Snow is lovely. Except when it delays my flight home from Pennsylvania by 24 hours, keeping me from my family.

These things just happen, though, and so here I sit in the Harrisburg Sheraton hotel, attempting to come up with a suitable meal plan filled with simple meals for a week of transitioning back to regular life and coming home to an empty fridge!

Unexpected circumstances and hectic times don’t have to mean that we can’t still meal plan effectively. By definition, the whole purpose of meal planning is that it is intended to simplify and streamline our meal preparation and shopping processes, not just give us another thing to do.

There are many things you can do to ensure that you can come up with a plan that suits your needs in busy seasons, not to mention one that comes together quickly and hassle-free.

Simplifying Menu Planning for Busy Times

Plan to repeat.

You’ve already made previous menu plans and put a good deal of time and thought into their preparation. Assuming that you keep them (and I do recommend that you keep at least some of your meal plans), reusing them at a later time is both practical and efficient. When you’re particularly low on time one week, just choose a previous plan that looks good and make a quick grocery list based on it.

I don’t love doing this on a really regular basis, as my family prefers a lot of variety and so do I. That said, there are definitely times when this simple tactic is absolutely worth using. Like this week. My meal plan below is a combination of a couple of previous weeks during this meal plan challenge.

Monthly plan (based on 2-week rotations)

Ever the practical one, my friend Tsh over at Simple Mom likes to plan out two weeks at a time. She plugs the meals into her Google calendar and then sets them all up to repeat two weeks later. Voila. One planning session and she has a month of menus at her fingertips.

Seasonal meal plans.

I love this idea of seasonal meal planning from Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking and have used it at various times. It requires a chunk of time upfront, but once the seasonal plan is done, each weekly plan requires very little extra planning.

If you know you’re about to move into a more chaotic season of life, this would be worth considering as an investment of time that will pay off with dividends of weeks or months of easy planning.

Image by stevendepolo

Easy does it.

It is far better to have a meal plan that consists of sandwiches, scrambled eggs with smoothies, and tomato soup for your dinners, than it is to plan nothing at all.

Let someone else plan for you.

There are a lot of great meal planning services out there. Here are a few that I know of:

  • GNOWFGLINS Real Food Menus– This doesn’t give you an entire week’s meal plans, but it does give you some wonderful recipes and prep tips, which you could fill in with other simple meals you know your family enjoys.
  • Grain Free Meal Plans (GAPS and SCD compliant)- These are complete weekly menus, with breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.
  • Two weeks of meal plans from 100 Days of Real Food
  • Meal plans from The Fresh 20– I haven’t actually seen these meal plan, but they sound like they are made with unprocessed, real food ingredients, and there is also a gluten free option.

You may prefer to do most of your planning yourself, but options like these can be helpful when you’re in need of just one more aspect of life to simplify and streamline.

Our Menu Plan This Week


I will be travelling all day. I hope my family can find something good to eat while mama is stuck being gone one more day!


  • Breakfast: Soaked oatmeal with raw milk and honey (I’ll do mine with some fruit and cinnamon since I can’t have honey right now)
  • Dinner: Baked potato bar (with various veggies, cheese, sour cream, etc.) and turkey sausages
  • Prep: Thaw beef broth.



  • Breakfast: French toast and fruit sauce
  • Dinner: Soft tacos with meat and beans, lettuce, cheese, salsa, etc.
  • Prep: Start baked oatmeal to soak.


  • Breakfast: Toast and fruit smoothies
  • Dinner: Shepherd’s Pie


  • Breakfast: Eggs, fried potatoes, sausage (I’m cooking extra for Sunday)
  • Dinner: Pasta with homemade tomato sauce and sausage


Now it’s your turn to share your menu… and tell us how you simplify menu planning for those busier times!