Enjoy planning a meal with these 5 simple elements … and hundreds of main dish and side dish ideas to pair together!
Planning a meal doesn’t have to be difficult – at all.
To clarify, I’m not talking about menu planning, where you plan a week’s or a month’s worth of meals. I mean planning a single meal – dinner, lunch or breakfast.
In fact, it can be pretty easy, as long as you remember you need to think of 5 elements:
- Main dish
- Side dish #1
- Side dish #2
- Dessert (optional)
When I plan a dinner, I first decide on a main dish – either meat or meatless. Once I know that, then everything else is easier.
Whatever the main dish is, I think of side dishes to complement the flavors. (If I’m planning an ethnic meal, side dishes tend to be easy.)
Meat and potatoes
If I’m planning a meat and potatoes kind of meal, I usually stick with:
- Meat (Pork loin? Chicken breasts? Roasted chicken? Steak? Fish … even though, technically, it’s not meat)
- Potatoes (Diced, roasted potatoes? Roasted sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash? Mashed potatoes? Baked potatoes?)
- A green vegetable (Steamed broccoli? Green beans? Peas? Asparagus? Spinach? Tossed salad? Oven roasted kale?)
- Enchiladas or tacos or fajitas
- Rice and black beans
- Refried beans
- Tortilla chips, served with fresh guacamole and salsa
- Lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs … or chicken or eggplant parmesan served with pasta
- Foccacia bread or rustic bread
- A green vegetable (Tossed salad? Broccoli? Green beans?)
- Chicken curry
- Basmati rice
- Raj Rabbit
- Pad Thai (filled with protein, veggies and rice noodles, this is a one-dish dinner night)
- Cheeseburgers or Philly Steak Sandwiches or Homemade Submarine Sandwiches or Grilled Cheese Sandwiches or Stromboli filled with deli meat and cheese
- Homemade French Fries or Sweet Potato Fries … or Roasted Potato Salad
- Baked Beans or Soup or Salad
Breakfast for Dinner (aka Brinner!!)
- Eggs (Scrambled eggs, quiche, or omelets)
- Sausage or bacon or ham
- Fresh fruit salad
- Pancakes or Belgian waffles or French toast
As a general rule of thumb, as I’m planning side dishes I try to always serve a green vegetable and some kind of starch – usually potatoes, maybe rice, and, very rarely, pasta. Some meals lend themselves well to serving two vegetables as side dishes – the more veggies, the better!
I very rarely serve rolls or bread as a side dish, just because I’m trying to incorporate more vegetables into our daily diet.
Unless I’m in the mood to bake – and sometimes that does strike – desserts are pretty quick and easy in my house. We usually end up with one piece of candy, or a warmed up ccokie taken from my freezer stash.
We rarely buy candy, yet we seem to have a year-round supply. Typically we go from Christmas candy to Valentine’s to Easter, to parade loot, to Halloween candy. At only one piece per person per day, our stash stretches a long time.
As for drinks, it’s fairly easy – we drink water. Some meals the kids may ask for cold white milk. And some dinners my husband and I enjoy a glass of red wine. But for the most part, it’s water. (Except when company comes over – then we’ll splurge with lemonade or root beer.)
By remembering the five elements needed in a meal – main dish, two side dishes, a dessert and drinks – planning a meal is made easy.
When you’re planning a meal, what do you make sure to include?
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All images courtesy of Pixabay.