Meal Planning Monday ~ Brown Bagging It!

          My husband, Nick, started a new job at General Electric as an Electrical Machine Repair Technician several weeks ago.  It’s a great job with excellent pay and benefits and no travel!  However, because the job is second shift, it has thrown a big wrench into my Meal Planning.  Now when I’m making dinner, it’s just me. 
          Occasionally, all of us will have shifts and changes in our schedules that can affect our Meal Planning.  Job changes, going back to school, kids leaving for college, or taking care of an elderly relative can all cause interruptions to our best-laid plans.  The trick is not to abandon Meal Planning, but to adjust and get right back on wagon.  For those of you have been meal planning for a while, you know how much time, money, and stress it saves!  So I am trying to adjust and live by one of my favorite sayings: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape!”
          Some of the dinners that I like to cook make great leftovers for Nick to take to work the next day: turkey and gravy, spaghetti with meat sauce, chili, beef stew, and chicken soup.  Some of my dinners are best eaten freshly cooked, like grilled chicken and steak, so I am scheduling those on the weekends when we can eat together.  I’m also buying Nick some hearty convenience foods to pack and take to work, like Chunky Soup, Boston Market frozen meals, and Bob Evans mashed potatoes in individual serving bowls.
          This week I have a lot going on during the week (Coupon Workshop, golf lesson, ice cream party), so I won’t have much time to cook for myself….  So here’s my Meal Plan for Nick’s lunches at work.  Hopefully it will inspire you to break out of the “sandwich rut” for lunches and other meals on the go!
Monday ~ Shrimp Scampi Salad.  I found some steamable Shrimp Scampi at Kroger this past weekend for $2.99.  I’ll make a large green salad that Nick can put the shrimp on for a nice dinner salad.
Tuesday ~ Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.  I will cook this for my dinner on Monday.  There are always plenty of leftovers with this meal so I will freeze some for another time.
Wednesday ~ Campbell’s Chunky Chicken Soup and a “Dagwood” sandwich (ham, turkey, provolone cheese, lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat bread.)  Yes, it’s okay to have a sandwich, just not so often that you get tired of them!
Thursday ~ Roast Beef and Gravy with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans.  (I use a good quality package of roast beef luncheon meat for this.  You can also cook a roast on the weekend or in the crockpot during the week for this meal.)
Friday ~ Boston Market Southwest Style Chicken dinner, with fruit and yogurt for dessert.
Saturday ~ Nick’s Birthday!  We’re having people over for a grill out (jalapeño cheese Mets and chicken sausages), then we’ll watch the UFC pay-per-view.  If you didn’t know, I watch cage fighting and I love it!
Sunday ~ Grilled Salmon with Potatoes and Salad

Meal Planning Monday – Snack Time!

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.
          When I first started doing meal planning I never thought about snacks.  I just planned for dinner.  After seeing how well that went, I started planning all three meals.  I loved meal planning but something was missing.  I would go to the store get everything on my list and feel good knowing I had a plan.  
          Fast forward to the next day…  “Mommy, I want a snack.”  “I’m a little hungry.  Mommy, I need snack.”  I completely forgot to factor in snacks!  If you have little ones you know the importance of snack time.  It’s a small 15 minute slice of heaven for me when everyone is quiet.  Here’s what we typically have for morning snack time:
Monday ~ Green and Red Peppers with Hummus
Tuesday ~ Graham Crackers topped with Peanut Butter and Sliced Apples
Wednesday ~ “Berries and Cheese” Raspberries, Strawberries, and Blueberries with Babybel Cheese
Thursday ~ Strawberry and Banana Smoothies
Friday ~ Cheese cubes, Crackers, and Sliced Mangoes
Saturday ~ We’re taking the girls to the zoo.  We’ll pack peanut butter crackers, bananas, frozen smoothies, and apples for them to snack on.
Sunday ~ Fake Popsicle and Cream Cheese Tortillas.
For the “Fake Popsicles” I just freeze yogurt cups.  I love the little Danonino cups.  I just stick a mini Popsicle stick in each cup and pop them into the freezer.

Coupon Workshop 7/28

Are you intimidated, yet awe-struck, by the show, “Extreme Couponing?” Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to spend 40 hours a week and devote an entire room of your house to your stockpile! The truth is, I can teach you how to invest just a few hours a week to help save your family time, stress, and money. I like to call it “Practical Couponing!”

 

This two and a half hour workshop will provide you with all of the infor…mation you need to hit the ground running and start saving NOW with proven coupon strategies! This is a small workshop, limited to five participants. You will learn how to use coupons to immediately begin saving $200-$300 per month, or more! Unlike a class or seminar, you will have a chance to practice the coupon strategies and get all of your questions answered.

 

Only $45! Satisfaction Guaranteed!

 

Includes a FREE copy of Christine’s new e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen”!

 

WORKSHOP IS LIMITED TO THE FIRST 5 PAYING REGISTRATIONS!

 

Here’s what participants are saying about the workshop:

 

We saved $57 on our food bill the first week after taking your class. That was a 31% savings on all name brand products. Mary has a goal of saving 50% by the end of the month. Just at 30% that equals $2,964.00 per year! Who can’t benefit from that? Christine, thank you! ~ Herb & Mary Johnson

 

Call (859) 912-2736  or email Christine Luken at strongtower.christine@gmail.com to reserve your spot!

Coupon Workshop 7/12

Are you intimidated, yet awe-struck, by the show, “Extreme Couponing?” Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to spend 40 hours a week and devote an entire room of your house to your stockpile! The truth is, I can teach you how to invest just a few hours a week to help save your family time, stress, and money. I like to call it “Practical Couponing!”

 

This two and a half hour workshop will provide you with all of the infor…mation you need to hit the ground running and start saving NOW with proven coupon strategies! This is a small workshop, limited to five participants. You will learn how to use coupons to immediately begin saving $200-$300 per month, or more! Unlike a class or seminar, you will have a chance to practice the coupon strategies and get all of your questions answered.

 

Only $45! Satisfaction Guaranteed!

 

Includes a FREE copy of Christine’s new e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen”!

 

WORKSHOP IS LIMITED TO THE FIRST 5 PAYING REGISTRATIONS!

 

Here’s what participants are saying about the workshop:

 

We saved $57 on our food bill the first week after taking your class. That was a 31% savings on all name brand products. Mary has a goal of saving 50% by the end of the month. Just at 30% that equals $2,964.00 per year! Who can’t benefit from that? Christine, thank you! ~ Herb & Mary Johnson

 

Call (859) 912-2736  or email Christine Luken at strongtower.christine@gmail.com to reserve your spot!

Coupon Workshop 6/28

Are you intimidated, yet awe-struck, by the show, “Extreme Couponing?” Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to spend 40 hours a week and devote an entire room of your house to your stockpile! The truth is, I can teach you how to invest just a few hours a week to help save your family time, stress, and money. I like to call it “Practical Couponing!”

 

This two and a half hour workshop will provide you with all of the infor…mation you need to hit the ground running and start saving NOW with proven coupon strategies! This is a small workshop, limited to five participants. You will learn how to use coupons to immediately begin saving $200-$300 per month, or more! Unlike a class or seminar, you will have a chance to practice the coupon strategies and get all of your questions answered.

 

Only $45! Satisfaction Guaranteed!

 

Includes a FREE copy of Christine’s new e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen”!

 

WORKSHOP IS LIMITED TO THE FIRST 5 PAYING REGISTRATIONS!

 

Here’s what participants are saying about the workshop:

 

We saved $57 on our food bill the first week after taking your class. That was a 31% savings on all name brand products. Mary has a goal of saving 50% by the end of the month. Just at 30% that equals $2,964.00 per year! Who can’t benefit from that? Christine, thank you! ~ Herb & Mary Johnson

 

Call (859) 912-2736  or email Christine Luken at strongtower.christine@gmail.com to reserve your spot!

Meal Planning Monday – No Time to Cook Dinner?

         Everyone seems to be in a hurry these days, with schedules packed to overflowing – business meetings, soccer practice, girl scouts, softball leagues, to name a few.  I know that my schedule is packed for the upcoming week.  I have a 4 PM work meeting on Monday (which I doubt will be over by 5 PM!), a Financial Coaching appointment on Tuesday evening, golf lessons with my Mom on Wednesday, outreach with my church group on Thursday, and a painting class on Saturday.  Whew, I’m tired just thinking about it!
          I know many of you are just as busy, too.  Some people think because they are so busy that they can’t do Meal Planning and end up eating a lot of junk and fast food on the go.  Wrong answer!  Meal Planning is most valuable to the people with the least amount of time!  By investing a small amount of time into Meal Planning, you will save time, money, and energy.  Plus you will have healthy dinner options for you and your family.  
          First, be mindful of your family’s activity schedule when meal planning.  I actually put these activities and appointments on my meal calendar.  This way I will know to schedule easy, quick meals on these busy days, and save more labor-intensive recipes for leisurely days and weekends.
          Second, try some freezer cooking on your leisurely days, so you’ll have a few home-cooked meals in the freezer just waiting to be popped in the microwave or oven.  The easiest way to do freezer cooking is to double a recipe and freeze half of it for later.  This works great with soups, stews, chili, and casseroles.  
          Third, use convenience foods to your advantage.  It used to be that convenience foods were pretty unhealthy, but not anymore!  I frequently use plain frozen vegetables, 90-second whole grain rice, and pre-mixed salads to round out my meals and save on time.  I frequently find coupons for these items which saves me both money and time!  There are also some fairly healthy frozen dinners on the market now (I like Kashi and Lean Cuisine Spa Entrées), which I use on my busiest days, rounded out with a salad or some fruit.
          Finally, it is perfectly fine to eat out and take a break from the kitchen from time to time.  I have several local restaurants that I like to frequent for great food that is reasonably priced and won’t put a dent in my healthy diet.
So, what’s on the Luken Meal Plan for this week? 

Monday ~ Polish Sausage, Mrs. T’s Perogies, and mixed veggies.

Tuesday ~ Financial Coaching Appointment.  I probably won’t get home until after 7 PM, but I will still eat a good dinner, Turkey Slices and Gravy.  I use Louis Rich Carving Board turkey and heat it in a skillet with a jar of turkey gravy and a small can of mushrooms (drained).  I serve it over instant mashed potatoes or Uncle Ben’s 90-Second Whole Grain Brown and Wild Rice, with a side of frozen veggies cooked in the microwave.  This hearty dinner takes less ten minutes to make.

Wednesday ~ I start my golf lessons tonight!  I will have a Lean Cuisine and a salad.

Thursday ~ I have outreach night at my church, so I will stop for dinner at either Panera or J Gumbo’s for a cheap and tasty meal.


Friday ~ Fish Tacos, my new favorite meal!  (See the blog archives for this recipe.) 

Saturday ~ Grilled steak and chicken with boiled potatoes and green beans.

Sunday ~ Beef Stew in the crockpot.  Crockpots aren’t just for the winter!  They are great time savers all year round, plus they won’t heat up the kitchen the way an oven will.

Beef Stew in the Crockpot

1 pound of stew beef cut into bite sized pieces

5 medium sized potatoes, diced

1 cup of sliced carrots

2 ribs of celery chopped

¼ cup of onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ bag each of frozen corn and frozen peas (save the rest in a freezer bag for the next batch of stew).

1 can of beef broth

1 small jar of beef gravy

¼ cup of flour

1 teaspoon of paprika

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper

2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

Place the stew beef in a plastic zipper bag with the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Close and shake the bag to evenly coat the beef.  Pour into the crockpot.  Place all other ingredients on top.  Stir and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.  Use a crockpot liner for easy clean up.

My New Home Office


          My home office for Strong Tower, LLC is finally finished!  My handyman husband and I put together my desk and hutch from Office Depot (purchased at 60% off, of course).  It’s probably more accurate to say that I assisted Nick in putting it together, as I am NOT very handy.  After almost four hours of sweating and swearing, the desk was finished.  Note to self: Please pay the small surcharge to have Office Depot assemble furniture in the future!  (Sometimes I am too tight for my own good.)
            I purchased my desk accessories with much excitement.  I drove back to Office Depot, my favorite store here lately, and bought desk trays, a magazine holder, an in-box, and pencil cup.  (Good thing I’m earning rewards points on my purchases!)  I’m still on the hunt for a small lamp with personality. 
            I am looking forward to accomplishing many things here in my new creative space:  making training videos of my saving strategies, conducting Coupon Workshops via webinars, writing my next e-book, and conducting financial coaching sessions over the phone or via Skype. I am feeling very productive and inspired already!
            Now that my office is ready, the kitchen table can return to its rightful purpose as a surface to eat on.  Nick says it’s nice to not see stacks of books, papers, and coupons in the kitchen anymore.  However, the table looks a bit bare to me.  I’ve accomplished so much at my kitchen table.  Most of my blog posts and the majority of my e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen” were written in that spot.  Change has always been a bit of a challenge for me, even when it’s a good one.  In fact, it seems that there’s a lot of change surrounding me and my family lately, which tends to leave me feeling a bit stressed.  My new office is very cozy and peaceful, so I have a feeling this will be my new sanctuary.  Most importantly, my cats, Peanut and Tiny, seem to approve of it as well.
            So tell me, where is your creative space in your home and what do you do there?
           
           

Meal Planning Monday – Magic Mushrooms

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.
          On my quest to eat healthier, I decided to try out a new diet, “The 17 Day Diet.” …Well sort of try it out. It calls for no drinking alcohol for the first two cycles of the diet. I ignored that rule.  (Hey now- it’s hard to go Memorial Day weekend without partaking in a least one drink!) The recipe this week is for Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms. If you didn’t know it, mushrooms are great for weight loss, especially when used in the place of high-fat meats.   
Here’s what is on my dinner list for this week:

Monday ~ Buffalo Chicken Burgers

Tuesday ~ Egg Drop Soup (This is surprisingly easy to make.)

Wednesday ~ Turkey Meatloaf

Thursday ~ Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms ( I picked up Portobello mushrooms for a $1 each at my co-op.  They were so fresh they still had the dirt on the stem.)

Friday ~ MNO (Moms Night Out) – A few friends and I are going to Cheeseburger in Paradise to celebrate my birthday. 

Saturday ~ Date Night with the hubby.  Red Robin sent me a coupon for a free burger; I’ll have their turkey burger so I can stick to the diet. 

Sunday ~ Family Dinner to celebrate my 30th, my nephew’s birthday and Father’s Day.

Three nights of no cooking…sounds good to me!

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
2 Large Portobello Mushrooms
1/2 onion, chopped
red pepper, chopped
garlic cloves, chopped coarse (I love garlic so I cut them in big chunks. I used 4 garlic cloves)
salt and pepper
Italian seasoning
Handful of fresh spinach
mozzarella cheese
olive oil

Preheat oven 400 degrees.
Sautee onion, red pepper, and garlic in olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
Put spinach in mushroom caps, spoon onion mix over top, then top with cheese.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes.