Make a Weekly Routine with Meal Plan Theme Nights

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Meal Plan Theme Nights will make your meal planning super simple. Choose some basic themes, such as pasta or tacos, and then play with variations of those throughout the coming weeks. You’ll know what’s for dinner without so much decision fatigue.

Make a Weekly Routine with Meal Plan Theme Nights | Life as Mom

Is meal planning tripping you up? Is “lack of imagination” your current mental gap? Do you wish that meal planning was a no-thinking required kind of activity?

Lucky for us all it can be!

Think back to the simpler, olden days. Home cooks didn’t fret about their meal planning. They knew what they were gonna make. And they knew their people would like it.

They had a routine, a weekly routine, built around meal plan theme nights.

C’mon surely you remember, Wally and the Beav talking about Meatloaf Night. They knew what was for dinner, and so did Mom!

Make a Weekly Routine with Meal Plan Theme Nights

We can all benefit from this classic way of planning meals. Each day of the week gets its own assigned type of meal. Back in Gramma’s days, it might have been pot roast or meatloaf instead of today’s pho or shredded beef enchiladas.

The method still works — no matter your food preferences, dietary restrictions, or budget.

The idea behind a meal plan theme night helps the cook and meal planner avoid decision fatigue, but it has an added benefit for your children: They know what to expect.

Maybe Wally and the Beaver didn’t love meatloaf, but they were prepared to deal with it when dinnertime rolled around. If you’ve got picky eaters at your house, you know that surprises aren’t always well-received. However, if they know what’s coming and they know it won’t be something crazy different and exotic every single night of the week, you may find that you have fewer fusses.

And no, YOU won’t get bored because you’ll be able to make little tweaks to side dishes, proteins, and condiments to keep things fresh.

Consider this weekly routine of meal plan theme nights:

Sundays – Grilled or Roasted Meats
Mondays – Pasta
Tuesdays – Tacos
Wednesdays – Sandwich Night
Thursdays – Stir-fry
Fridays – Pizza
Saturdays – Slow Cooker

At the face of it, you may think, Can I really have tacos every week?

Yes, yes, you can! There is so much variation in each of those categories! Think about all the different kinds of taco shells, fillings, toppings, and sauces. You could make a different kind of taco every week for months without getting bored.

There are loads of themes to choose from. Check these out:

Styles of preparation:

  • grilling
  • roasting/baked
  • skillet
  • slow cooker
  • pressure cooker

Types of foods:

  • sandwiches
  • burgers
  • salads
  • stews
  • soups
  • casseroles
  • quesadillas
  • tacos
  • burritos
  • wraps
  • sautés
  • stir-fries
  • rice bowls
  • pizza
  • pasta
  • breakfast-for-dinner

Cultural cuisines:

  • Mexican
  • Italian
  • Asian
  • French
  • African
  • Indian
  • Mediterranean

There are so many meal plan theme nights to choose from, you could easily rotate them in and out every month and always have fresh inspiration and easier meal planning.

Choose some meal plan theme nights to make things easier.

Level up your meal planning and prep.

Have you considered creating a kitchen survival kit to help you WIN in the kitchen? I’d love for you to join me for the upcoming Mom’s Kitchen Survival Workshop.

You’ll create a plan to help you get dinner on the table every night, fill your freezer with wholesome snacks and breakfasts, finesse your lunch-packing skills, and even make sure you get a daily dose of MOM food.

Learn more here.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. robin says

    I do the 50’s meal planning way as well. I do grilling night, make up a chicken meal night, brinner (breakfast for dinner), ethnic food night, family food night, etc.

  2. I have a “Gramma” menu template, but I have a really hard time sticking to it.

  3. Johanna says

    Looks delicious! And I’m SO glad to finally be able to get on your blog again!

  4. I made my weekly menu based on what I have in the freezer/pantry. Click my link to see.

  5. We’ve been doing the assigned breakfast for a couple of years now thanks to your advice. This year I started doing the same with chores. Emily went to bed tonight reminding me that tomorrow was the day to clean the bathrooms. Your dinner meal plan looks wonderful!

  6. Because I like to try new recipes, especially when I want to take advantage of some special sale, I instituted a night that was “hubby’s choice”. He would get so sad when we would go for long periods of time without going back to old standards he loved, like crock pot roast or enchiladas. Now they are one of his favorite nights!

  7. Your meals this week sound delicious!! I have yet to plan my for the week (but I will do it shortly…I promise…!), so I might just take a look at some of your ideas. Yum!!

  8. Your old fashioned way reminds me of my mum – thats what she used to do. Us kids always knew what to expect.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Michelle Burgess, exactly! And sometimes kids really need that/desire that consistency.

      • Shelley Worman says

        I agree. At one point I made a list by category, of everything my girls liked to eat. They participated in the process sharing their favorite foods. Then I made theme nights like you suggested. Then I layered in fruits & vegetables. Worked great! Much easier and we all ate better! On weekends I would make big crockpots of favorites to eat & then freeze for emergencies!

  9. I have an aunt that swears by this style of meal planning, with an added “new recipe” night each week. I love the idea, but would probably end up doing Mexican night every other night!

  10. That’s a really good idea — giving each day its own theme. I might have to give it a try one of these weeks. You could add variety to that by also making each day a certain ethnicity — Mexican, Italian, French, Chinese, English, Irish, German… Hmm…theme days. This sounds fun.

  11. That picture of enchiladas has me hungry!

  12. That’s a great pattern:-)

  13. creative idea!! I think I might have to make a pattern and try it out!

  14. cherie says

    Now I want some enchiladas. . . . do you have a recipe for enchilada sauce you like? I’m never satisfied with my results . . . .

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @cherie, I make so many things homemade, but enchilada sauce is one that I haven’t yet found success in. We only like one kind, though, Las Palmas. I tried homemade when we lived in Kansas and couldn’t get Las Palmas for a time. But, now it’s back to our old standby.

  15. I do this, too with two changes. Thursday night is leftover night to make sure we use up the bits and pieces from the week. Saturday and Sunday nights my dh cooks. I use leftovers from his cooking as part of the weekday dinner menu. Often he’ll cook a meatloaf that can serve as meat for a meal during the week.

  16. Now that’s my kind of salad!! 🙂

  17. christa says

    Once again you saved me! I went on your sight today to search around for 2 things….how to homeschool preschoolers, and your weekly meal list. And what do I find – your first page and second page is EXACTLY what I needed. Thank you Jessica for everything you do – for us, for your family. You are truly an inspiration.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @christa, you are very welcome. Are you pulling my leg, though? You really were looking for the preschool thing? Quite serendipitous!

      • actually Jessica My granddaughter is also doing the home school preschool thing also. If they don’t attend a daycare/preschool they start way behind the ones that do.

  18. Mandy says

    What a great way to make planning meals easier! Thanks! Some weeks, I am just all out of tricks in my attempt to “make up” new meals for us! This will help immensely! 🙂

  19. What a great idea! It breaks down each day, but still gives you plenty of choices each week!

  20. That is a really good idea! I always plan menus 2 weeks at a time but there is no pattern to them and I find myself struggling to think of meals that would definitely help to have a theme in place for each day!!

  21. This is a really great way of meal planning. I like the “theme” approach!

  22. Judy says

    For years we have had “Taco Tuesday” now. I know the kids look forward to it and it one less thing to think about. If it’s Tuesday then it’s Taco night!!

  23. Your meals sound so much better than mine!

    I plan to try the Asian Noodle Salad-yum!

  24. Rona says

    I really love your serving plates. Especially the green one. And I see I’m not the only one who is a fan of the enchiladas. Yummy. The avocado salad looks delicious too!

    I hope you and your family have a terrific weekend.

  25. Julie says

    Is the picture at the top your shredded beef enchiladas?? Whatever it is – they look amazing! Do you have the recipe on either of your blogs??? I would love to have it !

  26. Lynette says

    I think haveing little kids who are so picky – makes the Grandma way of planning meals so much easier. They WANT spaghetti all the time, and pizza, and nachos/quesadilla’s…so when I’m doing my month long grocery shopping list and planning it all out – it really makes it easy to just asign nights whatever particular food and I can make the shopping list around that. I add a crock-pot meal in each week right now, and that allows me to have an evening off – so that I can go have some Me time, if it works out right with hubby’s schedule. And if Hubby happens to work late, I scrap whatever meal I had planned for that night and serve breakfast to the kids. It makes it easier to scrap it, if I have already precooked my hamburger meat, or have that chicken already shredded and stored in 1 lb bags in the freezer! If I end up making the casserol with chicken, and he doesn’t come home – I can skip cooking it that night, and cook it the next!

  27. that is exactly how I mealplan…
    I have nights… but a two week rotation… and leave room for leftovers (but we only have one child). Every 3rd day is leftovers unless it’s Sunday, then it’s pushed a day.

    I have cookbooks and books on nutrition/meal planning from the 1940-‘s & 50’s. They ROCK! And they make sense even now…


  28. Sarah says

    Are those the beef enchiladas in the first picture up there?? They look amazing! Do you have the recipe on here?

  29. Jana says

    Thanks for the great ideas! I will be trying this over the next two weeks. I need to get better at meal planning. Can you please link a recipe to the beautiful pasta picture? It looks so yummy!

  30. Ali says

    I have been doing a monthly meal plan with theme for each night of the week in the last couple of years. I was skeptical of the monthly plans and started with weekly for a bit. It was working so well so it was easy to transition to the monthly plans. This has changed my world! I was strict for a while in the beginning to plan out the month but in the last few months I give myself a little more flexibility in doing the entire month all at once. I’m not sure why! But I have kept the same themes each night and it continues to work wonders for all of us, kids and adults. I still try new recipes, I still use ingredients on sale and I throw away significantly less food each week. And I use your monthly meal planning sheet every time, thank you!

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