I have to accept the fact that there are many people, (several close friends of mine even), that are not going to embrace my monthly meal planning no matter how much I promise that it is easy and will bring you greater inner peace, enable you to eat healthier, and spend less time and money on grocery shopping. But, alas, I give in to the resistance and will scale back the monthly menu approach to something I’ve actually been doing lately which is a weekly meal plan. A lot of people plan meals by the week and that’s all fine and dandy but what if you labeled your days with themes? Sounds dorky? Of course it is. It’s just the kind of dorky thing that I love because it makes something mundane fun and efficient. If you don’t see the fun in it stick with me for the efficient part. See, if you have themes for your weekly meals, filling that 7 day meal planning chart goes so fast that it will start to make you think that you could move on to monthly planning and experience that inner meal-planning peace and spending less time shopping and all that jazz.
We’ve been floating these themes around in our house:
1. Soup or Chili Day
2. Separate Day: Meat, veggie, rice or leftover pasta side
3. Pizza day! There are so many possibilities for pizza dinner: Bar-b-q chicken with zucchini, apple and pork tenderloin pieces with blue cheese, roasted veggies, hamburger pizza, pesto with caramelized onions and mushrooms and feta or the plain standbys. With homemade whole wheat pizza dough it really is a healthful meal. Check here for some fun and interesting pizza topping ideas.
4. Taco Tuesday, (includes anything Mexican: enchiladas, burritos, etc.)
5. Left over day, (sometimes 2 days.)
6. Pantry Meal day. You can’t plan this meal. The objective
is to use what you have and not let perishable items go to waste. I look in the fridge and throw something together or search online for new recipes using ingredient search engines. (See www.supercook.com and other recipe sites that have ingredient search tools like allrecipes.com.) I love discovering new favorites this way.
7. Pasta day, (at hubbie’s request.)
If you have a general outline such as this for your 7 days and designate one of these themes for each day of the week, deciding what to have for dinner each day goes very fast. For instance, I start with a chart that looks like the one below, (Yes, I start mine on Mondays.) Every Monday we have soup or stew and every Tues. we have Taco Tuesday and every Friday we have Pizza day. The other pantry and leftover days can be swapped around:
Monday / Soup/Chili Day: Crockpot Vietnamese Pho Soup with Veggie wonton wraps
Taco Tuesday!: Chicken Enchiladas
Wednesday / Separates: Marinated Flank Steak with barley risotto and salad
Thursday / Leftover Day: LEFTOVERS
Friday /Pizza Day: BBQ Chicken Pizza
Saturday / Pasta Day: Eggplant Parmesan
Sunday / Pantry Meal: ????
Other themed meal planning ideas:
Rotating Meats: If you dedicate every Monday, for example, to chicken, Tuesday to vegetarian, Wednesday to pork and Saturday to red meat, you can fill out a weekly menu faster than you can say “well rounded diet.”
Rotating Cuisines: Mondays could be Italian, Tuesdays Asian, Wednesdays Mexican, Fridays new discovery cuisine (try a traditional German or Polish meal for instance).
Movie night theme: If you have a weekly movie night you could pair up a themed meal to go with your movie. I’m not sure that this would make meal planning more efficient but it sure would be fun. You could cheat and do what we did one night which was to order Chinese take-out when we were going to watch Kung Fu Panda.
Saintly Meals: Go to www.AmericanCathlic.org and jot down the Saint of the day for each day of the week and the country they are from. Choose meals that match the saint of the day’s heritage for at least 5 days of the week, (use the other for leftovers, eating out or a pantry meal). See my monthly plan using this theme here. Be sure to read about the saint of the day as you are eating the meal in his or her honor. A kid’s version of Saint of the day can be found here.