Meal Planning Monday ~ The “Perfect Mom” Myth

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            School has been in session for a little over a week now.  I had envisioned waking up every morning making a nice hot breakfast and eating together as a family.  Well, that has only happened twice so far.  Between my husband’s schedule and Ivy just not wanting to wake up, it’s been hard to make breakfast every morning.  I try to give the kids a healthy breakfast but sometimes you just have to give them something so they don’t go to school hungry.  Hopefully as the weeks go on, we’ll have a better routine going.  I thought I’d fess up and let you know what they had for breakfast last week.


Monday ~ Cereal

Tuesday ~ Pop Tarts

Wednesday ~ Scrambled Eggs and Sausage patties

Thursday ~ Cantaloupe and Toast

Friday ~ Ivy ate breakfast at school.  It’s pizza day on Friday so she ate a breakfast pizza.

Saturday ~ Eggo Waffles

Sunday ~ Breakfast pizza.  This was our first attempt making one.  It was good but next time we’ll use a smaller pan.  The eggs ran off the pizza so they didn’t set up nice and pretty like the picture showed.


            Writing this post made me realize it’s okay that I’m not a perfect mom.  I think women, especially moms, need to realize that.  If you can’t cook three meals a day or you fall off the Meal Planning wagon, don’t beat yourself up!  Stop; take a deep breath, and say, “It’s okay if they have Pop Tarts every now and then!”  (Everything in moderation.)

Breakfast Pizza  (From

  • 1 (8 ounce) can refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage
  • 1 cup frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Unroll crescent dough and place on a greased 12-in. pizza pan; press seams together and press up sides of pan to form a crust. In a skillet, brown sausage over medium heat; drain and cool slightly.
  2. Sprinkle sausage, hash browns, and cheddar cheese over crust.  In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, and pepper; pour over pizza.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for 28-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.


Meal Planning Monday ~ “Fried” Chicken

Mmm, fried chicken!  I’m not a huge fan of fried foods, but I really do love fried chicken.  I only let myself eat it a few times a year because the fat and calorie content is through the roof!  So you can imagine my excitement when I found a recipe for Oven Fried Chicken.  To my delight, it was awesome and MUCH healthier than the fried chicken I typically pine over.  Even my husband loves it!  With a side of mashed potatoes and green beans, this oven-fried chicken dinner is comfort food at its best.

            I’m always looking for ways to tweak recipes and make them healthier, since I want to make sure that I am eating well while I save money with couponing and meal planning.  Here are some great ideas for cutting fat and calories in your favorite recipes.  It’s pretty easy to swap reduced fat sour cream or cream cheese for the full-fat version without sacrificing flavor (I rarely use the fat-free versions though.)  You can also do this with cheeses and milk.  I frequently replace half the oil in recipes with applesauce when I am baking cakes or muffins with good results.  When sautéing foods, I will frequently use chicken broth or white cooking wine instead of oil.  What are your favorite ways to cut the fat in your recipes without sacrificing flavor?


Here is what’s on the Luken Meal Plan for this week:


Monday ~ Spaghetti with Spicy Meat Sauce.  I use ground turkey, whole wheat spaghetti, and Classico’s Spicy Tomato sauce.  I serve this with a salad.


Tuesday ~ Lean Cuisine and a Salad.  I have the final Beta Testers’ Meeting tonight for the Coupon Wizard software, which will be released in September!


Wednesday ~ Chicken Fried Rice.  I make this healthier by using brown rice instead of white.


Thursday ~ FFY (Fend for Yourself) Night.  I am golfing with my Mom, weather permitting.  I’ll probably have a sandwich before or after I play as my dinner.


Friday ~ Fish Tacos.  I use low-carb whole grain tortillas whenever I am making soft tacos or burritos.


Saturday ~ Beef Stew.  I make this in the crockpot and add a can of beef gravy to make it nice and thick.


Sunday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans.



Oven Fried Chicken  (Recipe Adapted from


4 Bone-In Chicken Breasts, Skin removed

1 Large Egg

¼ Cup of Skim Milk

¼ Cup Chopped Pecans

1/3 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1/3 Cup Corn Meal

½ Teaspoon Hot Chili Powder

½ Teaspoon Each, Salt & Pepper

Butter Flavored Cooking Spray


Preheat oven to 425.  Line a 9 x 13 pan with heavy duty foil.  Spray foil with cooking spray.  In one bowl, whisk together egg and milk.  In another bowl, combine pecans, flour, corn meal, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Rinse the skinless chicken and pat dry.  Dip in the milk and egg mixture, then coat thoroughly with the flour mixture.  Place in the pan, bone side down.  Spray the top of each chicken breast with cooking spray.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink.  Boneless chicken breasts can also be used (adjust the cooking time down about 5 minutes depending on the size.)

Meal Planning Monday ~ School Lunches



            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

           This week is bittersweet.  My little girl starts first grade!  She’ll be away from 8am until 4pm.  I’m sad because she’ll be gone all day… but happy since I’ll be able to spend more time with my other two little ones.  My daughter, Ivy, went to half-day morning Kindergarten last year, so I didn’t have to pack her lunches.  This whole “packing a lunch” thing is new to me!  She starts school on Wednesday, so instead of doing a week of lunch planning, I’ll just give you seven awesome lunch ideas that kids will love.  Here are a few things I thought I’d pack her for lunch:

Jack the Skeleton Bento Box (pictured above) ~ One of Ivy’s favorite movies is “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”  You can change up the items you put in there also if your kids won’t eat carrots or cucumbers.

Peanut Butter, Honey & Banana sandwich, frozen yogurt tube, and Kettle chips.

Pizza Lunchables ~ She loves these things

Mock Sushi ~ I can’t wait to make this!  Take a piece of bread and roll it out. Spread peanut butter and then lay apple strips (slice apples really thin).  Just roll it up and slice. You could also spread on hummus and top pieces of carrot or cucumber.

Broccoli and Chicken Pasta Salad, frozen peaches (They’ll be somewhat thawed out by lunch) and celery sticks.

Sesame Peanut Noodles and Strawberry fruit leather (depending on your school you might not be able to send anything with nuts.)

Cheese and Pickle Sandwich, Kettle chips, and frozen yogurt ~ Ivy loves these sandwiches.  2 slices of bread, American cheese and bread and butter pickles.


Meal Planning Monday – Being a Label Detective

           There’s a coupon myth floating around out there that if you’re a Coupon Queen you’re probably feeding your family a lot of unhealthy processed and packaged foods.  Anyone that knows me will tell you that it is possible for someone to be a Health Nut and a Coupon Queen, because I am definitely both!  (In fact, certain friends tease me about my health-conscience ways, especially my vitamin consumption.)  I want to save money on food with coupons, but not at the expense of my family’s health. 

            I hope you know by now that there are a lot of healthier alternatives out there when it comes to prepackaged foods – brown rice, whole grain cereals and granola bars, organic frozen dinners, etc.  However, there are some things that seem healthy, but once you read the label you may be in for a shock!

            I’m sure you have heard that things like excess sodium, hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup aren’t good for you.  These food additives can sabotage your efforts to get and stay slim and healthy.  Unfortunately, these cheap additives make you hungry for more, which is why many food manufacturers add them to their products.  I discovered something interesting this week when I was making my famous “Cheap and Easy Chili” for a church potluck dinner (see recipe at the end of this post.) 

            Chili beans and chili-ready tomatoes are key ingredients in my chili.  When they go on sale, I definitely use my coupons and stockpile enough to make several batches of it.  I’m “brand-flexible” on what kind of beans and tomatoes I’ll use because I can save more money that way.  Meaning that I don’t care which brand I use – I just buy whichever one is on sale with coupons.  As I was pulling the cans out of the panty, I noticed that one brand of chili beans (Brooks) had corn syrup on the label, but the other (Bush’s) did not.  The same thing was true for the chili-ready tomatoes.  The Del Monte tomatoes had corn syrup but the Red Gold did not.  I guess I’m not going to get to be as brand-flexible as I’d like.  Cruising through my pantry I also realized that my favorite “healthy” rice, Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice, Brown and Wild rice has almost 700 mgs of sodium per serving!  (Fortunately the plain brown rice has less than 100 mgs.)  I also found out that some of my hubby’s favorite snack foods have hydrogenated oils or corn syrup, or both.  I’ll be searching for some healthier alternatives this week at the grocery store.

            Now, I’m not a nutritionist, but I just want to call attention to the fact that it does benefit us to read labels and understand what we’re putting in our bodies.  Most experts agree that natural ingredients are a healthier choice than man-made ones.  Here at CCQ , we definitely want to save money, but we also want to be healthy and happy.  I challenge you to put on your “label detective” hat this week and really take a good look at what you’re really feeding your family.  Here’s is what’s on my Meal Plan this week:


Monday ~ Beef Stew in the Crockpot. 

Tuesday ~ Turkey Stroganoff with whole wheat egg noodles and peas. 

Wednesday ~ Oven Fried Chicken, potatoes, and mixed veggies. 

Thursday ~ FFY (Fend for Yourself Night).  I’ll be golfing with my Mom so I’ll probably eat a sandwich or Kashi frozen dinner before hitting the links. 

Friday ~ Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and salad 

Saturday ~ Chicken and Steak on the grill with corn on the cob.

 Sunday ~ Cheap & Easy Turkey Chili


Cheap & Easy Turkey Chili

1 pound of ground turkey (or lean ground beef) 

1 Tbs of olive oil

3 cans of Red Gold chili ready tomatoes (14 oz.)

1 can of Mild Bush’s chili beans (14 oz.)

2 cans of Hot Bush’s chili beans (14 oz.)

1 Tbs of ground cumin

Red pepper flakes, optional

Shredded cheddar cheese


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan.  Brown the ground turkey (or beef) and drain.  Add the beans and tomatoes (undrained) and the cumin.  Bring to a boil, then turn down on low and let it simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve with a shake or two of red pepper flakes and top with the shredded cheddar.  You can easily double the recipe to serve a large crowd.  If you don’t like your chili too spicy, use two cans of mild beans, and one of the hot beans, skipping the red pepper flakes.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Using What’s on Hand



This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

Have you recently gone through your pantry, I mean really gone through your pantry and looked at everything?  Every few months I like to clean out my pantry.  I don’t mean actually cleaning it either.  I’m talking about use all the food that’s sat there for months that no one wants to eat.  Ramen noodles, tuna, and canned pineapple are a few things I have to work with this week.  Oh, and my family isn’t thrilled about this week’s Menu Plan, but I’m sure they’ll handle it just fine.  I think I’ve spoiled them a bit with the meals I usually make!

PS  This is a great way to purge the pantry and fridge before you go on vacation!


Monday ~ Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Wild Grain Chicken Soup


 Tuesday ~ Ramen Noodle Spaghetti.  I make the noodles then throw in some spaghetti sauce (skip the spice packet that comes with the noodles).  It’s a quick cheap replacement for “real” spaghetti and tastes pretty yummy.


 Wednesday ~ Tuna Salad Sandwiches with Pineapple Dessert.  I make fresh whip cream – heavy whipping cream and a bit of sugar, thrown in the Magic Bullet blender.  Mix with the pineapple and add some crushed pretzels on top for a sweet and salty treat!  Viola – Pineapple dessert!


 Thursday ~ Fried Bologna Sandwiches with Three Bean Salad.  I have no clue what canned Three Bean Salad tastes like and I’m a bit scared… 


Friday ~ Hamburger Helper


 Saturday ~ Tuna Noodle Casserole


 Sunday ~ It’s Family Movie Night so we’ll make 2 pizzas with the kids.


 I challenge you to take at least one week every few months and eat from your pantry.  You might be amazed at what you can come up with!

(Just a note from Christine: If you have things in your pantry that you know your family will not eat, bag them up, and take them to your local soup kitchen, church, or food pantry.  They will be thrilled with your donation!)