Plan It- Don’t Panic Meal Planning Challenge (and Simplifying Menu Planning for Busy Times)
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: Eggs and toast
- Dinner: Garden Chowder with bread
- 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
- Breakfast: Breakfast wraps using leftover eggs, potatoes, sausages
- Dinner: Chicken pot pie with this millet topping
Sounds like a great menu–despite it being a hectic week! Glad you had fun at Relevant. My friend (online friend in my mastermind group!) Anne@Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy said she met you! She shared a pic of y’all together with our group! Of course we were all slightly envious!! 🙂 Hope it was a wonderful trip and that today’s travels will be safe and restful!
It’s hard for me to plan too far ahead because I often rely on what I can find on the produce mark-downs, etc., but I have a list of meals to rotate. This challenge has definitely helped build up more meals to include in the rotation!
@Erin@TheHumbledHomemaker, Loved meeting Anne. Hopefully I’ll get to meet you next year as well! 🙂
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, our whole group (Erin, Anne and a few others) are trying to all get together to go next year…and we would love to meet you!
I so needed this! I was just pondering last night how I need to get better at menu planning and most importantly, shopping my pantry, fridge & freezer first. I tend to over-think things and get caught up in picking all of these recipes out of the dozens of cookbooks I own but then I end up having to buy a ton of stuff I did not already have while the stuff I already own just sits there.
It always seems like such a daunting task since my daughter can’t have dairy & I can’t have soy or gluten & my husband can have anything he wants. Plus my daughter, who is 4 is very picky and while I would love to say “this is not a restaurant, eat what I make” it’s just not that simple. Because she will only eat a bite or two & then she wakes up in the middle of the night starving. So I would much rather make her a separate meal to ensure that she goes to bed with a full belly so that she sleeps all night.
Difficult to cook when you have no power because of this freak snowstorm!
@Lorie, Oh, sorry your power is out! No fun at all.
Another create menu planning site is Cooking Traditional Foods. She offers a weekly menu planner.
Thanks for hosting. Is it weird that I get excited when I make my meal plan? Yeah…I know.
@Stacy Makes Cents, Nope, not weird. 🙂
I have loved doing this and because of how much I have loved it, I am totally excited to do this from now on! I am going to try doing a month plan next and see how it goes. I also love having these plans to go back to when brainstorming for what to do each week. Thanks so much for doing this and all the resources and help you provide!
I’m sorry your plane got delayed! Although it’s good to see you put the time to good use menu planning.
Thanks for the tip about re-using menu plans. I don’t do that enough, but I tried to use some of last week’s planned meals again – the ones I didn’t get around to making last week.
I’ll be sad when Plan It – Don’t Panic ends, as it’s the only thing keeping me properly menu planning at the moment. Without it I think I might just slip back into planning the day before again.
Just added my link, did not get it up last night!
I made what I call a menu framework at the start of this challenge-it’s like the basics to keep me on track with getting all the right foods I need! Breakfast and lunch pretty much stay the same, with dinner having theme nights. It allows me to skimp by on basics or introduce something really exciting when I have time and energy.
Thanks for the challenge. I just got my menu posted this evening, but wouldn’t have even done that w/o knowing I committed to this!