Menu planning, grocery shopping, meal cooking… all, not my thing, but all things I must do.
I tried something new starting in January, planning themed meals. I did some research (on “the Google” as my mom says) on what kind of themed meals other people try, and got some good ideas, but of course, nothing quite fit our family. Naturally, my idea here won’t necessarily fit your family, but maybe it will give you some ideas.
The main problem I had with other meal planning ideas was too few categories to choose from. I wanted some serious variety in our meals. I also wanted broad categories so there was lots of flexibility and even overlap. We need lots of room for creativity.
I came up with the following themes and ran them past the others in our home and everyone was on board.
- Buddha bowls
- Meal salads
- Breakfast for dinner
- Junk night
- Slow cooker or Soup/Sandwiches
As we are always away for dinner on Sundays, this list gives us two weeks worth of meals at home.
I also alternate them – vegan and not vegan.
This has worked out really well and satisfies my need to look up and try new recipes, get creative doing our own thing, and I can look back through my meal planning book to see what I did in the past and can repeat (saving time in the future).
A couple of these themes may need an explanation:
1) Why do we have curry, Chinese, and Mexican listed, but then a broader International heading?
We eat curry, Chinese (or really stir-fries), and Mexican often and felt that having them regularly on our menu would be all right. The broader “International” reminds me to explore other dishes from around the world. So far, we’ve made dishes from Spain and Russia, and I have Greek on the menu for next time.
2) Uh, junk night?
Yep, make-your-own-pizza, burgers, nacho platters (yep, overlaps with Mexican!) These nights I often put the ingredients across the table and everyone makes their own whatever, with whatever toppings they want. It’s also not necessarily the healthiest night, but that’s the “flex” in “flexitarian.”
Another bonus to meal planning this way is I can see ahead if I planned three meals needing rice, I can make a lot of rice during prep of the first meal and just keep it on hand for the other two. This also works well for pasta and quinoa.
We’ve been having fun coming up with new meals to try. Having a category narrows the choices and makes meal planning faster.
Do you have meal planning tips? Any questions about how we do it, please ask in the comments.