Tag Archives: menu

Meal Planning Monday 1.22.2017 – the Pantry Challenge


Hey hey, it’s almost Monday. International meal prep day if you’re a bro. Mine is on Sunday, so here we go. 

I just rhymed the hell out of that. Anyway, my freezer and pantry are overflowing with stuff that I completely believed that I needed when I bought them. But now things are cluttered. Ever do that? Since I’m not stocking up for the apocalypse, I need to use some things up. 

Ever hear of a pantry challenge? Spend less money, use what you already have, and get creative in the kitchen. It not only saves money, you’ll make fewer trips to the supermarket. 

My one caveat is that I’ll allow myself to grab fresh produce when needed, as some things just don’t keep well. My boys drink quite a lot of milk too. But I’m using what I have hanging out for my main meals. Lunches are almost always leftovers. My breakfasts are pretty boring too: eggs and veggies, protein pancakes, or overnight oats will be going on. 

Here are my dinners. You up for a challenge? See what you can make with what you’ve already got. 

Monday: Leftover pork souvlaki with tzatziki – I’ve got leftover pork, a cucumber, onions, and yogurt. I’m in business. On the side, instead of pita, I’ll use whole grain sandwich thins or pile it all on a plate of greens. 

Tuesday: Simple roast chicken. Yes, an entire bird is living in my freezer. I’ll clear out space by roasting it up along with extra carrots, onions, and potatoes. 

Wednesday: chicken chorizo is real, folks. My market sells this stuff and it’s amazingly good – yet lean. I’ll make a hash out of this by adding kale, chunks of potato, and an egg on top. Here’s a recipe that follows this idea. 

Thursday: Leftover chicken works well in soup. I’ll be making my avgolemono soup for a winter meal that uses very few ingredients. 

Friday: I bought chicken burgers from Costco months ago. They’re in the deep freezer and they need to go in our bellies. I’ll serve them on sandwich thins with steamed cauliflower and broccoli on the side. 

Saturday: We have so many bags of mystery soup in the freezer. Pro tip: label your bags. You won’t actually remember what you put inside. So yeah, mystery soup Saturday. 

Sunday: I dream a dream. Of making my own sausage. And I happen to have ground chicken breast in my house. So these spicy mango chicken breakfast sausages will become our brinner, along with bell peppers, potatoes, and eggs. 

Challenge accepted? Leave a comment and tell me what you drum up from your own pantry and freezer. Have a great week! 


Meal Planning Monday: 1.16.2017


I always write these on Sunday, but Monday sounds so much catchier. Anyway, if you’re actually reading this on Sunday, high fives to you for being a go getter. 

It doesn’t even matter when you meal prep: just get it done when it works for you. 

Here’s what I’m cooking and eating up this week for dinner. I also have some badass breakfasts to share. Lunches for me are usually leftovers. I live a glamorous life, I know. 

Sunday (today): Slow cooker cider pork roast with apple thyme gravy. Serving with mashed cauliflower. This recipe is cooking right now. It smells great and was stupid easy to throw together. I skipped the apple brandy and picked up a mini bottle of apple whiskey. Boozy dinner ftw. You can freeze extra meat to use in other things if you won’t be using it up for leftover lunches and dinners this week. 

Monday: Upside down BBQ chicken bowls. The bonus of this is that you can put a huge batch of chicken breasts in your slow cooker with a little BBQ sauce. Cook that 4-6 hours and shred with a bit more sauce. You now have meat for more bowls during the week, or just freeze the cooked meat in individual portions for another day. I like that this recipe uses lots of broccoli slaw. Eat that up, it will fill your belly. 

Tuesday: Slow cooker posole(pork and hominy stew). I’m going to riff off of this Skinnytaste recipe, using the leftover pork from Sunday, though her instructions help you use fresh pork too. I don’t own a pressure cooker (wah!) so I’ll use the slow cooker instead. I’ll serve this with a fresh salad of citrus, avocado, and greens. 

Still have soup leftover? This will freeze just fine to live another day. 

Wednesday: Winter citrus butter salmon. Serving with a wild rice blend and steamer bag broccoli. This recipe sounds incredibly good. I’ll likely go light on the butter and need to sub regular oranges for the blood oranges unless they appear in the market soon. 

Thursday: Leftovers if we’ve got them: or soup from the freezer. 

Friday: Taco Friday is not #tacotuesday. But if I make a giant batch of seasoned taco meat, I can eat a taco on Tuesday and feel cool. Freeze some extra meat for tacos any time. I have tons of ground turkey in my freezer, so I’ll use that plus some low sodium taco seasoning. Or make your own. I usually opt for small corn tortillas – they’re low in calories. Lower carb tortillas work well too. And I’m perfectly happy to make a taco salad out of taco meat, tons of veggies, and a little guacamole. 

Saturday: Beef bourgignon (stew with red wine). A lazy kind of winter day meal to fill your kitchen with good smells. If you make a big batch, this freezes really well too. I’ll serve it with just a little crusty bread along with the veggies in the stew. 

Have a recipe that rocks your world? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. Have a great week! 

Meal Planning Monday: December 11, 2016


It’s cold. Yeah, yeah, it’s December. It’s supposed to be cold in Iowa. But we were spoiled. So now I’m freezing my tuchus off. So this week I want mostly soups and warm stuff to put in my belly. 

Making soup is a perfect way to stockpile some extra meals – most soups freeze really well. So make a giant batch and stash some extra meals away for later. 

Here’s what’s happening in my neck of the woods this week:

Monday: The easiest Thai chicken soup – get some Tom Ka paste from an Asian market. I simmer cooked chicken with a can  of light coconut milk, 2 cups of chicken stock, a bag of stir fry veggies, and a bit of curry paste. Sometimes I add extra bamboo shoots or water chestnuts. Yum. 

Tuesday: Slow cooker pork loin with apples and sage. I might be gross because I use bottled gravy in this recipe, but it’s so good. And so easy. Come at me. I’ll serve with mashed cauliflower. 

Wednesday: Slow cooker mu shu chicken wraps. Just cook boneless skinless chicken breasts with a half bottle of stir-fry sauce for 4-6 hours. Shred, add the rest of the bottle of sauce, along with a bag of broccoli slaw. Serve as is or wrap that up in tortillas or low carb wraps. 

Thursday: Kiddo has a choir concert. So we need a quick meal: deli turkey, Greek yogurt cream cheese, and apples on low-carb flatouts it is. I will also stuff them with mixed greens and the kids will complain about their horrible lots in life. 

Friday: Leftovers!

Saturday: Ottolenghi’s chickpea, tomato, and bread soup. If I could cook one chef’s meals for all my days, it would be his. 

Sunday: Bouillabaise. Because I’ve always wanted to make bouillabaise, and I like saying bouillabaise. So I’m going to try it. This is a simplified version of a French fisherman’s stew. Serve with crusty whole grain bread. 

What’s on your menu this week? Leave a comment and share! 


Meal Planning Monday: December 4th, 2016


Oh helloooooo. It’s time to plan. So that when the thing hits the you-know-what, you at least have dinner prepped. 

I feel like I returned from battle yesterday after buying my groceries for the week. The store was so busy it seemed like people were prepping for a zombie apocalypse. Instead, I think it was just a really good sale combined with the weather forecast predicting snow. People start buying milk and bread and basically lose their minds. This always amuses me a whole lot. 

But I have milk and bread now. And all the things to make this week’s meals. Check out mine here:

Monday: Lightened up Parmesan chicken: just skip the breading and bake chicken breasts. I sprinkle with Italian seasoning and salt then bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Toss on some cheese and marinara and bake 5-10 minutes more: until the sauce is warm and the cheese is melty. Serving with sauteed spinach instead of pasta – but have a bit on the side if you’re craving some. 

Tuesday: spicy California shrimp stacks from Skinnytaste. How freaking clever are these? I’ll serve with a cucumber sesame salad on the side. 

Wednesday: Chicken spinach frittata with leftover chicken from Monday. Add bits of whatever veggies you have around, and you can play with cheese. Here’s one variation from an Oregon Cottage. 

Thursday: Turkey taco stuffed sweet potatoes. Just use lean ground turkey and make taco filling from it. I like to add homemade taco seasoning, a bit of salsa, and a can of black beans to the meat. Then stuff your baked/microwaved sweet potatoes. Top with plain Greek yogurt and/or a little cheese. Nom nom. 

Tip: if you can, make a giant batch of the taco meat. Freeze the extras and then you can use this as a super fast dinner on crazy nights. 

Friday: Hey family, make your own damn dinner! Or… leftovers/cooked soups I found in the deep freezer. 

Saturday: Lower calorie Shepherd’s pie. Just take your favorite recipe and use 90% lean ground beef, plenty of veggies, and top with a mixture of mashed cauliflower and potato. Using buttermilk and cutting back on butter helps scale back calories for mashed potatoes. I’ll put some umami bombs into the sauce with cues from Serious Eats. 

Sunday: Roasted turkey tenderloins (I get these inexpensively at Aldi) with cranberry shallot sauce from Eating Well. Steamed green beans and roasted sweet potatoes on the side, because I’m still feeling Thanksgiving in my soul. 

What’s for dinner at your house this week? Have something good? Share it in a comment below. Happy cooking! 

Meal Planning Monday November 28, 2016


It’s a new week and maybe I don’t need to eat pie every day. Or maybe I do? I had quite a lot of good pie and other treats for Thanksgiving. 

There’s no need to repent or detox.  But I’m craving some vegetables. This week’s dinner menu will have plenty of them. Hopefully there will be good leftovers for lunches, and I’ll throw some spinach into my breakfast smoothies or fold a few veggies into an omelet. 

Monday: Black Bean Pumpkin Soup from Smitten Kitchen with a mixed green salad

Tuesday: Feta spinach chicken sausages roasted with red bell peppers, onions, and broccoli. (Use whatever veggies and seasonings you like! I’ll sprinkle on oregano, salt, and pepper and roast in one pan at 400F until it looks nice and toasty. 25-35 minutes should do the trick. 

Wednesday: Baked ginger soy chicken from David Lebowitz, served with a big side of steamed or sauteed stir fry veggies. (Just buy the frozen ones if you don’t have fresh veg on hand.)

Thursday: Surely we have leftovers. Right? Right? If not, I’ve been itching to make the turkey meatloaf from Skinnytaste. It would taste great with a side of sweet potatoes and broccoli. 

Friday: Lentil chili from Little Broken. With a cornbread muffin, because yum. 

Saturday: Hosting a sleepover for many 4th grade hooligans. A DIY hot dog bar with fruits and veggies on the side will work for the kiddos. Turkey brats with apple sauerkraut and roasted Brussels sprouts for the grownups. Plus wine. Of course. 

Sunday: Blackened fish taco bowls from Noshtastic

Are you cooking up a favorite meal you’ve discovered lately? Tell me all about it in a comment below. Have a great week!

Meal Planning Monday for November 14, 2016


Oh hey there!

I’m starting a new series in the spirit of meal prep. Why? Because having a plan for the week makes healthy eating way less bumpy. 

I hesitate to say “meal planning” because people think of that as a rigid set of meals that they have to eat. Eat whatever you like! But once my menu for the week is set, I can chill out and know that dinner will happen without a last minute trip to the grocery store. 

I usually work off of what I have hanging out in my fridge, pantry, and freezer when I design my weekly dinner menus. I can whip up breakfast or lunch from most anything I have in the house. But dinner takes a little more planning. 

If that all feels overwhelming, start by reading a peek inside a week of healthy meal planning. 

Then if you’re needing a bit of inspiration, check out my menu each week and nab whatever sounds yummy. I try to choose dinners that have a fairly high protein count, are reasonably low in calories, and taste great. 

Some meals take a little more prep than others. If I make soup or stew I usually double the batch and freeze one. Then I have some “no cook” nights for when the you-know-what hits the fan. 

Meal Plan for November 14, 2016

Monday: Sauteed skillet of chicken apple sausages, cubed butternut squash, and brussels sprouts. (I just cook these together with a little thyme and smoky paprika.)

Tuesday: Leftover Turkey Chili from the freezer with mixed greens.

Wednesday: Lasagna soup with mixed greens.

Thursday: Apple stuffed pork loin with Moroccan spices. Roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on the side.

Friday: Leftovers!

Saturday: One Pot Red Beans and Rice with Turkey Kielbasa

Sunday: Maple glazed baked salmon with pears, Brussels Sprouts, and whipped cauliflower/potato mash. 

Have a go to recipe that you’d like to share or even your menu for the week? Lay it on us! Just leave a comment below. 

A Peek Inside a Week of Healthy Meal Planning

yummy snack

Hi guys! As part of the launch of Fat Loss on a Budget I want to walk you through what my own grocery shopping and meal prep looks like for my family.  Preparation is everything when it comes to optimizing your nutrition on a budget. Here’s what my weekend planning looked like last week:

Saturday Morning Prep
I wake up, pour some coffee, and gaze at my yarn. I really want to have a knitting and Hulu marathon instead of planning my shopping list. However, when Monday rolls around, I know that I’ll be way less stressed out if everything is in place. So I grudgingly get going and open up the grocery ads – I usually have print ads as well as access to digital ads on my computer.

hyvee ad

I then peek into my chest freezer to see how much meat and frozen veggies I still have on hand. My prepared freezer meals are down to nothing so this week I have to begin stocking up again here and there and try to make a few double batches of recipes to have on hand for busy days.

Score! I have a ridiculous amount of chicken that I nabbed for only $1.88 per pound. I also have at least 3 pounds of ground beef, wrapped into 1 pound packages. Unless we can find great sales on beef, we buy it in bulk at Costco and then divvy it up at home. When I say “we”, I mean my husband, because I always end up asking him to do it. THANKS BABEH.

Back to the ads. I have some familiar favorite meals that I can make based on what I have on hand. I compare prices of fruit between Aldi and my local grocery store, Hy-Vee. We have 2 other major supermarkets but my time is severely crunched this week, so I’m going to have to make it work going to only these stores. It’ll be fine.

After browsing recipes that I have on hand or online from favorite sites and thinking of the recipes that best match what I already have or can get for a low cost, I finally write my grocery shopping list and plan my menu for the week. You’ll see that in some cases, I’m making extra batches to have more meals. This lets me save time in the long run and also save money so that no ingredients go to waste.

The cost per meal isn’t what I actually have to spend each week. This is important to consider. I’ve estimated the cost of ingredients to give you a ballpark idea of what it costs to make a meal if you shop strategically.  Your total bill at the store will vary depending on what you already have on hand as well as how you and your family eat. Because I buy food when it hits very low prices, my costs are often even lower than those listed here because I nab ingredients when they’re at a deep discount. You can learn to do this too in my book. Ready for some meal ideas? Here we go!

The Meals

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.


  • Monday: Egg white/whole egg scramble with scraps of garden veggies I have on hand, a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese. Fruit on the side. Sometimes made with pizza sauce because pizza, or salsa.
    Total cost per serving: less than a dollar.
  • Tuesday: Protein pumpkin pancakes for me. Greek yogurt with cereal or oatmeal for the kids.
    Total cost per serving: around 40 cents. 
  • Wednesday : Overnight protein oats: Dashing Dish has a zillion variations. Usually the recipe is too filling to eat at once, so I save some for a snack. Here’s one I’m going to try this week: https://dashingdish.com/recipe/brownie-batter-overnight-protein-oatmeal/
    otal cost per serving: $2.54 
  • Thursday: Old fashioned oats with 2 egg whites stirred in as they just finish cooking – you can’t even taste them and it makes them creamy. I like to sprinkle in blueberries, a half banana, and sometimes just a tablespoon of granola for crunch.
    Total cost per serving: 82 cents. 
  • Friday: Egg fried in pam with turkey sausage on a Thomas High Fiber English muffin and slice of Sargento ultra-thin cheese.
    Total cost per serving:  $1.17
  • Saturday: Steel cut oatmeal for family – made with apples, a bit of brown sugar, and for me, scrambled eggs with just a little oatmeal.
    Total cost for serving the family: $2.38
  • Sunday: Family fun breakfast: I double this recipe because I have hungry boys. This classic pancake recipe is still our go to.   I might add an apple topping if we have extra fruit. Serving with bacon.
    Total cost for a doubled recipe of pancakes and pound of bacon: $6.00 



My lunches aren’t all that exciting. I don’t take time during the day to do much cooking. If I don’t have fun leftovers to munch, I’ll have my go-to “cheaper than Chipotle” salsa chicken to use for my own salad bowls. They’re just a combo of spinach or mixed greens, chicken,  and black beans mixed with a sprinkle of cheese and extra salsa. Sometimes I dice some onion on top too.

My kids need lunches too – they are way less adventurous than all the people pinning lunch ideas for kids seem to think. It’s typically homemade “lunchables”, turkey and cheese sandwiches, or PB&J with sides of yogurt, fruit, and whatever other random thing we might have sitting around that they’ll eat. Their drink is always water.

My husband just scavenges for leftovers or eats what I’m eating. Heh!
Total cost per lunches: Hard to say. The kids are probably less than $1 each per week day for lunch. My cost per meal is probably $1-$2 considering I’m using leftovers from other meals. Weekend lunches are usually leftovers or frozen. Costco tilapia/chicken is an emergency backup. I’ll estimate around $30 per week on lunches to feed everyone. 


  • Saturday: Cincinnati Chili  – 3 batches so that we can have 2 in the freezer to just add spaghetti to later. My recipe adaptation is from Cooking Light.
    Total cost per single recipe for 6 servings: $7.73
  • Sunday: Crockpot salsa chicken – great recipe from the Eating on a Dime blog. I’ll do a double batch so that I have chicken to make “Chipotle Bowls” out of for several days. Serving over rice for the kids, over spinach for me. Adding in a bit of cheese.
    Total cost for 1 batch using a package of chicken: $5.32
  • Monday: Pork steaks grilled with a spice rub, butternut squash, and sauteed apples. I’m doing these because pork steak is only $1.99 per pound at the grocery store this week. Apples and squash are cheap right now too. Yay, fall!
    Total cost for feeding 2 adults and 3 boys (1.5 lbs meat): $7.00
  • Tuesday: Crockpot White Chicken Chili from New Leaf Wellness. I’ll make enough for  2 meals if possible so i don’t waste the other half bag of corn.
    Total cost for 1 recipe: $4.80
  • Wednesday: Fish Cakes from Bon Appetit. Hopefully my kids won’t hate this one.  A friend said her kid loved it. Eat it up, punks! I’m subbing in tilapia because we have some frozen that we need to use. I’ll serve some frozen veggies on the side.
    Total cost of cakes and veggies: $8.67
  • Thursday: Leftover salsa chicken made into high protein quesadillas with Flatout Protein wraps that I have on hand and reduced fat cheese leftover from chili recipe. Spinach salad will by my side with whatever fruit I have sitting around and homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
    Total cost for salad plus 5 quesadillas not including chicken because I already accounted for it: $6.53
  • Friday: Random leftovers night. Occasionally popcorn for dinner night or pizza night. Likely there will be some leftover chili of some sort. Friday night is “I will die if I have to cook dinner” night because we’re all usually burned out by then and need a break.
  • Saturday: Grilled chicken thighs or drumsticks that were spice rubbed.  I chose these because bone-in thighs and drumsticks are on sale at the store for 99 cents per pound. Also, my 8 year old loves them. I’ll serve them with whatever frozen veggies I find on sale if I didn’t already have a bag of frozen asparagus. I’ll also make homemade bread for little money and just a little bit more time because I have a bread machine.
    Total cost of meal for 5: $3.61
  • Sunday: Turkey tacos. I’ll cook 3 batches of lean ground turkey with homemade taco seasoning . I’ll stash 2 extra batches into the freezer for busy days.  For some bizarre reason I have 3 packages of flour tortillas sitting in my pantry. It’s a taco conspiracy, but I’ll go with it because tacos are freaking good. We’ll cut up the last of the garden tomatoes if we still have any, use up bits of extra greens that my 10 year old will claim ruin his tacos, and some cheese to round out Taco Sunday.
    Total price for a pound of meat plus tortillas, salsa and cheese: $5.94

Total dollars estimated on dinners for the week for a family of 5: $49.60

Snacks and treats:

Photo credit: Christopher Cornelius

Photo credit: Christopher Cornelius

Typically I make a homemade dessert once or twice per week. I try to use low cost things that I have on hand, often using up fruit that may go bad (hello, banana bread).  I leave money in my budget for little indulgences like ice cream and really good chocolate. A few bites of something sweet before bed is an almost daily event.

For daytime snacks, I sometimes have nearly nothing and other days I feel snacky and need munchies. I also need small meals or snacks to fuel my workouts if they fall at a time that isn’t near meal time.  I’ll eat Greek yogurt with a bit of fruit or PB2 in it, protein shakes, rice cakes with a bit of peanut butter, or string cheese. The remainder of my grocery budget usually goes to snacks. The kids also like granola bars, homemade popcorn with the Whirley Pop, and fruit. Who am I kidding, they like to eat whatever tasty thing is in the house. They are ALWAYS hungry!

Weekly snacks/treats budget: $10-$15. 

So that’s the food – now I have to actually cook it. For the double or triple batch items, I don’t have to do any extra work – just allocate a freezer bag to stick in the extra recipe for another meal. When I do this consistently, I can count on a few already prepped meals each week. These are lifesavers for the evenings when I work or for when I am too tired and lazy to think about dinner. It beats the drive through for staying on my nutrition plan too.

How I Chose My Meals
I made a point of choosing meals with a relatively high protein count and smaller amounts of carbohydrate and fat. Protein is the macronutrient target that I find the hardest to hit, but as I detail in my book, it’s a powerhouse for helping my body composition as well as helping me feel full.

What I Actually Spent
I meant to take an artful picture of my receipts and make it look glorious. Except then I cleaned out my purse and accidentally tossed the receipts. UGH! I ended up spending about $90 this week, which included not only things I needed for my meals for this week: I also stocked up on a few things for future meals. We made it work on $75-$80 a week when we had to. I know of families who have tighter budgets and make it work on even less.  Your available time to really work deals will play a role too. I managed to get my stuff without any couponing this week and I feel good about how we did.

What’s your meal plan? My challenge to you is to create one and post it here or on the thread I’ve created on my Facebook page. I can’t wait to see it! (Plus new ideas for meals rock. Thanks!)

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