Our Favorite Theme Nights to Make Meal Planning Easier

updated May 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

When I was younger, my mom made dinner almost every night of the week. She had a stable of favorites she’d cycle through and everyone ate dinner without too much fuss. But Fridays were always the night we looked forward to because Friday was “yoyo” night. On Friday, you’re on your own. Eat leftovers, use your collective bargaining rights as children — I am one of three — to convince dad to order pizza (the usual outcome), or make a grilled cheese sandwich. The theme of self-sufficiency at dinner was on the menu in my family, and it shows you just how abstract the concept of a themed dinner night can be.

Using a template for your weeknight dinners should help you make a plan and get you fed. So in that spirit, here’s a list of theme night dinners to consider for your meal planning, from the extremely practical pasta night to the fantastical movie-inspired meals. The list is by no means exhaustive — just a few good ideas to get you thinking. Let us know what we missed in the comments!

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

What to Cook: The Classics

These ideas are a mix of what to cook and how to cook. That’s why you’ll see everything from sandwiches to sheet pan meals.

  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Pasta night
  • Sandwich night
  • Soup night
  • Soup and sandwich night
  • Taco night
  • Eggs for dinner (frittata and omelet based)
  • Pizza night (homemade or otherwise)
  • Burger night (any and all types of burgers)
  • Grain bowl night
  • Fried rice night
  • Stir-fry night
  • Fish night
  • Casserole night
  • Sheet pan supper night
  • Slow cooker night
  • Risotto night (use up those veggies)
  • No-cook dinner night
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

What to Cook: Get Creative!

A lot of these ideas will still get you to a pretty standard meal, but it’s a fresh way to look at what to make.

  • Clear the crisper night
  • Rotisserie chicken with a homemade salad night
  • Movie-inspired meals (Lady and the Tramp meatballs, anyone?)
  • Kid’s — or really, anyone’s — choice (let a family member pick a night every once in a while)
  • Snack board night aka wine, cheese, and crackers for dinner