DINNER THEMES: A MEAL PLANNING TIME SAVER

Meal plan quickly using dinner themes.  Mommy Standard Time
More than 30 dinner themes to help you simplify meal planning.  Mommy Standard Time

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Meal plan quickly with dinner themes. Mommy Standard Time

I’m going to confess:  I don’t love to meal plan.  

Between my dietary restrictions and the varied food preferences of my family, meal planning can be a very time-consuming task.  I think one of the main reasons that I have difficulty making decisions is the huge chore of choosing seven dinners from the hundreds of recipes that I have at my fingertips.

stack of cookbooks for meal planning

About six months ago, I decided to try giving each night of the week a theme (like Taco Tuesday) to see if it would save time on meal planning.  I have been shocked by the amount of time I have been able to shave from the meal planning process simply by assigning a theme to each night of the week.  Having an outline of what type of meal goes on which night of the week jump-starts the meal planning process for me; it narrows my focus so that I don’t get overwhelmed and spend more than an hour thumbing through cookbooks and recipe cards.

How to save time by meal planning with dinner themes.  Mommy Standard Time.

Below are the current theme nights that we use at our house, plus a few other ideas for each night of the week (the possibilities really are endless, especially if you don’t insist on alliteration like I do.  I’m weird like that…)


MONDAY

We start off the week with Meatless Monday.  There are a lot of reasons why people love Meatless Monday.  Our main motivator is to trim our grocery budget.  Other options for a Monday theme night that we will switch out when we get tired of Meatless Monday are:

  • Meaty Monday (steak, chicken breasts, pork chops, etc.)
  • Made-From-Scratch Monday (you know the meals – the ones that use every dish in the kitchen…)
  • Make-It-Up Monday (take a detour from the recipe cards. This would really scare my family!)
  • Meatball Monday (yes, I have so many uses for meatballs that I could devote one night a week to them…)

TUESDAY

There would be mutiny around here if we didn’t have Taco Tuesday.  This has turned out to be pretty much any meal in the taco realm (enchiladas, taco soup, etc.).  Other options for a Tuesday theme night that we will incorporate when we get tired of Taco Tuesday probably never are:

  • “Try It” Tuesday (try a new recipe)
  •  Take-Out Tuesday (either order from a favorite restaurant, or whip up your favorite copycat recipe)
  • Traeger Tuesday (we are currently using our Traeger on Thursdays…more on that below)
  • Turkey Tuesday
  • Tourist Tuesday (try your hand at international cuisine)

WEDNESDAY

If you ever visit us on hump day, you can look forward to One Pot Wednesday.  I have also decided to include Crockpot meals in my meal planning for this theme, even if they might not end up being true “one pot” recipes.  Other ideas for Wednesday include:

  • Wacky Wednesday (clean out the fridge/leftover night)
  •  “What’s New” Wednesday (try a new recipe)
  •  Wrap Wednesday (put your favorite salad in a tortilla and call it a night)
  •  World Cuisine Wednesday 
  • Wake Up Wednesday (breakfast for dinner)

THURSDAY

In our time zone, we have Traeger Thursday.  Yes, we have devoted one night a week, 52 weeks a year, to our wonderful Traeger wood pellet smoker.  When our propane grill became an unpredictable flamethrower, Mr. Blue Eyes really wanted to replace it with a smoker.  I was skeptical, but have been pleasantly surprised by how much I love it.

(In my world of naming theme nights, Tuesday and Thursday theme night ideas are pretty much interchangeable. So you can read those ideas above.)


FRIDAY

We end the work week with Favorites Friday.  This catch-all title helped me incorporate some of our favorite recipes that didn’t really fit into any of the other theme nights.  If we eat out, it is usually on Friday nights, so “Favorites Friday” can also include our favorite restaurants.  Other ideas for Friday include:

  • Fire Up the Grill Friday
  •  Fish Friday (this will never be a thing in my little time zone…no fish for this gal)
  • Fancy Friday (try those pretty recipes you find on Pinterest)
  • Freezer Meal Friday
  • Finger Food Friday (wings, potato skins, etc.)
  • Flip-Flop Friday (breakfast for dinner)
  • Fend For Yourself Friday (there are nights when Mr. Blue Eyes and I are so busy that we each whip up our own quick dinner of choice and make enough to share with the kids)

SATURDAY/SUNDAY

In our little time zone, we usually have dinner with my parents on Sundays.  On Saturdays, we have Soup, Sandwich, and/or Salad Saturday which is perfect for our busy weekends.  I normally do a bit of grocery shopping on Saturdays, so I am rarely in the mood to cook a big dinner afterwards.  Here are some other ideas for Saturdays/Sundays.

  • Seafood Saturday/Sunday (I’ll say it again…not in my time zone!)
  • Storage Saturday/Sunday (try some creative recipes to help rotate your food storage items)
  • Sunday Supper (pot roast, etc.)
  • Stir Fry Saturday/Sunday
  • Slow Cooker Saturday/Sunday (break out the Crockpot!)

As I mentioned earlier, the possibilities really are endless.  I just wanted to give you a few ideas that I have waiting in the wings for when our family gets bored with our current themes.

When you are brainstorming your own ideas, the main thing to keep in mind is whether you have enough recipes to warrant an entire night’s theme on that idea.  At our house, Meatball Monday is a totally legitimate possibility, while it might not be for others who don’t have as many “go-to” meatball recipes.  Casseroles are not a favorite for our family, so we wouldn’t devote one night a week to them.  The few casseroles that we do enjoy are included in our catch-all “Favorites Friday” theme.

meal planning chalkboard

Once you have your meal plan figured out, save even more time by posting it for the family to see.

How does THAT save time?

I’ve found that there is less “What’s for dinner?” questioning and negotiating with a posted menu. This saves time AND sanity!

Have you always wanted a cute menu board for your meal plan, but you have limited artistic skill?  You’re not alone!  I finally tested out a way to get the cute writing on a chalkboard and loved it, so head over to this post when you’re ready to write down your meal plan on a chalkboard.

Do you meal plan this way?  Have you found it to be a time saver?  I’d love to hear your theme ideas in the comments below!

Pin this post if you want to come back to it later! Or, better yet, {click here} to follow me on Pinterest to see many more time-saving and time-savoring ideas!

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