Food

A Handy Flowchart: What’s For Dinner?

What's For Dinner?

What’s for dinner? If you’re stumped, food writer Jenny Rosenstrach is here for us. Just follow the prompts and see where you land. Chicken Parm? Pork Chops? Simple Frittata? Pan-Fried Fish With Vegetables? Mac and Cheese? Fettuccine with Carmelized Onions? Twice-Baked Potatoes? Whatever your story, she’s got you covered. xoxo (Add your suggestions in the comments below.)

P.S. 9 more family dinners, and how to get kids to talk at dinner.

(Graphic design by Erin Jang.)

  1. Corinne Hamilton says...

    This is timely. Yesterday I spent a large proportion of the day (and I hate cooking) making a toddler friendly shepherds pie because I thought I should try harder with my picker eater. It was tasty. She didn’t eat it. Am I the only getting the HAHAHAHAHA for her eating the anchovies. Love the chart :)

  2. Meredith says...

    I love this, as I do all of Jenny’s posts on Dinner a Love Story! So great to have a bit of humor to put it all into perspective! Thank you!!!

  3. stephanie says...

    #TRUTH!

  4. Lindsey says...

    This is hilarious and totally free-ing!

  5. Vera says...

    Crepes! actually quite easy to make, and the grownups can put fancy things in theirs while picky eaters have them plain, or with cheese, or whatever.

  6. isavoyage says...

    Read this article 2 days ago.
    Last night, my brain woke me up at 5:18 with the burning question “what does DALS mean?”.
    Was it the name of an NGO, a rare disease, something like LOL or BFF?
    Couldn’t find the answer.
    Then, my brain asks me what the initials of Dinner is a Love Story would be.
    Surprised by the request, i comply.
    And bam: there it is DALS.
    Well done brain!
    (next time, please don’t wake me up, ok?)

  7. Rebekka says...

    This is so funny!

  8. Stefania says...

    Only eating white foods is a thing?? I thought my child was the only one! She’s only 20 months and she’s put us through the ringer since she started eating solid food. I’m making progress finally but for a while her favorite thing was Hearts of Palm! White. Check. Not super choke-able. Check. Savory and salty (her fav things). Check. We still have it in our cupboard when we run out of fresh produce. She’s my little weirdo. So happy when I see I’m not alone. Love you Jenny! Always have. Always will.

  9. Agnes says...

    Just writing to say I’m offended because I don’t like chicken and cheese together. What even IS chicken parm?! Who thought of that?!! Anyway, please, next time list ALL my favourite foods so that this type of post is actually useful to me. Thank you ;)

  10. L says...

    Hi – just wanted to say some people don’t / can’t drink alcohol and I found your wine and bourbon reccomedations irritating!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, L.! yes, these types of posts can be tricky to write because some people can’t eat gluten, or are vegetarian or vegan, or don’t drink, or don’t like certain flavors, etc… — we try to appeal to a group and have a mix of ideas so at least a couple will appeal to each reader. maybe we can do version of them in the future that focus on different ways of eating/different dietary preferences. thank you so much!

    • Rebecca says...

      So funny! I hope no one actually thought this was supposed
      to be a personalized dinner plan. Great bit of humor and commentary on dinner.

  11. Kristina says...

    We went for broccoli and buttered toast last night, and it was a hit! Thank you!

  12. Audra says...

    I don’t want to get offended without cause….but am I reading this right? As a single woman my only options are wine and mac n’ cheese? lol

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Audra – LOL. Don’t be offended! Single eaters and partners without kids will hopefully get their own flow charts. Part of the joke here — maybe it didn’t work? — is showing how much “simpler” it is when kid are not in the equation. Stay tuned!!!

    • Abbey says...

      LOL came here to comment the same thing

    • Audra says...

      For the record, totally kidding!!

    • Lisa says...

      Um….If I didn’t have to worry about my husband or son eating dinner, you better believe I’m having mac n cheese and a big glass of wine. That, or cereal. :)

  13. Sasha L says...

    At dinnertime, after I’d expended way too much time and energy on something creative and delicious, but not even touched by our daughters my husband would enthusiastically say “well, I love it! And you love it. And that’s 50%. Batting 500 gets you in the hall of fame, so I think you’ve hit a homerun.” And then he would refer to me as a hall of famer for the rest of the night.

    • Lindsey says...

      Best husband award! We need to learn this kind of enthusiasm for ourselves, too. He’s not wrong, after all!

  14. Polly says...

    Love this – it needs to be a poster to put up in the kitchen.

    • Mimi says...

      I’d buy it!

    • Katie says...

      I’d buy it too! I mean it. Can we make it a print I could purchase? Love Jenny, love DALS, love the empowerment as a working mom of two little picky eaters.

    • Raquel says...

      I second that! I would love to hang this in my kitchen- print please!
      I laughed out loud so hard at work and now everyone inmy office is cracking up.

  15. CC says...

    Phenomenal!

  16. Jenny you are Still the best!! I’m dying over this. “Anyone Watching?” 😂
    Also, (since there’s a chance you’ll see this) my 8th grader chose you for a literary speaking project. From DALS, he memorized the story of your mom going to Law school and your dad learning Breaded Chicken Cutlets. He’s a semi-finalist, hoping to win and tell it to the whole school. I think the story is charming and the message timeless. Thanks for everything! Xx

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      OMG, stop! My parents will love that so much! Please keep me posted!!!

  17. Joaquina says...

    I will never understand the “bacon! Yum!” propaganda. Anyone who has seen footage of factory farms; the cruel conditions these sentient beings are tortured under; can’t find anything cute or funny about craving pork (or any animal product, for that matter). If we claim to care about the environment, animal welfare notwithstanding, let’s celebrate plant based recipes/images/articles.

    • Anna says...

      Hugs, I feel the same way when I encounter lighthearted joking about bacon, and all animal foods really, because I can’t help but picture the sad conditions the animals are in. You can’t unsee, once you’ve seen.

      (Although I totally understand and appreciate this hilarious/accurate infographic… and OMG why is feeding kids like playing an ever changing game of Tetris!! Send help plz)

  18. Anna says...

    This is amazing!

  19. Sara says...

    So timely. Tonight my son walked into the kitchen while I was making dinner and said “Awesome! Thanks for making cauliflower crust pizza Mom…”

    Quickly followed by “APRIL FOOL’s Why can’t we eat normal pizza!!!!”

    • Caroline says...

      😂😂😂

  20. Callie says...

    Sometimes I can’t believe we as readers are lucky enough to have Jenny writing on the COJ site. My heart jumps when I see she has written a post… they are always such a joy to read. xoxoxoxoxo

    PS In our house, I think all kid arrows end up at TACO MEAT or a spoonful of peanut butter. Protein at least once a day means we win, right?

    • Becky says...

      Oh, the taco meat! Today my kids were helping choose their chores for the week and my seven-year-old announced that he would like to help MAKE THE TACO MEAT. Not the tacos, the taco MEAT. He does eat the shell, but separately, and he calls it the “taco bun.” Oh well. Like you said, at least its protein!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Callie, this comment made my day (year?) Thank you so much for reading and writing!

    • Katy says...

      Hahaha. Peanut butter is our non-dairy dinner protein the majority of nights. And / or chicken broth. So happy to not be alone. Thank goodness for the benevolent witchcraft practiced at daycare where they eat fish, chicken (heaven forbid!), beans, ground turkey!! [not all peer pressure is bad people]

  21. Just ate mashed potatoes with savory oats. Ha! Mashed potatoes really does go with anything.

  22. Kiana says...

    Anchovies, ha!

  23. Hilary says...

    Hilarious: no butter? you have problems bigger than dinner!! One question: does the child fussy about vegetables whose parent does care, really get a bourbon on the rocks?? 😉😂

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hahahaha

    • Louisa says...

      I opted for chicken parm — should have just gone straight to bourbon on the rocks. (Seriously, though: — I really used this tonight and made chicken parm, which I have never done, and she ATE IT.)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Amazing, Louisa!!!

  24. Heidi says...

    I love this so much!!!!

  25. tmercí says...

    Made me laugh :) my 3yr old refused the lemon pasta last night, electing to eat only raw spinach 🙄 so much spinach! And then the night I’m certain they’ll all (5, 3, 2) fight me about a new meal- eat like reasonable humans. Of course second showing of said meal, they’ll all hate it 🤣

  26. Elizabeth Spence says...

    👏👏👏

  27. HAAAAAA YESSSSS!! My bestie calls dinnertime “the hour of disappointment” at her house, and I completely concur. Kids have totally sucked the joy out of cooking for me, sadly, but I’m trying to remember that much like with the breastfeeding vs. formula feeding conundrum of infancy, all that matters in the end is that the baby (or child in this case) eats. Carry on, warrior mamas!

    • M says...

      Omg “hour of disappointment” is soooooo good!

  28. Emily says...

    Am I the only one tired at the casual alcoholism of just having booze for dinner? Ever since doing more research on alcoholism, the rates of alcoholism in women/impact on our bodies, and the whole #tellbetterstories movement I feel like I can’t go back.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful note! We actually have cut way back on alcohol coverage or mentions, and I’m drinking much less these days after reading about the “sober curious” movement. But in this infographic, we felt it was okay to mention bourbon for one humorous element. Will keep thinking about this and I’m grateful for the feedback! Thanks again. Xoxo

    • Emily says...

      Thank you for the thoughtful response!!

      I can understand the light-heartedness of including it, and I appreciate that there was thought that went into the decision & with content overall. It’s part of why I love this corner of the web – all the intentionality.

    • Sasha L says...

      Emily, I appreciate you bringing this up, and Jo, appreciate so much more thoughtfulness on this topic.

    • Katie says...

      Thanks for saying this. I quit drinking just because I was so tired of being tired. I’m really starting to notice the mommy wine stereotype everywhere. I am a beer drinker, and it did not help me handle the kids any better. It just made me tired and cranky. The bourbon on the rocks is funny though. I get why they included it in the infographic.
      I should say I didn’t quit drinking, I just don’t partake unless I really want one, and if I’m listening to my body, I only really want one on a sunny day after a great hike with some friends, not every afternoon while I prepare the same sad kids meal that we all just want to get through so we can go back outside.

  29. Megs says...

    This is the best thing I’ve seen today! Brilliant.

  30. Tina, NYC says...

    Jenny is simply the best.

    I once professed my love for her on her blog . This was upon publication of her amazing book on everyday celebrations and it was just the perfect book.

    I may have frightened her with my enthusiasm for all things DALS but for real she is living the life.

    She creates these memories for her girls that are centered around the simple, but profound joy, of sharing.
    Sharing a meal, sharing a moment, sharing a recipe, sharing a story but most of all sharing yourself as a parent with your children. Her home sounds like a magical place.

    So Jenny, I still love you!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Tina, this is a riot. Thank you for your DALS loyalty! My home is only magical in the way other homes with teenagers are: occasionally we manage to make it through the day without conflict.

  31. Mariana says...

    Laughing so hard at this :)))

  32. Sasha L says...

    When my kids were small, they LOVED Annie’s mac and cheese, dinner rolls, grilled cheese, homemade Mac and cheese, pancakes, rice and butter, bean and cheese tacos, fruit and brown cow maple yogurt cheese pizza, PB sandwiches. And that’s about it. Too spicy!! Are there onions in this? But happily at 20 & 22 they are adventure eaters. Ramen, goguchang, anything Korean, sushi, pretty much any veggies, anything spicy is bonus. It’s actually fun to eat with them 😉 There’s hope mamas.

    • Anna says...

      This is what I needed to hear!

    • Jen says...

      So true! My younger sister pretty much ate only instant oatmeal during her formative years, causing our parents a lot of mealtime anguish but she’s grown up to be a bit of a foodie (a borderline obnoxious one, to be honest), so you never know!

  33. Elizabeth says...

    Made me laugh so hard….

  34. Sarah says...

    ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

  35. Abbey says...

    This is fantastic! I adore Jenny and Erin!! This is a dream mash up of two of my favorites. Thank you!

  36. Ryal says...

    Broccoli bingo? I love it! I have bookmarked this page for inspiration.

  37. Janey says...

    I love this post!

  38. Laura C. says...

    Ahahahah what is this?! 😂 You’re the best!

  39. Rachel says...

    THANK YOU. And they sell Annie’s mac n’ cheese in bulk at Costco.

    • sasha l says...

      God bless Costco.

  40. Jenny says...

    This is hilarious, and so spot on. My 3-year-old could live on mac & cheese and mashed potatoes. Although she did – wait for it – THANK ME for giving her broccoli the other day. I know. But then tonight she threw her dinner on the ground because I put it on the “wrong” table, so there’s that. Can’t win ‘em all, I suppose.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I remember those days well. You’ll get there!! (Also, not sure how you made the broccoli, but if it was steamed, maybe broccoli 2.0 is roasted? Then 3.0 is roasted with a sweet chili glaze? http://www.dinneralovestory.com/broccoli-is-the-new-black/)

  41. Liz says...

    OMG this is phenomenal. Haha!

  42. amy says...

    YES! Cup of Jo has outdone itself!! :-)

  43. Katie says...

    well, this makes me feel infinitely better about stocking up on Annie’s White Cheddar Shells!

    • Olivia says...

      Um. I do this for myself 😂 total my guilty pleasure. switched from Kraft white cheddar shells to Annie’s bc I’m pregnant and it makes it feel guiltless haha

  44. Amanda M. says...

    This is hilarious! But where do you get these recipes?!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      most are linked on the bottom! xo