Simplified Meal Planning with Theme Nights

Simplified meal planning with theme nights! Use this system to save time planning your weekly meals and give everyone a night to look forward to!
How hard can it be to plan 4-6 dinners every week? Very hard. Although everyone always seems to be looking for more good recipes, myself included, I think part of the problem is that there are just so many possibilities. From the internet to magazines to your family favorites—there is a sea of recipes out there. But which ones should you choose? How do you find the healthy, but yummy, and liked-by-most-everyone-in-your-family recipes?

First, know that the meal planning thing is a work in progress and a very individual one. What works for your best friend, may not work for you. And what works for you now, may not work next year. I have found that if meal planning seems too hard, I just won’t do it. So here is my most recent attempt to simplify the process.

Designate Theme Nights

I took a tip from the “old days,” when in Swedish households everyone had soup and pancakes on Thursdays and fish on Fridays. Having dedicated themes for some or even all nights of the week helps eliminate the number of choices for that day. It also helps the family be on the same page—everyone knows that it’s Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday or Takeout Thursday. (And no, the themes and days don’t have to start with the same letter like that, although you have to admit, it sounds catchier!)

My theme days are of course subject to change now and then. During the cooler months, I tend to do a crockpot meal or soup on one night of the week, but in the summer, that night might be “grill night”.


Just Plan Dinners

Another way to simplify meal planning is to just plan dinners. While planning out breakfasts and lunches is really nice, it’s not as needed for us as it used to be. I still do it now and then, like at the start of the school year, or whenever I feel like we have fallen into a slump. But for most weeks, I just plan dinners and make sure that I have a variety of healthful breakfast, lunch, and snack options on hand for the kids. Note: If you have younger kids, it’s still good to plan these meals, but starting sometime in Elementary school kids often like to make their own breakfast (at least a few days of the week) and pack their own snack (and maybe even lunch).

You can plan your meals in any way that works for you—in your google calendar, in a notebook, or using a printable meal planning template. Just google meal planning template and you will find many options. Here are a couple of my favorite simplified templates:

Weekly Meals & Groceries – a shopping list with brief meal plan

grocery list printablePin

Flexible Weekly Meal Plan – a flexible way to plan out a few meals with a mini shopping list


If you want a more comprehensive template or more room on your grocery list, here is a link to the blog post with the meal planning template and grocery list that I use when I’m feeling the need to be hyper-organized (usually at the start of the school year!):

Organize Your Recipes

Now, take some time to organize your recipes. (I use a binder with plastic sleeves that holds printouts and magazine tear-outs as well as a Pinterest page.) Then, pick your themes and start planning.

Of course, I know a lot of you want me to just give you some good recipes (or rather, the cooked dinner–haha).


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