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It’s dinner time and you have no idea what to cook. Not to worry! I can help you figure out what’s for dinner at the last minute!
“Mom, what’s for dinner?” The question every mom hates to answer when you’ve just walked in the door from picking your kids up at school, while each child is vying for attention and wanting to tell you all about their day at school. You realize, as they are pulling papers from their backpacks and they are dropping snacks on the floor, that you never set out any meat from the freezer for dinner that night.
My hope, is that after reading this post, you will know what to do when it’s dinner time and you have no idea what you are having for dinner. You may be surprised at just how simple it is to figure out what to cook for dinner at the last minute!
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Planning Dinner Is Easier Than You Think
Have you been there? Exhausted from your day and still needing to figure out what to make for dinner? I’ll bet you try to plan the weeks menu before the week begins right?
I try to do that too, but sometimes I’m just tired and I don’t feel like eating whatever I planned to have that night, or time got away from me and I’m scrambling at the last minute to fix something.
On this particular night, I didn’t have a plan, and I was about to call my hubby and tell him that I needed a night off and we should go out (I get to do that every now and then, and he’s usually great with it – but we can’t do that too often, feeding a family of 5 is not cheap).
My options were to go out for dinner, have the hubby get fast food drive-thru (believe it or not, I’m scared of drive-thrus – I hate them, very rarely will you find me in a drive-thru), jump in the car and go to the grocery store with 3 kids when they are tired and crabby and pick up some stuff for dinner, or start shopping from my own pantry. The lesser of all evils was clear, shop from my own pantry.
Small Side Note About Building a Stockpile
Because I like to use coupons when I go shopping, I tend to buy multiples of things when they are on sale, which means I do have a pantry full of staple items.
I’d recommend doing this whenever you can – buy items you will use ONLY when they are on sale and maximize the savings by using coupons, rather than buying exactly what you need each week regardless of if it’s on sale or not.
If you would like more information about building a stockpile and the best way to utilize a stockpile – read this post – How To Build a Stockpile.
Clearly, shopping from your own pantry was the lesser of the two evils – plus our eating out fund was on the low side this night, so I knew I needed to come up with something quick. Time to put on my creative chef hat.
I quickly took stock of what I had in the freezer and the pantry and mentally made a few meals that we could choose from. It’s amazing how much food you really do have on hand if you take the time to look, right?!
Start Shopping From Your Own Pantry
You can do it too! I promise, shopping from your own pantry is simple. Think of some of your main family meals.
You might want to even jot down a few meals you tend to make over and over, such as, spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers, etc.
Start with the easy ones you know how to make and see if you have all the necessary items in your pantry that you can throw together as a quick meal with.
If not, either create a brand new pantry meal, or get really creative and try to make one of your favorites work with different ingredients that you have on hand. For example, if you want to have a craving for Mexican Food, and wanted to make tacos, but you are missing taco shells – use lettuce instead and make lettuce wrap tacos or go a step further and just have taco salad!Figuring out what's for dinner is easy when you shop from your own pantry! Click To Tweet
Pinterest Can Help You Figure Out What’s For Dinner
When I’m really having a hard time coming up with what to cook from my pantry, I will get on Pinterest and look for recipes based off of one ingredient I do have.
For example, if I have Whole Wheat Penne Noodles I will type in ‘Whole Wheat Penne Noodle Recipes’ and see what comes up. A lot of times I can find a new recipe that I CAN make with what I already have hiding in my pantry.
It’s really as simple as that! While this can seem daunting, it can be quite fun to see how creative you can be with whatever you have on hand. Shopping from your own pantry is also a great way to save money! Rather than going out for dinner that night, you will be saving money by eating the food that you already have.
How To Save BIG At The Grocery Store
Now, before we move on, make sure you sign up for my exclusive freebie – Daily Coupon Checklist!
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Kick Dinner Up a Notch
Once you can master the last minute, ‘I don’t know what’s for dinner’ type shopping from your own pantry, then you can kick it up a notch, and start planning in advance to have a week each month when you only eat meals from your own pantry.
This is an extreme way to shave money for your grocery fund and really helps you use up what you already have! This type of pantry shopping requires major planning, but is awesome!
In fact, I’m still working on this skill – I find it hard to come up with the recipes that I should cook. What I have learned, is that I need to have a running list of our family favorite meals.
That way I can easily browse through them to remind me of things we like to eat when I’m staring at my pantry, with what I like to call, ‘recipe block’.
If you get stuck when trying to figure out what’s for dinner, start with a list of some of the recipes your family loves, and go from there.
Shopping from your own pantry is a great way to save money. Honestly, I enjoy the challenge -sometimes! There are some nights when I just want to throw in the towel, grab my keys, and get the heck out of there. You understand, right?
If you get stuck when trying to figure out what's for dinner, start with a list of some of the recipes your family loves, and go from there. Click To Tweet
The challenge does take the chore of cooking dinner up a notch though, and you can even get your kids involved in the process. Ask them for ideas and see if they can figure out what’s for dinner. You never know what they might come up with!
Get An Instant Pot
I love my Instant Pot! This means a lot and here’s why. I’m the type of girl that hates new things. I don’t like new technology, I don’t like to try new recipes, I don’t even like to get new shoes.
I’d rather stick with what I know than learn something new. I put off buying an Instant Pot for years!
I just got one – this past Christmas of 2019. For years I’ve heard people talk about how great the Instant Pot is. In fact, I’ve listened to countless podcasts of women who have written recipe books, just for the Instant Pot, and I still wasn’t convinced that it was worth it.
Want to know why I finally took the plunge?
It Was On Sale!
It was on sale! My sweet husband found the Instant Pot on sale the day after Thanksgiving for less than $50 and he bought one for me as a Christmas gift! I was excited, but not really. In fact, I didn’t even take it out the box for a couple weeks after Christmas.
See what I mean? I told you how much I hate to learn new things right?! Well, I’m glad I finally gave it a try, and I love it! It’s amazing! I can make dinner so fast and it’s such a money saver – instead of grabbing dinner on the go, I can practically make an Instant Pot meal even quicker!
I love it so much and am very grateful to have it! If you don’t have one yet, get one! You won’t be sorry! I also love that I can cook dinner in the Instant Pot and also fold a load of laundry! Trust me, this is one amazing device that you NEED! Buy an Instant Pot now!
Read this post for my 5 favorite Instant Pot Recipes that I’ve found and tried so far!
I challenge you, beginning Monday of next week, to dig through your pantry and try to create a week’s worth of meals with staple items you already have. Plan it out ahead of time, and only go to the store if it’s absolutely necessary – and if you do go to the store, go only ONCE – pick up all the little filler items you need to complete your meals for the whole week and then make it work!
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Trying to figure out what’s for dinner and shopping from your own pantry is a great way to answer the question of “Mom, what’s for dinner?” – you can smile deviously while you open your pantry and say “Let’s Go Shopping!”
If you can shop from your own pantry for a full week every couple months, just think of how much money you would save! I’m going to try to do this every few months! I’ll let you know how it goes and I’d love to know if you already do this and if you have any tips for me?! Comment below with your best tips, recipes your family loves, or tell me your great shopping secrets to get good deals on pantry staples.
Other Ways To Save Money on Groceries
- If you are looking for tips on how to get started with Pantry Staples, how to use them, and some simple pantry staple recipes to try, read this post: 5 Pantry Staples You Should Be Making.
- Wanting to save as much as possible at the grocery store? You need to give Ibotta a try! Wondering what Ibotta is? Read this post: Why You Should Use Ibotta To Save Money.
- Know you should build a stockpile, but have no idea how to get started? Read this post: How To Build A Stockpile – 5 Simple Steps.
Happy cooking! You’ve got this momma!