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 ~ 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.

 

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 ~ Fall is in the Air!

            

            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Fall is my favorite time of the year!  I love the cooler weather, fall decorations, apple picking, pumpkin farms, and crockpot cooking.  I tend to use my crockpot more during the cooler months.  There’s nothing like throwing a roast in it and having your whole house smell amazing all day.  The crockpot is extremely versatile and can make less expensive cuts of beef and pork fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious.  The crockpot is a great tool to make your meal planning even easier, especially on busy days.  I have yet to try any dessert recipes for the crockpot, so this week, I am going to make something new.  If you’re going apple-picking this fall, try out the recipe for Apple Pie Bread Pudding!  Here’s what my week of meals looks like:

Monday ~ Pot Roast
Tuesday ~ Chicken Fried Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, and Bacon Green Beans 
Wednesday ~ Pot Roast Sandwiches and Mac & Cheese
Thursday ~ Pepperoni Pizza and Salad
Friday ~ Tuna Salad Sandwiches and Potato Salad
Saturday ~ Leftover Night, or as I like to call it, “Clean the Fridge Night”
Sunday ~ Roast Chicken, Glazed Carrots, Wilted Lettuce and leftover Mac & Cheese

Here’s the dessert recipe for the crockpot.  If you try it, please leave a comment and let me know how your family liked it!

 

Apple Pie Bread Pudding

 
12 slices white bread torn into medium size pieces

3 1/2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 cup unsweetened apple juice

1/2 cup lemon lime soda

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice

Spray slow cooker with butter-flavored nonstick spray.  Combine bread pieces and apples in slow cooker.  In small bowl combine apple juice, soda, sugar, and apple pie spice.  Drizzle evenly over bread mixture.  Mix gently to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until done.  Mix well before serving.

Christine recommends using Slow Cooker Liners, which make cleanup of your crockpot a snap!  Coupons should be coming out for these soon, and when combined with a sale, can be picked up for about a dollar a box.