I love how organized I feel when I meal-plan! Nothing is more frustrating to me than reaching 5:00pm and not knowing what to make for dinner. For peace and order to be kept in my house, my meal plan must be in order.

Monday: Spaghetti with 3 Cheese Sweet Pepper Marinara
Tuesday: Pork Roast, mashed redskin potatoes, carrots
Wednesday: Chili, brats, corn
Thursday: Macaroni & Cheese, chicken ranch salad
Friday: Chicken Scampi, garlic bread, salad
Saturday: Swiss & Pot Roast slider melts with sauteed mushrooms, tossed fruit salad with apples and minneolas

Breakfast: Oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and toast
Sandwich of the week: Italian chicken salad sandwiches, turkey and swiss paninis
Dessert: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese frosting
Monday: Brats, hashbrowns, salad
Tuesday: Quesadillas, beans, salsa
Wednesday: Chicken and shrimp fajitas, beans, rice
Thursday: Oven roasted chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, corn, salad
Friday: Tortas and chips, fruit (whatever is in season and on sale)
Saturday: Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread
Sunday: Dinner with the in-laws

Breakfast of the week: cereal, oatmeal, fruit, juice, toast
Lunch of the week: leftover navy bean soup, tostadas, sandwiches
Dessert of the week: Butter Cookies
I feel much calmer and more organized when I've got my meal plan written out. With my fridge cleaned out and a good idea of the ingredients I have on hand - I'm ready to face the week, one dinner at a time.

Monday: leftover Navy Bean soup with white rice, biscuits, salad
Tuesday: Pork chops, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, cinnamon apples
Wednesday: Spaghetti in a garlic marinara, Italian bread, salad
Thursday: Herb Roasted Chicken, rice, beans, roasted veggies
Friday: Chicken Carbonara sammies, orange and tangerine wedges
Saturday: Fajita night
Sunday: Tacos with all the fixin's, chips, salsa, and guacamole

Breakfast of the week: coffee cake, oatmeal, toast, fruit
Lunch of the week: navy bean soup, sandwiches, and empanadas
Dessert of the week: Frosted brownies
It's been ages since I've posted here - so many changes in my life, I hardly know where to start! I've been laid off from my position at a non-for-profit organization. It's both a blessing and a curse. A blessing that I am no longer working longer and longer hours (which is why I stopped posting back in October), but it's a curse to be unemployed in this market.

I'm trying to get my bearings now that the holidays are behind us and I'm establishing a new routine. One thing that will keep me feeling more grounded is getting back to my meal planning. I hate looking at the clock and it's already 4pm and I haven't a clue what's for dinner. I need some semblance of organization to my life - even if it's just one meal at a time. I've got a great stockpile of ingredients to pull from and a full freezer so I'm all set to get back in my groove.

Monday: Grilled cheese, tomato soup, sliced Minneolas
Tuesday: Burgers, tater tots, salad
Wednesday: Tostadas, apple salsa, guacamole, and all the fixin's
Thursday: DH's night to cook
Friday: Flatbread Pizza, salad
Saturday: Bacon & Red Pepper omelets, sliced apples, bagels with Cranberry Cream Cheese Spread
Sunday: Enchiladas, rice, and beans

Breakfast of the week: Oatmeal, bagels and cranberry cream cheese spread, or cereal
Lunch of the week: leftover ginger stirfry, navy bean soup, salad, or sammies

Dessert of the week: Frosted Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Please read the following post on Jill Cataldo's blog regarding Target's coupon scanning (or should I say scamming) practices.

I was stunned to here that Target's computers are programmed to allow them to adjust down manufacturer coupons and that Target has not addressed this issue.

I got a little carried away with the $25/$10 General Mills/Betty Crocker and bought a few dozen boxes of brownie mix, for $.11 per box. While that was a great deal and I will be sharing generously with my friends and family, I decided to challenge myself a little. After all, basic brownies can get a little I'll be putting my spin on them.

One box, One year, and One Woman's Mission!

For 1 year, I will chronicle my adventures in brownie making - all with the help of Betty Crocker. I plan to make 50 different variations on the basic brownie, to showcase what a few basic ingredients can create. Creating great desserts doesn't have to mean spending money on expensive ingredients or toiling for hours in the kitchen.

I'll post a link to each recipe I use, as well as rate the overall recipe idea. My first batch will be Orange Soaked Cranberry Brownies. Why this combination? Because I was inspired when I saw someone soaking cranberries on a Food Network show some weeks ago and thought it was a good idea for some slightly dried out dried cranberries I had and orange juice was on sale this week. I've got tons of ideas for this project - I can't wait to dive in!

Stop by next week to see the latest variation on a basic boxed brownie.
It's been a while since I've posted, between crazy days at work and entering the busy season for my hubby and I - it's great that life is slowly winding down and I've got more time to post. I've still been meal planning, but I really miss having it all written down (or typed out) where I can refer to it - it makes life so much easier when I'm organized.

I've really stocked up during the recent catalina deals at Jewel - so variations on boxed brownie mix will be popping up a lot for our desserts. I'll link my recipe creations to each variation I come up with.

Monday: Tostadas with ground turkey (with minced peppers), minced onion, refried beans, and sour cream and salsa

Tuesday: Mozzarella stuffed meatball subs with marinara sauce, gourmet salad blend

Wednesday: Roasted Garlic Pork Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, applesauce

Thursday: Mushroom & swiss burgers, Autumn Salad

Friday: BBQ pork fried rice, sesame chicken

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, Oatmeal, and Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Dessert of the week: Orange Soaked Cranberry Brownies
We are entering into anniversary season (at least in my small neck of the woods). Tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of my first date with my hubby. I still can't believe 8 years has flown by so fast! We'll be scrapping Wednesday's dinner plans in favor of a semi-recreation of what we did on our first date.

For our first date, we went to a movie, then shared appetizers at a nearby cafe, and sat in his car talking almost until sunrise. I remember it like it was yesterday. When I finally got home, I knew I had met my future husband. It was crazy, but 8 short- and sometimes crazy - years later I was right.

Unlike in our younger, slightly more foolish years, this year we will celebrate the anniversary at home with a favorite movie and we'll make quesadillas and chicken strips together. I love cooking with my hubby, and this will help us save some money, since we have a week long vacation next month to ring our 5 wedding anniversary. We have not taken a weeklong trip together since our honeymoon, so I think we're long overdue.

For our 5th anniversary, I initially wanted to go to Jamaica (or some other tropical, exotic, fabulous place), but after careful consideration, we'll be staying stateside (and supporting the U.S. tourism industry!) and travelling to The North East Coast. I have never seen the East, so I am crazy-excited to go, especially in the fall it should be beautiful. All of our deal shopping, bargain hunting, penny pinching ways have paid off. We'll fly into a cheaper airport and rent a car and drive to our final destination, much like we did when we went on our honeymoon. There, we actually flew into one city, caught a taxi to the ferry, a ferry ride to the island where we were staying, and a taxi again to the resort. Even with all that, we still managed to save a few hundred dollars by being willing to fly into a different airport.

Over the next week or two, I'll start making my list of places to go on our vacation, checking restaurant prices, and researching the cost of all activities. Even on vacation, we are frugal. And that's perfectly okay with me. I get to see an extra destination because the direct flight to our destination is ridiculously expensive - let's say it's cheaper to fly to Jamaica than to another U.S. city. Isn't that strange?

Tell me - what budget savvy travel tips do you hold true to?
I love weekends that are laid back and lazy, but it's not easy going in to work in the morning after that. The good news: I've got a fridge full of precooked pork (chops and roast) which I'll be basing many of our meals around and half a pot of Navy Bean Soup that my mom shared with me. Meal planning should be easy, but need to make sure we take a break from the pork at least twice.

Monday: DH's cooking dinner
Tuesday: Burritos con Carnitas with rice and quesadilla cheese, refried beans (frijoles)
Wednesday: Navy Bean Soup, focaccia bread, mixed greens salad
Thursday: Pulled Pork sammies, chips, baked bean casserole, garden salad
Friday: Pork tacos, leftover beans and rice
Saturday: Homemade pizza, mozzarella topped foccacia bread sticks
Sunday: Leftovers or chicken sausage and peppers
It's been a few crazy weeks here, I need to get my butt in gear, get my meal-plan set so it's one less thing for me to worry about and stress over. Sometimes life moves so fast, you have to hang on for dear life, grab it by the reins, and get taken along for the ride!

Monday: Cream of mushroom soup, roasted tomato foccacia, mixed greens salad, apple crisp
Tuesday: Roast pork with mashed potatoes, gravy, and garden salad
Wednesday: Enchiladas carnitas with red bell pepper, red rice, beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, and salsa
Thursday: Fancy French Toast, strawberries, breakfast sausage, apple slices, orange juice
Friday: DH is back as Grill Master! Can't wait to see what he grills up! along with baked bean casserole and corn
Saturday: Italian-style chicken salad sammies or Kansas City-Style pulled pork sammies, chips, carrot sticks, corn on the cob
Sunday: Leftovers

Breakfast of the week: Swiss and Mushroom Frittata, cereal, yogurt, granola bars
Dessert of the week: White Chocolate Raspberry Bars
Lunches are dinner leftovers or chicken sammies
I love meal planning after a busy holiday weekend - so many leftovers, all I have to do is pick and choose what to have each day! We hosted a BBQ on Sunday for our fmailies and had about 8 people over. DH loves to grill, and thsi time he did a huge selection of meats - from steaks to ribs, burgers to brats and some chicken thrown in for good measure, we still have leftovers a-plenty to make into great meals.

Tuesday: Chicken, turkey bacon, and mushrooms tossed with pasta
Wednesday: Build Your Own Sandwich
Thursday: Brats and chicken, leftover red rice, salad
Friday: Chicken sammies, mixed green salad, apple

Lunch of the week: Anything we can turn into a sandwich or taco. I've presliced a chunk of ribeye and some Swiss cheese for some decadent sammies. We also have a partial rotisserie chicken that can be a simple chicken sandwich or get made over into chicken salad. Chicken or steak tacos with a chunky salsa are another easy option.

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, granola bars, yogurt, and bagels (wanted to get some of the bagels out of the freezer)
Monday: Fettucine with Portabella Alfredo and Italian Grilled Chicken
Tuesday: Ham and turkey sammies, salad, chips
Wednesday: Ginger Pork Stirfry, fried rice
Thursday: Sweet Honey Lime Chicken Drummies, baked beans, baby carrots
Friday: Ground turkey tacos with all the fixin's

Weekend: TBD - hubby thinks his family will have a BBQ, so we're in a wait and see before I can do any more planning.

Dessert of the week: Banana Nut Bread, Maple Pecan Apple Crisp

Breakfast for the week: We're still working off our cereal, granola bar, yogurt, and poptart stockpile. I keep grabbing more free granola bars from Dominicks - so it might be awhile before I'm forced to actually cook breakfast more than 1-2 a week.
I couldn't resist another run at the "Buy 3 Juices, get 2 snacks FREE" deal. I found 2 catalina coupons for $2.50 each. I'm just lovin' the free snacks and I totally needed to stock up on granola bars. I go through a box of granola bars a week, so each transaction yields another month supply! And hubby is totally loving all the juice, we're big juice fans, and it doesn't get any better than this!!

6 bottles Mott's apple juice $2.99 (reg. price) $2.00 (sale) -$2/2 (2) -$1.50/2
4 boxes Quaker granola bars ($3.49/box) free wyb 6 juice -$1/1 (4)
1 gallon Lucerne milk $2.99, -$2.99 (wyb 4 Quaker granola bars, get 1 gallon Lucerne milk free)

Total retail value: $36.89
Total saved: $36.89
Total OOP: $.06 (local tax)
100% savings
I'm glad I popped over to Jill Cataldo's website before I headed out yesterday. There was a 3 day sale at Dominicks - buy any 3 participating juices, get 2 participating snack items free. The deal got immeasurably better when coupons for the juice (Mott's apple juice) could be found in a coupon booklet recently spotted at Jewel. Which I actually found, while I was there grabbing newspapers (Saturday paper with coupon inserts) for $.99 each. Best price in the area.

Truth be told, I found a huge display of those coupon booklets, so I helped myself to a dozen or so. I was so thrilled to find them. The deal was on. I had my box of expired coupons in the car, and was ready to go. The snacks that were included in the deal were Quaker granola bars. Which was great - I have tons of expired Quaker granola bar coupons. I had coupon overage on the brain. It's been some time since that happened. And this Dominick's is typically coupon friendly. This was my day.

Here's what I found:
9 bottles of Mott's Apple Juice 64 oz. each $2 each -$1.50/2 coupons (x4)
3 bottles Ocean Spray juices 64 oz. each $2.29-$2.99 -$3/1 coupons (x3) = $.73 moneymaker!
6 boxes Quaker Granola bars $2.49 (free wyb 3 juices) -$3/5 quaker products, $1/1 True Delights = $4.00 moneymaker!!
6 bags Fritos/Cheetos on sale $1.49 (with in-store coupon) -$1/2 coupons (3)
3 jars Frito-Lay brand dip $2.29-$3.79 -$3/1 coupons wyb 2 FritoLay chips (3)
10 bags Nabisco Mini Oreo's, Chips Ahoy, etc. $.99 with instore coupon -$1/2 coupons (5)
2 Kraft Salad Dressing $2.00 -$1/1 coupons (x2)
1 Kraft Garlic & Herb Sandwich Shop Mayo $1.79 -$1/1 coupon
4 WishBone Salad Dressing $.99 -$1/2 coupons (2)

Total before discounts: $198.28
Total Savings: $167.17
Total OOP: $31.11
We didn't get to the roast beef I had planned for Sunday, so I'll be using that in tonight's dinner. For lunches, we have lots of canned soup, salad fixin's, deli-sliced ham for sandwiches, and we often take leftovers to work for lunch, so I have that pretty well covered for the week.

I try to bake one breakfast or dessert a week to round out the meal plan, this week I'm planning to bake some crimson raisin & cinnamon scones. I just love how easy and versatile scones are - they pop up at leat once a month in my house! I like to eat them for breakfast, hubby prefers them as a dessert or snack.

Monday: Thin sliced roast beef over potatoes with a mushroom gravy, salad
Tuesday: Fancy French Toast, pepper and cheddar frittata, apple slices
Wednesday: Ground turkey tacos, beans, and rice
Thursday: Roast beef and provolone paninis, summer salad, grapes
Friday: DH's making pizza!
Saturday: DH's grilling
Sunday: Dinner at Nuevo Leon in the city - best enchiladas ever! (and it's super affordable - less than $6.00 a plate!) We'll be at Navy Pier for the Tall Ships Festival - I love the tall ships.

Breakfast for the week: Cereal (we have more than 12 varities on hand), yogurt, toast, fruit, and granola bars.

Dessert of the week: Crimson Raisin & Cinnamon Scones
I absolutely love chicken. It's my favorite source of protein, hands down. A lot of people get tired of eating the same old chicken entree - and who can blame them? I used to think chicken could only be roasted or fried, with a dash of season salt and black pepper. I'm so glad over the years that I've proven that mentality wrong! Paired with sweet or savory spices, chicken is my go-to everytime. One of my favorite things about chicken is how budget friendly it is.

1. Want to make a bold dish - swap a cut of chicken in for beef or pork as is called for in your recipe. I match boneless with boneless, bone-in with bone-in. Some of my favorite swaps include: Pulled Chicken Sammies, chicken tacos, and chicken and biscuits.

2. Chicken pairs well with most fruits for awesome kebabs, sizzling stirfries, and wings that make your heart sing! Some of my favorites are chicken "burgers" topped with grilled pineapple rings, Indonesian Chicken with Honey and Garlic, and Thai Mandarin Chicken Stirfry. I haven't yet tried chicken dish with fruit that I didn't like - kids love it, too!

3. Soup and salad. I can think of no other protein base that goes so well into either salad or soup, let alone both. From fancy grilled chicken salads to the humblest of chicken soups, this piece of poultry packs a powerful punch in the flavor department. With bone-in pieces of chicken, you can stretch your dollar even further, and when making soups - stretch the flavor further, too!

4. Chicken as a component in casseroles, pastas, rice dishes, etc. A little of this bird can go a really, really long way. One chicken breast can provide enough meat for 2-4 servings when worked into a pasta sauce, as a primary ingredient in a casserole, and when shredded/cubed into a rice dish. When you do this, let the side dish take center stage as your entree and pair it with a hearty salad. That is a easy supper that's good for you and light on your wallet, too.

5. Spices, marinades, and sauces. Chicken with gravy over potatoes, chicken marinated in teriyaki (or any fruit-based marinade), chicken seasoned with basil, garlic, and onion - any favorite spice combination or flavor mix that you love - you will love it on chicken. I like to pair in smoky elements in chicken (cumin and hickory seasoning, anyone?) for an unexpected twist on a classic chicken dish. If you need inspiration - check out ethnic cooking. Chicken seems to be the favored poultry for many nationalities, if you need some flavor inspiration.

Tell me - what's your favorite chicken dish?
Finally, we're having a break in the heatwave that feels like its lasted much of the summer. Hubby has offered to do some grilling this week and I can't wait that! With lots of summer produce keeping the prices low across the area, the meal plan this week has never been easier. No major schedule changes, not too many things to take into consideration. I love it when it's easier to plan.

Monday: Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad
Tuesday: Grilled brats and teriyaki chicken thighs, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob
Wednesday: Turkey, apple, and cheddar paninis, salad, peaches
Thursday: Ginger Lime Roasted chicken, angel hair pasta, green beans
Friday: Breakfast wraps, hashbrowns, bananas, juice
Saturday: Date night
Sunday: Italian beef sammies, fresh fruit, baked beans
I still cannot believe this deal: Jewel has selected Pillsbury/General Mills/Betty Crocker items on sale this week. WYB 10, receive $5 instant savings and receive 50 Bonus Boxtops for Education (BTFE).

The Betty Crocker Potatoes were on sale for $1.00 each - and the price dropped to $.50 each WYB 10. What a fabulous deal! On the boxes, there were $1/2 peelies - which meant, all I had to pay was tax!

I used 16 coupons and grabbed 32 for the cost of the tax ($.09 per transaction of 10 boxes).

While I like homemade mashed potatoes, the boxed ones are not too bad (especially at this price). To make them healthier, I use fat free milk (I start with powdered milk and add water as directed on the box), I use half the butter or margarine called for on the package and substitute light sour cream or fat free cream cheese for the other half of the butter/margarine needed in the recipe. And if you really want to punch up the flavor of the potatoes, use chicken stock in place of the water called for.

It's an easy way to turn boring boxed potatoes into a tasty treat. I've even used my doctored up box potatoes in entertaining, and have had people ask for my recipe. If you are looking to save time, cut calories/fat grams, many varieties of these potatoes are a good choice. If you want to add even more flavor, fold in a little garlic, a tablespoon of parmesan, some parsley - anything you would normally add to your own mashed potatoes.

I also stocked up on canned veggies (Green Giant brand was $.99 - dropped to $.49 a can wyb 10), since I was starting to run low from the last time I loaded up. I grabbed 28 cans - and that should be enough to hold us through the winter. If I have a chance, I may grab another 10 cans before the sale is up. You can never be too well stocked on veggies, especially at these prices!

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