Deciding what to have for dinner is one of those decisions that can feel relentless- it’s one you need to make everyday as an adult. And when you have a family, trying to decide what to feed everyone, and how to accommodate everyone’s preferences or needs, can make it harder work. Sometimes, the dinner decisions can be easy. And sometimes, deciding what to have or make for dinner can feel hard. And it’s ongoing. It’s just another thing to do, and this demand can lead to indecision or avoidance at times. (It would be so nice if someone else decided and took care of it for you!).
If you have difficulty deciding what to have for dinner, this indecision could be caused by several things, such as:
- Decision fatigue. You get worn out by making so many decisions in a day, that it gets too much to make ANOTHER decision.
- Choice overload. When there are too many options to choose from, it’s overwhelming. This can happen if you have more than three options to choose from.
- Some people need more time to process than others- maybe you’ve never made this type of decision quickly, and it might feel even slower when you are busy, or have multiple demands.
- Indecision can also be a symptom of stress and overwhelm (I’m thinking of the mental load here), anxiety, depression, and trauma.
- There might feel like there’s so much pressure to get dinner ‘right’, ‘perfect’, and catering for everyone that this leads to stress, which then leads to procrastination or avoidance of making this decision.
If you’ve been indecisive, rather than going to straight to criticising yourself over this, try to identify why you’re indecisive. What’s driving it? Reflect on the above ideas and see what’s part of the problem. And when you know this, then you can problem solve- not just what you’re having for dinner, but how to make these decisions more easily in the future.
For example, if decision fatigue (please, not another decision today!) is making you indecisive about dinner, then you can try the following:
- Taking time at the start of the day (before you’re worn out) to plan a menu for the week. See if you can even wrangle undisturbed time to concentrate on planning your menu.
- Delegating the decision making: Ask your significant other to make these decisions, even if it’s just for part of the week. And ask them to come up with the list of ingredients needed for their menu, which will also help reduce your mental load here.
- You can use one of several websites that will tell you what to make for dinner based on what is already in your fridge or pantry. Again, aim to do this early in the day before you’re worn out.
- Crowdsource ideas. Ask friends and family to suggest or list ideas for you, so that you don’t have to come up with them.
If it’s choice overload interfering with dinner decisions, start whittling down the playing field to reduce the number of choices you have. For example:
- Pick one: red or white meat?
- Pick one: pasta or rice?
- Pick some vegetables.
And before you’re know it, you’re having beans, rice, and pulled beef. Because you’ve reduced the playing field to a few choices (rather than ALL the options), it feels easier.
Of course, there may be other factors interfering with deciding on dinner, such as your typical decision making speed, indecision due to stress or other issues, pressure around getting dinner right… Try to identify these processes so they can be problem solved, too.