Use meal plan theme nights to smash decision fatigue (with FREE meal plan template!)

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Want some help with decision fatigue when it comes to your meal plan? Why don’t you try a monthly meal planning with theme nights, themed nights help so much with answering that dreaded what’s for dinner question, and it’s a great way to get the whole family excited about something!

image of free meal plan template with text themed nights meal plan template

What is the WORST part about menu planning?

If you are like most of my readers, then the answer is coming up with ideas for what to eat every single night of the week. Decision fatigue is a real and serious problem, particularly for tired parents (so much so that I have an entire podcast episode about it, read or listen to my thoughts on decision fatigue here!)

If you follow along regularly, then you also know that I suggest getting meal ideas by starting with your protein. This way you are able to prep a protein, and then create easy dinners around your chosen protein idea.

Starting with a protein definitely starts the process of eliminating decision fatigue, but what if that’s still not enough?

Monthly meal plan with theme nights

Enter fun theme nights for your family.

Themed family dinner nights are just one more way to put yet another limit on yourself, which simplifies the decision-making process.

This always seems a little backwards to me, but it totally works.

Taylor Swift actually talked about this on an interview about her latest album midnights. She said that she gave herself a writing prompt of “what keeps you up at night?” and midnights was born! Our best ideas often come when we’ve made the possiblities more manageable.

So think of your themed family dinner night as your creative writing prompt for your meal plan!

How to create fun dinner themes for your family meals

  1. First, get out your recipe box. If you want your family to be on board you’ll definitely want to include your family favorites in your themed dinners. From your recipe box, categorize your meals into different possible themes. You might have categories like busy nights, pasta night, favorite meals. You could also categorize the meals by the type of food and organize them into themes. Think of themes like breakfast for dinner, pizza night, mexican food, etc… Using your own list of your family favorites will help ensure that you actually want to eat the meals you plan which is HUGE for making a successful menu plan.
  2. After you’ve created a list of themes, narrow down your themes to 7. Remember, you can totally add in leftover night, take-out, or cereal for dinner as some of your theme ideas so you aren’t cooking all the time. After you’ve narrowed it down to seveen we are ready to make a meal plan. Remember that this is just a starting point. You don’t have to stick to the same theme for the entire year. You can change it up each month with different ideas for themes. Narrowing things down is actually a good way to enhance creativity so don’t be afraid to narrow things down. We’re just trying to get food to the dinner table, it doesn’t have to be perfect
  3. Make your monthly menu plan using your list of themed dinner nights. When you are done, you can make your grocery list and head to the store. One helpful idea for a simple way of grocery shopping after you’ve planned your whole month is to buy all of your shelf-stable items at once (things like canned foods and foods that go in the freezer). After that you can create mini grocery lists to use each week to get items that need to be purchased fresh from the grocery store.

Sample monthly meal plan with theme nights

I’ve created a sample monthly menu with different themes to give you some inspiration. I am also including a meal planning template with theme nights for you to add theme night dinners to your family dinners and help you get out of a meal planning rut. In order to get your very own copies of both the sample monthly meal plan and the meal planner template, just enter your email in the box below and it will come straight to you!



Sign up for email updates and get the template to use theme nights to eliminate dinnertime decision fatigue!

Large list of dinner theme night ideas

Let’s dig into some of the many categories you can use any day of the week:

  1. New recipes
  2. Meatless
  3. Taco
  4. Pizza Night
  5. Family Favorites
  6. Pasta Night
  7. Italian NIght
  8. Breakfast for dinner
  9. Mexican night
  10. Chinese night
  11. Slow cooker meals
  12. Sheet pan meals
  13. Copycat recipes
  14. Sandwiches
  15. Soup and salad

These are just few of the many fun ideas you can use for meal planning, but the sky is seriously the limit. One thing you can do to make this fun for little kids is come up with playful alliterations for the days of the week that you will have each theme. I also do this for activities in the summer and my kids just love it. They were always so excited for wet-n-wild wednesday when we’d have fun with water, or fun friday where we would do something fun and out of the ordinary.

You can do the same thing with your themes. Some classics are meatless monday or taco tuesday, but there’s lots of options here too. What about sheet pan saturday, or family favorite friday? If you are feeling stuck for ideas you can always go with the ideas that I used in my sample monthly theme night meal plan template to start out!

In the next section I want to share with you one more fun idea for fun with theme nights.

Extra fun with meal plan theme nights

Food really can be an experience. I truly believe it’s one of the greatest gifts we have been given to enjoy in this life. Sure, sometimes it’s stressful or our eating experience is truly just to satisfy our physical hunger, but it can also be such a great bonding experience.

What if as part of your theme nights you included full theme experiences. Now, this isn’t likely something you’d wnat to do every night, but maybe you could make it one of your days in your weekly themes. You could call it film friday and pair it with a family movie night where you food matches the movie, or around the world wednesday and you could enjoy foods from all over the world.

Family dinner is such a great bonding time with your child, and little extra touches here and there (not all the time) will make a world of difference. If you want to learn more about the “why” of family dinner, AND how to do it be sure to check out this post and podcast episode all about it (spoiler alert: family dinner can be a triggering topic, but this is not a shamey, you should be doing better blog post so don’t be afraid to check it out ;)))

Your turn to try

I hope this episode has inspired you to try planning your weekly meals with theme nights. This really is a beginner-friendly way to jump into meal planning.

I hope that as you jump in you are able to see how much of a difference having a simple plan helps with the mom overload that comes with dinnertime. The theme nights will help break through some monotony and get your kids excited about dinner (instead of whining about everything you make…)

To try on your own, go ahead and download the FREE monthly meal plan theme nights template below!



Sign up for email updates and get the template to use theme nights to eliminate dinnertime decision fatigue!

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  1. Just catching up on your blog and I love this idea and layout!! Pinterest worthy for sure 😉 I need to try this menu planning is so hard for me :/ thanks for the idea!

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