Hello Again, Aldi

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

This past Friday, I made a trip to my local Aldi store for the first time in a LONG time – as in over 15 years.  Why have I avoided Aldi for so long?  Back then, I had to shop at Aldi because I was flat broke.  So when I finally got to a place in my finances when I didn’t have to shop at Aldi, I left it behind.  When I’d drive by the store, I would remember how it felt to be broke, shudder, and keep on going.  (This is the same reason I rarely eat at Taco Bell.  It reminds me of the days of rolling change in college to go buy bean burritos for dinner.)

But it really wasn’t Aldi’s fault that I had that negative association.  So why did I decide to give it another shot?  Several ladies in my Facebook recipe group were raving about the great deals on spices, snacks, organic food, and gourmet cheeses.  Wait… organic food and gourmet cheeses?  That’s not the Aldi that I remember!  Because I’m trying to eat more organic food, I was definitely intrigued.  Especially when my friend Heather Tenney of In God’s Economy told me that Aldi and Trader Joe’s were owned by the same parent company!

So, here is what I discovered on my Aldi’s field trip on Friday.  First, you need a quarter for the cart – not 25 cents, but a quarter.  The quarter releases the cart from the corral and you get it back when you return the cart.  Aldi does NOT take credit cards!  (Another reason for me to like them.)  You can pay with cash, debit card, or EBT.  You need to bring your own reusable bags and you’ll be doing the bagging yourself after paying for your groceries.  Aldi does not accept manufacturer’s coupons.

I didn’t purchase any produce or meat on my shopping trip, since I was already stocked up from the co-op and Sam’s.  However, the meat and produce at the Erlanger, Kentucky store looked good and prices were reasonable.  The only fresh food I bought was hummus for $1.99, which is definitely less than what I would pay at my local Kroger.  Most of my purchases were in the snack and baking aisles.  Here are some of the deals I found:

  • Huge 4 oz. containers of various spices for $0.99 (Onion powder and steak seasoning made it into my cart on this trip.)
  • Canned beans (garbanzo, kidney, cannellini, etc.) for $0.65
  • 12-pack of granola bars for $1.79
  • Organic Animal Crackers 8 oz. for $0.99 – Very tasty!
  • Natural creamy peanut butter for $1.69
  • Organic Salsa $1.89
  • Capers $1.49
  • 16 oz. of Virgin Olive Oil for $2.99
  • 10 oz. whole roasted cashews $4.29
  • 12 oz. whole raw almonds $5.49

I was super excited about the great deals on the nuts because I love to have those on hand for a healthy snack.  I’m going to use the almonds to make Roasted Rosemary Almonds today, since I’m snowed in.  (Recipe below.)  The Aldi store in Erlanger is small, so you may not find everything you’re looking for on your grocery list.  The store is clean, well lit, and the staff was friendly.  There aren’t many name brand products on the shelf, but so far everything that hubby and I have tried has been tasty.  Nick gives Aldi’s yogurt covered raisins two big thumbs up, so I’ll be stocking up next time I’m there.

Hello again, Aldi!  Looks like you’ll be seeing a lot more of me in the future.

Roasted Rosemary Almonds

  • 2 cups whole raw almonds
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. rosemary
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Toss all ingredients in a bowl and stir to coat almonds thoroughly.  Roast on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy.  Store leftovers in an airtight container.







Meal Planning Monday ~ Busy, Busy, Busy!

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Busy, busy, busy!  I have SO much going lately, it seems like I’ve been buzzing along at a hundred miles an hour.  I would venture to say that many of you are in the same boat, with a hectic schedule and a long To-Do list.  I recently finished an excellent book on Audible by Crystal Paine (Money Saving Mom) called,  “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life.”  Let me tell you, it could not have come at a better time for me!

I’m working very hard to grow my financial coaching business, so I have been networking like a crazy woman!  I’ve joined a weekly networking group (BNI) and still have another five months of my Referral Institute class left to go.  And somewhere in between all of this networking and relationship building, I actually have to accomplish some work.  Not to mention taking care of housework, grocery shopping, and errands.

As a result, I’ve really slacked off on my couponing and keeping up with my binder.  Several weeks’ worth of coupons would stack up on the kitchen table before I’d finally get around to clipping and filing them in my binder.  One thing that Crystal talks about in her book is deciding what’s really important in your life right now, and focus on those things.  This means that you may need to stop doing certain things or cut back on other activities to make that happen.  At this moment, it is vitally important for me to capitalize on the momentum I’ve generated for my business.  I know that in the long run, these activities are going to bring me thousands of dollars.  Something’s got to give!  So, I’ve decided to scale back on my paper coupons for now.

What do I mean by that?  It means that I’ve temporarily retired my coupon binder and traded it in for a small accordion coupon file, which is the size of a large wallet.  (Look how much smaller it is!!)

Before I go to grocery store, I go online, load up my shopper card with electronic coupons, and search for printable coupons for the items on my list.  Then I pull out the coupons from my file that I KNOW I am going to use and clip it to my list.  I bring the accordion file with me as well.

The first time I did this, it felt really weird not having the coupon binder with me!  I felt strangely naked – and light! –  not having the bulky binder slung over my shoulder walking into the store.  But, I must say, that the system is working well and I don’t feel so stressed out over neglecting my coupon binder maintenance.  I’m only clipping coupons I know that I will use, so I’m spending less time with the scissors.

Am I leaving some dollars on the table by not cutting every single coupon that I might possibly use and religiously scouring the sale ads?  Probably.  But I think having a saner schedule is worth it to me.  So, I hope that you understand and don’t demand that I turn in my Coupon Queen crown!  ;)  Of course, I don’t think that I will ever slack on my Meal Planning activities because they save me so much time and stress.

On that note, here’s my Meal Plan for this busy upcoming week!

Monday ~ Strangely enough, this will be my only weekday that I have extra time to make a more involved meal.  We’re having rosemary lemon roasted Cornish hens with wild rice and asparagus.

Tuesday ~ Turkey slices and gravy with Bob Evan’s mashed potatoes and green beans.

Wednesday ~ Easy Cheesy Casserole with spinach salads.

Thursday ~ FFY – Fend for Yourself!  I have a financial coaching appointment in the evening.

Friday ~ Turkey Polish sausage and pierogies fried in a little butter with onions and broccoli.

Saturday ~ Firecracker Casserole

Sunday ~ Trying something new!   Spinach Artichoke Dip Stuffed Chicken, which sounds really, really good!


Confession Time!

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

I have a confession to make – I think I’m burnt out on couponing.  I have a huge stack of uncut coupons lying next to my binder that I keep trying to avoid.  The thought of spending several hours cutting coupons, weeding out expired ones from my binder, and getting the new ones in there just wears me out thinking about it!  I’m hoping it’s just a phase I’m going through.  I have been super busy working on growing my financial coaching and writing business.  I’m definitely not burnt out on Meal Planning!  In fact, I’ve kicked that up a notch since my schedule’s been hectic.  Has anyone else besides me suffered from a case of “couponing burnout”?

I think it started when Kroger, and then Meijer, quit doubling coupons earlier this year.  I definitely shop at both stores MUCH LESS since they’ve stopped doubling coupons.  Because of this, my shopping habits have changed quite a bit.  I shop at Sam’s Club at least once a month for certain items that I can’t get cheaper anywhere else –with or without coupons.  For our family, that means buying things like cat litter, whole bean coffee, meats (both fresh and frozen), string cheese, turkey sausage patties, kitchen garbage bags, among other things.  I’m also buying almost 100% of my fresh fruits and veggies at my members-only produce co-op.  Sam’s doesn’t accept paper coupons (but has some electronic coupons available to members) and of course, neither does the co-op.  Because of the great prices, this really isn’t an issue.

I notice that I am using electronic coupons more than paper ones for the first time ever.  This certainly is due to the change in double coupon policies.  In the past, if you had an electronic coupon on your Kroger card or Meijer M-Perks account, it wouldn’t be doubled.  So it made sense to use a paper coupon – which would be doubled – instead.  Now, there’s no real advantage to using a paper coupon unless it’s a higher face value.

I’m also using coupons for Kohl’s, Ulta, Hobby Lobby, and Target on my phone.  The nice thing about having these mobile coupons is that they’re always with you.  I never leave home without my phone, and you probably don’t either.  But I have left home without my coupons, which is supremely frustrating!  And of course, I ALWAYS use a coupon code when shopping online and use my favorite cash-back shopping site, FatWallet.com!

I do still shop at Kroger and Meijer when there are good sales going on – which both do this week!  Meijer is running their 10 for $10 Get the 11th Free sale, plus Kroger is having a Mega Sale – Buy 10 Participating Items, Get $5 Off.  So I will be hitting up both of them this week.

So maybe I don’t have couponing burnout – maybe it’s just “paper couponing burnout”!  Just curious, have your couponing habits changed and evolved over time, especially with the demise of double coupons?

The Kroger Blues

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Well, it finally happened…  Kroger announced they will stop doubling coupons in the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky area effective March 1st. *sigh* I’m holding out hope that Meijer will stick with their current coupon policy.  Meijer doubles coupons, but only two identical coupons are doubled in one order.  Fingers crossed that they won’t follow Kroger’s lead.  I took Friday to mourn the passing of Kroger’s unlimited double coupons.  :(

            If you can’t tell by now, I was really upset when they announced this.  On Saturday, I hit the mega sale at Kroger hard; I figured I need to take advantage of double coupons while I still can.  I made out like a bandit!  I spent $70 saved $90!  While I was putting my groceries away, I started to think what I was going to do next month.  If I continue to shop at Kroger, my coupons (unless they’re $1 or more) really won’t be worth the effort.  So I came up with a few ways to still save money on my grocery bill without relying on double coupons.

Aldi ~ I love, love, love my Aldi!  They tend to be way cheaper than any other grocery store and you don’t have the hassle of clipping and organizing coupons.  Aldi just introduced a new line of organics that is comparable to Kroger’s “Simple Truth” line.  They also have great prices on some produce.  I have to admit that I was a little leery of shopping there at first, but once I saw my savings I never had that thought again.  A few things to remember if you’re going to shop at Aldi’s is bring your own bags or you can buy paper bags for $.05 each and insulated bags for $.10.  Also bring a quarter for your cart.

Local Co-op ~ If you have a local co-op, I recommend you start taking advantage of it now!  I belong to one and it is amazing!  If you don’t have a local co-op, look into Green Bean Delivery.  They send you a box of produce a month and the contents vary according to season.  I have a few friends who rave about Green Bean Delivery.

Dollar Stores ~ Don’t snub your nose at them!  I have found several things at my local Dollar Stores that I love.  The store I go to has Veggie Stix that my kids love (at a normal grocery store they can go for almost $4 a bag.)  I also like their juice section and condiments.  I recently picked up a huge jar of minced garlic, pickles, and various spices, each for $1.  Many of the dollar stores accept manufacturer’s coupons.  Here is Dollar General’s coupon policy and Family Dollar’s coupon policy.

Meal Planning ~ This is extremely important if you plan on stretching your family’s food.  I make a lot of meals where I “Cook Once Eat for 3 Days.” I buy a huge pork loin, cut some pork chops off it, and then put the rest in my crock pot.  You can cook the pork plain then shred it for carnitas or pulled pork.  For $10 to $13 (depending on the size and price of the pork loin) I was able to get 3 meals.  Not too shabby right?!


Meal Planning Monday ~ Homemade or Store Bought?


          “Are you kidding me?!”  I muttered to myself, in the granola bar aisle at Kroger a few weeks ago.  I had plenty of coupons for a variety of granola bars, but not a one of them were on sale!  There’s no way that I am going to spend upwards of $3.50 on a box of 6 granola bars.  Yes, I do stock up on them when they are on sale.  However, my husband, Nick, LOVES sweets and will go through a box of granola bars in two or three days.  This means that I need to buy at least two boxes a week or he will have to do without.  That’s when I decided to find out if it was cheaper for me to make my own granola bars.

            My husband likes pretty much any kind of granola bars that I buy, but one of his favorites is the Golden Grahams Treat bars.  They come in a box of five or six and are over $3.50 when they aren’t on sale.  Sometimes they will be part of Kroger’s Mega Sale and I’ll be able to get them for $1.50 with coupons.  I enlisted the help of my “Try It Out” recipe group on Facebook and received links for the Golden Grahams Treat bars and traditional granola bars.

            The Golden Grahams treat bars were super easy to make!  I regularly stock up on Golden Grahams cereal when it’s on sale, so I already had it on hand.  I just picked up a bag of Kroger mini marshmallows and mini chocolate chips.  The only other ingredient you need is butter.  The recipe made the equivalent of three boxes of store bought treats.  Once cooled, I cut them (with a pizza cutter) into individual sized bars and put them in snack sized baggies.  Nick loved them and said they were MUCH better than the store bought ones.  The boxed Golden Grahams treats would have to be less than $1.30 a box to be a better deal.

            The other granola bar recipe turned out to be really delicious, too.  I made it exactly as the directions indicated, but you could easily mix up the type of nuts and other add-ins to your family’s liking.  Because there were more ingredients in these bars, they were a little bit more expensive to make than the Golden Grahams treats.  This recipe also made the equivalent of three boxes of store bought granola bars.  The approximate cost of the homemade ones was $1.75 per box.  Keep in mind that some of the ingredients in both bars were not on sale. (Shame on me, I know!)  So I will be stocking up on them when they are and driving the cost of my homemade treats down even more!  I did freeze half of the granola bars and treats I made to make sure they stay fresh.

            Is there something that your family eats a lot of that you hate spending money on at the store?  Maybe it’s frozen waffles, spaghetti sauce, or bread.  It’s possible that you could save yourself some serious money over the course of a year by making it homemade.  You’ll need to do a little research on the price of ingredients to see if it is worth your while.  Also consider your time investment.  You may be able to save money baking your own bread, but if you hate to bake and don’t have the time to, you’ll be better off hunting down coupons for your favorite brand and stocking up and freezing extra loaves when it’s on sale.

            So tell me: Is there something you’re currently making homemade instead of buying at the store to save big money for your family?


Golden Grahams® Treat Bars  (From TableSpoon.com)


  • 1/3  cup margarine or butter
  • 1 package (10 3/4 ounces) miniature marshmallows (6 cups)
  • 1 package (13 ounces) Golden Grahams® cereal (8 cups)
  • 1 bar (1.55 ounces) Hershey®’s milk chocolate candy, cut into small chunks and frozen


Butter a rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.  Melt margarine and marshmallows in 3-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat.  Gently stir in cereal until evenly coated; let stand 1 minute.  Stir in frozen candy chunks.  Press in pan with buttered back of spoon.  Cool completely.  Cut into about 2×1 1/2-inch bars.

** Note: I used 1 cup of mini chocolate chips (frozen), in place of the candy chunks.  You could make this recipe will just about any cereal you like, leaving out the chocolate if you’re making them with a fruity cereal.  (Thanks to Toni White for pointing me to this recipe!)


Easy Granola Bars  (From AllRecipes.com)


  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sweetened condensed milk, butter, coconut, almonds, chocolate chips, and cranberries with your hands until well blended.  Press flat into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, depending on how crunchy you want them.  Lightly browned just around the edges will give you moist, chewy bars.  Let cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares then let cool completely before serving.

Nutritional Information: Amount Per Serving,  Calories: 179 | Total Fat: 8.1g | Cholesterol: 8mg

** Note: I baked mine for 18 minutes for chewy bars, which is how we like them around here!  Thanks to Tara Zinser for pointing me to this recipe!  Here are a few variations that I am going to try: Macadamia nuts with white chocolate chips; raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon chips; chopped peanuts with chocolate and peanut butter chips.









Meal Planning Monday ~ Dining Out with Kids


            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.       

            I love to eat out, but with three kids it can get expensive.  My husband and I are on a tight budget, so eating out doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.  As my kids get older not only do they eat more (who knew that would happen?) but also my oldest child doesn’t want to share a meal with her younger sister anymore.  After spending almost $50 on four meals recently, I knew we had to change how we eat out.  And as much as I love cooking, sometimes Momma needs a break!  (So be sure to plan a night off or two on your monthly meal planning calendar.)  Here are a few tips on saving money while dining out that helped me. 

1. Find those restaurant coupons and use them!  I would clip the coupons, put them in my purse, and never use them.  (Hangs head in coupon shame.)  I’ve become better at this because we now plan where we want to go before we leave the house.  How many of you have had the “Restaurant Fight”?  “Where do you want to go?”  “Oh I don’t know honey, where do you want to go?” This could go on for hours and for my husband and me, the hungrier we get, the crankier we get.  So plan your trips!

2. Check out those Deal Sites!  Groupon.com, LivingSocial.com, Eversave.com, and Restaurant.com all offer some awesome dining deals. 

3. Happy Hour!  I love a good happy hour and they’re not only for adults.  Bar Louie has a great happy hour – half price appetizers and drink deals. 

4. Kids Eat Free!  I’m a sucker for Kids Eat Free Days.  This is a great site to find restaurants that have Kids Eat Free Days http://kidseat4free.com/.  A few of my favorite restaurants that have Kids Eat Free Days are Skyline Chili, Izzy’s, Qdoba, Moe’s, and Applebee’s.  The days for these “Kids Eat Free” promotions vary, so be sure to call ahead about dates and times. 


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 ~ 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 – Farmer’s Market


            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            I love my local farmers market.  Not only am I getting farm-fresh produce but I’m also supporting my local farmers.  With such a wet spring it took a bit longer for the produce to make it to the market, but it’s finally here.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes that use the veggies and fruits I pick up at the market. 


Monday ~ Zucchini Muffins with Streusel Topping


Tuesday ~ Cucumbers and Tomatoes with Italian dressing and feta cheese


Wednesday ~ Fresh Tomato and Corn Salsa and Guacamole with Homemade Corn Tortillas Chips


Thursday ~ Vegetable Bolognese with Eggplant, Peppers, and Zucchini


Friday ~ It’s Girls Night Out, so no cooking for me!  The hubby and kids will have leftovers.
Saturday ~ Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, I stuff them with spinach, tomatoes, garlic, and red onions.  Then I top them with Mozzarella cheese.

Sunday ~ Family Movie Night.  We make a pizza at home and watch movies we rented from the library. My girls get so excited they get to help make the pizza.  I highly recommend trying it if you have kids.
Thank you to www.GoodCheapEats.com  for the recipe!


Vegetable Bolognese (Adapted from Martha Stewart)
6 Tablespoons olive oil

1 eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound ground beef

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices

3 cups tomato sauce

1/4 cup red wine

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

In large stockpot, heat 4 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Add eggplant and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 6 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Add remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil and heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and garlic.  Cook for 7 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add ground beef and cook until cooked through, stirring often.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, and oregano.  Add water if too thick.  Adjust seasonings.  Bring to bubble.  Reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Serve over pasta.