One of the tricks that has got me through meal planners block, is theme nights.
I don’t mean elaborate themes, I just mean creating a template for yourself that will make meal planning, in all aspects, a little less stressful.
What is a theme?
A theme is whatever idea you want it to be. Some of the examples I have used are:
Countries of the world
Jewish dishes from around the world
I love Africa
Cooking shows I love
Success and failure
Some were harder to follow than others. For example, the dinner from Russia was a total disaster! Vareniki- I don’t know what I did wrong, but they were totally inedible.
Others, like my cashew nut chicken, are such a hit that they now appear on my meal plan once a month.
The homemade pasta that I learned to make from watching MasterChef and Gordon Ramsay were another rebounding success.
How to decide
Using current trends to create themes is another easy method. Meat free Monday, Banting and LCHF (low carbohydrate, high fat) recipes are another method. You don’t have to follow the diets themselves, just some of recipes that your family might enjoy.
A basic template can actually be used when changing lifestyle eating habits to control your food choices.
Creating a template for your plans can sometimes be difficult and other times quick and easy. However, once created, the actual meal planning time is cut almost in half. Monthly Menu Planner and Shopping List
Decide what night you will be eating which type of meal. Here is a basic example of a template.
Monday- Meat Free
Tuesday- Mince (any kind)
Thursday – Chicken
Friday – Red Meat
Saturday – eat out
Sunday – pizza
Weekly menu planner and shopping list
Love it or hate it
Whether you love cooking or hate it, whether you are a contender for MasterChef, or you can barely boil water, what a template allows you to do is cook within your preference.
I am one of those people who love cooking. I am also a pretty good cook and love to try new recipes. Thankfully I have a family who like to eat and aren’t too fussy about their food choices.
I use meat free Mondays to make mac and cheese, tuna or vegetable lasagne’s and often to experiment with vegan recipes.
For mince night, I have a standard set of about 10 recipes, some more involved than others, which range from Chilli Con Carne to Sloppy Joes, Taco’s, Bolognaise, Cottage Pie, Shepard’s Pie, Mince Pie, Meatballs, Meatloaf and a few others.
For fish night, I have a few standards that I dare not alter too much. Haddock and Spaghetti, Hake and Basil Pesto, Grilled Fish and Chips, Crumbed Fish Cakes and Crumbed Fillets. There are a few more but I don’t make them often as they are either too expensive or the majority of my family don’t eat it.
Chicken night is another favourite meal and I can use this to try out new recipes.
Red meat night could mean stews or roasts and is another time where I can play with recipes.
As you can see my family are definite carnivores. Saturday and Sunday nights, we eat whatever is going. In a house full of teenagers this means they are mostly all out on Saturday night and we pretty much scrounge in the fridge for left overs or we have eggs or I will make pizza for supper. Sometime it is simply soup and toast.
Find freedom from the stove
Your template does not restrict you, it actually allows you to play around. You don’t need to follow a recipe either. If you know that tonight is mince night, you can take your meat out the freezer, come home and make whatever you want.
Another advantage is, if you have a whole lot of recipes you like, you can plot them for a month or more into your chosen nights.
Why not give it a try and see how easy meal planning can be?