Meal Planning Monday – Being a Label Detective

           There’s a coupon myth floating around out there that if you’re a Coupon Queen you’re probably feeding your family a lot of unhealthy processed and packaged foods.  Anyone that knows me will tell you that it is possible for someone to be a Health Nut and a Coupon Queen, because I am definitely both!  (In fact, certain friends tease me about my health-conscience ways, especially my vitamin consumption.)  I want to save money on food with coupons, but not at the expense of my family’s health. 

            I hope you know by now that there are a lot of healthier alternatives out there when it comes to prepackaged foods – brown rice, whole grain cereals and granola bars, organic frozen dinners, etc.  However, there are some things that seem healthy, but once you read the label you may be in for a shock!

            I’m sure you have heard that things like excess sodium, hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup aren’t good for you.  These food additives can sabotage your efforts to get and stay slim and healthy.  Unfortunately, these cheap additives make you hungry for more, which is why many food manufacturers add them to their products.  I discovered something interesting this week when I was making my famous “Cheap and Easy Chili” for a church potluck dinner (see recipe at the end of this post.) 

            Chili beans and chili-ready tomatoes are key ingredients in my chili.  When they go on sale, I definitely use my coupons and stockpile enough to make several batches of it.  I’m “brand-flexible” on what kind of beans and tomatoes I’ll use because I can save more money that way.  Meaning that I don’t care which brand I use – I just buy whichever one is on sale with coupons.  As I was pulling the cans out of the panty, I noticed that one brand of chili beans (Brooks) had corn syrup on the label, but the other (Bush’s) did not.  The same thing was true for the chili-ready tomatoes.  The Del Monte tomatoes had corn syrup but the Red Gold did not.  I guess I’m not going to get to be as brand-flexible as I’d like.  Cruising through my pantry I also realized that my favorite “healthy” rice, Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice, Brown and Wild rice has almost 700 mgs of sodium per serving!  (Fortunately the plain brown rice has less than 100 mgs.)  I also found out that some of my hubby’s favorite snack foods have hydrogenated oils or corn syrup, or both.  I’ll be searching for some healthier alternatives this week at the grocery store.

            Now, I’m not a nutritionist, but I just want to call attention to the fact that it does benefit us to read labels and understand what we’re putting in our bodies.  Most experts agree that natural ingredients are a healthier choice than man-made ones.  Here at CCQ , we definitely want to save money, but we also want to be healthy and happy.  I challenge you to put on your “label detective” hat this week and really take a good look at what you’re really feeding your family.  Here’s is what’s on my Meal Plan this week:


Monday ~ Beef Stew in the Crockpot. 

Tuesday ~ Turkey Stroganoff with whole wheat egg noodles and peas. 

Wednesday ~ Oven Fried Chicken, potatoes, and mixed veggies. 

Thursday ~ FFY (Fend for Yourself Night).  I’ll be golfing with my Mom so I’ll probably eat a sandwich or Kashi frozen dinner before hitting the links. 

Friday ~ Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and salad 

Saturday ~ Chicken and Steak on the grill with corn on the cob.

 Sunday ~ Cheap & Easy Turkey Chili


Cheap & Easy Turkey Chili

1 pound of ground turkey (or lean ground beef) 

1 Tbs of olive oil

3 cans of Red Gold chili ready tomatoes (14 oz.)

1 can of Mild Bush’s chili beans (14 oz.)

2 cans of Hot Bush’s chili beans (14 oz.)

1 Tbs of ground cumin

Red pepper flakes, optional

Shredded cheddar cheese


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan.  Brown the ground turkey (or beef) and drain.  Add the beans and tomatoes (undrained) and the cumin.  Bring to a boil, then turn down on low and let it simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve with a shake or two of red pepper flakes and top with the shredded cheddar.  You can easily double the recipe to serve a large crowd.  If you don’t like your chili too spicy, use two cans of mild beans, and one of the hot beans, skipping the red pepper flakes.


  1. You know (as far as corn syrup) my doc told me with my blood sugar problems that it didn’t matter whether it was corn syrup or pure cane sugar. (I’m supposed to have very little of either.) I know that’s the big trend right now with corn syrup. The sodium thing…that was a BIG difference though. Wow!