7 great meal planning themes
There are a number of ways you can approach meal planning, but one of the easiest is to base the week's meal plan around different themes. Having a theme for each meal not only inspires you with what to cook, but also helps you to build an exciting and varied menu for the week. Here are some great themes:
Go vegetarian for one night a week and you will not only save money, but you can also be more green. Meat-free Mondays is the latest environmental and health trend to spread around the world; its intention is to combat the enormous toll meat production takes on the surrounding agriculture. Just go meat-free one night a week (on Mondays if you want to take part in the movement) and eat vegetarian. Meals that are full of tummy-filling beans, vegetables and grains and are infused with flavour will mean your family won't miss their serving of meat.
The Italians really have mastered family cooking, so make sure you plan an Italian night at least one night a week and indulge in all the delicious fresh flavours the cuisine offers and the whole family loves. Think meatballs, lasagne, homemade pasta, fresh salads, garlic bread and rustic peasant casseroles.
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Children enjoy the flavours of Mexico, but there are oodles of great recipes beyond the humble taco - not that there's anything we don't love about tacos! From burritos and tostadas to fajitas and tortilla stacks, the list goes on. Serve Mexican dishes with salsa, fresh salads and tasty homemade guacamole.
Soup and sandwiches
Soup night is a great theme for busy nights or when where you're too tired to cook. You can either make a big pot of soup on the weekend and then enjoy it as a midweek dinner or pop the ingredients into a crock pot in the morning to cook all day, and then serve a hearty soup by dinner time.
For an even simpler dinner theme, get some fresh bread rolls, flatbread or a crusty sourdough loaf and have a free-for-all sandwich night. Put some condiments on the table as well as any leftover roast meat or salad you have in the fridge.
Slow cooker or crockpot night
Don't even think about putting that crockpot away when winter has finished! It's a great friend in the kitchen in summer as well and won't heat up the house like an oven. Plan one slow cooker meal a week, like this roast chicken that you can pull apart and use in a variety of meals like tacos, sandwiches, salads, fried rice and more.
Pizza is another great meal theme that the kids will love! You can even make your own pizza bases on the weekend using this recipe and then freeze them for a great midweek meal that can be teamed with salad. Homemade pizza is easy on the wallet and tastes amazing fresh from the oven. You can also use up any leftover bits and pieces from the fridge. Don't have time to make pizza dough? Try split English muffins, or Turkish bread pizza instead.
Just as popular as pizza night is hamburger night. Lamb burgers, chicken burgers and plain old mince patty burgers can be sandwiched with fresh and crispy salad vegetables and tasty condiments. Use wholegrain rolls for a healthier option and high quality minced beef for less fat. Add some great herbs and spices to the burger patties to add flavour and serve with oven baked chips.