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Simplify your meal planning routine with these themed lunch ideas that work well for themed dinner nights too! When you plan with a theme in mind, you’ll have a much easier time preparing healthy family meals every day of the week.

A collage of ideas for kid-friendly meal themes.

theme night dinner ideas

If you’ve been trying to meal plan, you need to try themed dinner nights! It’s a plug-and-play method of meal planning that makes it so much faster to get dinner on the table quickly. It’s a game-changer!

The best part is, those dinners can be used as themed lunch ideas for the next day too!

Theme Meals

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Why Meal Planning Themes Can Be a Life Saver

  • No thinking required: Instead of coming up with a new recipe for every lunch and dinner throughout the week, stick with the theme! It’s that easy. No fancy meal plan required.
  • Simplify grocery shopping: When you know exactly what you’re making every week, your grocery list will shrink (and your bill)!
  • Keep things fresh: You can either make the same recipes each week as part of your weekly meal plan or change things up within the same category. Do whatever works for you!

21 Kid-Friendly Themed Lunch & Dinner Ideas

Whether you use these meal themes to plan themed lunches or outline your week’s dinners, they’ll take so much stress off your shoulders! However you spin it, meal planning themes make everything so much easier!

1. Make-Your-Own Pizza Night

This is one of my family’s favorite meal themes for the week because the whole family loves pizza. Plus, the leftovers are perfect to take for lunch! 

Fiestada pizza with honey melon stars and red pepper strips with dip.

2. Mexican Night

If your family loves Mexican food, expand on the Taco Tuesday theme with a variety of dishes from South of the Border. 

3. Pasta Salad

This is an easy meal that can be adapted to suit many different flavors and ingredients. To offer it as a meal, pair it with some protein like roasted chicken or whatever meat was leftover from the night before!

Chicken pasta salad with strawberries and yogurt.

4. Baked Potato Bar

There are so many ways to top baked potatoes, making this such a perfect themed dinner idea! 

  • Baked Potato + sour cream + green onions + bacon bits
  • Baked potato + chili + cheese + onion
  • Baked potato + pulled pork + BBQ sauce + pickles or coleslaw
  • Baked potato + steak + asparagus or green beans + steak sauce

5. Make-Your-Own Pitas

This fun spin on sandwiches gives you room to use the leftover ingredients from your favorite dishes earlier in the week. They can be packed for lunch or served for dinner!

A chicken pita with carrots and blueberries.

6. Stirfry Night

Stirfries and potlucks are a great way to use up the veggies getting soft in the crisper drawer! Take any leftover meats and veggies and cook them with rice or noodles for a fast main course. My family loves this Shrimp Noodle Stirfry!

7. Bento Box or Snack Tray

This theme is best for lunches, but it’s also a convenient option for a themed dinner! Think of it like having a charcuterie board for a meal! 

A toddler snack tray.

Try these combos:

  • Hard boiled egg, cheese, crackers, blueberries, carrot sticks, tzatziki 
  • Diced grilled chicken, pita wedges, cucumbers, hummus, raspberries
  • Salami, mozzarella balls, olives, cucumber, and tomato salad

Looking for more cold lunch ideas for your kiddos? Try these Healthy Cold Lunchbox Ideas or Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Kids!

8. Slow Cooker Sunday

Give yourself a break by tossing your favorite dinner in the crockpot Sunday morning! These are some of my favorite slow cooker recipes:

Freezer meal survival guide cover.

Freezer Meals for Busy Moms

If you want more new meal ideas for kids, don’t miss my ebook Busy Mom’s Freezer Meal Survival Guide! It’s the easiest way to cook healthy meals on a budget when your schedule is jam-packed.

9. Pinwheels/Roll ups 

Make a batch of these pinwheels with your leftover ingredients to make dinner or lunch for the next day! There are many ways to make pinwheels, and they’re always so delicious.

Veggie tortilla roll ups with cucumbers, berries and granola bites.
  • Broccoli and cheddar pinwheels
  • Banana + peanut butter (or wow butter) roll ups 
  • Pesto chicken + cream cheese roll ups
  • Hummus, tomato, cucumber, feta roll ups 
  • Pesto + turkey + cheese roll ups 
  • Roasted red pepper hummus + chicken + spinach + tomato roll ups
  • Hummus + turkey + shredded carrots + avocado roll ups

10. Meatless Monday

If you’re trying to eat less meat or reduce your grocery bill, make a meatless meal one night per week! There are so many options, including these plant-based family favorites:

11. Sandwiches

The sandwich night is such an easy meal idea! You can make a regular sandwich with sliced meat and cheese or homemade salads, like egg salad or chicken salad, for protein.

Banana French toast sandwich with berries and cream cheese.

12. BBQ Theme Nights

Although it might not always be great weather to barbecue through the year, you can still make BBQ favorites inside!

During the summer, you can grill chicken, make kebabs, cook burgers or hot dogs, and much more. During the cooler times of the year, rotate recipes for shredded chicken, beef, or chicken and use them to make delicious sandwiches served with coleslaw, potato salad, and all the fixings. 

You won’t get any complaints with BBQ themed meals!

13. Bowls

This is one of my favorite dinner theme ideas because it’s fantastic for leftovers! If you have Taco Tuesday, use leftover taco meat on Wednesday in this delicious grain bowl. You prepped your favorite toppings the night before so that you can throw dinner together on the fly!

Pulled pork taco bowl with salsa, wraps, lettuce and avocado crema.

14. Pasta Night

Pasta is such an easy dish to incorporate into your busy schedule. While boiling the noodles, you can prepare a filling sauce to serve on top. You can even change it up and make dishes like lasagne or pasta bakes. This is a good idea for when you hit a meal planning rut!

15. Soup

Soup is a great meal theme, especially in the winter months. Make a big pot once a week and serve it up for dinners and lunches all week long. Low prep but lots of flavors!

Soup in a thermos with a carrot spoon.

16. Sunday Roast

Whether you want roasted chicken or a nice beef roast, you can make one large serving of meat on Sunday and use it in salads, scrambled eggs, and sandwiches the rest of the week. 

Try these recipes to get you started:

17. Breakfast for Lunch/Dinner

This is one of the best meal planning themes for really busy nights. If you know Wednesdays are always stressful, keep it easy and have breakfast for dinner!

Waffle sandwich with yogurt and berries.

18. Potluck Night

Shake things up a bit and invite guests over for a simple meal! Ask them to bring a favorite dish and rotate between houses each week. Everyone will get a lighter workload and a chance to see friends or family members.

You can even rotate potluck themes from this list to keep things fun!

19. Skewers

You’re probably thinking of skewers like kebabs, which are a fun dinner theme, but I’m thinking about cold skewers! They’re a fantastic alternative to sandwiches and are easily customizable.

You can set out all the ingredients and let your kids make their own skewers! They’ll have so much fun, and you’ll be glad to get a meal on the table fast.

Skewers in a lunch box with crackers, chocolate stuffed raspberries and cucumbers.
  • Sandwich on a stick: Mini sandwich squares + lettuce + cherry tomatoes + cheese
  • Mini pepperoni slices + cheese
  • Tortellini + peppers + olives + cheese
  • Turkey roll ups + cheese + veggies
  • Mini pancakes + berries
  • Burger on a stick: Meatballs + lettuce + tomato + cheese + pickles + diced bun

20. Build Your Own Burger

Everyone loves burger night! Lay out the toppings on the kitchen counter and let everyone choose their own! You could do classic burgers, nacho burgers, Greek burgers, and more!

21. Salads

Start with a base of your favorite greens and add whichever toppings or leftovers sound good! Here are some ideas:

22. Taco Tuesday

This is a classic dinner theme for a reason! Tacos are so fast to make. You just need to cook some meat, add your taco seasoning, and assemble your toppings! They can be salads, crunchy tacos, soft tacos, or even nachos. 

Mini tacos on a white plate with cucumbers.


  • Keep it super simple. You don’t have to make new recipes each week. Just stick with your favorite recipes and change it up a little bit when your family gets bored!
  • Pair relevant themes together. For example, if you have to make tacos on Tuesday, make extra to make taco bowls on Wednesday. Make pizza on Fridays, then make pizza salads with leftover toppings on Saturdays. This will help you use up your leftovers and stretch your specific theme over 2 days!
  • Try freezer meals. What happens on those nights when you’re too busy even to use your themed dinners? Grab a freezer meal from your freezer and skip the drive-thru! Try these healthy freezer crockpot meals!
  • Don’t overthink it. Especially if you’re a busy mom, the goal is to just get a full meal on the table! It’s okay if you’re offering finger foods or making quick quesadillas. 
  • Invite your kids to help you. Focus on simple meals that can be adapted by adding different toppings, like tacos, skewers, pizzas, and sandwiches. The more your kids can get involved, the more adventurous they’ll become in the kitchen.
  • Make a double batch. Leftovers are gold. Make a double batch of dinner tonight and send the rest in the lunch box tomorrow!
  • “Cheat” when necessary. Hit the grocery store and grab a roasted chicken for tonight’s salad. It doesn’t have to be completely homemade to be healthy!

There are tons of great themed dinner ideas out there! It can take a bit of time to get in the rhythm, but these fun themed lunch ideas will get you started right away.

Did you try any of these meal themes? Leave a comment below!

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