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Get dinner on the table faster by picking a theme for every night of the week! Use these 20+ theme ideas to create exciting meals that your whole family will love.
Every evening, most parents stare into their refrigerator wondering what to make for dinner. After a full day of decision-making at work/home, deciding what to cook can seem like a stressful thing to do.
There is one way to fight this decision fatigue – meal planning. For the uninitiated, that means to plan what you are going to cook during the week ahead of time.
Meal planning can get overwhelming when you don’t know where to start or which recipes to pick. That’s why having a meal theme helps.
What is a meal theme?
Having a meal theme means choosing your favorite meal and designating a day to cook it. As an optional step, you can come up with some fun and catchy names such as meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, and call it the theme for the day.
Assigning a theme to each day of the week narrows down the choice of meals that you can make each day, thereby simplifying your dinner choices.
How does having a meal theme help?
- Ends dinner overwhelm – no more stressing out what to make for dinner each night.
- It is a great opportunity to try new cuisines/recipes.
- Makes your meal planning process simpler.
- Less food wastage since you are buying groceries as per your plan.
- Make it a family activity – kids who are involved in the meal planning process are less likely to give you a hard time during dinner.
- Provides a sense of structure to our sometimes unpredictable life.
- With a plan in place, you are less likely to order takeout.
How to come up with meal themes
Step 1 – Brainstorm theme ideas (and give it a fun & catchy name)
You could base your theme on cuisines, ingredients, cooking methods, or types of dish. Here are some examples –
- Pulses – chole, rajma
- Lentils – dal
- Other veggies
- Rice (biryani)
- Dal / Sambar
- Roti / Parathas (stuffed bread)
- Instant Pot
- Slow cooker
- Air Fryer
- Sheet pan
[optional step] – Give your theme a fun name. Some examples would be –
- Meatless Monday
- Mexican Monday
- Make-ahead Monday
- Taco Tuesday
- Wings Wednesday
- Throwback Thursday ( a meal from your childhood)
- Take out Thursday
- Family Fun Friday
- Soup and salad Saturday
- Seafood Sunday
- Instant Pot night
- Leftovers night
- Kids choice night
- Pizza night
- Biryani night
Step 2 – Assign a theme for each day and jot down your family’s favorite meals for each theme
Think of this as a master list that you can keep referring to when you plan
Step 3 – Every night pick a recipe from the assigned theme to cook
As you write down your meal plan, refer to the theme you finalized for the day and pick any recipe from the assigned theme.
Note: Every week can have the same set of theme nights, or you can mix it up. Do this for breakfast and snacks as well.
Meal Theme example
Here’s a copy of an ingredient-based meal theme that I follow.
- Monday – Dal (E.g. – Rasam, Sambar, Dal Fry, Tadka Dal + side dishes with Rice or roti)
- Tuesday – Roti with leftover dal and Potatoes or any other vegetable side dish (Dum Aloo, Aloo methi, Aloo Matar, etc.)
- Wednesday – Paneer (E.g. Palak Paneer, Matar Paneer, Paneer Makhani, etc.) + Roti or rice
- Thursday – Pulses (E.g. Channa masala, Chowli, Rajma, Mung, etc with rice or roti)
- Friday – One pot meal (such as Vegetable Biryani, Khichdi, Pasta)
- Saturday – Seafood (E.g. Fish Curry, Shrimp Curry, Shrimp Biryani)
- Sunday – Chicken (Curry or Biryani) with rice or Parathas
Do it for every meal
Once you have jotted down themes for lunch/dinner, you can follow the same process for breakfast/snacks.
- Idli / Dosa
- Sooji (upma, sheera)
- Sabudana khichdi
- Pancake / Waffles
- Granola bars
- Pita chips/hummus
- Start with some basic themes and plan meals for no more than 2 weeks when you are just getting started. This makes the process less overwhelming, and also allows for changes in case a particular theme didn’t work out for you.
- Pick recipes that you can prep ahead, especially for weeknights.
- Having a theme does not mean you have to cook every day – feel free to have designated days as takeout night or a leftover night.
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