Meal Planning 101


family meal

Meal Planning and prepping is probably the number one thing you can do to make meal time go smoother during the busy week.

There are lots of ways to do it and with Pinterest you can have endless possibilities to suit your food preferences!! I actually thought I was an expert at meal planning but the thing is, our needs as a family are changing and therefore our meal planning needed some work too. I found that we were wasting a lot of food and I was often still feeling stressed come dinner time. So after chatting with a few other moms, it seems like one of the fastest most efficient ways to meal plan for the week is to have nightly themes for each day of the week. I wanted to try it out and see for myself! Would it improve the dinner time stress? Save on food costs? And cut down on waste?

So I sat down and got to work. First I had to decide on the nightly themes!! This part seemed fun! I tried not to get too bogged down in specifics but allowed some flexibility each night. For example, even though it’s called “Taco Tuesday” we might eat any Mexican inspired dish that night! Also be flexible if the night doesn’t go as planned and have some recipes for those super busy nights!

Meatless Monday

Any vegetarian dish goes! After being vegetarian for 8 years – there are quite a few meatless meals I love to make. It might seem scary at first but most families are already eating meatless at least once a week. It’s good for you, good for the environment and gives you a chance to try new things! I highly recommend learning the Dry Fry method for cooking tofu or checking out some bean bowls. I love to roast veggies and then pile into a bowl with quinoa, your bean of choice, some spinach and then a scoop of hummus!meatless meals

Taco Tuesday

Who doesn’t love tacos? There are so many options for tacos! But in reality we probably won’t eat tacos every week, but really anything Mexican goes!! This is one of my favorite nights because it’s usually quick and easy and everyone can make it the way they like! Try tacos, Tostadas, Taco Soup, Enchiladas, Quinoa Taco Bake, or Taco Salad.

Soup Wednesday

This is perfect as we head into Fall! Nothing beats a warm bowl of soup on a chilly night. (I imagine it will become Salad Wednesday as we head into warmer months again)! Minestrone, corn chowder, chili, butternut bisque, white bean and spinach soup, Tomato Soup,Chicken Noodle Soup Serve with bread, crackers or a favorite here is Sweet Potato Biscuits!

Cultural Thursdayimage

Okay, Thursday was hard to name! I didn’t want to say “Italian” only because we also like Curry dishes and Mediterranean inspired dishes. But you could certainly stick to Italian. This night will be for Zoodles and Sauce, Whole wheat pasta,baked ziti, any italian inspired dishes, Curry or other favorite worldly flavors and recipes.

Take Out (at Home) Friday

(Or take out from a restaurant if that’s your thing!) This can be homemade versions of typical take out foods. Again, I didn’t want to limit use to just a “Pizza night” because we don’t usually have pizza every week. That said, MJ is asking for it more and more and it always goes over well with my husband, so I figured it needed a spot in the rotation. We try to make it as healthy as possible and have found some great alternatives! Another option on this night might be other take out inspired foods. We love chinese flavors but rarely order it out anymore. Between the cost and the impact on our waistline, it just isn’t a great option. However there are LOTS of easy and healthy ways to make your favorite take out meals at home! Here are a few ideas! Chinese, Sandwiches, Homemade Pizza, English Muffin pizzas, Quinoa Crust pizza, Pizza bites, Tortilla Pizzas, etc.

Super Easy Saturday

I don’t know about you, but for us, Saturdays usually mean running around to visit family or go to local events. Often it’s a fun day with hikes or outings of one kind or another. By dinner time, I just want something easy!! You could use up any leftovers, like making Tuna Melts or salads. Make it fun and do it Salad Bar Style where everyone gets to design their own salad. Another favorite at our house is a Ceasar salad with either chicken or chickpeas or a big greek salad. So Saturdays are all about salads, sandwiches, breakfast for dinner or leftovers! I have a friend that has one night a week she calls You’re On Your Own! And people can do whatever they like for dinner! Or you could try one of these One Pot Meals!

Slow Cooker Sunday

Sundays are a time for cleaning and prep foCrockpotBalsamicBeefr the week. So having something going in the crockpot frees me up to do the other cooking for the week. We often make a batch of muffins for MJ’s morning snack and cook up grains for the week. It’s a good time to portion out snacks and lunches if you’re on the go for lunch. There are endless options in the slow cooker but I like to make something that’s going to give us leftovers for the week. A pork loin, roast, chicken dish or big pot of chili are great picks!!

Finally, most families I talk to want to only prepare one meal. This is what we strive for at our house too. We are going to offer raw veggies, a fruit option or side salad for picky eaters.  Then BE OKAY if the kiddos only eat that! I’ve accepted that MJ’s nutrition is more about the week and month, instead of the day to day meals. As long as he’s happy and healthy, I’m choosing to let go of some of the meal time pressure. I want to keep this as organized as possible, so I’m creating a Pinterest board to pin ideas for each theme night and then I’m using a binder to put frequently used recipes in. And that’s it! It seems to be helping and I was excited to sit down this week and plug in our meals for each night!!

What does meal planning look like in your house?

Previous articleIntrovert Mama Begs To Be Alone
Next articleShopVT 2015 is Here!
Ashley DiMercurio
Ashley was born and raised in Vermont and now lives in Colchester with her two children and husband. After getting married, she spent four years living outside DC to gain work and life experience, as well as perspective and a renewed love for her home state of Vermont. She is highly caffeinated and runs her own online reading tutoring business Your Reading Tutor and teaches ESOL online to students in China. She recently made the decision to homeschool and is loving the opportunity for a flexible learning environment for her kids. Her favorite things to do include making fairy houses with her kids, drinking coffee with her husband, and networking with other moms and entrepreneurs.


  1. Great ideas! Love the themes. My roommate and I used to do this back in the day (a fave was “Tuesdays in Tuscany”)… not sure why it never occurred to me to add theme nights with my family!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here