Growing up we rarely had to ask what was for dinner. With a family of 6 to feed my mother simply had a weekly meal plan she stuck to most of the time. Sunday was always spaghetti with marinara sauce, Mondays were hamburger night, and so on. Using meal themes to plan your weekly menu saves time, makes grocery shopping far easier and you don’t have to think too much about what you’re going to prepare each week. You don’t have to use just one recipe each day like my mom did; you can use themes.
Here are some ideas:
- Taco Tuesday. Everyone likes Taco Tuesday night and the beauty is you can use whatever you have on hand. I make either chicken, ground turkey or ground beef tacos and make a platter of veggies like bell peppers, ice burg lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, olives and avocado.
- Burger night. While burger night at mom’s house meant beef hamburgers you can mix it up by making turkey burgers, salmon burgers or even vegetarian burgers. This works well if you like the idea of a theme to make things easy but don’t want the same old thing every week.
- Soup or chili night. This is definitely my favorite theme. Soups and chilies are full of flavor and easy to cook. You can make it on the stove top at the end of the day or let it simmer in your slow cooker to be ready when you get home.
- Seafood/Fish night. Pick your favorite fish like salmon, halibut, tilapia or other seafood like shrimp or mussels. You can even go the extra mile and batter your own cod to make homemade fish sticks.
- Pasta night. Either cook your favorite pasta recipes or make it easy and make a pasta bar. My kids love the pasta bar so they can pick what they like. Put out your pasta with bowls of sauces like pesto, tomato sauce or just Parmesan for those non-sauce- loving-folks (my daughter). Add a big tossed green salad to go along side.
- Grain Bowls. I depend on grain bowls every week for both lunch and dinner. Cook a pot of rice, quinoa or other favorite whole grain, add whatever veggies you have on hand and top with choice of beans, cheese or nuts. Check out one of my favorites– Quinoa with Kale and Fresh Pears
- Salad Bar night. This was another common one in my household where my mom would put out all the fixings for a great salad just like a salad bar at a restaurant. We had vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers along with kidney beans, nuts and seeds. You can even add some grilled chicken to the table for more hearty eaters. Each person can build their own salad to their liking and serve with some crusty sourdough or whole grain bread.
- Meatless Mondays. I love Meatless Mondays although often my meatless night ends up on Fridays. Going meatless one day a week challenges you to get more plants on your plate and to become creative in the kitchen.
- Stir Fry Night. One of the simplest dinners is a good stir fry recipe. Whether you use chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu, stir fry night uses simple ingredients and comes together quickly.
The best way to move away from processed foods and restaurant eating is to simplify cooking at home. Save new or more detailed recipes for the weekend or a week day you have more time. For the average busy week try meal themes to make life easier.
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, triplet mom and author of the Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies and coauthor of the Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies, and Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies.