Easy Meal Planning with 4 Theme Weeks

If you’re getting into a rut with your go-to recipes for weekly meal plans, here are 4 ways to spice things up. Each is a unique challenge to push your creativity and resourcefulness, save money, or engage your family in nightly meal prep.

PANTRY SWEEP

Take a look through your pantry and identify items you’ve had for a while, forgotten about, or purchased on a whim. Build your meal plan for the week around those items.

What’s inside your pantry?
  • Monday – Make an easy Pesto Chicken Melt using canned chicken. This one is dairy-free, but yours doesn’t have to be. If you have canned fish, go for a tuna or salmon melt instead.
  • Tuesday – Do you have any open bags of rice? Fast Veggie Fried Rice is always a family favorite.
  • Wednesday – On hump-day, we use a can of black beans and make Chipotle Black Bean Burgers for the win.
  • Thursday – Use rice noodles to give Chinese-inspired Dan Dan Noodles a try; you can easily substitute with a box of spaghetti.
  • Friday – Pull out that container of rolled oats to bake a batch of Coconut Banana Breakfast Cookies to last all weekend.
  • Sweet – We always have a can of pumpkin leftover from last fall, when we were feeling all sorts of pumpkin spice and everything nice. We use it to make a lovely Paleo Pumpkin Bread!
Coconut Banana Breakfast Cookies

KIDS CAN COOK

Invite your children to join you at the meal planning table (or wherever you sit to work on your meal plan). Ask younger children to tell you some of their favorite foods and then show them pictures of meals you can prepare that include those foods. Let them pick the night/order of meals for thew eek. Older kids and teens can help by searching online or looking through a cookbook at home. Be flexible and look for fun compromises.

Sugar Free Flourless Chocolate Brownies
  • Monday: Oh my goodness, do our boys love tacos! We’ve made tacos with leftover salmon, vegan tacos with spicy jackfruit, and these Beer-Braised Chicken Tacos. Whip up a batch of Easy Guacamole and steaming Ricolicious, and our family is in heaven.
  • Tuesday: Spaghetti with meatballs is a classic; how about reinventing it with Paleo Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti (Squash)? For the boys, we boiled up regular noodles; for the adults, we roasted a spaghetti squash.
  • Wednesday: Our older’s son favorite fish is salmon, and our younger son’s favorite veggies are snap peas. Thus, Salmon Hash with Tarragon Snap Peas became an instant family favorite.
  • Thursday: Our boys love any flavorful chicken dish with Japanese rice; Ginger Chicken is just one example of an easy win (with roasted veggies for the extra point).
  • Brunch: How many weekends do you hear, “Can we have pancakes, please?” Give a big “yes!” with Peanut Butter Oven Pancakes (and let them sprinkle on the chocolate chips, just for fun.)

Your kids may surprise you – our teen discovered a love for making curries and mug cakes, and our 9-year-old invented S’mores Pizza. We learned that when they felt engaged and empowered to inform the family meal plan, both of our sons ate their dinners, veggies and all, with gusto.

S’mores Pizza

Vegan Adventure

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? If you typically eat a lot of meat, start small and easy with this challenge. You can prepare plant-based versions of many of your family’s favorite meals.

Chipotle Jackfruit Vegan Tacos with Purple Slaw
Vegan Mac n Peas

Forgotten Freezer

Unlock your treasure chest of frozen veggies, fruits, and meat! There is nothing as cathartic as seeing an over-stuffed freezer empty out, and knowing that you’ve been able to make use of all the cold contents.

Chicken Salad with Creamy Miso Dressing and Roasted Sweet Potato with Tahini Butter
  • Monday: We always keep a bag of peas in our freezer; they make a really easy veggie side for our boys, and they’re also great add-in’s to a variety of recipes. In this Vegan Shepard’s Pie, one cup of frozen peas adds a light naturally sweet note.
  • Tuesday: Whenever chicken breasts are on sale, we buy extra and freeze them. That makes it easy for us to pull a few out to prepare a healthy and delicious Creamy Miso Chicken Salad (or any number of other yummy chicken dishes!)
  • Wednesday: Throw together an easy one-pan meal, Sausages with Potato and Red Cabbage with your favorite variety of frozen sausage.
  • Thursday: Use up those frozen fillets of tilapia that you bought on sale with Curry Baked White Fish.
  • Side: A forgotten bag of frozen corn can be transformed into bright and sweet Confetti Corn.
  • Sweet: Frozen cherries are much less expensive than fresh, and still work wonderfully in a dessert such as Cherry-Almond Clafoutis.
Cherry-Almond Clafoutis with frozen cherries

Hopefully this article leaves you with a ton of great ideas for meal planning. The possibilities are endless!

 

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