Meal Planning Monday ~ Houseguests


          With the holiday season just a few short months away, many of us will be hosting overnight houseguests for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s.  When you have visitors from out of town at your house, does your meal planning go out the window?  Or do you kick it into high gear and make some adjustments to accommodate your guests?

            Last week I had a very special houseguest – my Aunt Claudia.  She came down from Holland, Michigan so she could surprise my Mom for her birthday (and boy was she surprised!)  Many times when people are hosting visitors, they think it’s easier just to order out pizza or go to a restaurant rather than cook.  I love to eat out too, but that can be expensive, both in terms of dollars and calories, to eat out every meal.  My Aunt Claudia and I did eat out few times, mostly for lunch, since we were out shopping and going to movies during the day. 

            A week before my aunt came down to visit, I called her and asked her if there were any special foods she wanted me to have for her visit.  This allowed me time to search a coupon database, like the one at ( for the yogurt, half & half, crackers and other things my aunt requested.

            It’s also a good idea before you lay out your meal plan to check with your guests to see if they have any special dietary restrictions.  Personally, I do not eat any beef or pork, so I always make sure I communicate that to my host when I am staying with someone else.  Trust me, the host would rather know ahead of time and be able to accommodate you than be frustrated that she slaved over a pot roast that you won’t eat.  When I have houseguests, I try to serve crowd-pleasing meals like pasta and my oven-fried chicken.  I also utilized some freezer cooking in the weeks prior to my Aunt’s visit by making extra meat sauce and freezing it so that my time spent in the kitchen last week was minimal.  Here was my meal plan for the week my Aunt Claudia visited.

Monday ~ Cheese Tortellini with Meat Sauce (made with ground turkey), and Salad

Tuesday ~ Chicken & Wild Rice Soup (See recipe below)

Wednesday ~ Soup and Sandwiches

Thursday ~ Coconut Crusted Tilapia (Sea Cuisine brand, very yummy), with Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Carrots

Friday ~ Oven Fried Chicken, Mac & Cheese, and Green Beans with Almonds

Saturday ~ Dinner out at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Camino Real

Sunday ~ Turkey Slices & Gravy with Wild Rice and Asparagus

Here’s the recipe for the Chicken & Wild Rice Soup.  This is a great soup for cool fall and winter days!

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

1 Tbs of Olive Oil

8 oz. of Sliced Portobello Mushrooms

2 Stalks of Celery, chopped

1 cup of Carrots, Chopped

¼ of Onions, Chopped

¼ Cup of Flour

¼ tsp. each of Salt & Pepper

1 package of Uncle Ben’s Quick Cooking Wild Rice (do NOT use the spice packet, just the rice!)

3 cans of Chicken Broth (14 oz. each)

2 – 5 oz. cans of cooked Chicken Breast, drained (or 1 cup of cooked, shredded chicken breast)

½ Cup of Reduced-Fat Sour Cream

2 Tbs. of Parsley


Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add celery, carrots, mushrooms, and onion.  Cook until softened, stirring frequently, about five minutes.  Add flour, salt, and pepper and cook about two minutes, stirring frequently.  Add broth and rice.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook until the rice is tender, about six minutes.  Add the chicken, sour cream, and parsley.  Cook two minutes more until heated through.

* A quick note – this soup is great with leftover Thanksgiving turkey breast!


Meal Planning Monday ~ Fall is in the Air!


            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Fall is my favorite time of the year!  I love the cooler weather, fall decorations, apple picking, pumpkin farms, and crockpot cooking.  I tend to use my crockpot more during the cooler months.  There’s nothing like throwing a roast in it and having your whole house smell amazing all day.  The crockpot is extremely versatile and can make less expensive cuts of beef and pork fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious.  The crockpot is a great tool to make your meal planning even easier, especially on busy days.  I have yet to try any dessert recipes for the crockpot, so this week, I am going to make something new.  If you’re going apple-picking this fall, try out the recipe for Apple Pie Bread Pudding!  Here’s what my week of meals looks like:

Monday ~ Pot Roast
Tuesday ~ Chicken Fried Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, and Bacon Green Beans 
Wednesday ~ Pot Roast Sandwiches and Mac & Cheese
Thursday ~ Pepperoni Pizza and Salad
Friday ~ Tuna Salad Sandwiches and Potato Salad
Saturday ~ Leftover Night, or as I like to call it, “Clean the Fridge Night”
Sunday ~ Roast Chicken, Glazed Carrots, Wilted Lettuce and leftover Mac & Cheese

Here’s the dessert recipe for the crockpot.  If you try it, please leave a comment and let me know how your family liked it!


Apple Pie Bread Pudding

12 slices white bread torn into medium size pieces

3 1/2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 cup unsweetened apple juice

1/2 cup lemon lime soda

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice

Spray slow cooker with butter-flavored nonstick spray.  Combine bread pieces and apples in slow cooker.  In small bowl combine apple juice, soda, sugar, and apple pie spice.  Drizzle evenly over bread mixture.  Mix gently to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until done.  Mix well before serving.

Christine recommends using Slow Cooker Liners, which make cleanup of your crockpot a snap!  Coupons should be coming out for these soon, and when combined with a sale, can be picked up for about a dollar a box.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Snack Attack!


          You’re out running errands on a Saturday morning.  In the midst of your grocery shopping, your stomach growls loud enough for everyone in the produce section to hear it!  You round the corner, and there is the free sample lady with donuts fresh from the bakery.  She doesn’t have to ask you twice if you want a sample!  You feel a little guilty, but you need something to shut your stomach up, right?  A few months ago, we featured a post on having great snacks on hand for your kids.  This week, I thought we’d talk about having some satisfying and healthy snacks available for you, too!

            I have always been a “grazer” when it comes to eating.  If I don’t eat a little something every three to four hours, my blood sugar crashes, my stomach growls, and I get cranky.  (My husband will gladly attest to this!)  I frequently pack healthy snacks in my purse, my car, and my desk at the office so I have a something to hold me over until my next meal.  However, many of us don’t do this.  So when hunger strikes, willpower is low, and mealtime is still hours away, people frequently hit the convenience store, vending machine, or fast-food drive thru.  I know, because it’s happened to me too.  Afterwards,  I mentally beat myself up for making a poor food choice and promise myself that I’ll work out an extra thirty minutes tomorrow to make up for it.  (Which I never do…)

            Well, it doesn’t have to be that way!  By putting a little of your Meal Planning know-how into your snacks, you can have a satisfying, healthy snack that will carry you through until dinner time.  Here are some of my favorite snacks and how I save money on them.


~ Kashi & Cascadian Farms Organic Granola Bars.  Most of these granola bars come in under 160 calories with no artificial ingredients.  I stock up on these when coupons come out, because that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.  You are in luck, though!  This month there’s a great printable coupon on for $1.50/ 2 Kashi TLC granola bars!  You can print two of this coupon per computer.

~ Fruit.  Bananas, apple, pears, and grapes all make great snacks on the go.  Apples and pears are in season and on sale right now, so experiment and try a new variety or two!

~ Nuts.  Whether you prefer peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pistachios, nuts are great source of protein and healthy fat that will stop hunger in its tracks.  Be aware of portion sizes so you don’t eat too many calories in one sitting.  Robert Ferguson, author of “The Diet Free Life,” says that snacks should be 100-200 calories for women and 100-300 calories for men.  Certainly, you can buy the 100-calorie snack packs of nuts so you won’t have to worry about overeating.  But I find it’s much cheaper to purchase a larger container of nuts (with a coupon, of course!) and divide them into snack-sized zipper baggies with the proper portions.

~ Popcorn.  Popcorn is a filling, low-calorie snack, so long as you don’t drench it in butter.  Air-pop it to have the most control over how much fat is being added.  Microwave popcorn is very convenient, and there are some healthy options out there.  I like Orville Redenbacher’s Natural brand popcorn, the Salt & Pepper flavored mini bags.  I can eat the whole bag for 160 calories, and I’m getting 4 grams of fiber.  You’d best avoid popcorn at the movie theater – even the small size is a calorie bomb.

~ Protein or energy bars.  When I’m starving and dinner is still hours away, nothing holds me over like my favorite energy bar – Luna bars!  I’ve tried a lot of protein and energy bars, and I’ve found Luna bars (and Cliff bars) to be both tasty and nutritious.  I like them because they are made with all natural ingredients and 70% organic.  The Chocolate Peppermint Stick flavor is my favorite!  It reminds me of Mint Oreo cookies.  Now, these energy bars can be expensive.  So, I recently went on to E-Bay and purchased twenty 50 cent off coupons for $6.  At my local Kroger, Luna bars are sold for 99 cents apiece.  Since my Kroger doubles coupons, my 50 cent coupons are actually worth $1 each = FREE!  My net cost for 20 Luna bars was only $6, or 30 cents each (70% off retail!)

            Now, when you’re ambushed by a “snack attack,” you can just reach into your glove box, purse, or briefcase and satisfy your hunger without guilt or empty calories.  Happy Snacking!

            Here’s a great recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip cookies.  This snack is sure to please both kids and adults alike (and it’s actually pretty healthy.)  I baked some this weekend and froze half of the batch in individual sized baggies, so I can just grab a few cookies on the run.


            Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 2/3 Cup Smart Balance Buttery Spread
  • 1 cup of organic granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (or 4 egg whites)
  • 1 cup of mashed ripe banana
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups of Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon of Salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips


In a small bowl, cream buttery spread and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg, banana, and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Gradually add to the creamed mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Place tablespoon-sized drops of dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for 9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.