Happy Monday and first week of Fall! We have had a busy few weeks getting back into the school routine. I’ve realized how important it is to get back to meal planning to ensure healthy dinners are on the table! As I discussed in this back to school post, I like to have each night of the week assigned as a specific theme/food genre. It makes weekly meal planning much easier when I just have to insert a recipe into each weeknight theme. Whenever I fall off this plan, I feel that our meals are more thrown together and I usually have to run to the store a bunch of times that week because I didn’t plan ahead.
You might notice that I keep meals pretty basic around here. Over the years I’ve adjusted my expectations to what makes a dinner. They might not be as veggie centric or as creative as I’d eat for myself but I get less complaints and better eaters! I’ve learned that basic, healthy, fresh ingredients are the biggest priority of our family’s meals. I save my kale salads and quinoa bowls for lunches on my own.
We’ve adjusted our themes over time but these are our current themes on rotation.
Meatless Monday/Salad Monday
We like to start the week on a healthy note. We tend to eat less healthy on the weekends so Mondays are a chance to get back on track. Sometimes we have a meat free option on Mondays but more common we have salads. I have a hard time finding a meatless meal that everyone likes that’s not too veggie heavy.
Salads work for everyone in our house. I’ve mentioned I love meals that everyone can find some part of it that they like. To make it easy I throw chicken in the crockpot on Monday morning and then we have it ready for dinner that night. I always make more chicken so we can use for lunch salads throughout the week. I also add dinner rolls or garlic bread to the meal and everyone is happy.
Our favorite salads include:
Cobb Salad: Chicken/canned tuna, hard boiled eggs, cheese, bacon, olives and favorite veggies
Greek Salad: Chicken, olives, cucumber, tomatoes, red onions
Buffalo Chicken Salad: Chicken with hot sauce, blue cheese, veggies
Some of the kids eat chicken, some the hard boiled eggs, everyone the cheese, bread and veggies!
This is our favorite meal of the week! The kids complain if I miss this weeknight meal! It’s one of our busiest nights of the week so it’s an easy meal that I can throw together quickly.
Our favorite taco varieties include:
Hard shell/soft shell tacos: Chicken or turkey meat*, shredded cheese, lettuce, olives, avocado, tomato, salsa
Make your own nacho bar mentioned in this post
*I use this homemade taco seasoning from Real Food Enthusiast. Less sodium and additives than what you can buy at the store! Double the batch and store the leftovers in a small mason jar for next time.
Another favorite night is breakfast for dinner. No complaints here as everyone loves breakfast foods. We usually have pancakes or waffles on the weekend. So most weekday mornings are simple breakfast options like oatmeal, cereal and fruit. Therefore, by Wednesday everyone is happy for a big breakfast (for dinner) again!
Some ideas include*:
Homemade waffles and bacon
Omelets and whole wheat toast/English muffins
Cinnamon rolls, bacon and potatoes. Sometimes it’s cinnamon rolls from a can and once in a while I make these homemade rolls from Money Saving Mom.
Pancakes and sausage
Slow cooker oatmeal and fruit parfaits
*Fruit included with each meal
As we get later in the week, meals get even more simple! Our refrigerator starts to get less filled with fresh ingredients so boxed pasta is a perfect choice. Pair the pasta with garlic bread and a frozen veggie and we have an easy quick meal!
Some ideas include:
Penne pasta with pesto sauce
Lasagna (veggie or meat)
Zoodles (zucchini or sweet potato noodles) I can’t convince the kids to eat this option but I normally make for my husband and I in place of wheat pasta
Meatballs and noodles
The options for pasta Thursdays are endless! Many times when I don’t personally want pasta, I will make some salmon for me and my husband and let the kids eat the pasta. Win win for everyone!
Pizza Friday (aka Mom does not cook)
It is such a relief to know that I am not coming up with a meal on Friday. When our kids were younger my husband ALWAYS made pizza from scratch. As our weekends have gotten busier we rotate homemade with delivery. Sometimes we meet in the middle and buy premade dough and add the toppings. All our kids have loved to help make pizza throughout the years. It is really a special cooking time with dad for them!
Sometimes we make individual pizzas or bagel pizzas. Other times we pick up and take and bake and call it a night! I try to plan ahead when I’m grocery shopping and determine what type of pizza night it will be.
Dinner out Saturday
Often times we have plans to go out to dinner with or without the kids. So I don’t tend to plan anything for Saturdays. If we do happen to be home we throw something on the grill.
Sundays call for big hearty meals or something cooking in the slow cooker. If we are lucky enough, we have some leftovers for lunch during the week. Lately we’ve made chili or a soup.
This is a chance to try out a new recipe or make an old family favorite. There is usually more time on Sundays for prepping and cooking in the kitchen .
Our recent ideas include:
Chili and hot dogs as I mentioned in my recent post
Chicken noodle soup
BBQ shredded chicken or pork in crock pot
Pork roast, meatloaf, lasagna etc. The list is endless with comfort foods!
These themes are what has worked for us. There are so many ideas out there that you can find some that fit with your family. Sometimes we’ve had soup Wednesdays, other times we’ve grilled on Sundays. It really depends on the tastes of your family and what everyone likes to eat.
I can’t say enough how much meal planning keeps us organized! If I don’t have a plan for the week, I’m at the store every day and I feel lost when it is time for dinner. Another added benefit is that the family knows generally what to expect for dinner. Kids thrive on routines and established patterns. So there is comfort in knowing what to expect!
I’d love to hear from you! Do you meal plan or have theme nights? What are some of your favorite weeknight meals?