How to make a meal planning rubric
Published January 11, 2023
Themed meals, such as Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday, can make meal planning easier. Here's how to make your own meal planning rubric.
Let's start with the hard truth. Delicious, wholesome meals don’t happen by accident.
There, I said it.
When you wait till the last minute to decide what to eat for dinner, the natural tendency is to reach for something quick and easy — processed foods and takeout. There’s a time and a place for takeout, but preparing meals at home is a much healthier (and cheaper) option. So if your New Year Resolutions involve healthier eating or even just more intentionality in your choices, then using a meal planning rubric will be the perfect hack to achieve your goals.
What is a meal planning rubric?
Have you ever heard of "Meatless Monday" or "Taco Tuesday"? Well, we kept asking ourselves, "what are the food days of the week?"
Our answer is the meal planning rubric.
A meal planning rubric is simply a way of assigning a theme or category to each night of the week. Its purpose is to simplify meal planning by taking away some of the decision fatigue. Examples include, Taco Tuesday, Leftover Thursday, and Burger and Friday (more examples below).
The best part is that the rubric you create can be unique to your family needs. Do you have soccer practice on Wednesday evenings? You can bring a picnic dinner or plan to eat take out every week. This could look like picnic or charcuterie Wednesdays or takeout Wednesdays.
How do you make a meal planning rubric?
The best way to make a meal planning rubric is to start with meals you and your family love and make often. If you're new to meal planning or still trying to find your way, we recommend reading our article on how to start meal planning in the new year. In that article we talk about the building blocks of meal planning. One of the building blocks is to make a list of your family's favorite recipes. We also have a list of our favorite family-friendly recipes if you want a cheat-sheet.
Once you have a list of your family's favorite meals, you’ll want to see what general themes stick out to you. Does your family like soup? Mexican food? Do you like to make double batches of recipes and have leftovers? Once themes emerge, apply them to certain days of the week. Remember to take into account your family’s schedule and rhythms and make it work for you!
If you still have days of the week without a theme, consider what types of meals you’d like to incorporate into your family rhythms. Do you want to have family pizza night and make pizza together? Do you want to try new recipes, or is there a certain cuisine you’d like to learn how to cook. Add those themes to your rubric!
How to make a meal planning rubric with Meal Planner App
If you didn't know, Meal Planner App is a family company, and our goal is to make meal planning less stressful and less time-consuming, so that families can spend more time together.
Our online meal planner is the best way to keep track of your meals and schedule them on the calendar. We've built in some helpful features that enable you to sustainably use a meal planning rubric. One such feature is the ability to categorize meals and recipes using tags. Simply put, a tag is any word or phrase you would like to use to categorize a meal. You can assign as many tags to a meal as you'd like, and you can assign as many meals to a tag as you'd like.
For instance, we often tag some of our Thai recipes as "Thai Food" and "Thai Thursdays". Then when it's time to plan meals, we simply filter our meals by "Thai Thursday" to find recipes that fit that day's theme.
We hope these tips help you get started on your family’s meal planning rubric. If you want to go further, here are some ideas from our family.
Our family's meal planning rubric
Here's how our family puts the meal planning rubric into action.
- Sunday: Cozy and hearty. I often make chicken pot pie or a hearty stew.
- Monday: Pasta Mondays. I usually make our kid’s favorite Creamy Tuscan Chicken, but sometimes we do a simple marinara with sausage and veggie pasta.
- Tuesday: Taco Tuesdays. Simple beef tacos are so easy, but we also alternate taco soup, enchiladas or instant pot refried bean burritos.
- Wednesday: Soup day. Especially during Winter, nothing beats a warm, comforting soup recipe. Here's our list of cozy soup recipes for your viewing pleasure.
- Thursday: Thai Thursdays. We have Thai heritage so we love Thai food. I often make Pad Thai or Curry.
- Friday: Homemade Pizza Fridays.
- Saturday: New Recipe Saturday — if ever I want to try a new recipe, I’ll try it on the weekend so I’m not making a new or complicated meal on a weeknight.
Rinse and repeat!
More meal planning rubric examples
We're just going to take some creative liberties here and spitball some ideas for your meal planning rubric. Use these ideas for your meal planning rubric, modify them as needed, or use them to get your creative juices flowing. Enjoy!
- Sunday Funday: Make something that's unusual or fun! Make a pizza with a smiley face made out of pepperoni, make pasta with some crazy shapes, or just go out and do something fun!
- Saucy Sunday: Literally anything involving some kind of sauce.
- Simple Sunday: Some people say "fend for yourself" or "you're on your own". If the family is old enough, have them look through the fridge or pantry to find something they can make themselves.
- Meatless Monday: Whether or not you're a vegetarian or a vegan, picking a day of the week to go meatless has lots of benefits, including spending less on meat!
- Macho Monday: Sort of the opposite of Meatless Monday. Make BBQ ribs or a big steak and potatoes!
- Mermaid Monday: Make something with fish!
- Macaroni Monday: Mac and cheese anyone?
- Taco Tuesday: This doesn't have to be traditional beef tacos. We love to change it up.
- Texas Tuesday: We love a good Texas chili or BBQ Brisket.
- Tortellini Tuesday: Why not?
- Wing Wednesday: Chicken wings any way you like!
- Wurst Wednesday: German for "sausage". Make a meal with Bratwurst or another kind of sausage.
- Wedge Wednesday: Salad for dinner!
- Thai Thursday: From our family to yours.
- Thankful Thursday: This is a stretch, but why do turkey and dressing only show up for Thanksgiving day?
- That's-what-we-had-yesterday Thursday: We're really trying here. Just heat up some leftovers, and call it what you want.
- Burger and Friday: We love this one. Mix it up with turkey burgers and sweet potato fries if you want.
- Frozen Friday: Stock up on some easy-prep frozen meals. We keep a bag of Trader Joe's Frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken in the freezer for a cheap and easy meal.
- Fridge Friday: Make a point to clear out your fridge from leftovers and partial meals. This helps reduce food waste and can save you lots of money.
- Pizza-turday: Make some pizza at home or enjoy some take-and-bake.
- Sea food Saturday: Anything that comes from the water — salmon, fish sticks, ahi tuna tacos.
- Something new Saturday: Try out new recipes and learn new skills.
While some of these are definitely a stretch, we hope they inspire you to make your own meal planning rubric. At Meal Planner App, we want you to win at meal planning. That's why we created our online meal planner. Try it out risk-free and see how easy meal planning can be.
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