145 Practical Dinner Ideas for Easy Meal Planning


Family sitting around the table eating a lot of different foods including fish, beef, chicken, and potatoes. Glasses and bottles of various beverages are sitting in the middle of the table.

Having trouble knowing what to make for dinner tonight? This enormous list of common dinner meals can help you out of your own personal dinner rut! The best part? I’m including some easy dinner recipes your entire family will love. Ever wish you had more healthy recipes to choose from for an easy weeknight dinner that takes less time to prepare? We’re here to help.

I have made dozens and dozens of great recipes in my life, but somehow when it comes to meal planning my mind goes blank. When 4:00 comes around on busy weeknights my mind goes blank. I can only think of one chicken recipe and pancakes. We are tired of pancakes. I needed more healthy dinner ideas to work from.

Sometimes all we need is a good master list of dinner ideas to work from, and in no time we’re sitting down to a family dinner prepared with simple ingredients.

Before we dive right in, however, I want to give you some ideas for how you can use this list. I have split the meal ideas into categories like “Beef,” “Italian,” “Vegetarian,” etc.- which provides an easy way to narrow down your options. Try a weekly schedule something like this:

  • Monday – Mexican
  • Tuesday – Italian
  • Wednesday – Beef
  • Thursday – Vegetarian
  • Friday – Poultry
  • Saturday – Soup
  • Sunday – Leftover Buffet!

Depending on the size of your family and how often you want to cook, you can obviously tweak this. I probably only use about 3 categories a week right now and we eat lots of leftovers. But if you like lots of variety and enjoy cooking, this can be a great way to do it.

I am currently rotating through only about 10 different dinners right now because my kids are in a really picky phase. Make this work for you! You can choose however many meals you want to rotate through, but choose your favorites from each category. Many of these ideas can be adapted for oven, stovetop, slow cooker, pressure cooker, or air fryer. Settle on an easy recipe that will be manageable for you!

Soups and Stews

Brown bowl of soup with spoon resting next to it on wooden tabletop. Whole tomatoes and loaves of bread in the background.

When planning sides for a soup meal, I like to use a bread. They’re great for dipping! I sometimes bake biscuits or rolls, but more often I don’t have that much time. When that happens I just toast a bunch of bread and serve that!

  1. Beef Stew
  2. Squash Soup – blend with cream cheese or Greek yogurt to make this soup even more hearty. And more flavorful!
  3. White Chicken Chili
  4. Creamy Tomato Soup – serve with crumbled bacon and shredded cheese on top for some added protein.
  5. Taco Soup
  6. Cream of Mushroom Soup
  7. Sausage & Kale Soup
  8. Split Pea Soup w/ Ham
  9. Turkey Chili
  10. Ham and Bean Soup
  11. Cheesy Ham Chowder
  12. Chicken Noodle Soup
  13. Minestrone
  14. Corn Chowder
  15. Miso Soup
  16. Poor Man’s Soup
  17. French Onion Soup


Sliced Pork Tenderloin on a wooden cutting board garnished with prigs of rosemary

My favorite sides for pork include cooked apples and cornbread. If you’re going to go for a big Sunday dinner and serve a ham, pineapple stuffing never fails!

  1. Pork Shoulder Roast
  2. Herb-crusted Pork Chops
  3. Shredded Pork Bowls
  4. Barbecue Spare Ribs
  5. Country Ham and Potatoes
  6. Sugar Glazed Ham
  7. One Pan Sausage and Veggies


Roasted Chicken on a wooden cutting board with a handle with fresh greens in the background.

Almost anything goes with chicken! I like to serve a starch and a green vegetable when I serve a chicken or turkey meal. Starches might be potatoes, couscous, or rice. My favorite vegetables to serve are steamed green beans or broccoli.

  1. Chicken Teriyaki
  2. Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie
  3. Maple Roasted Chicken
  4. Chicken Parmesan
  5. Fried Chicken and Biscuits
  6. Chicken and Dumplings
  7. Chicken Tetrazzini
  8. Roasted Turkey Breast
  9. Chicken Cordon Bleu
  10. Buffalo Chicken Casserole
  11. Chicken Paprikash
  12. Barbecue Wings
  13. Turkey Biscuit Casserole
  14. Chicken Piccata
  15. Chicken Marsala

Breakfast for Dinner

Plate of pancakes, eggs, and bacon surrounded by a cup of coffee, a fork, a glass of orange juice, and a small plate of toast.

My go-to standards for breakfast sides are, you guessed it: sausage and bacon. 🙂 Most breakfast dishes have a Carb for the main focus, so I always make sure to include a protein. If you want to balance out all the richness, try serving “breakfast” with a fresh fruit salad.

  1. Pancakes
  2. Scrambled Eggs on Toast
  3. Egg and Sausage Casserole
  4. French Toast
  5. Waffles
  6. Biscuits and Gravy
  7. Quiche Lorraine
  8. Omelets

Mexican Themed Dishes

A Mexican Feast with nachos, taco salad, black bean soup, tortillas, soft shell tacos, taquitos, and small dishes with peppers, corn, and lime.

Cornbread goes nicely with a Mexican meal too! Another idea is Spanish rice or beans with rice. And never hesitate to add some avocado!

  1. Tacos
  2. Quesadillas
  3. Burritos
  4. Fajitas
  5. Chicken Taquitos
  6. Enchiladas
  7. Nacho Buffet
  8. Taco Salad
  9. Quinoa & Black Beans
  10. Burrito Bowls
  11. Empanadas
  12. Huevos Rancheros
  13. Chimichangas
  14. Tostadas


Close up of a sliced beef pot roast surrounded by onions, potatoes and carrots on a white plate on a wooden tabletop.

Just like the picture suggests, classic sides to go with beef are potatoes and carrots. If you want to get a little more fancy, you could try a garlic mashed potato or scalloped potato recipe. I always trend toward the richer root vegetables when I’m serving a beef roast, but when we have steak I do it a little differently. I might serve steak with fresh salad, asparagus, or roasted brussels sprouts.

  1. Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie
  2. Tacos
  3. Stuffed Peppers
  4. Chuck Roast
  5. London Broil
  6. Chicken Fried Steaks and Gravy
  7. Grilled Steak
  8. Meatloaf
  9. Swedish Meatballs
  10. Cube Steaks and Gravy
  11. Homemade Hamburger Helper
  12. Kabobs
  13. Beef Tenderloin


Closeup of a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich with a toasted hoagie roll, swirls of mayonnaise, and onions and peppers.

When trying to come up with good side dishes for sandwiches, I just think about what comes in a takeout container. You’ll never go wrong with baked fries, pickles, and cole slaw!

  1. Pulled Pork
  2. Sloppy Joes
  3. Grilled Cheese and Ham
  4. Tuna Melt
  5. Meatball Subs
  6. Philly Cheesesteak
  7. BLT
  8. French Dip
  9. Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers
  10. Hoagies
  11. Fried Egg Sandwiches
  12. Paninis
  13. Monte Cristo
  14. Egg Salad
  15. Chicken Salad
  16. Tuna Salad
  17. Ham Salad
  18. Stuffed Pitas
  19. Turkey/Chicken Wraps
  20. Caprese Sandwich
  21. Bagel Sandwich
  22. Waffle Sandwich


Tortellini pasta on a white plate covered in meat sauce and garnished with fresh herbs.

Growing up, whenever we had a pasta meal it was always served with Italian bread. Now, you can do that if that’s what floats your boat – but with the heavy carb content in the main meal itself, I like to go extra light on the side. A good fresh salad is usually my preference as a side for a pasta meal, but I also will do freshly steamed green veggies like broccoli or green beans.

  1. Baked Ziti
  2. Lasagna
  3. Mac and Cheese
  4. Spaghetti & Meatballs
  5. Spaghetti Pie
  6. Homemade Pizza
  7. Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli
  8. Fettuccine Alfredo
  9. Stuffed Shells
  10. Tortellini
  11. Ravioli
  12. Calzones
  13. Manicotti
  14. Pasta with Pesto

Rice-based Dishes

Closeup of a fried rice meal on a white plate. Includes peas, corn, pork, and egg pieces.

Side dishes for this section has me a little stumped. I’ve made what is often used as a side dish into the main course. I’d say that most of the rice dishes I’ve made are kind of a one-pot meal – they already have your starch, veggie, and protein all in one. Maybe take a break on rice night and go easy on yourself – no side dishes for this one!

  1. Broccoli Rice Casserole
  2. Beef Stir-Fry
  3. Chicken Stir-Fry
  4. Skillet Ham and RIce
  5. Beef Tips on Rice
  6. Cheesy Cauliflower Rice Casserole
  7. Jambalaya
  8. Chicken Teriyaki
  9. Pork Fried Rice


Closeup of grilled fish on a white plate with wilted greens and red potatoes on the side.

My children get upset with me when I make them fish, so seafood is not really a part of our regular rotation. Like, actually really upset. There are tears and shouting. While I don’t regularly serve these dishes now, if my kids can ever develop a taste for salmon and tilapia, they’ll make it into my regular rotation. I would likely serve a seafood dish with wild rice, asparagus, and maybe even a cold pasta or quinoa salad.

  1. Crab Cakes
  2. Salmon with Cream Sauce
  3. Pan Seared Tilapia
  4. Fish and Chips
  5. Shrimp Fried Rice
  6. Fried Catfish
  7. Shrimp Cocktails
  8. Clam Chowder
  9. Tuna Noodle Casserole
  10. Salmon Burgers
  11. Bagels and Lox

Asian-Inspired Dishes

Small white bowl of Asian noodles on a wooden tabletop, chopsticks picking up some noodles. Whole tomato, cabbage, and dipping sauce bowl in background.

If your main dish isn’t based around rice – a great go-to is fried rice with the veggies mixed right in! Use frozen peas and carrots for an easy fried rice.

  1. Beef and Broccoli
  2. Cabbage Rolls
  3. Korean Beef Bowl
  4. Egg Rolls
  5. Orange Chicken
  6. Pad Thai
  7. Pork Lo Mein


brown bowl of chopped raw tofu sitting on a wooden cutting board, garnished with green onions

If you’re going for a heavier vegetarian option like portobello steaks or eggplant parmesan, a salad or lighter steamed vegetable can be great. If you’re enjoying a salad bar, however, you may want to incorporate some heavier root vegetables to give your meal some balance.

  1. Salad Bar
  2. Baked Potato Bar
  3. Black Bean Stuffed Peppers
  4. Portobello Steaks
  5. Black Bean Burgers
  6. Eggplant Parmesan
  7. Spaghetti Squash and Marinara Sauce
  8. Tofu Stir Fry

It is my sincere hope that this list is helpful to you as you work to build your meal plan. This list is HUGE, so don’t get overwhelmed! Just think of it as a rich array of options for you to choose carefully from. If even one or two from each category really appeal to you, then you already have enough meals to put into a regular rotation in your house!

If you and your family enjoy meals that you don’t see anywhere on this list, leave a note in the comments!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *