Having trouble sticking to meal planning? Wish that it wasn’t so hard to think of what to make? Theme nights will save you so much time each week by simplifying your planning process. Learn how to come up with a meal planning theme schedule and get some theme ideas in this post!
I get a lot of questions about meal planning over on my Instagram. Each weekend I share my meal plan for the next week as well as the recipes I make during the week.
A few common struggles with meal planning is the amount of time it can take and having to figure out what to put on a meal plan! I recently showed you my Recipe Binder that I use to keep all my dinner rotation recipes organized. Today I’m going to share another tip that I utilize to speed up my meal planning process each week!
What is a Meal Planning Theme Night?
A meal planning theme night is a weekly night on your meal plan that has a theme such as “pasta night,” “meatless Monday,” or “slow cooker night.”
Having a theme helps narrow your options and your thought process so you can more easily come up with a meal idea for that night. It can limit decision fatigue when it comes to meal planning.
You can have a theme for every night of the week or just for a couple days of the week.
How to Create a Meal Planning Schedule
Coming up with a meal planning schedule with at least some themed nights gives you a starting point for meal planning. Here’s an example of what your schedule could look like:
Monday: Meatless Monday
Tuesday: Taco Night
Wednesday: Pasta Night
Thursday: Slow Cooker Night
Friday: Try a New Recipe Night
Saturday: Leftover Night
Sunday: Eat Out or Frozen Pizza night!
What If I Get Bored with The Themes I Chose?
Mix things up! You can always mix up your meal planning schedule every few months or even come up with a seasonal schedule. Or if you get bored with a particular theme, just cut it out of your schedule and come up with a new theme idea to replace it.
Need Some Theme Ideas?
There are unlimited options for the types of themes you could do. Here are some ideas to get you started, as well as a few recipe ideas to go with those themes.
Slow Cooker Night: Maybe you have a day of the week that is busier for your family. That would be a great day to start dinner in the slow cooker in the morning! Many slow cooker recipes require very little prep or could even be prepped ahead of time. Try this Slow Cooker Spinach and Artichoke Chicken with Rice or Slow Cooked Chicken Burrito Bowls.
Salad-for-Dinner Night: This is one we’ve been doing almost every week lately. We love making big salads packed with meat and veggies to make it a filling meal. Some of our favorites on my site are this Grilled Chicken and Apple Salad and this Chicken Cobb Salad.
Ethnic Night: You could pick one favorite type of ethnic food such as Indian, Chinese or Mexican and make a different dish from that cuisine every week. Or mix it up and try to make a dish from a different country each week. This is a great way to try different types of dishes and help kids learn about different cultures! If you want some help with this theme, my friend Jenni from The Gingered Whisk has Foodie Family Passport Kits that would be so fun to do as a family.
Breakfast-for-Dinner Night: One of our favorites! You could do a full breakfast menu of pancakes, eggs and bacon. Or choose a favorite breakfast dish to make. We like to do Breakfast Hash Bowls or Egg Bakes on these nights.
Pizza Night: A homemade pizza night is a fun and interactive meal that the family will love! You can get creative and try different types of crust, cooking methods and toppings each week. Some of our favorites are Bacon Alfredo Pizza and grilled pizza!
Sheet Pan Dinner Night: Make a simple meal and make clean-up easier with sheet pan dinners! A quick Pinterest or Google search will give you lots of inspiration, but one that I like to make is One Pan Honey Pecan Chicken with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts.
Try Something New Night: Fill the rest of your meal plan with tried-and-true favorite recipes, but pick one night a week to try something new! It could be a new recipe you found on Pinterest that you’ve been wanting to try, or a new style of cooking that you want to learn.
Grill Night: I like to add one recipe a week that we plan to cook on the grill. It feels like an easier night for me since my husband usually does the grilling for me! Try my Grilled Ranch Pork Chops or Cream Cheese Stuffed Burgers.
Meatless Monday: It doesn’t have to be on a Monday, but picking one day a week to make a vegetarian or vegan meal is a great way to mix up your menu!
Casserole Night: Casseroles are another easy one dish meal that can save time and make clean-up easier. Plus you could always make a double batch and freeze one so that you don’t have to cook on casserole night next week!
Sandwich Night: This theme could be as easy as putting out some lunch meat, veggies, condiments and bread and letting your family build their own sandwiches for dinner. You could also get creative with different type of sandwiches or use up leftovers to build a sandwich! We recently started doing a grilled cheese night on the weekends and get creative together to come up with different ideas for the bread, cheese and cooking method.
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