Meal planning is the key to healthy eating and eating on a budget. It’s also the key to de-stressing your life. You exchange time for peace. You invest time, say, on Sunday to plan what you’re going to eat. That way on Thursday night you don’t have to worry about what is for dinner as you’re driving to soccer practice. You’re already stressed and having to figure out dinner is a bummer. That might mean you spend more time and money at a drive thru.
MEAL PLANNING TO THE RESCUE! It’ll help you in those moments. It can be tough to get started though. Theme menus are a great way to brainstorm ideas and to give you some training wheels as you try something new.
If it works for Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, it can work for us! With a little adjustment. He had Thai on Monday, Cheesecake Factory on Tuesday, Thursday Pizza night and Friday was Chinese takeout night.
I have three kids and a budget. I also don’t have his metabolism. My first theme Menu looked like this:
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday
Wednesday: Salmon (me), Macaroni & Cheese (kids) and Broccoli (all)
Thursday: International day (unstuffed egg rolls or Korean beef or Stir Fry or Pasta)
Friday: Pizza movie night!
Saturday: Soup or grill
Sunday: Crockpot meal
Here are 35 different Theme Menus idea that might help make your meal planning a little easier. You could plan out much more than a year if you wanted to try them all without repeating too often!
Themes by day of the week are popular, especially if they include alliteration:
- Taco Tuesday (My love of the Lego Movie requires I mention this first).
- Meatless Monday.
- Meatloaf Monday.
- Mexican Monday (fajitas, enchiladas, empanadas, anything will do except Menudo. Just no).
- Make Ahead Monday. (Freezer meals–helps deal with manic Monday)
- Take out Tuesday.
- Pizza Friday.
- Throwback Thursday (leftovers) .
- Slow Cooker Sunday (It’s easier to relax if you don’t have to tend to cooking!).
- Smokin’ Saturday (Grill! BBQ!).
- Souper Saturday (Winter alternative to grilling on Saturday).
- Nacho night (I’m game for this to be ANY night of the week).
- Something new Sunday.
- Breakfast for dinner!
- Casserole night.
- Burger night.
- Sheet pan dinners (I love one dish meals).
- One pot dinners (this is particularly great with the Instant Pot).
- Salad / raw food night.
- Chili night (there are SO many varieties!)
- Bowl night (think Chipotle!)
- Bar night / DIY night (There are so many things that are DIY-able like a Taco Bar, a Baked Potato Bar, Salad Bar, Frito Pie bar, Mashed Potato Bar, Chili bar).
- Kid choice night (This can be an opportunity for fun and also more work soooo).
- Traditional foods (things you ate or your parents ate as a kid…old school).
- Fend for yourself night (Mamas, this is a top choice if your kids are older).
- Zero-Based Pantry night (Like a zero based budget, at the end of the month you clean out the fridge/pantry and eat whatever is left for dinner!).
- Keto night.
- Paleo night.
- Low carb night.
- Vegetarian night.
- Vegan night.
- Whole 30 night.
You can also theme around certain foods in order to ensure variety. Proteins & starches are good choices to theme around. You keep the same basic item, use different recipes to keep it new and fresh!
- Chicken, seafood, beef, vegetarian, pork, turkey.
- Pasta (spaghetti, chili mac, Alfredo), rice (chicken fried, sticky, paella, risotto) beans (chili, bean soup), potatoes (baked, diced, mashed), bread/toast/sandwiches, tortillas (tacos, quesadillas).
Now, here are two additional resources for you on the topic of meal planning:
A Printable to make your own theme menu! Just shoot me your email below and it’ll be in your inbox!
A video that shows you how I meal plan.
I’d love to help you come up with a meal plan! I’d love to help you on your fitness journey! Just reach out and let’s get started.