Meal Planning with Theme Nights
Ready to start Meal Planning today? Grab a paper and pencil and learn how to easily make your own Meal Plan with Theme Nights!
As promised, here is the first post in the Rotating Menu series.
I love to meal plan, but it hasn’t always been that way. When I first started out, I was clueless about where I should even begin! One thing to note is that this is not your average Menu Planning. This is the way I menu plan for the entire year.
We Eat the Same Meals Every Month?
Yes, in fact we do. When I meal plan, I plan out a calendar with 28 days on it. Instead of doing a numbered calendar, I keep a simple grid calendar. It is easier to plan around our schedule if I knew that on the first Sunday of every month I always cook the same meal. If I always cooked the same thing on the 15th of each month, it could end up being any day of the week.
Now I know the rhyme “30 days hath September…” and I understand that only February has 28 days. The reason I don’t make our Menu Plan more specific than 28 days is because flexibility is key to making any system that will work long term. By giving myself only 28 days on our Rotating Menu, I can plan for the unplanned. I can pencil in family parties, grabbing a pizza, or trying out a new recipe or two.
Starting from Scratch
Make a List
I know most people at this point will tell you to gather all your recipes, but that didn’t work for me. When I made my very first meal plan, I wrote down what we had for dinner most often. That means, whatever meals you can think of right off the top of your head. I don’t want you looking through recipe books or on Pinterest. The meals that you already eat most often is what you make a list of.
Sort the List
After you have a list of the meals you cook most often, see if they can be sorted in any specific way to create theme nights. Look for themes like these:
- Meats: chicken, beef, pork, fish, meatless
- Difficulty: easy, one-pot/pan, crockpot
- Ethnic foods: Chinese, Italian, Mexican
- Season: soup or salad
You may find that you want to base it off of meats, but you mostly eat chicken. You might find that you eat WAY more pasta or salads than you thought. Sort what you are already eating.
Now you can look through your favorite recipe book or your recipe box. Add all of your other favorite recipes to your most frequent ones and sort them according to the themes that you have chosen.
Choosing Theme Nights
I actually took a poll on Facebook to see what themes other people were already using. After reading through these lists, I decided I had a pretty strong opinion on my themes.
I know our tastes change from time to time. I wanted to have the flexibility to rotate recipes in and out as our tastes changed. Also, if we tried a new recipe and loved it, I wanted to make sure there would be a way to easily rotate in those new recipes.
This might seem kind of silly, but I didn’t want to have to rely on my hard copy menu all the time. I wanted to be able to remember the catchy title of each day of the week to jog my brain as to what we were having for dinner that night no matter where I was.
Because we use this calendar all year long, I had to be sure that I wasn’t planning gourmet night once a week. I also have little kids that phase in and out of what they will and won’t eat. I had to plan around their simple food desires, while still providing delicious foods for my husband and I (more on this next week). Note: this does not mean that I am a short order cook or make two meals.
And so, our Menu themes were born: Savory Sunday, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wait for it Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday, Fun Friday, and Simple Saturday.
This is the perfect calendar for our family. It is easy to rotate meals in and out of. The categories are catchy, yet not too specific.
Ready to Make Your Own?
Get a pen and paper out and start making a list. What did you have last night for dinner? How about the night before that? If your kids will suggest more than just pizza, ask them for their favorite meals you make. Grab a calendar and get writing those recipes in!
What theme nights do you have?