Preview: You can make menu planning easier by meal planning with theme nights. This post lists numerous meal planning themes and includes a free meal planner.
Meal planning can be stressful. But it can also be stressful when dinnertime rolls around and you have no idea what you are going to feed the kiddos.
Some Sunday evenings when I sit down to plan out the weeks meals, I totally draw a blank. Can you relate? Over the years I have found that meal planning with theme nights makes life so much easier.
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You can have theme nights by type of cuisine, (Asian, Mexican, etc.) by method of cooking, (slow cooker, Instant Pot, etc.) by protein type (beef, chicken, etc.) or by type of food (soup, salad, etc.) You can also use any combination of the above.
There will probably be some overlap with some meals that could go on several days. If you check out my sample meal plan theme nights, you’ll see that Tuesday is Mexican but if I had a busy day, I could still make my taco soup in the slow cooker so it would be ready when I got home.
I could put lasagna on the menu for Wednesday (I have a fabulous recipe for slow cooker lasagna) or I could make lasagna on Sunday which is Italian/Pasta night.
Using theme nights to make your meal plan is supposed to make meal planning easier. But remember, there is no rule that says you can’t switch it up! Some nights I just feel like something different, so I will skip that theme. And every couple months, I’ll switch up the themes to different ones.
Sample Meal Plan Using Theme Nights
- Monday-Soup/salad-Soup during the winter month and salad during the summer months. Here are 7 main dish salads to give you some ideas.
- Tuesday-Mexican-Taco Tuesday
- Wednesday-Slow cooker
- Thursday-breakfast for dinner-Check out my recipes for oven scrambled eggs, sheet pan pancakes, and homemade pancake syrup for some easy ideas.
- Saturday-Sheet pan dinner-This is a great way to use up some leftovers you’ve got hanging around.
Some Hints to Make Meal Planning Easier
Make a list of your family’s favorite meals. Don’t just assume you know what their favorite meals are. ASK THEM!
Write down some of your own favorite meals that are EASY to cook and please everyone.
Don’t plan 3 course meals every night. Make most nights easy. If you enjoy cooking, plan a more elaborate meal once a week when you know you have the time to cook it. Don’t try to cram it in on a day when you work late and the kids have practice that evening. You’ll just be stressed.
Finally, don’t be afraid to scrap the meal plan altogether if the need arises. The meal plan is to serve you. You don’t need to be a slave to it! We usually keep a couple frozen pizzas on hand for emergencies. And I will scrap the meal plan entirely if their are too many leftovers in the refrigerator.
How to Use the Theme Night Meal Planner
First, decide on your 7 theme nights. Remember one can be leftovers. If you regularly eat out once a week on a particular night, add that in too.
Then, take your family’s favorite meals and plug them into the theme night meal planner in the appropriate category or categories. Add in other easy meals that you know the majority of your family likes.
Remember, choose easy meals. You can always decide to add a more difficult meal when you plan each week. This is just to give you some standby ideas that are easy.
Try to come up with at least 4 meal ideas for each of your theme nights. This will give you almost a month’s worth of meals. For even more variety try to come up with 6 or 8 ideas. You can always check out my Pinterest dinner board for more ideas.
Once you have your Theme Night Meal Planner prepared, post it on your refrigerator or where you normally plan your meals. This way, each week when you go to write out your meal plan, you already have a bunch of ideas to choose from. You can quickly make out your meal plan and write up your shopping list too.
Here is a list of theme nights to get you started thinking.
- slow cooker
- Instant pot
- new recipe night
- family dinner night-meat, veggie sides
- one pot dinner
- sheet pan dinner
- breakfast for dinner
- leftover night
- Mom’s choice
- Kids cook
I like to plan easy meals for busy nights. If we have baseball on Tuesdays, then I will have Tuesdays as sandwich night. I will plan a slow cooker meal for dinner when we have appointments in the late afternoon. And if for some reason I forget to start the slow cooker, I can usually turn it into an Instant Pot meal when we get home.
Get a Free Theme Night Meal Planner
You can download a free printable meal planner to help you plan your theme nights. You can list the themes you choose on the left and on the right there is space for you to list some quick and easy meals that fall under those themes. There is also a printable list of all the theme nights included.
Do you meal plan using themes or do you just wing it?