October ~ A Month of Meals

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Do you meal plan weekly or monthly?  I’ve tried it both ways and have come to the conclusion that it’s less stressful for me to meal plan monthly, since I only have to do it 12 times a year, instead of 52!  On numerous occasions, I’ve had people ask me to share my monthly meal plan so they can get some fresh ideas for their own meal plans.

October is going to be frightfully busy for me!  I start teaching Financial Peace University tomorrow, which is a nine-week class.  I’ve also been doing more financial coaching appointments in the evening lately.  That means plenty of FFY (Fend For Yourself) days on the calendar!  I’ll be batch cooking to stock the freezer with soups, chili, BBQ, and pasta for those busy evenings.  I also plan on baking during the weekends – homemade granola bars, pumpkin bread, zucchini muffins, and plum cake!  Here’s what I’m cooking in October.

Week One

 

Monday ~ Homemade vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  There will be plenty of leftover soup to be frozen.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Hubby will probably reheat white chicken chili for his dinner.

Wednesday ~ Breakfast for dinner: Omelets, hash browns, turkey sausage and fruit

Thursday ~ FFY – Financial Coaching.  Hubby will have to reheat a freezer meal.

Friday  ~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce with salad.  I’ll make a double batch of the sauce and freeze the leftovers.

Saturday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I’ll also bake pumpkin bread sometime over the weekend.

Sunday ~ Using the leftover chicken meat from Saturday, and the chicken stock in the freezer, I’ll be making chicken soup.  Recently, I’ve been omitting the noodles and adding extra veggies, like peas, green beans, and corn.  We’ll round out the meal with crusty rolls and butter.

Week Two

 

Monday ~ Broiled or grilled chicken breasts with artichokes & tomatoes.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  I’ll put beef stew in the crock pot in the morning, so it will be ready when Nick gets home from work.

Wednesday ~ Loaded Nachos.

Thursday ~ Turkey Chili with salads.  Plenty of leftovers for the freezer!

Friday  ~ White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup with beer bread.  This is a cheap, filling, meatless meal.  Thanks to my sister, Leah, for this recipe!

Saturday ~ I’m going to try my hand at making Chicken & Asparagus with Black Bean Sauce and serve it with brown rice.  It’s a more involved recipe than most of the ones I make on a regular basis, so I’m saving it for the weekend.

Sunday ~ Turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes and a veggie.  I’ll also bake a double batch of granola bars.

 

White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cups chopped raw kale
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans white beans, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a stock/soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; sauté until soft. Stir in broth, carrots, beans, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until carrots are almost tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale; cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until kale is done, stirring occasionally.

Week Three

 

Monday ~ Spinach Stuffed Chicken. My freezer is packed with frozen spinach, so I’m trying to work it into my meals this month.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Chicken & Potatoes in the crock pot – easy and delicious!  I’ll strain the juices left in the crock pot and freeze it because it makes awesome stock for chicken soup!

Thursday ~ Out to Eat for Dinner!  A well-deserved night off for me!

Friday  ~ Meatloaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Saturday ~ Rosemary Lemon Chicken in the crock pot with Parmesan potatoes and a veggie.  Make 5 balls of foil from 1’ x 1’ sheets and set the chicken on top of the foil balls inside the crock pot.  This keeps the skin from getting soggy.  I rub the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle it with rosemary and stuff it with lemon wedges, and cook it breast side down.

Sunday ~ Easy Cheesy Casserole and side salads.  The leftovers from this casserole freeze really well.  I also plan on making zucchini chocolate chip muffins.

Week Four

 

Monday ~ Spicy Shrimp & Tomatoes.  This can be served over rice or pasta, or with crusty rolls to dip into the tasty juices!

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Black bean soup with tortilla chips.  Fast, vegetarian, and leftovers freeze well.

Thursday ~ BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with sweet potato fries and a veggie.

Friday  ~ Chicken and mushrooms with white wine sauce over wild rice with garlic roasted cauliflower.

Saturday ~ Salmon and Steak with twice-baked potatoes and salad.

Sunday ~ Grilled Chicken Tenderloins with Hash Brown Casserole and green beans.  I’m also going to bake my favorite cake – Cardamom Plum Cake – just because!

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Cold Weather Means Comfort Food

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

I am not a fan of winter, but I am a fan of cold-weather comfort food.  Cold weather makes me want to eat chicken and dumplings with cherry cobbler for dessert.  Here are some of my favorite comfort foods.

  • Chicken and Dumplings ~ I especially love the fact that I can make these in the crock pot!
  • Chili ~ I’m a fan of chunky chili, with lots of meat, lots of beans, and lots of tomatoes.  I’ve recently started making black bean chili for my husband and it’s growing on me.
  • Cobbler ~ When I think of comfort desserts this is at the top of my list.  Blueberry and Cherry cobbler are my favorites.  Not only is it delicious, it’s easy to make!
  • Chicken Noodle Soup ~ I make some mean soup!  I’ll share my easy recipe below.
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup ~ This is one of the times it’s completely okay to use Velveeta cheese.  I’ve tried recipes with and without Velveeta and the recipes with it always win hands down.

We still have two months of winter left, so warm up your family with some comfort food favorites tonight!

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

  • Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
  • Diced Carrots
  • Chopped Celery
  • 2 Cartons of Chicken Broth or Homemade chicken broth
  • Italian Seasoning

 

Throw all these in the crock pot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high 4 hours.  30 minutes before you serve put in a cup of egg noodles.  Remember noodles expand!  I learned that the hard way.

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ The Glory of Autumn

 

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

Cooler temps, the leaves are starting to change colors, and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back.  Yep, it’s officially autumn.  This is my favorite season ~ Halloween, pumpkin farms, and cozy sweaters are just a few reasons why I love this time of year.  I also love cooking in the cooler weather.  I tend to use my crock pot more in the fall and winter.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorite fall crock pot recipes.

Chili ~ My husband loves chili, so this is a staple in our house.  I like experimenting with different chili recipes: black bean chili, vegetarian chili, and white chicken chili to name a few.  Chili also freezes very well, so I make a double batch and freeze half.

Ham and Green Beans ~ This is so easy to throw together.  All you need is ham, green beans, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Black Bean Soup ~ A friend of mine in my Facebook recipe group recommended this recipe.    It’s so good and it also freezes well.

Pot Roast ~ there’s nothing like coming home to the smell of roast cooking in the crock pot. My family loves leftover pot roast sandwiches.  I love meals I can make once and get two to three more meals out of.

Baked Apples ~ I haven’t tried these yet.  I did put them on my “To Make” list for fall foods.

Carnitas ~ I don’t instantly think fall when I think of carnitas, but this recipe is so good and it’s another one that makes my house smell amazing.

Pumpkin anything ~ Alright that doesn’t fit into the crock pot category, but who doesn’t love pumpkin flavored anything in the fall?  Here’s a great recipe for pumpkin pancakes.

Here is the recipe for Baked Apples in the crock pot.  If you try them out let me know how you like them.

Baked Apples

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons trans-fat free margarine
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 Gala or Macintosh apples, cored
1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider
2 tablespoons orange liquor (optional)

Directions

Preheat a large crock-pot on high heat and preset it for 3 hours.  In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, walnuts, margarine, and cinnamon.  Fill the apples with the filling and place them in the crock-pot.  Pour in the apple juice or cider and the liquor, if using.  Cover and cook 2 1/2 to 3 hours on high heat until the apples are soft and begin to collapse.

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.)

 

 

           

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

Sauce:

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 ~ 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 ~ 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.

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.