Meal Theme Nights to Break You Out of Your Dinner Rut

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I have been using Plan to Eat for over a year now to help streamline my meal planning process. And while I love using the Meal Planning App, there has been the occasional bump in the road, usually in the form of the dreaded “Dinner Rut”.

My recipe database has grown significantly in Plan to Eat, and combined with the sheer amount of recipes available between online magazines, cooking websites, and Pinterest coming up with dinner ideas can be simply overwhelming. There are SO MANY recipes available, that without some sort of structure you can spend a ridiculous amount of time aimlessly browsing and scrolling.

Figuring out what is for dinner doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, there can be simple and efficient meal planning, and for me all it took was narrowing down meal ideas into categories and assigning those types of meals to a specific day of the week.

The idea is simple: Assign a food theme to each night of the week. After a month’s time, keep with the same themes or change it up with new or seasonal themes for the next month. Even though you’re eating the same “types” of dishes, you’ll be surprised at how varied your meals can be.

Sound familiar? This idea is hardly new, there was a time when it was typical of families to have a certain meal each day of the week, I want to say 1950’s but I can’t find anything to confirm that. Same idea, but we are going to expand on it! Instead of religiously cooking the same recipe for meatloaf on Monday, and fish on Friday, you will use general terms to help streamline the meal planning process.

When faced with a sea of endless meal options, this has helped me tremendously. A week of theme night dinners for my family might look like:

Monday: Sheet Pan Dinner Night
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Night
Thursday: Ground Beef Night
Friday: Fish Night
Saturday: Asian Night
Sunday: Roast Night

Using theme nights will give your meal planning structure, but it is completely up to you how varied your meals can be! I have put together a list of family meals that creatively implement traditional theme nights! These are no ordinary links to recipes, these are the most popular dinner ideas on Pinterest right now. Use the list below as inspiration, or put together an entire meal plan for a month.

One last thought before we move on to the huge list of family dinner ideas, try really hard to NOT sweat the small stuff! Consider theme nights as a “guideline” not a rule, and one you can ignore at will. Craving tacos on Monday and have all the ingredients of hand? Go for it! I’ve never had the meal planning police knock at my door for observing Taco Tuesday on another day of the week 🙂 Have fun with it, meal planning is supposed to make your life easier, not cause stress. Really the only time I strictly follow my meal plan is when fresh perishable food is involved, like seafood.

Happy Meal Planning!

If you are new to meal planning, or just need a little extra help organizing yourself, I have created a super simple set of meal planning printables to help you out.


Big List of Family Meal Themes to Break Your Dinner Rut

Pasta Night

Breakfast for Dinner

Soup Night

Salad Night

Chicken Dinner Night

Pork Night

Steak Night


Sheet Pan Dinner Night

Taco Tuesday

Slow Cooker Night

Pressure Cooker Night

Stir Fry Night

Homemade Pizza Night

Casserole Night

Burger Night

Ground Beef Night

Meatball Night

International Cuisines:


Mexican Night

Asian Night

Italian Night

Indian Night

Take out fake out Night

Rotisserie Chicken Night

Foil Packet Night

Make your Own… Night


From the Freezer Night (freezer meals that have been prepared in advance) 

Skillet Meal Night

Meatless Monday

Grill Night


  • Take a night off and advantage of any leftovers you have floating around in the fridge. I often plan leftovers into my meal plan by scaling up recipes.  Pasta, casseroles, soups and slow cooker meals tend to make for excellent leftovers.

Kids Choice

  • This started as a sanity-saving strategy.  I was sick of hearing “I don’t like that” so I gave my kids the option to pick a homemade dinner occasionally. A lot of the time their choices surprise me. We have basic rules, and usually, their choices are reasonable, but sometimes they need a little gentle direction. Ground rules: The meal has to include a protein, side, vegetables, and a fruit. Dorito Taco casserole is a popular dinner request for kids night in my house!


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