How to Decide: It’s Easy as 5-2-1


One of the most common debates for married couples—right above whose in-laws are worse, and with arguably higher stakes—is “What shall we have for dinner?”


In less advanced marriages, this can spiral into an hour or more of “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” on and on until someone caves and forces an idea forth.  Or stabs their partner—I don’t know how you resolve stalemates in your house.  My point is, we don’t let that one get out of control around here because we have a foolproof system.




stack of "motivational" books on various "guaranteed success systems"

Except real.


And I’m not even selling it.


We call our Decision-Making System of Compromise and Awesomeness: 5-2-1


The method is simple:


STEP 1.  Decide who is going first.  If you honestly can’t even decide that… flip a fucking coin, Jesus.

STEP 2.  First person chooses five options. In our example, five restaurants/dinner options.

STEP 3.  Second person selects two options from that list, narrowing the field.

STEP 4.  First person now has only two options for—in our example—dinner, and must choose. Again, if you cannot choose between two things flip a fucking coin.  Then elect the coin President of your household, because it’s obviously in charge of you. 

STEP 5.  Oh, look! You’ve made a decision, yay.  Now just pull up a menu online… no, I’m not helping you with that.  You’re beyond help.


(from Daria) woman bangs fists on dinner table and asks daughter, "What's wrong with you?!"

So much.


5-2-1 is our go-to method of decision making when the options are basically limitless; occasionally I’ll throw a spanner in the works by insisting the restaurant name contain the letter Z or something, but that’s some advanced level shit and what I’m offering today is the beginner’s course.  This does, however, relate to a tip for the First person who is stressing the idea of coming up with five whole options when they couldn’t think of even one thing a minute ago: pick a letter and make that your theme.


ME:  Should we talk about dinner?
HIM:  Sure… you want to 5-2-1 it?
ME:  Fine.
HIM:  Want to go first?
ME:  Nngh…
HIM:  Going first means going last…
ME:  Fine.  Let’s see….  Panda
HIM:  Garden?
ME:  No, actual pandas.  Yes, garden.  And… Popeye’s…
HIM:  ?
ME:  Because it also begins with P.
HIM:  Ah.
ME:  … Pizza?
HIM:  Mmmm…
ME:  You think of something?
HIM:  No.  I’m just really glad you’re in the mood for things that start with P tonight.


Tina Fey "I wanna roll my eyes right now but the doctor said if I keep doing it my ocular muscles might spasm and eject my eyeballs"

Hehe, balls.









30 comments on “How to Decide: It’s Easy as 5-2-1

  1. This systems assumes that you can afford to eat out every night or have that option. Neither applies to me. If you are planning to cook it, that usually requires some forward planning or prep, even if that just means defrosting something in advance. My biggest problem with this 521 rule is that I am the cook every bloody night! Guess that comes from being a single parent. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

    • We use it for other things, but dinner was the example I had on-hand. Other applications:
      What shall we do this weekend, kids? (works best with a Parental starting 5)
      What should we get Uncle Joey for his birthday?
      Which of these virtually identical shades of white should go on our kitchen walls? (Other people, I’m told, paint their kitchens white; I’ve never figured out why.)

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Anything that involves no cooking works for me . Thats a luxury 😝

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bexoxo says:

    This is a genius life hack that should be marketed!! Brilliant!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Husband, the Engineer, is quick to point out that the real benefit is that it’s “mathematically fair.” Personally, I think he’s just pleased that we’re done with our old system, where I’d give him three random letters of the alphabet and he’d have to come up with foods to match.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Lisa Orchard says:

    I love this method! I’m going to use it with my kids!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ally Bean says:

    Love this system! I can see it being a way of life for us, a new game in which we no longer end up eating PB sandwiches for dinner because neither one of us can decide what to do about dinner. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Arionis says:

    I might have to try that method. Could save me a lot of frustration.
    Have you seen this meme?

    Think it might work there?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gale says:

    What a scream of a name for that system, let alone the system itself!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jack Herlocker says:

    My wife reports this is one of her favorite ACWMHs. Oddly enough, it was the snark that sold it to her (it was that sort of morning). I, OTOH, think the 5-2-1 is elegant, although we don’t need it much (DEB: Are you cooking? Then it’s all good. Just so long as I don’t have to cook, it’s all good.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh man … you may have just saved my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. emmaclaire says:

    Great system! I’ll have to give that a try. We have the dinner thing down though…mostly. I plan all dinners except Monday and Thursday. Thursdays are always leftover night, aka a night we both have off from cooking. With my new job (2 years now) Hubby is now responsible for Mondays, because I go to the gym late on Mondays. SO, that being said, for 25 years, I have planned meals for 6 out of 7 nights of the week, and do you think he could plan a full meal, BY HIMSELF, just one night a week? After yet another query “what do you have in mind for dinner on Monday” followed by yet another murderous eye roll, I decided I would appeal to his undying devotion to me – “look, honey, if you would plan this meal without asking me to give any input, it would be like giving me a little gift every.single.week. Score, right?” I’ve got him down to about 50%, which I am trying to consider a small victory. Sigh. End of rant, thanks for listening.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We just had the Great Debate for AN HOUR last night, My favorite is when I provide 534 options, but none of them are satisfactory. Then, when I ask, “Well, what sounds good to you, then?” I get the response, “I don’t know.” I SWEAR TO ALL THINGS HOLY. That’s when I want to do murder. I’ll try this method! Here’s hoping we can even choose five options to get started 😂😩😩😩😩

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you can’t even get started, the “pick a letter” or some other narrowing tactic works great. Sometimes I’ll go wild and play “pick a utensile” (you can eat with your hands, chopsticks, a fork, a spoon, off a skewer…) or “Pick a number” and that’s the maximum radius in miles for my restaurant search. Good for narrowing down when people claim they don’t know. But honestly, most people will find their focus sharpened when the possibilities go from literally everything to these five things. Remember, analasys paralasys is frustrating for both parties, so just take away some of the options and watch ’em come back to life!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Losing the Plot says:

    God I hate being responsible for other people’s dinner all the bloody time. Excellent system, I I’ll have to try and get a record of husbands response when I trial it on him

    Liked by 1 person

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