Meal Planning Monday ~ Frozen Dinners



           Sometimes there is just no time to cook and having a frozen dinner is a valid alternative to the fast food drive-thru.  This does not mean you are a failure as a mom, wife, or a meal planner!  I just stocked up on some Healthy Choice Steamers at Kroger this week.  They were on sale as a part of their Mega Sale, so after coupons I paid between $1.25 and a $1.50 apiece.  I try not eat packaged frozen meals for lunch or dinner more than a few times a week. 

            Although certain frozen meals sound healthy – “only 300 calories!”  – many have too much sodium and sugar, and not enough protein and fiber.  I was surprised the other day when I discovered that the Kashi Sweet & Sour Chicken entrée I had just finished had 25 grams of sugar!  In contrast, Kashi’s Chicken Florentine only has 1 gram of sugar.  If you didn’t know, a teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams, which means there’s over 6 teaspoons of sugar in the Sweet & Sour entrée!  (Yikes!  That’s a lot of sugar for something that’s not dessert!)

            I always make sure that I check the labels to see that I’m getting no more than 600-700 mgs of sodium (you should get no more than 2,100 mgs per day, and some people with health issues should get less than that.)  I also want to make sure that I’m getting 15 grams or more of protein, which ensures that my energy stays high and I’m not hungry an hour later.  I try to pick varieties made with whole grain pasta or brown rice. 

            However, the best frozen meal is the one you make yourself!  This is why I am such a big advocate of freezer cooking.  This way YOU control how much salt and fat goes into your meals.  Just double or triple your favorite recipes and freeze the leftovers in individual serving sizes.  I was wiped out after my trip to Kroger on Friday, so I was happy to have a container of turkey chili to heat up when I got home.  I made homemade chicken soup on Saturday and have several containers in the freezer for future meals.  I’m curious – what’s your favorite (store-bought or homemade) freezer meal?

Here is my Meal Plan for this week:

Monday ~ Meatloaf.  I’ve been searching for the perfect meatloaf.  This will be the third recipe I’ve tried this month.  I’ll serve it with mac and cheese and cauliflower.  I might make two meatloaves and freeze one.

Tuesday ~ Black Bean Soup.  This is a super-easy soup to make, and the leftovers  can be frozen!  (See recipe below.)  

Wednesday ~ Fend For Yourself Night.  I’ll be teaching a class this night, so I’ll either have a Healthy Choice frozen dinner, or maybe one of my freezer cooking meals.

Thursday ~ Coconut Crusted Tilapia

Friday ~ Dinner out with my friend at my favorite Chinese Restaurant, The Oriental Wok!

Saturday ~ Beef stew in the crock pot.  If there are any leftovers, they’ll get frozen as well.

Sunday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and green beans.  My sister-in-law, Emily, makes her mashed potatoes with a tablespoon or two of ranch dressing in them.  I tried this the other night and it was fantastic!  (Add the same amount of milk and butter that you usually do.) 



Easy Black Bean Soup

1 can of black beans, drained

1 can of refried black beans

1 can of chicken broth

1 cup of salsa

Shredded cheddar cheese

Crushed tortilla chips

Chopped cilantro, optional

Low Fat Sour Cream to garnish, optional


Heat the salsa in a medium-sized pan over medium.  Bring to a gentle boil and let the salsa simmer for 3 – 4 minutes.  Add the black beans, chicken broth, and refried black beans.  Bring to a gentle boil and reduce heat to low.  Allow soup to simmer for 10 minutes.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips.  Add chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Comfort Food


This week’s post is by Leah Kelley. 

            We all know that winter weather and comfort food go together.  Nothing hits the spot on a cold day like a bowl of hearty chili or a big cup of hot chocolate next to the fire.  I love comfort food and everyone has their own take on it.  Many of my favorite comfort foods are made in the crock pot.  I’m a huge crock pot fan.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorite comfort foods this week.  Here is my Meal Plan:


Monday ~ Chili.  I love chili because it’s so versatile.  Black Bean Chili, White Chicken Chili, Cincinnati Chili are a few of my favorites. 

Tuesday ~ Chicken and Dumplings.  This is one of my favorite recipes to make, especially since I do the crock pot version. 

Wednesday ~ Country Fried Steak.  I made this a few weeks ago and it turned out great!  It was much easier than I thought.  I even made the pan gravy to go with it.  Of course we had mashed potatoes with it – how could you not have mashed potatoes?!

Thursday ~ Corn Chowder.  I got this recipe from my Recipe Group on Facebook.  My husband said it sounded gross, but as soon as he tried it he loved it.  This is another easy crock pot recipe. 

Friday ~ Tuna Noodle Casserole.  It’s super easy to make and oh-so-yummy. 

Saturday ~ Date Night.  The kids will have a snack night with Grandpa while Derrick and I dine on Sushi and Pad Thai.

Sunday ~ Garlic Chicken in the crock pot. 


Corn Chowder

1 can whole kernel corn- drained

1 can creamed corn

2 cans diced new potatoes

1 can carrots sliced (I dice them too)

1-2 stalks celery- diced

1 med. Onion- diced

2 cans chicken broth

2-3 chicken breasts- diced and seasoned w/garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.  Cook in skillet w/olive oil. 

Cook all ingredients on high in crock pot for 2 hours.  Add 8oz heavy whipping cream and 8oz block of cream cheese.  Turn crock pot down to low until cream cheese is melted and you’re ready to eat.


The Magic of Meal Planning! February 29, 2012

Does the question, “What’s for Dinner?” cause you stress on a regular basis?  If so, “Magic of Meal Planning” Workshop is for you!  In this fun and informative one-hour workshop, you’ll learn how the simple strategies of Meal Planning can save you time, stress, and money when it comes to feeding your family! You’ll learn the Meal Planning basics, how to save time and money with Freezer Cooking, and get tips and recipes that will help you get a delicious dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Only $10 per person!  The workshop fee includes Christine Luken’s new 50-page e-book, “The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking!  (Your Complete Guide to Meal Planning Made Easy)” – a $7.95 value FREE!


February 29th , 2012 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Vineyard Christian Church, Florence, KY

Contact Us to Register!

Save Money with Practical Couponing! February 22, 2012

Save Money with Practical Couponing!

           Do you want to save money on your grocery bill so you can build up your emergency fund and pay off your debt?  Sign up for this special Coupon Class on Wednesday, February 22ndThe cost is $20 per person, which is a savings of $25 over the regular price.  The two hour class will provide you with all of the information you need to hit the ground running and start saving NOW with proven coupon strategies!  You will learn how to use coupons to immediately begin saving $200-$300 per month, or more!  All participants receive a FREE copy of Christine’s new e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen”!

February 22nd, 2012 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Vineyard Christian Church, Florence, KY


Contact us to sign up!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Practice What You Preach!


          January is synonymous with new beginnings, and that is certainly true for my life right now.  For the past twelve years, I have worked as the VP of HR & Accounting and been a part owner of my family’s business, KRC Machine Tool Services.  I am grateful for the people I have met and worked alongside for many years and for the comfortable living that my job has provided for me.  However, I feel that my calling in life is to help people save money and get out of debt.  So, by the end of February, I will be completely self-employed and putting a full-time effort behind Strong Tower – teaching Meal Planning and Coupon Workshops and doing financial coaching.  Equal parts exciting and scary!

            For the past seven or eight months, I’ve essentially been working a job and half, trying to ramp up activity with Strong Tower while working full-time at KRC.  I’ve definitely been better about Meal Planning during this time, because I’ve had to be!  Certainly Meal Planning saves money, but its main benefit is saving time and stress.  However, because I’ve been SO busy, I haven’t been as diligent as I could be with keeping up on the deals for my family and maintaining my coupon binder.  I’ve been so occupied teaching others, that it’s been difficult to find time to do it for myself!

            That is going to have to change!  Once I’m completely self-employed I will certainly have more time to check out the deals and shop more stores.  I’ll need to because there’s going to be a decrease in our family’s income until Strong Tower starts really taking off.  Yes, we’ve got a good cushion in our savings account so I won’t have to worry too much, but I don’t want to dip into that unless it’s absolutely necessary.  So I will definitely be practicing EVERYTHING that I teach and preach to others – Budgeting, Meal Planning, Stockpiling, Freezer Cooking, and Super Couponing!

            The one thing that I tell people in my classes is that the more savings techniques you apply together, the bigger your return will grow.  All of us have different family, income, and job situations.  Some people have more time to devote to Couponing and Meal Planning than others.  The nice thing is that you can easily pick and choose how much of it you want to do and which strategies you want to apply.  When you have a change in income, schedule, or family dynamics, you can easily change what you’re doing with Meal Planning and Couponing to adapt.

            The lesson here is not to beat yourself up over how you’re not doing everything you can to save money.  Take a good look at your money and life situation and decide how much time you can devote to Couponing and Meal Planning.  Hey – no one’s perfect!  (Least of all, me.)  Can I get an “Amen”?

Here’s my Meal Plan for this week.

Monday ~ Fish Tacos.  They remind me of being on vacation with my husband in Maui, where I first tried them.  With it being freezing outside, I’ll give myself a little mental vacation!

Tuesday ~FFY (Fend for Yourself!)  I will probably eat out at Panera or my favorite cheap Chinese restaurant.  I am helping teach Financial Peace University at my church tonight.  I love helping people get out of the bondages of debt! 

Wednesday ~ FFY (Fend for Yourself!)  Bible Study.  I have several freezer meals that I can pick from for dinner – turkey noodle soup, chili, or Mom’s split pea soup.

 Thursday ~ Weeknight Deviled Cornish Hens.  I found this recipe in the USA Weekend magazine that comes in my Sunday paper.  It sounds easy and delicious!  I’ve included the recipe below.

Friday ~ Turkey Stroganoff served over egg noodles with peas.

Saturday ~ Baked Salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli

Sunday ~ Tomato basil soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on rye bread.


Weeknight Deviled Cornish Hen

• 2 Cornish game hens (1½ to 2 pounds each), cut down the back with kitchen shears to butterfly
• 1½ tsps. olive oil
• 1½ tsps. dried thyme leaves
• ¼ cup dry plain bread crumbs
• Salt and ground black pepper
• ¼ cup Dijon mustard

Adjust rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add thyme and bread crumbs; toast until fragrant and golden, a couple of minutes.

Lightly sprinkle hens all over with salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet large enough for them to comfortably fit in a single layer. Brush hens with mustard and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Roast until impressively golden brown and juices run clear when leg thigh is pricked with a fork, about 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes. Halve and serve.

Makes 4 servings


Meal Planning Monday ~ What’s for Dinner?


This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            It’s “Clean out your Pantry and Freezer” week here at the Kelley household.  Every month or so I plan a week of meals around what is left in my pantry, just to make sure that nothing is going to waste.  Sometimes I’ll go shopping and think, “Hey, a can of sauerkraut on clearance!” or “Wow!  Hamburger Helper’s on sale…  I think I’ll get six boxes.”  Those things are starting to take up valuable space in my kitchen!

            I have so many odds and ends in my pantry it’s almost ridiculous.  I also tend to freezer cook and “forget” some of the meals I make until they are too freezer burnt to eat.  Hey – no one’s perfect!  So this week, I’m going to make good use of the food I have on hand.  Here’s what my meal plan looks like for this week.


Monday ~ Crockpot Pork Chops.  I bought 10 cans each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup a few weeks ago.  What better way to use them than this recipe?  

Tuesday ~ Spaghetti and Meat Sauce. 

Wednesday ~ Hamburger Helper.  I love the Cheesy Macaroni kind.  I don’t make it a lot but when I do it always hits the spot.  It’s a comfort food for me.

Thursday ~ Meatloaf.  I picked up 6lbs of ground beef for $5 a few weeks ago so I made 3 meatloaves. They’re easy to make freeze wonderful and my family loves them!

Friday ~ Mama’s Night Out.  I’m taking some “me” time tonight.  I won a gift card to Qdoba so I’m taking myself out to dinner! 

Saturday ~ Perogies and Broccoli Cheddar Soup.  I made a double batch of soup last week so I’ll heat that up and fry up some Perogies. 

Sunday ~ Potato Soup and Grill Cheese


Crock Pot Pork Chops

4 to 6 Pork Chops

1 Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 Can of Cream of Chicken Soup

1 Package of Dry Onion Soup Mix

1 Cup of Water

Instructions: In a slow cooker, mix cream of mushroom soup, dry onion soup mix and water. Place pork chops in slow cooker and coat with soup mixture. Cook on High setting for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low setting for 8 to 9 hours.


Meal Planning Monday ~ Resolve to Save Money this Year!

          On Saturday, my husband and I were watching the 40th anniversary of Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” and they were talking about the top five New Year’s resolutions for 2012.  Of course losing weight made the list, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t number one.  The number one resolution people are making in 2012 is “Save More Money.”  To say that I am excited about this is an understatement!

            As a Coupon Queen and experienced Meal Planner, I know firsthand how much people can save using these strategies!  Because I am a Nerd, I track my coupon savings and have done so for the past four years.  I love seeing my savings rack up as each month progresses!  What was my grand total for 2011?  I saved $6,939, which is about $578 each month by using meal planning, rebates, and coupons for just about everything!  What would you do with an extra $578 every month?  Build up your savings?  Pay down your debt?  Save for a large purchase?  All of these are great ways to use your coupon savings to improve your family’s finances!

            At, we have all the tools you need to get started on your resolution to save money with coupons and meal planning!  There’s a lot of great (FREE!) information in the Meal Planning Monday archives on the website.  If you’re new to couponing, get yourself a copy of my e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen: Secrets Retailers Don’t Want You to Know.”  For one more week, you can get it for the low price of $5.99, and save an additional 10% using the coupon code LEAH.  (The price will go up to $7.95 next Monday.)  If you’re already applying the stockpiling and meal planning strategies, get yourself organized with the Coupon Wizard software.  The software includes a FREE copy of the Confessions of a Coupon Queen e-book and is only $49.99 – use the LEAH coupon code to save 10% on this too!

            Leah and I are both very excited about the upcoming release of our new e-book all about Meal Planning, called “The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking!”  It contains all the basics of meal planning and is chock-full of tips and recipes designed to save you time, stress, and money!  Stay tuned for details about the release.  We are also working on a new one-hour class: “The Magic of Meal Planning.”  We realized that whether people use coupons or not, everyone can save money by using meal planning and freezer cooking strategies.

            My resolution in 2012 is to help strengthen the finances of as many families as I can, by teaching them to save money with meal planning, couponing, and sound money management strategies.  May the year 2012 be known as “The Year of Savings!”