Family dinner theme nights for simplified meal planning
Meal planning is hands down one of the best things that you can do to reduce your monthly budget. When you plan your meals, you are more likely to eat at home and less likely to spend money on unhealthy drive-thru options. Meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult either! Creating family dinner theme nights can help you quickly decide on a weekly or monthly meal plan. Let me show you how!
The grocery budget was a sore area in my own life for a long time. Once I started making “real” money and my husband was as well, we just lived high on the hog. We ate well every. single. night. I ended up spending a lot of time in the kitchen, which I enjoyed, but spent over $900 PER MONTH on groceries just for the two of us, which I did not enjoy. This is not even counting the $500 a month or so we spent going out to eat.
I am pretty convinced that I am not the only one with a big food budget. Matter of fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (fancy name for the government agency that collects all sorts of boring data) reports that the typical US home spends $4049 a year in groceries and another $3154 a year in dinning out. With the average US household being 3.14 people, that means they are spending $337 on groceries and another $262/ month in dining out. Wowzers, right!!!
The big problem with keeping meals on a budget
Well, there are a few issues with staying on budget in the food department. For one, a lot of families think they don’t have time to create a meal plan. For some reason, we all have this idea that meal planning and making a grocery list takes hours a week to do. And that may be true if you have absolutely no idea what foods your family likes. I have a feeling that you can think of 5 meals that your whole family really digs. (Go ahead and get this printable and write those meals down…like right now).
Another issue is that we are BUSY, like seriously. Our lives are filled with pick-ups, drop-offs, sports, work, and time for little else. Fast food creates a really easy way to manage all of the tasks of the day as it can be eaten on the go. But, we suffer the consequences for sure. It is expensive and full of unnatural ingredients and waaaayyyyy too much fat.
So we need to create a meal plan that works around all of that stuff. Family dinner theme nights does just that!
Related article: How to cut your grocery budget in HALF!
Dinner theme suggestions
Ethnic night- This is one of my favorite family dinner theme nights. Mexican food, Indian food, British Isles food, Italian food….this can be so diverse. If you want, you can even break it down to having 1 Mexican food night (instead of just ethnic night) per week.
- Taco salad
- Freezer burritos for on-the-go (these can be made ahead of time in bulk and frozen
- Slow cooker enchiladas
- Meatballs and spaghetti
- Shepard’s Pie
Sandwich night- This night is all about, you guessed it, sandwiches! Sandwiches are super easy, totable just in case you have to be in the car or at a game during dinner, and really cheap.
- Lunch meat sandwiches with loads of toppings
- Pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches
- Sloppy Joes
Salad night- There are so many variations of salads that it is really kinda hard to get tired of all salads. Salads can be super thrifty and really filling if you put the right toppings on them. You can prep the toppings the night before and let everyone make their own salad which makes them even easier than they already are.
- Egg salad or tuna salad eaten on greens or crackers
- Build your own pasta salad
- Green salad with cooked chicken
Leftover night- Did I say ethnic night was my favorite theme day for dinner? Well, that may have been a small fib. Leftover night is hands down the best.night.EVER!!! Minimal cleanup, cleaning out the refrigerator, super quick, what is not love about leftovers? I will pair foods in different ways to make it a bit interesting, but that is still easy!
From the pantry night- I am a huge fan of looking in the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what needs to be used up. Take inventory of your items and make a meal. It is time to really flex that creative muscle here! If you are stumped on what to cook with your ingredients, try using allrecipes.com or supercook.com to punch in your ingredients and find a meal based off of that!
Vegetarian night- I use to be a vegetarian but gave it up when it became too difficult to deal with my meat and potatoes hubby and my meatless meals. So any chance that I get to eat full on veggie, I am pretty happy! These are really cost effective meals generally and can be very hearty. Don’t forget about the meal planning printable you can get right now by signing up to my email list. It has a space just for your favorite vegetarian meals. Here are a few that I love.
- Bhindi masala
- Eggplant parmesan
- Winter squash pasta
- French onion soup (I am lactose intolerant so we eat this without cheese)
- Portabello burgers
Snack plate night- This is another super easy and very portable meal that my whole family enjoys. Pick a protein, a fruit, a veggie, and a starch (if desired) and you have yourself a meal! So many variations! I like to do this on family movie night so that we have super easy finger foods to enjoy on the couch.
- Lunch meat, berries, carrots and dip, cheese crackers
- Nuts, bell peppers, cheese slices, melon, graham crackers
- Cheese and fruit kabobs with a side of broccoli and dip
Pizza night- We generally get the DIY pizza crusts and the toppings that we each want and make our own pizzas. This is a lot cheaper than even frozen pizza and pretty fun especially if you have little ones!
Breakfast for dinner night- Did you know that I consider myself southern? Because of that, I have a strong love for bacon, grits, and biscuits!!!! I also really love to make extra waffles or pancakes and then freeze them for later instead of buying prepackaged stuff. It makes breakfast during the week much quicker!
- Grits, eggs, sausage, biscuits
- Waffles and bacon
- Quiche with various veggies
- Southwest potatoes with fried eggs and salsa
- Frittata with tomatoes and green onions
Slow cooker night- So, I am one of those people. You know, the kind that doesn’t just LOVE the crock pot. I am super picky about what I put in the crock pot and actually eat. I have just a few things that I use it for and do love and it does make life easier for sure. Here are some of the ones that I cook pretty frequently.
- Slow cooker BBQ pork (for sandwiches, in sweet potatoes, or just plain)
- Slow cooker Cuban pork
- Shredded BBQ chicken (same as pork)
- Chicken noodle soup
Grill out night- Grilling can take a bit of prep work, but the clean up is generally pretty simple. In my house, when we fire up the grill, we go ahead and grill enough for a few days. We may cook burgers, high quality sausages and BBQ chicken all at once so that we have leftovers for days that everyone loves!
- Veggie kabobs
- Grilled corn on the cob
- BBQ meat of any kind
Fend for yourself night- This one makes me laugh. Sometimes I don’t want to be the conductor. Do you ever feel like that? So with this night, I get to dismiss my family to eat whatever they want to eat and I won’t feel bad about it. A bowl of cereal (a very special treat in our home), leftovers, a bowl of popcorn and veggies…anything goes! I use this one very rarely because I don’t want Little Mister to get too use to it, but it is always fun for him when I tell him he can eat whatever (as long as it isn’t a ton of sweets)
I am sure you get the drift here, right? Creating a meal plan is so much easier when you have family dinner theme nights! And, when you make a meal plan with meals that are not expensive and stick to the plan, you can absolutely decrease your eating expenses.
So, what do you think?Are you ready to make theme nights your “thing”?