standing and reading Vogue in the kitchen, popcorn, soup and grilled cheese, or my Mom’s classics – a caramel apple or nachos. Just be free, you guys.

7. Have a night out at a restaurant. That’s pretty straightforward. Um, but good luck picking the restaurant. That’s another ball of wax.

8. Make one night for new stuff only. This is tricky- it limits your choices in terms of what you can think of, but then you realize your choices are Bradley Cooper Limitless. Try keeping a restaurant list, or a recipe list and check them off. I say this like I do this- I definitely don’t. But maybe I will.

Well, now I’m hungry, sans plan. I’m just thankful that I never have to decide on breakfast or lunch, that my friends is solo and easy peasy. At least on weekdays.

So how do you all decide what on earth to do for dinner? How do you meal plan? How can I get more patient about this, as it will go on for the rest of my life???? Help!

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  • Sara Wallén

    My boyfriend thinks ahead, and tends to have the ingredients for one or two of his ‘usuals’ ready at any one time. I was never able to do this, and just leaving it to chance usually meant him cooking, or me trudging to the supermarket at its busiest time, swearing under my breath.

    Now it goes like this – I do Mondays and Fridays, he does Tuesdays and Thursdays, Wednesday is pre-made pizza/pasta (the stuff you just boil up or chuck in an oven, done!) and the first person home sorts that out. Weekends are less organised but we usually manage to do one each.

    I often shop the very afternoon I’m cooking, so even if I’m going there last-minute and swearing under my breath – it’s my fault for not having done it earlier, because I know when ‘my’ night is. I tend to get inspired by what I see in the supermarket…

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      I get inspired in the grocery store too… But mainly because I’m always super hungry when I finally go. I come home with quite an assortment…

  • Jacki Lewis

    Every Sunday at our house is Sushi Sunday. We love sushi, neither of us has to cook, and Sushi Sunday just has a nice little ring to it, huh?

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Love this idea!

  • Melissa Osorio

    Oh. My. God. Same problem, but we haven’t found a solution. I dread this just as much as you do.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      It’s the worst! I mean, we are lucky to have choices to complain about… But still. So annoying!

  • Rachelle Gibson

    my boyfriend and I meal plan at the start of the week and do our groceries according to that. I have quite a few staple meals that are super quick and easy. It makes it so much easier and you don’t really have to think about what to cook if you have a rough idea of whats available. Planning a little is the best way to go, then you’re not running around at the last minute buying all the ingredients.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      This is totally my goal. Doing better… But you are my grocery hero!

  • Richard O Jones

    When I was raising my family and I was in charge of dinner, we had certain dishes on specific nights. Monday, for instance, was chicken and dumplings. Tuesday, spaghetti. Friday, make your own pizza. But if anyone ever had a craving for something different, we were all over it, and we would even change the dish of the day every once in a while so we didn’t get too burned out on certain foods — although chicken and dumplings (with canned, not frozen, peas) endured forever… Now that the kids are gone and I’m divorced and living alone, I still crave chicken and dumplings on Mondays…

    • Alexandra

      I love this :)

  • Shandra Goldfinger

    Yes to the Trader Joe’s rice. Total life saver.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Right??? One of my Besties turned me onto that genius stuff because she is a genius.

  • Catherine Bruno

    I still live at home, so luckily I have my mom to decide that for me. But I have thought about this when I think about moving out. I mean making meals for one is so freakin difficult.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      I wish at least once a week that I still lived at home. Just write down all of your moms best tried and true, easy recipes!

  • Kamberly Diane Saunders-Smith

    When I can’t decide what’s for dinner (and we don’t have a million things going on as soon as we get home) I like to browse Pinterest for new recipes! I save them to my “To Taste:” board and print them out accordingly. Finding recipes on Pinterest also helps me discover new food blogs that I poke around to see if they have more tasties I’d like to try out! Then, of course, I pin them! We’ve added a new go-to dinner from a recipe I found on this ever-addicting site, so join up and try something new!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      I have to check this out!!! I have tried Epicurious which is pretty great, I know nothing about Pinterest! Thank you!

  • Erika Turner

    I’m loving the Sex and the City reference in #6!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Haha! I was waiting for someone to notice!

  • Liz Haebe

    Trader Joe’s Microwaveable rice is GENIUS!

    • Alexandra

      It’s definitely in like the top 50 things that have ever happened to me!!! Just made some. So brilliant.

  • Imma Whumpus

    Bagged chicken and rice… every Friday night. That’s my life right now.
    I didn’t know about the microwavable rice though. That friggin rocks.

    • Alexandra

      You must get on the microwave rice. It rules. Even I can’t mess it up!

  • Ginny Shepard

    If I have one of those night where I don’t know what to cook I make it what we call a junkyard stew night. Look in the pantry pick a few cans that sound like it might go together throw in pot add a little seasoning and you have supper! Note it does not always turn out great but sometime it turns out awesome. That is how I found my BBQ beef spaghetti sauce macaroni recipe that every one loves

    • Alexandra

      This sounds so fun! It sort of sounds like the “Jedi Stew” that my husband makes!

  • Leah Bigelow

    The bf and I usually do a Trader Joe’s run over the weekend to prep for the coming week. They have some awesome pre-made/quick meals. We love the artichoke ravioli, pot stickers, edamame…anything that can be heated up without using a ton of brain power. Another fairly easy favorite is homemade pizza: Stock up on Pillsbury pizza crust, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and meat/veggie toppings. Very little prep time + fun with toppings = pain-free dinner decision

    • Alexandra

      The chili spicy edamame is so ridiculously good!

  • Rachel Nelson

    I’ve struggled with this same problem to the point where my best friend bought me a week’s worth of “Dream Dinners”..well, I still have to pick out the food (which is why it’s taken me a month to take her up on it). I guess it’s a store in major cities, where you can choose the ingredients and they put it together.. it’s in portions. If you’re interested, I can look up the actual dream dinners website.My bf cooks for two and says it ends up costing the same as buying groceries

    • Alexandra

      I’m so intrigued!

  • Abbie Anderson

    I’m going to start a list of all my favorite take-out spots for easy reference, sort of like my own personal Yelp! Whenever meal time comes my mind goes blank even though I know there are about a dozen places I love right around the corner! (The benefits of living in a city). Trader Joe’s is a life saver, I live alone and TJ’s makes salads and noodle bowls for one. Plenty of variety so you don’t OD on your only favorite. Also, to take some pressure off I think I need to relax every once and a while and realize that it’s ok to just have a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.

    I’m loving the Sterling Archer reference in #2! (I snuck into Alex’s computer and wrote “Stir-Friday” when she looking at the take-out menu for dinner on Friday night)

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      I love you sister.

  • Jessica Malavé

    Story of my life! thank you for sharing :)

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad


  • Meghan Disbrow Quick easy recipes, this has saved nights for me!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Oooh I will check it out!

  • Amanda Claudet

    I try and cook a few (2-3) things that will “keep” at the beginning of the week. Soups are always good for this. That way they are all ready in the fridge when we can’t decide or are just too hungry to cook:)

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      I totally want to try making soups!

  • Jillian Vrazo Hamilton

    I go through the same thing every week when trying to decide what to cook for myself, my husband, and our 4 year old. However, I try to pick 2-3 easy/fast recipes a week, shop for the ingredients, and then we make them as time allows during the week. That way, there is usually ingredients for a couple of meals in the fridge, and most of the decision making has already been done. If I get stuck, I browse food blogs and recipe sites until something looks good! My husband will eat anything, so I usually just pick whatever I’m craving that week. Our schedules don’t allow us to have regular meal times together, so I just cook when I’m home (or he will when he’s home) and we eat the leftovers until they’re gone.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      This sounds like a great system… I can’t imagine cooking for kids too!

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