Theme nights is not a new concept, we celebrate Taco Tuesday every week in this house! However, I’m going to show you how it can change your meal planning!
In the nature of Taco Tuesday, I set out to try and make my meal planning stupid simple. I wanted to create some type of framework in which to do my meal planning. I came up with something that worked great. I’ve since tweaked it some and I’ll explain both methods because I really think it can help a mama out. Growing up, we always had Sunday dinner at my grandma’s house. Unless it was a holiday, it was always pasta. We always had salad and the local bakery’s Italian bread on the side. I’ve pretty much kept that philosophy going with my kids. I fully believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy so carbs on Sunday don’t count! HA!! In my book, there’s nothing better than homemade lasagna with a fresh, crisp salad and homemade sourdough bread. Grab my Sunday Gravy recipe here.
When my kids were little, we started pizza on Friday night. At first we did take out pizza. Then I started following a more traditional diet and started making homemade pizza. The smell of the dough makes my heart happy. Knowing mom is making your favorite meal every week makes my kids happy. I’ve tried several recipes over the years and hubby says I now make the perfect pizza. If you want, you can grab my sourdough crust and pizza sauce recipes here (they’re coming soon, I promise!).
When my kids got older and started going to youth group on Wednesday nights, I made friends with my crock pot. Knowing that I could get them home, cleaned up and out the door with full bellies made my life much easier. Since I’m home much more now, I’ve changed it up to soup night in the dutch oven but the concept is still the same. This is my favorite dutch oven! It’s heavy and big but an absolute beast. I can make a huge batch of soup for lunches later in the week. Yay for planned leftovers!!
THE ORIGINAL THEME NIGHT SYSTEM
Grab my meal planning spreadsheet download here!
This meal plan might sound boring but I promise if you follow my system, it’s not. Starting with just pasta on Sunday, Taco Tuesday, soup night every Wednesday and Friday night pizza, we have over half of the dinners made for the week. We’re going to rotate every night but Friday night to keep things interesting and I’ll show you how below. I keep a list of 8-10 meals for this. None of this is set in stone and can easily be swapped out
Now we have Monday, Thursday and Saturday nights left.
Mondays I stick with a hot sandwich night. We’ll do sloppy joes, meatball subs, cheesesteaks, salmon rolls, gyros, pulled BBQ chicken, chicken salad, sausage subs, burgers and shrimp salad. I usually serve it with homemade fries and a veggie for good measure. It’s an easy way to start the week, fills everyone up and makes them all happy.
Tuesdays are for tacos, etc. I make taco salad, beef enchiladas, chicken enchiladas, chicken fajitas, steak fajitas, seafood enchiladas, and tacos: chicken, beef, fish and shrimp. I’ll put out a spread of toppings and make spanish rice. My hubby loves corn with his Mexican food so that’s usually our veggie of choice in some form. I love making Mexican street corn and I can make it every week and nobody ever gets tired of it.
Wednesdays are for soup. I LOVE Wednesday night. I feel like soup is a hug for your soul. When it’s cold and rainy or you’re feeling crappy, there’s nothing like a hot bowl of soup. Along with filling you up, it warms you inside and out. I make potato soup, chicken noodle soup, beef stew, shrimp and corn chowder, taco soup, tomato soup, chili, Maui black bean soup and clam chowder. For nights when we have a creamy soup, I’ll usually add a grilled cheese or two. They’re great for dipping! Plus, grilled cheese on homemade sourdough stuffed with raw cheese and slathered with butter from pasture raised cows is my love language! I could probably make them every day and none of the villagers would complain. Sometimes on nights with a more chunky soup, I’ll add a salad. Sometimes not. Just depends on my mood.
Thursdays are for skillet meals and sheet pan meals. We’re almost to the weekend and I want something simple and hands (mostly) off. I make lemon orzo shrimp, baked salmon & veggies, cheeseburger casserole, baked potato bar, beef or chicken stir fry, fried rice with shrimp, beef lo mein, chicken ranch pasta and beef stroganoff. Most of these meals are stuff with veggies so I don’t have to add any sides. Easy for mama, happy villagers!
Friday is pizza. Always pizza! Same sauce, same toppings. We are creatures of habit!
Saturday is for comfort foods or a new recipe I want to try. I’ll make salmon cakes, jambalaya, Irish beef stew, shepherd’s pie, meat loaf, pot roast, roasted chicken, chicken or beef pot pies, chicken fried steak. All the yummy things I grew up eating. They’re all love on a plate!
ROTATING THE MEALS
All these lists of meals sound like they could get confusing. I created a Google sheet and listed all the meals by day. Each week (or month, depending on how much I plan at a time) I go down the list and grab the next meal on the list. I highlight the meal so I know I’ve planned it. If one of the villagers is wanting something particular that week, I’ll plan that meal instead. I go ahead and highlight it so I know it’s in the rotation. Using this method, you’ll only eat each meal every 10 weeks. Nobody will get bored with repeated meals.
MY NEW METHOD
A little while ago, I found this amazing new cookbook. I did a whole write up on it here (coming soon). It takes planned leftovers and meal planning to a whole new level. You take 1 protein, 1 starch or starchy veg and one non starchy veg and create 3 completely different meals from it. They’re amazing meals and make getting dinner on the table a breeze. So, now I make 1 of those 3 meals on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. I moved our regular Monday night hot sandwich meals and serve them on Saturday afternoons. This has eliminated our normal Saturday afternoon take out bill.
On Saturday nights I still make comfort foods but I’ve added the soups from Wednesday night too. Soup is comforting 🙂 Also, since we usually eat the pasta meal on Sunday right after church, I’ve started making a skillet or sheet pan meal on Sunday night. I’m still making the foods we love and making my life easier. WIN WIN!!
MAKE IT YOURS
The best part of this is you take the method and run with it. You can plan by region and make a meal from a different country each night. You can pick a different protein for each day of the week. Start with meatless Monday if that’s your thing. If you’re a breakfast for dinner person, you can make a list of breakfast dishes to rotate through. The possibilities are almost endless.
What do you think? What meal planning method do you use? Do you think theme nights would work in your house? I’d love to hear more!
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