Meal Planning Monday ~ Freezer Cooking: Santa’s Little Helper


            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            This year I have fully embraced the Christmas spirit!  We put up our Christmas tree last night in our Christmas pajamas and watched Christmas cartoons.  I have a ton of do-it-yourself projects planned for the holiday season.  I love and found a lot of DIY Christmas crafts, decorations, and gift ideas.  I could spend hours on that site…actually I have spent hours on that site!  A few of the projects I’m considering are hand made cookie jars, a wreath, homemade hot fudge, and a blanket.

            I was feeling so ambitious I made three dinners yesterday so if I got caught in the zone of wreath-making I wouldn’t have to stress about dinner.  I baked a Zesty Chicken Meatloaf, made Black Bean Chicken Chili, and Chicken Cacciatore.  I found a great deal on ground chicken and chicken breasts at the grocery store.  I encourage you to do some freezer cooking or make-ahead meals on days when you have the time so you have them on hand for the busy days of Christmas shopping, craft-making, present-wrapping, and cookie baking.  You’ll understand why I call freezer cooking “Santa’s Little Helper!”  Here’s what my meal plan looks like this week:

Monday ~ Zesty Chicken Meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, creamed spinach and mac n cheese.  This was my first time making this meatloaf.  I thought it was really good but could use some tweaking.  I’ll post the recipe at the bottom so you can try it.

Tuesday ~ Black Bean Chicken Chili.  I’ll substitute ground chicken for the ground beef I typically use.

Wednesday ~ Chicken Cacciatore over Spaghetti Squash with Garlic Bread sticks.

Thursday ~ Mexican Casserole

Friday ~ Fend For Yourself Night – I’m going to a Miche Party, so no cooking for me!  My husband will either heat up leftovers or make a pizza.

Saturday ~ Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Sunday ~ Roast Chicken, Parmesan Couscous, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Zesty Chicken Meatloaf (I found the recipe from


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons salsa
  • 2 tablespoons Ranch-style salad dressing
  • 1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • sour cream (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Grease an 8×4 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground chicken, eggs, bread crumbs, salsa, salad dressing, and taco seasoning mix.  Pack into the prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven.  Top with cheese, and serve with sour cream

I think next time I make this I will use a little more ranch or maybe try ranch dressing mix.


Meal Planning Monday ~ Reasons to be Thankful




           As Thanksgiving approaches, I realize that I have so much to be thankful for: a loving husband, great friends, a wonderful extended family, a roof over my head, food in my stomach, good health.  I am also very thankful for all the fans of Confessions of a Coupon Queen and customers of Strong Tower, LLC.  Without you, I wouldn’t get to make a living doing something I’m very passionate about.  I am also very thankful for my sister, Leah Kelley, and all the help she gives me with this blog and on our Facebook page.

            This Thanksgiving weekend, I will be going up to Michigan to spend time with my extended family.  It’s always a great time full of good company, delicious food, shopping, and other fun activities.  I hope you will also take some time this holiday season to enjoy your family and be thankful for the many blessings you have.

            This week I’m going to give you a few creative ideas to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers!


  • The last time that I hosted Thanksgiving, I pulled all of the meat off of the bone, put it in a large container, and covered it with gravy.  I put it in the freezer for another meal several weeks later.


  • Turkey Salad – Mixed salad greens, walnuts, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries, and chopped turkey breast.  Top with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.


  • Turkey & Wild Rice Soup.  This is a variation of the Chicken & Wild Rice Soup recipe I shared in a previous blog post.  Just use leftover turkey in place of the chicken breast meat.


  • Almost any recipe that traditionally calls for chicken can be made with leftover turkey – think Turkey Pot Pie, Turkey Burritos, or Turkey Noodle Soup.


What is your favorite way to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers?



Meal Planning Monday – Freezer Cooking, a Real Life Application


This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

We talk quite a bit about freezer cooking here on the blog, and there’s a very good reason for that. Freezer cooking can save you a considerable amount of time, stress, and money when it comes to mealtime. So, instead of sharing my weekly meal plan, I want to share with you a real life application of how freezer cooking can be a lifesaver! When I found out I was pregnant for the third time, with my son Atticus, I immediately starting planning for the last month of my pregnancy. I know sounds a bit extreme, but with two other children and my husband, Derrick, working full time, it was a must for me. I started thinking about which day I wanted my C-section, what time, who would watch the kids that day, who would take my daughter to school…. You get the point – I was obsessed to say the least!

At the beginning of my last month of pregnancy, I started freezer cooking. By making an extra breakfast or dinner to freeze a few times a week, I was able to stock up plenty of freezer meals. My husband would still be working while I was in the hospital, so I needed something easy he could just reheat to feed himself and the girls. I planned out breakfast and dinner for the week I would be recovering from my C-section.

Here are some of the things I made:

Breakfast: Pancakes, Blueberry Muffins, Strawberry Muffins, Waffles, Omelets, and Baked Oatmeal.

Dinner: Lasagna, Taco Meat, Barbeque Chicken, Freezer Mashed Potatoes, Chili, and Pizza dough.

I highly recommend making at least two freezer dinners for your hospital homecoming. Not only will it make dinner a breeze, but you’ll get to spend more time with your precious newborn. Because the last thing you want to think about a day or two after giving birth is, “What’s for dinner?”

(Yes, that is my son, Atticus!  My friend, Amanda Troyer, took that precious picture just days after his birth.)

Meal Planning Monday ~ Family Dinner



          At least once a month, we have Family Dinner with my Dad, stepmom, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.  Yes, that’s most of the crew in the picture above last Christmas.  Nick and I also invite his family over for dinner at our house with regularity.  Feeding a large crowd can be stressful and sometimes expensive.  This week I’m going to give you some tips for saving time, money, and stress when it comes to feeding a larger gathering.  With the holidays approaching, chances are you’re going to have a house full of people at least once between now and New Year’s.

            The first rule to feeding a crowd is, “Keep It Simple!”  It can be tempting to want to impress friends or family with a complicated gourmet meal.  However, this is going to likely be time-consuming and stressful.  If you’re like me, you want to make sure the house is spic and span for your guests, so you’re already going to be pressed for time with your extra cleaning chores.  Prepare a dish that is delicious and simple that you’re very familiar with.  Now is not the time to try something new and be stressed out that it may or may not turn out okay.

            The second rule is to ask your guests to pitch in and bring something – an appetizer, bread and wine, or a dessert.  Most of your friends and family will be happy to help out.  Let them know what you’re making for dinner so they can ensure what they’re bringing will complement the main dish.  If you’re making tacos for dinner and you’re sister-in-law makes spectacular salsa, go ahead and request that she bring chips and her famous salsa for an appetizer.  She will probably be flattered that you like it enough to special request it.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask friends or family members to help set the table or clean up the dishes.  The flip side is true when you are invited somewhere for dinner – ask what you can do to help out.  When we go to Michigan for Thanksgiving, all of the women gather in the kitchen after dinner and help my aunt with the dishes.  Many hands make for light work!

            The final rule is to remember that Family Dinner is first about the people, then about the food.  Don’t become so wrapped up in making sure everything about the food is absolutely perfect that you don’t have time to socialize and have fun. 

            Instead of giving you my menu plan for this week, I’m going to give you seven of my favorite meals to make when I host Family Dinner at my house.


~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce – I make a double batch of meat sauce, which for me is one pound of ground turkey (browned and drained) with Classico Spicy Tomato spaghetti sauce.  I recruit my sisters to bring salad and dessert.  Add garlic bread and a little red wine to round out the meal.

~ Oven Fried Chicken – See my blog post from August 22nd for this recipe that’s a healthier version of fried chicken.  It’s definitely a crowd pleaser!

~ Chili – This is another easy recipe to double or triple to feed a crowd.  Just add corn muffins and a salad and dinner is served.  Here’s the chili recipe that I use.

~ Turkey Stroganoff – This recipe can be made with either ground beef or turkey.  This recipe is chocked full of mushrooms, so make sure the crowd you’re feeding is full of mushroom lovers!  (It seems people either love or hate mushrooms, there’s no middle ground!)  This was the first Meal Planning Monday recipe I shared on my blog.

~ Beef Stew – I just made this recipe this weekend for Nick’s mom and brother.  My secret is to add a can of beef gravy (which I got for 25 cents at Kroger’s Mega Sale this week) to thicken it up.

~ Turkey & Gravy – I’ll buy a turkey breast and bake it almost all the way.  Then I take it out of the oven and slice it.  I’ll toss it in the crockpot on low with several cans of turkey gravy and fresh mushrooms that I’ve sautéed in a little butter.  This is a good choice when you have several waves of guests coming in at different times to eat because it stays nice and hot in the crockpot.

~ Ravioli Lasagna – All of the deliciousness of lasagna without all the work!  See recipe below.


Ravioli Lasagna

  • 1 jar of pasta sauce
  • 2 bags of cheese ravioli (18 – 20 oz. each), fresh or frozen but thawed
  • 2 links of Johnsonville’s Three Cheese Italian Style Chicken Sausage, sliced
  • 1 10 oz. box of frozen spinach, thawed with excess water squeezed out
  • 8 oz. package of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spoon a thin layer of the pasta sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Cover with a single layer of ravioli.  Top with half of the spinach, mozzarella, and sliced sausage.  Top with a third of the sauce.  Repeat with another layer of ravioli, spinach, cheese, sausage, and half of the remaining sauce.  Top with another layer of ravioli and remaining sauce.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and return to oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until bubbly.  Serves 6 people.

If you’re not keen on sausage, you can omit it and use meat sauce.  You can also add or substitute veggies of your choice.