Simple Dinner Rotation


Simple Dinner Rotation

I came home from work one day a couple months ago, frazzled and exhausted. I went through the motions of putting my stuff away, changing the baby’s diaper, feeding the baby. I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner. “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I’ll just have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again.” As I watched him make his sandwich — my 6’2″, 42-year-old husband — spreading the nutty butter, slathering the jelly then licking the knife, and topping off his plate with a side of orange Cheetos, I realized that something had to change.

Being a full-time working mom is hard.

There is no way to do it “all” and inevitably some things are going to slip through the cracks. In my case, this was dinner. But I decided then and there that I would do a better job of feeding my family healthy, nourishing food. This needed to become a priority. So I took a poll of my Facebook friends, did a few google searches, and developed a list of 16 dinners. I decided to start out by cooking two dinners per week. It’s been over two months and we’ve officially been through the entire rotation once, and we’re still going strong. 

Here’s how we’re making it work: 

We look at the list each weekend and we pick two dinners (my husband picks one and I pick one). Then we look up the recipes we’ll use, and add all of the ingredients to our grocery list. (Note: this must be done BEFORE you enter the grocery store. I can tell you from lots of personal experience that trying to meal plan in the produce aisle is stressful and slightly insane and results in you getting home only to realize that you just spent tons of money yet somehow have absolutely nothing to cook for dinner.) We usually grocery shop on Sunday for the week, although lately we’ve been ordering our groceries online and then picking them up at the store, which has been amazing. Then, depending on our schedules, we pick which two nights we will cook. We have leftovers the other two nights of the week, and then the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights) we either eat out or have sandwiches or whatever.

Here is the list with links to some of the best recipes I’ve found. Hopefully this will inspire you to add something new to your own family dinner rotation!

Meal 1: Spaghetti/Pasta/Lasagna (served with green beans)

For my spaghetti, I use ground turkey, canned sauce in mushroom flavor, and angel hair pasta. Sometimes I’ll sub spaghetti squash if I’m feeling adventurous.

Jennie-O’s Turkey Spaghetti

All Recipe’s Easy Lasagna

My favorite way to cook green beans (courtesy of What’s Gaby Cooking)

Meal 2: Hamburgers (served with french fries, sweet potato fries, or chips)

Whole wheat buns or lettuce wraps make this a healthier option.

Meal 3: Chicken Pot Pie

Classic Chicken Pot Pie from

Easy Chicken Pot Pie from

Meal 4: Tacos or Taco Salads

I start with a family taco kit. It comes with the seasoning, sauce and the taco shells. I use ground turkey or veggie crumbles and prepare small bowls of our favorite toppings: cheese, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, jalapeños, etc. To make this a salad, just add all the toppings on a bed of greens, mix in some tortilla chips, and top with salsa.

Meal 5: Chili (served with crackers, cheese, and sour cream)

Meal 6: Meatloaf (served with mashed potatoes and peas or green beans)

Easy Meatloaf from

Healthy Turkey Meatloaf from Spark Recipes

Meal 7: Casserole Night (served with something green)

The Cooking Channel’s Tater Tot Casserole

Betty Crocker’s Chicken Casserole

Campbell’s Kitchen’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

Meal 8: Pot Roast

Easy Pot Roast from Genius Kitchen

Mississippi Pot Roast from

Meal 9: Soup Night (served with bread, tortilla chips, crackers, cheese, or whatever goes well with the soup)

Campbell’s Kitchen’s Tortilla Soup

Heart Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup

Meal 10: Crock Pot Chicken (served over rice with a side of broccoli)

Creamy Ranch Chicken from

Coconut Lime Chicken from

Meal 11: Breakfast for Dinner

Meal 12: Burritos or Burrito Bowls

Black beans, grilled corn, salsa, grilled chicken, avocado, and whatever else suits your fancy served over brown rice. Or wrap it all up in a tortilla.

Meal 13: Beans, Greens, and Cornbread

Meal 14: Chicken and Dumplings (served with something green)

I use the recipe for dumplings from my 1970’s Betty Crocker cook book, then add shredded chicken. They are to die for.

Betty Crocker’s Homemade Dumplings

Meal 15: Pork Chops or Pork Roast (served with brown rice and grilled veggies)

Meal 16: Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry (served over rice or quinoa)

I usually marinate the chicken for a while in a mixture of sriracha and tamari sauce. Then sauté an onion, carrots and garlic in olive oil. Add the chicken and your choice of veggies. I like mushrooms, bell peppers, kale, broccoli florets, and more carrots.

All it takes is just a little extra planning and effort to start eating wholesome, healthy meals. It has been so fun to try out so many new recipes. What are some of your family’s go-to meals that you would add to the list?


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Haley McManigal
Hi there! I’m Haley, a middle-aged-momma to Lukas and Laney, and wife to Dan. I’ve lived in East Tennessee my whole life, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. After moving all over Knox County and surrounding areas, my family has settled in Hardin Valley where we intend to stay at least until the kids graduate from high school. My son was born in 2017, changing my life forever, and my daughter completed our family in 2020. I work as an architect and project manager at a global design firm. I think it’s pretty cool that I get to meet with people from all over the world from my home office on a daily basis. I am happiest when I’m able to strike just the right balance between home and work life. But my family is my greatest treasure and my most fulfilling role in life so far is Mommy. My favorite things are reading, writing, cooking, exploring, and making things. I don’t have much free time these days but when I’m able to squeeze in a few of these activities it really pays off. I love being a part of Knoxville Moms and I cherish the opportunity to share this journey of motherhood here with you!


  1. THIS. IS. AWESOME! This is such a struggle in my family too. We get in such a rut of eating the SAME dinners OVER and OVER. I truly loathe the decision of what to have for dinner. Trying to make a healthy meal for my husband and two kiddos (ages 3 and 5). I LOVE this article so much because this has been us lately. “What sounds good for dinner?” Husband, “I don’t know”, “What would you like for dinner kids?” “Chicken Nuggets” … THIS THIS THIS… I am going to to my best to try and switch things up. Plan more and eat better. Plus my kids HAVE GOT TO learn to eat other foods besides chicken nuggets and pasta!
    Thank you for this so much!

  2. Dinner can be so stressful, but just taking a little extra time on the weekends to plan has made all the difference for us. Good luck!

  3. Love Love Love this article! After you have been cooking for years, it is easy to just slip into a rut. There is a good variety here and right on hand. Thank you for writing/posting! 🙂


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