July 2, 2021  

Meal Planning For Beginners Using Themed Days

Planning meals for the week ahead is one of the best ways to ease the stress involved with getting dinner on the table for your family every day. Learn how to simplify meal planning with this beginner meal planning method that’s flexible and easy to implement.

Meal planning can be flexible with themed meal days.

Meal planning isn’t easy and there are so many different ways to do it. You may have tried and failed before, and that’s okay! Getting dinner on the table is a really stressful part of homemaking (but one of the 6 must-have homemaking routines), and I’m here today to give you one simple, flexible meal planning strategy that works well for beginners.

There are many different ways you can do meal planning, but this easy process of using themed days keeps things flexible and doesn’t require a ton of planning time. In fact, we follow this method in our house and are able to create a simple weekly meal plan in about 5 minutes!

By the way, I go more in-depth on all things meal planning inside my online course, HomeSanity. We cover several meal planning methods and lots of ideas and strategies for simplifying meal planning and feeding your family.

Looking for more meal planning ideas? Take a look at these blog posts:


title over strawberries in a brown bag

How To Create An Easy Meal Plan Using Themed Days

This themed days meal planning method is perfect for beginners because it involves little planning time while still giving you some structure to create an easy meal plan in a matter of minutes. I think this is the simplest way to meal plan which means it’s perfect for those new to meal planning.

The general idea of this beginner meal planning method is to assign each day of the week a theme, like Taco Tuesday or Pasta Thursday. This way you have a general meal plan template you can fill in each week as you create your meal plan. This helps you quickly come up with meal ideas and make decisions so you don’t spend a ton of time planning meals each week.

This is the way I recommend most people try meal planning. It’s a very sustainable way to meal plan and is easy to put on repeat so it’s not time-intensive. We do this every week in our house in a few minutes.

One quick note: We really only plan dinners and keep breakfasts and lunches pretty basic in our house (the less complicated, the better in my opinion!), but of course you could also plan additional meals during the day if you’d like.

Themed days meal planning is best for you if…

  • You’ve never consistently meal planned
  • You struggle to think of meal ideas
  • You feel like you’re always making the same type of meal and want more variety
  • You don’t want to devote time to planning meals every week

Here’s how it works:

1. Give each day of the week a theme

Assign each day of the week a different theme. This gives you a built-in meal plan for each day so you have a bit of structure and make sure you have a variety of meals planned in your week.

Themes can be anything you’d like so choose the types of meals your family enjoys the most. Also, look at your schedule when you are selecting the themes. Do you always have sports practice on Thursdays? Choose an easy theme for those busy days.

Here are the themes we use in our house right now:

  • Breakfast Sundays
  • Meat & Veggies Mondays
  • Taco Tuesdays
  • Rice Bowl Wednesdays
  • On The Grill Thursdays
  • Takeout Fridays
  • Family Favorites Saturdays

And here are a few other theme ideas:

  • Stir Fry
  • Pasta
  • Pizza
  • Ethnic Food
  • Meatless
  • Instant Pot
  • Crock Pot
  • Soup & Sandwiches
  • On The Grill
  • Mexican
  • Italian
  • Paninis
  • Salads
reusable bag of citrus on white background

2. Choose A Default Meal For Each Day

Once you’ve assigned each day of the week a theme, the next step is to decide on a default meal that fits into each theme.

The idea behind having a default meal for each day is to avoid stress and indecision. In case you don’t have time to create a unique meal plan for the week, you can just fall back on your defaults and you have a built-in meal plan ready to go with zero planning involved.

Make your default meals things that are crowd-pleasers in your house, the recipes you all enjoy, and the ones that you’ve made frequently so they won’t be stressful to prepare. It’s also helpful if your default meals use ingredients that you usually have on hand so if you don’t get grocery shopping you’d likely still be able to make these.

Here are the default meals we currently have on our family’s meal plan:

  • Breakfast Sundays (default meal: scrambled eggs & pancakes)
  • Meat & Veggies Mondays (default meal: honey mustard pork chops)
  • Taco Tuesdays (default meal: ground beef tacos)
  • Rice Bowl Wednesdays (default meal: chicken stir fry bowls)
  • On The Grill Thursdays (default meal: brats with fries/chips)
  • Takeout Fridays (default meal: order pizza)
  • Family Favorites Saturdays (default meal: spaghetti)
spices in wooden bowls and onion being chopped on a wooden cutting board

3. Create Your Weekly Meal Plan

Now that you’ve created your themed days meal plan, you have a plan in place you can rely on week after week. My advice is to get into the habit of planning your meals on a specific day each week. In our house, we typically plan our meals on Sundays.

Since you’re starting off with a theme already assigned to each day of the week, simply decide on a meal to make for each day. Start by taking a quick look around your kitchen and noting any foods that could be used in a meal this coming week, especially anything perishable like produce and meats. Let those foods spark meal ideas so you can use up what you already have as much as possible, and then fill in any gaps with other meals you’d like to try this week.

You can record your meals on a dry erase board, on a calendar on the fridge, on a sticky note, in your planner….wherever is easiest for you!

We have a small dry erase board in our kitchen where we write our meal plan for the week (and it also has space for our grocery list). We also have a little spot to jot down future meal ideas that we think of during the week, which is really helpful as we start planning meals.

After you create your meal plan for the week, then make note of any groceries you’ll need to pick up so you’ll be all set to conquer mealtime!

4. Swap in new themes

I love this method of meal planning because it’s so simple! I think a lot of methods are really over-complicated, but this is easy to repeat over and over again, and it helps speed up meal planning by giving you built-in ideas.

If you switch up your meals week to week, you’ll likely find yourself being content with the same themes for quite a while. But there are no rules against switching things up, either! So if you need a change, always feel free to swap in a new theme whether that’s a permanent swap or just for the week.

Perhaps you’ll want to change things seasonally, such as switching your soup and grilled cheese day out for a fresh salad night as the weather warms up. The beauty of this method is that it’s flexible and it’s totally up to you how you go about it!

To minimize the decisions you have to make at mealtime, try using this themed days meal planning method (it’s great for beginners!). This method requires little effort and is a great starting point if you struggle with meal planning. You can always try a different method later, but I always lean toward solutions that are simple (beware of super complicated meal planning systems!).

Looking for more meal planning ideas? Take a look at these blog posts:

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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