Meal Planning Monday ~ Girls Night In!


This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            I have an easy week as far as dinners go.  My husband, Derrick, will be out of town this week.  So it’s poptarts and chicken nuggets for dinner all week!  Ha ha – I’m kidding!  This week I’m going for easy meals.  My husband rarely goes out of town so this will be an adventure for me and the kids.  I stocked up on frozen pizzas a few ago and I’m so glad I did.  I’m also hosting Girls Night In on Friday!  I will probably need some girl time after several days of handling the kids solo.  Here’s what my week of meals look like:

Monday ~ No cooking!  We’re heading to my mom’s house for Halloween Trick or Treating and staying the night.

Tuesday ~ Parmesan Panko Crusted Chicken Nuggets.  These are so easy!  Cut chicken tenders into 1 inch pieces, dip in egg then roll in parmesan/panko mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  My kids love these.  I’ll serve them with sliced cucumbers and strawberries.

Wednesday ~ Crabby Patties.  My kids are huge Spongebob fans so I thought it would be cute to make them crabby patties.  I picked up some slider buns and will just make mini hamburgers and top them with cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

Thursday ~ Frozen Pizza Night.  My Father in Law is coming over to watch the kids for a few hours so I can get a little alone time.  My alone time is going to the store to pick up supplies for my Girls Night In on Friday.  What can I say – I love grocery shopping!

Friday ~ Girls Night In!  I’m having a few friends over for appetizers and cocktails.  I have no clue what I’m making.  I’ve picked out a few recipes but have to narrow them down.  Buffalo Chicken Bites, Blue Cheese Dip, and Bruschetta are a few on my list.

Saturday ~ 3-Ways and Cheese Coneys.


Meal Planning Monday ~ The Great Pumpkin


          The great and wonderful pumpkin is one of my most-loved foods this time of year!  Whenever I smell cinnamon and pumpkin, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Classic pumpkin pie, especially when it’s made by my Uncle Paul at Thanksgiving, will always be my favorite.  Yet, I am constantly looking for recipes to use pumpkin in new ways.  I’ve recently made pumpkin spice cake, cinnamon pumpkin pancakes, and a great recipe I got from the nice folks at Weight Watchers, Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (see recipe below).  I made these bars for “Girls Night In” at my house this past weekend and everyone loved them!

          The great thing about pumpkin is that it’s a nutritional powerhouse.  Pumpkin is low in calories and is packed full of fiber and vitamins.  It adds great flavor and moistness to baked goods like bread, cakes, and muffins.  Canned pumpkin, which has the same health benefits as fresh pumpkin, is on sale in many stores right now, so stock your pantry with this delicious and nutritious treat.  If you’re making a recipe that doesn’t require you to use the entire can of pumpkin, pop it in a freezer safe container, as canned pumpkin freezes very well.

            As you are scooping out your jack-o-lanterns this week, don’t forget to save the seeds!  Pumpkin seeds are a great source of iron and other trace minerals and are pretty tasty when you toast or roast them. has a variety of tempting recipes, such as Cinnasweet pumpkin seeds and spiced maple pumpkin seeds.  

            So, what are you waiting for?  Grab a can of pumpkin and whip it into a tasty treat your whole family will love!  Here is my Meal Plan for this week, and the recipe for the Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars.


Monday ~ Chicken & Pesto with Angel Hair Pasta and Salad

Tuesday ~ Chicken Marsala with Wild Rice and Asparagus

Wednesday ~ Fend for Yourself Night!  I am teaching a Coupon Workshop tonight.

Thursday ~ Coconut Crusted Tilapia with Jasmine Rice and Veggies

Friday ~ Turkey and Gravy with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Saturday ~ Creamy Chicken and Noodles in the Crockpot

Sunday ~ Dinner out with my Husband


Weight Watchers Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Serves: 16

Serving size: 1 bar, 1/16th of 9” cake

Weight Watchers® PointsPlus® value: 5 per serving

Prep time: 30 minutes plus 3 hours refrigeration time

Cook time: 45 minutes



Non-stick cooking spray

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

16 ounces Weight Watchers® Reduced Fat Cream Cheese Spread, cut into 1” pieces

4 ounces plain fat-free Greek yogurt

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

¼ cup brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg



Preheat oven to 350F.

Spray a 9” square pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt butter in medium sized bowl in microwave, approximately 1 minute.  Stir in graham cracker crumbs and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon.  Press evenly into bottom of pan to make a firm crust. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, yogurt, and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth.  Add flour, vanilla, and eggs.  Beat until thoroughly combined.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, brown sugar and remaining spices.  Add ¾ cup cheesecake batter.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Pour pumpkin batter into pan and carefully (so as not to break the crust) spread evenly over crust with a knife or spatula.  Top with cheesecake batter, also spreading until smooth.

Insert a knife or spatula in the batter and rotate to make swirls, each 3 inches apart.

Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Cover tightly with foil.  Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight before serving.  Serve within 3 days.

To serve, cut cake into 16 equal bars


Meal Planning Monday ~ Fall Splendor


This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Fall brings the most amazing colors: golden yellow, flame red, and brilliant oranges.  I’m not talking about leaves – I’m talking about delicious fall produce, like apples, squash, and pumpkins!  Cooking new vegetables can very intimidating for the average cook.  I typically stuck with the same easy (boring) ones:  corn, green beans, and potatoes were always on the menu.  You know it’s bad when your husband jokes about how much he loves mashed potatoes.  In an earlier Meal Planning Monday blog post I had mentioned I decided to branch out and try new vegetables.  I recently tried Spaghetti Squash and absolutely loved it!  It was one of those vegetables I wasn’t quite sure about at first but after working with it I saw how easy it was to prepare.  This week’s veggie of the week is butternut squash.  Here’s what my dinner week looks like:


Monday ~ Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings 

Tuesday ~ Eggplant Rotini over pasta 

Wednesday ~ Garlic Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Butternut Squash.  I’m excited to try this recipe! 

Thursday ~ Chicken Fried Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker with mashed potatoes and gravy.

 Friday ~ Girls Night Out.  My husband and the kids will make a pizza.  I made up some pizza dough and froze it so Thursday night I’ll pull out the dough and it will be ready for them to roll out and top Friday night.

 Saturday ~ Blue Cheese Burgers with Sweet Potato fries

 Sunday ~ Leftover night or FFY night (fend for yourself)


I ran across the website, Food Gawker and fell in love with it.  Anything you want to make just do a search for it and it pops right up!


Here is the recipe for the Caramelized Butternut Squash from Food



  • 2 medium butternut squash (4 to 5 pounds total)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off and discard the ends of each butternut squash.  Peel the squash, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch cubes and place them on a baking sheet.  Add the melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize.  While roasting, turn the squash a few times with a spatula, to be sure it browns evenly.  Taste for seasonings and serve hot.

Guest Post for ~ Eat Healthy, Save Money!

Check out my guest post on Eat Healthy, Save Money!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Instructed By My Students


            Because I teach classes about Meal Planning and Couponing, I know quite a bit about those subjects.  However, I know that I don’t know everything and there’s always more to learn!  In fact, I am always looking for new Meal Planning and money saving ideas.  Part of this is hard-wired into my personality.  I was and still am a nerd, who loves to read and learn new things!  Some of the best tips and ideas I’ve learned from the students of my Coupon Workshops and Meal Planning Classes, and from my beloved fans of the Confessions of a Coupon Queen Facebook page.  I am always asking people what they do to save money for their families.

            I learned recently from a man named Joe, who attended one of my Coupon Workshops with his wife and daughter, that Pet Smart will match competitor prices.  He said he’ll just show them the competitor price on his Blackberry and they’ll match it.  Joe also said that sometimes Pet Smart’s prices on their website are cheaper than in the store, so he’ll show them their own web prices on his phone.  Being the smart shopper that he is, Joe uses coupons in addition to the price-matching strategy to score great deals his pet food.

            I recently taught a Meal Planning class at Wal-Mart in Dry Ridge, KY and learned from one of the store employees that plastic peanut butter jars make good freezer containers for soup and chili.  This lady said she also uses butter tubs to freeze leftovers with good results.  That would definitely save some money on purchasing containers for your freezer cooking endeavors!  On that note, I frequently buy lunch meat that comes in the Gladware containers and re-use those for storing leftovers and freezing foods once the turkey or ham is eaten.

            This week I asked my Facebook fans to share with me their best ideas for saving time, effort, and money on their Meal Planning.  Here are some of them:

  • My MOMS group has a meal planning, coupon exchange, and shopping list planning meeting every Tuesday.  We all have helped each other save an average of $70 per week.  And the kids play together while we “work!”  ~ Cindy Carroll


  • I buy bigger cuts of meats that can be used for multiple meals for the week!  ~ Erin Barnes


  • My best meal planning works when I use free and almost free food items as my fillers to help meals stretch further!  ~ Brittany Walker


  • I cook for two days at once.  Time= money here!  ~ Heather McFeely


  • With it just being my daughter and me, we always have leftovers.  To save time in the morning, I always pack leftovers away in lunch size portions so it’s quick and easy to grab in the morning and stick in my lunch box.  ~ Amanda Maurer


            Learning about Meal Planning and saving money with coupons is an on-going process!  So keep your eyes peeled for time and money-saving ideas on blogs, websites, and in magazine articles.  (“All You” magazine has some great articles on couponing and meal planning in almost every issue!)  Ask your friends and family for their tricks and tips.  You may be surprised what you learn!

Here is my Meal Plan for the week:

Monday ~ Pasta with Chicken Sausage.  I love the new Johnsonville chicken sausages, especially the Three Cheese Italian variety!  There were coupons for these in the Sunday paper just recently.

Tuesday ~ Soup & Sandwiches.  I have a Financial Coaching appointment in the evening, so I’ll need some quick and filling for dinner.

Wednesday ~ Fend for Yourself Night!  I’m teaching bible study tonight, so it’s everyone for themselves.  I’ll likely eat some leftover pasta from Monday.

Thursday ~ Chicken Fried Rice

Friday ~ Fish Tacos

Saturday ~ Beef Stew in the crock pot.  I’ve got a painting class today, so I’ll throw everything in the crock pot before I leave.  I’ll come home to a delicious-smelling house and an easy dinner.

Sunday ~ Black Bean Chili, see recipe below.  If you use the vegetable broth, this is a great vegetarian meal!

Black Bean Chili 

    1 Tbs olive or canola oil

    1 green pepper, chopped

    1 medium onion, chopped

    3 cloves of garlic, minced

    1 small can of mild green chilies

    1 tsp. of cumin

    1 tsp. of oregano

    2 tsp. chili powder

    1 can of black beans, drained

    1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

    1 can of vegetable (or chicken) broth

    1/4 cup of water

    2/3 cup of barley


    Sauté onions and green pepper over medium heat in oil until onions become translucent.  Add the garlic, green chilies, cumin, oregano, and chili powder.  Sauté for one minute.  Add the beans, broth, tomatoes, water, and barley.  Stir, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until barley is soft.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.