Meal Planning Monday ~ Party Time!

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Let’s talk party food this week!  I love this time of year, not only is it warm but there’s also a lot of different parties and get-togethers going on – Cinco de Mayo, Derby parties, graduations, and baby showers to name a few.  Personally, I love a good grill out…  Hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad – just the thought makes me hungry!  Most of us have our go-to party food we like to make.  For me, it’s Dill Potato Salad and Buffalo Chicken Dip, because both are easy to make and delicious. I thought I’d share some other ideas for party food.  Here’s what I made this past weekend for a girls’ gathering at my house.

Caprese Kabobs ~ These not only are super easy to make, but also delicious.  Fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, skewered on a toothpick. 

Chocolate Fondue ~ Scentsy is coming out with a new fondue line and we were lucky enough to preview it.  We tried the dark chocolate with brownie bites, Rice Krispy treats, and angel food cake pieces for dipping. 

Buffalo Chicken Dip ~ Frank’s Red Hot Sauce has a great recipe for this dip.

Beer Bread with Garlic – Garlic dip and Herb dip ~ This was my first time trying anything from Tastefully Simple and it was great!

Veggie Tray with Peppers, Carrots, and Cucumbers ~ Veggie trays are so simple and great especially on a hot summer day. 

Strawberry Basil Sangria ~ I almost didn’t want to share this with my guests it was so good! 


Strawberry Basil Sangria  (From 


  • ½ lb. of fresh strawberries
  • 1 apple
  • 1 ounce of fresh whole basil leaves
  • 1 bottle of Cline Cellar’s Cool Climate Chardonnay
  • ½ cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup of club soda
  • 1 cup of white grape juice


1. Trim and thinly slice the strawberries.

2. Slice and dice the apple into very small bits.

3. Score the basil leaves with a fork.  (I did this instead of cutting the leaves into strips as I did not want my guests choking on basil while trying to enjoy this drink). Simply just rub the basil leaves gently with a fork in order to release their flavor in the sangria.

4. Layer the fruit, sugar and basil in a large pitcher and let sit for about 10 minutes. This is just to let the sugar absorb the juices from the basil and the fruit. You’ll see it turn a bit red.

5. Add the club soda first and then the remaining liquids.  Stir well and serve.

I used 2 cups of dry champagne instead of the club soda and white grape juice.  You could also use sparkling white grape juice to replace the Chardonnay for a great non-alcoholic treat!


Meal Planning Monday ~ Waste Not!

            A fellow coupon blogger posted a challenge at the end of March – Let’s try to waste as little food as possible in April.  I was shocked to learn that Americans throw away 27% of their food!  I’m ashamed to say that I throw away more food than I would like to admit, so I decided to take the challenge.  First I had to figure out what I was throwing out or wasting on a regular basis and why. 

            Produce and leftovers seemed to be the bulk of the food that I was throwing away.  I realized that I was over-buying certain produce items.  I love spinach salads with cucumbers, feta cheese, and Greek dressing.  Almost every week, I was buying fresh baby spinach and cucumbers for my salads.  So, what’s the problem?  When I would return home from my grocery shopping trip, I would frequently be tossing out half of last week’s salad stuff to make room for the fresh items.  I’m spending $4 – $5 on my spinach and cucumbers, so throwing any of it away is a colossal waste of food and money! 

            Here’s what I decided to do: I would buy my salad stuff every other week and see if I’m eating all of it before it goes bad.  I’m also trying to use any extra spinach in other dishes.  I decided to plant both spinach and cucumbers in my garden this year, so I can pick what I need on a salad-by-salad basis.  Now, when I’m at the grocery store in the produce aisle, I am being more selective about the produce I’m buying.  I’m asking myself, “Are we going to be able to eat all of this before it goes bad?  If not, can I freeze it?”  If I can’t honestly answer “yes” then it doesn’t go in the cart.

            Leftovers were also ending up in the trash.  Why?  Sometimes it’s because my husband and I are tired of eating a particular dish (and it sits in the fridge for too long) and other times it’s because the leftovers are only part of a meal – rice or veggies.  So, here is what I decided to do to decrease our waste of leftovers.   If I even slightly suspect that leftovers aren’t going to be eaten within 24-48 hours, they are going right into the freezer.  I keep a freezer inventory sheet so that I know what freezer meals and side dishes are on hand.

            I haven’t completely eliminated food waste, but I have definitely seen a decrease in the amount of food that’s ending up in the trash can since I’ve started this experiment.  I’ve also noticed an increase in the amount of money in my wallet!  This is one experiment I plan to continue.  Won’t you join me?  Here is my meal plan for this week.


Monday ~ Turkey chili.  This recipe makes a huge batch so leftovers will go into individual containers to be frozen.

Tuesday ~ Black Bean Soup with shredded cheddar cheese and crushed tortilla chips on top.

Wednesday ~  Pasta with chicken sausage and spicy tomato sauce and salad.

Thursday ~ Tomato Basil Soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.  I recently went through my pantry and realized that I had 18 cans of diced tomatoes!  Time to put some of those to good use.  I’ll use 6 of those cans this week between the chili and the tomato basil soup.

Friday ~ Coconut Crusted Tilapia with jasmine rice and veggies.

Saturday ~ Dinner out for me and hubby.

Sunday ~ Beer Chicken in the Crockpot with twice-baked potatoes and garlic roasted asparagus.  Leah’s recipe in last week’s post sounded so good, I have to try it for myself!


Here’s the recipe for the Tomato Basil Soup.


Tomato Basil Soup

1 Tbs of Olive Oil

3 Cloves of Garlic, minced

3 cups of Chicken Broth

¼ tsp. Salt

3 Cans (14.5 oz.) of Diced Tomatoes, undrained

1 Cup of fresh Basil leaves, thinly sliced (or 1 Tbs. of dried basil)

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in broth, salt, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Stir in basil the last two or three minutes of cooking.  Use an immersion blender to puree to your desired consistency.  (You can also put the diced tomatoes in the blender before adding them to the soup.)




Updates to the Meijer Coupon Policy!

On April 17, 2012, Meijer made some changes to their coupon policy.  Here’s a summary of them:

  • You may NOT stack a paper manufacturer coupon with a Meijer M-Perks coupon.
  • You may NOT divide your order into separate transactions to avoid the 2-coupon doubling rule.
  • The coupon must be validated by the register.  This could be an issue – if the coupon beeps because they don’t have it in their system, you could be denied the use of it.  We’ll have to keep tabs on this to see if it becomes a major issue.
  • Meijer now ACCEPTS COMPETITOR COUPONS!!  This is a GREAT change! 

On the whole, these changes are reasonable and I particularly like that they accept competitor coupons.  Here is the Meijer coupon policy as it appears on their website:


Coupon Acceptance at Meijer Stores

 Meijer accepts manufacturer, Catalina manufacturer, Meijer, Catalina Meijer, mPerks, internet, and competitor coupons within certain guidelines.


• Coupons must be presented on or before the expiration date

• All coupon terms and conditions must be met and validated by the checkout register

• Customers may use one manufacturer coupon (paper or digital) per item.

• Customers may also combine one manufacturer coupon per item with applicable Meijer coupon(s) where allowed under coupon redemption terms.

• Transactions cannot be broken up to avoid coupon stacking restrictions

• Separate checklanes will not be opened or designated for customers with large coupon orders

• Manufacturer coupons and Catalina manufacturer coupons require the Customer to pay sales tax on the full retail amount

• Meijer, Catalina Meijer, and competitor coupons require the Customer to pay sales tax only on the discounted price

• Meijer will accept coupons from major competitors in each store’s trading area, for Grocery and or for Health and Beauty Care items

• Meijer will accept coupons from major competitors in each store’s trading area for General Merchandise items only if the competitor’s price point is included. The item must be the identical item on the coupon for the match to occur.

• Meijer does not accept competitor coupons for beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, double and triple coupons, clearance, percent off, total trans- action discounts, special promotions, gift card promotions, limited quantity items, mail-in rebate offers, and going out of business sales

• Meijer reserves the right to limit coupon quantities and to determine the order of application of multiple coupons and/or promotions


Meal Planning Monday ~ Sticking to your Plan


           This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.       

            My husband, Derrick, is in St. Louis for work this week, so it’s just me and the kids for dinner!  Now, when we talk about Meal Planning around here, we frequently remind folks that it’s not a straight jacket.  This means that you can feel free to switch around your meals for the week if you feel like it.  However, this week I’m going to try an experiment – I plan to make everything on its scheduled day.  When my husband is home, our Meal Plan usually gets rearranged a bit based on what sounds good.  That’s not too big of a deal until Derrick wants meals that aren’t even planned!  He can be quite the difficult one at times! ;)   I have a busy week planned for us, so I’ve got easy meals on the schedule.  We plan on visiting the Newport Aquarium, Cincinnati Zoo, and a few parks for picnic lunches.  Here’s my Meal Plan for this week.

Monday ~ Beer Chicken in the Crockpot.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it last week.  It will be making a lot of appearances on my dinner list – it was delicious!

Tuesday ~ Spaghetti with Meatballs

Wednesday ~  Pizza Night! I won a free pizza on Domino’s Facebook page last week!

Thursday ~ Breakfast for Dinner!  We’re having pancakes with bacon and eggs.

Friday ~ Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings. This is by far one of my favorite comfort foods.

Saturday ~ Date Night.  Hopefully Derrick is back in town; if not we’ll have leftovers.

Sunday ~ Chili and cornbread.


Here’s the recipe for the Beer Crockpot Chicken.  Thank you My Daily Dish for the recipe!


Beer Crockpot Chicken

4-6 Chicken Breasts or 1 Whole or cut-up Chicken

1 Can of any kind of Beer

1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp. Basil

1/2 tsp. Paprika

1/2 tsp. Black Pepper

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

*You can use whatever spices you like.  I used Lawry’s seasoning salt, garlic powder, and pepper on mine.

Put all ingredients into crockpot

If chicken is frozen, cook on high 4-5 hours or low 8-10 hours.

If chicken is fresh, cook on high 3-4 hours or low 7-8 hours.




Meal Planning Monday ~ Your Meal Planning Toolbox

          If you’ve been following our blog for even a few weeks, you know that one of the keys to successful Meal Planning is being organized.  Now, you don’t have be anal-retentive, get out your label-maker and alphabetize your food, organized.  However, a little bit of organization and planning is required to be successful in your Meal Planning endeavors.  I thought I would share with you some great tools and resources that will make this much easier for you!

            I am a big fan of Freezer Cooking, and I frequently make extra pancakes, muffins, batches of chili, soups, and stews to freeze.  These really help me on mornings or evenings when I don’t have time to make a proper meal.  I can pull something out of the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and have a tasty, home cooked meal in minutes.  However, I was running into the problem of not remembering what exactly was in my deep freezer.  I would either forget something was in there and have to throw it out, or would swear that I had a couple of serving of turkey chili in the freezer only to find out that I’d already used it a few weeks before.  So I decided to start using a Freezer Inventory Sheet to keep track of what is in my freezer.  I hang it on my freezer and every time I add or subtract something, I write it in.  For example, I would write “Turkey Chili” with a 4 for the number of containers I put in the freezer.  As I pull them out, I make an “X” in one of the boxes, so I know how many I have left.  When the item is all gone, I cross it off the list.  I update the whole thing once or twice a month on my computer so it doesn’t get too messy.  This has really helped me make better use of what’s in my freezer.

            I certainly hope that you are using some type of Meal Planning Calendar to keep track of your monthly meals.  I use the Coupon Wizard Software for this because it makes it easy to add meals to a day on the calendar and add any missing ingredients to my shopping list.  If you’re not computer-savvy, you can just as easily use a paper calendar and write your meals on it.  However you decide to do your Meal Planning Calendar, I suggest you hang a copy of it on your refrigerator, so that your family can see what’s for dinner each day.  You might even ask your family members to put stars by the meals they enjoyed so you’ll know which recipes were a hit.

            Another Meal Planning tool I can’t live without is my Recipe Binder.  Once I try a recipe and decide that I like it and will make it again, I add it to my recipe binder.  It’s simply a 3-ring binder with sheet protectors in it.  This makes it easy to pull out the one page recipe that I need and I can easily wipe off any flour, water, etc. that I might happen to drip on it while cooking.

            I also stumbled across this post on the Money Saving Mom website which has a Recipe Cost Calculator that you can download FREE.  It seems to be geared towards baked goods, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t add other ingredients for your dinner recipes to see how much your recipe is going to cost you.  This may seem like work, but it may reveal some surprising insights about how much your favorite recipes truly cost to make.  Based on what you discover, you may decide to make certain recipes more or less to help ease the strain on your grocery budget.  I am going to use this tool to figure out how much each of my meals costs per person this month and see if it changes my meal planning strategies.

            Here’s my Meal Plan for this week:

~ Monday – Turkey Stroganoff served over Egg Noodles with Peas

~ Tuesday – FFY (Fend For Yourself).  I am teaching a Coupon Workshop at my church tonight.  I will probably eat one of my freezer meals (like Chicken Soup) before I go.

~ Wednesday – Fiery Fried Chicken with Potatoes and Broccoli

~ Thursday – Turkey Sausage, Perogies fried in a little bit of butter with onion, Green Beans

~ Friday – Meat Loaf with Freezer Mashed Potatoes and Salad

~ Saturday – Foil Packets on the Grill (See Recipe Below)

~ Sunday – Chicken Tacos with Refried Beans


Foil Packets on the Grill

 1 ½ pounds of chicken breast tenders, cut into 1 inch pieces

¼ pound of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 oz. of sliced fresh mushrooms

1 bell pepper, sliced into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons of diced onions

¼ pound of zucchini, thinly sliced


¼ cup of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can of petite diced tomatoes, undrained

2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning

¼ cup capers, drained

Salt and pepper to taste

 Mix the sauce ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the diced veggies and chicken.  Stir to coat veggie and meat with the sauce.  Use four 12×12 inch sheet of heavy duty foil.  Divide the meat and veggies among the four foil sheets.  Fold the foil edges toward the center and crimp to seal.  Fold up the outside edges to seal as well.  Place foil packets on a hot grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.  Let stand 3 minutes before serving.  (This recipe can also be made on the stove top with a large deep frying pan.  Brown the meat first, and then add the other ingredients.  Cover and cook for 8 minutes.)











Meal Planning Monday ~ Breakfast for Dinner


          April Fool’s Day was yesterday and it’s a fun time to play a practical joke or shake up your usual routine.  Some families I know will have dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner on April Fool’s Day, which is especially fun for kids.  However, having breakfast for dinner isn’t something that should be a once-a-year occasion!  Having breakfast for dinner once a month (or even once a week) is a great way to have a quick, inexpensive, satisfying meal.

            Because Easter is just around the corner, eggs seem to be on sale everywhere right now.  Eggs will keep a few weeks past the “Sell By” date stamped on them, so it’s a good time to stock up on a few dozen.  And even without a sale, eggs are still a cheap source of protein.  Pancakes and waffles are also a great breakfast-for-dinner option.  Recently, my Uncle John Phetteplace gave me his coveted homemade pancake recipe.  They are the most delicious, fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had!  Fortunately, he’s agreed to let me share the recipe with you.  Once you’ve tried them, you’ll have a hard time going back to a boxed mix.

            This week, I’m going to give you seven different ideas for making a great breakfast dinner for your family.

1.  Omelets ~ Make a “build-your-own-omelet” station.  Set out several types of cheeses, chopped veggies, diced ham, and bacon or sausage crumbles.  Let each family member whip up their own omelet masterpiece!

2.  Pancakes ~ Mix it up and try different add-ins in your pancake batter, such as chocolate chips, pureed ripe banana, nuts, or berries.  Do you like pineapple upside down cake?  Put a pineapple ring with a cherry in the middle on the skillet and ladle the pancake batter on top for a real treat!

 3.  Breakfast Casserole ~ The great thing about breakfast casseroles is that they taste better when they have been refrigerated for at least a few hours or overnight.  You could whip one up and put it in the fridge on a Sunday night so that on Monday after work, you’ll just need to pop it in the oven.  If you don’t already have a recipe for a great breakfast casserole, you can find one here.

 4.     Egg Sandwiches ~ Just like regular sandwiches, you can jazz up your egg sandwiches however you’d like!  Think beyond the stand-by toppings of bacon, sausage, and cheese.  My favorite egg sandwich is an egg and cheese panini with pesto, sundried tomatoes, and fresh spinach leaves – yum!  Experiment with different types of breads, English muffins, and bagels, too.

 5.     Waffles ~ Sure, waffles are great with butter and syrup, but why not try topping your waffles with yogurt, fruit, and nuts for a change?  Top two waffles with vanilla yogurt, pineapple tidbits, and chopped macadamia nuts for a tropical treat!

 6.     Breakfast Burritos ~ Stuff your burritos with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, and your favorite veggies for a satisfying meal.

 7.     Cereal ~ When you’re just too tired for anything else, there’s nothing wrong with having a bowl of cereal and milk for dinner.


Uncle John’s Pancakes

  • 1 cup of vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup of melted butter

 Mix together the first four ingredients.

  •  2 cups flour (I use 1 cup white and 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt

 Blend dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Add yogurt, milk, egg, and butter mixture to the blended dry ingredients.  (Add blueberries or other add-ins of your choice.)  Fry in a non-stick pan over medium heat.