20+ Theme Ideas for Meal Planning

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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.

An image with caption - 20+ exciting theme night ideas for meal planning
Theme night ideas

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 –

Cuisine

  • Italian
  • Chinese
  • Mexican
  • Indian
  • African

Ingredient

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Pulses – chole, rajma
  • Lentils – dal
  • Potatoes
  • Paneer
  • Other veggies

Dish type

  • Pizza
  • Rice (biryani)
  • Dal / Sambar
  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Burgers
  • Pasta
  • Grilled
  • Stir-Fry
  • Soup
  • Roti / Parathas (stuffed bread)

Method

  • 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
your meals.

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.

Do it for every meal

Once you have jotted down themes for lunch/dinner, you can follow the same process for breakfast/snacks.

Breakfast

  • Eggs
  • Oats
  • Idli / Dosa
  • Sooji (upma, sheera)
  • Sabudana khichdi
  • Pancake / Waffles
  • Parathas
  • Smoothies

Snacks

  • Granola bars
  • Smoothies
  • Fruits
  • Pita chips/hummus
  • Sandwiches

Final thoughts

  • 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.

Helpful resources

  • How to stock your kitchen Learn how to create a master grocery list, track your pantry items, and have a well-stocked kitchen so that you can cook delicious meals anytime you want!
  • How to meal planA detailed guide on how to start meal planning.
  • Pantry staples – Considering meal prepping? Make sure you have a few pantry staples always available in the kitchen so that you can meal prep whenever you have time.
  • How to meal prep Indian foodMeal prep is the secret behind stress-free weekday meals. Learn how to meal prep like a pro even if you are a beginner.
  • 30+ tips for meal planning successReview these easy-to-follow tips and strategies that will help you meal plan and prep like a pro.
  • Out of milk appLearn how to use your phone to track your pantry items and create shopping lists by store.

Get dinner on the table faster!

Learn my meal planning + prepping secrets to make fresh Indian food without spending hours in the kitchen.

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