30 Meals for $30

30 meals for 30 30 Meals for $30

Didn’t think it was possible to make 30 meals for $30? What about 30 meals for under $30? Well I’ve done it!

And if you watched my TV segment on Talk of the Town, you’ve already seen it done…

 30 Meals for $30

That’s right, I’m talking breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks per day for 6 days (not to mention the leftovers…)

So here’s your plan:

30 Meals for $30

    BREAKFAST                        SNACK                        LUNCH                        SNACK                            DINNER

Mon        Smoothie                    Applesauce              PB & banana roll up           Carrots & PB                   Chicken & Rice

Tues         Cereal             Sugar-Free Oatmeal cookies      Fried Rice                Cucumber Rounds         Spaghetti with garlic & olive oil

Wed        Oatmeal                   PB Crispy Rice balls     Black Beans & Rice          Celery & PB                Chicken Noodle Soup & Crackers

Thur       Smoothie                  PB & Crackers                Mac & Cheese           Sugar-Free Oatmeal cookies                  Chopped Salad

 Fri          Cereal                        Pineapple                        Soup & Salad                  Applesauce                 Black Bean Chicken Chimichangas

Sat          Oatmeal                   Hard Boiled Eggs       Black Bean Quesadillas        Smoothie pops               Sweet & Savory Crepes

Watch the full TV segment on 30 meals for $30 from Talk of the Town:
NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather I did 99% of my shopping at ALDI because they have such great prices everyday and I wanted to prove that you don’t have to be able to coupon to drastically cut back on your weekly grocery bill! Here’s the breakdown:

30 Meals for $30 Shopping List

Whole fryer chicken (.89/lb = 4.45)

bananas = .44/lb
lettuce = .99
carrots = .99
cucumber = .25
bagged salad = .49
Frozen berry mix = 2.29
canned pineapple = .89
applesauce = 1.29
garlic = .99
rice = 1.59
egg noodles = 1.29
spaghetti = .89
oatmeal = 2.29
rice cereal = 1.89
tortillas = 1.29
saltines = .99
black beans (canned -2 ) = 1.18
peanut butter = 1.89
block cheddar cheese = 1.79
Mac & Cheese = .39
milk = 2.89
OJ = 1.79
eggs = 1.79
Keep in mind, some of these items, like the rice & oatmeal, will last long beyond this meal plan. Also, I played with adding a roast in for $3.99 ad taking out items like the saltines & applesauce, which would still keep you at that $30 mark and add more protein in to your week.
Are you up for the $30 for 30 challenge??

 30 Meals for $30

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Mickey Sandwich Cookie Recipe

For our recent Disney Side @ Home Celebration, I made something really special that my kids were still talking about for weeks afterward: a Mickey Sandwich Cookie!

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This Mickey Sandwich Cookie recipe is not unique in the ingredients, but I thought the concept was quite clever…consider it a homemade Mickey Oreo icon wink Mickey Sandwich Cookie Recipe

Making these Mickey Mouse cookies was actually much simpler than I could have imagined.

As part of being a Disney Side @ Home hostess, I received the Wilton Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutters Set. I adapted sugar cookie dough from Wilton and used a store-bought white frosting.

Screen Shot 2014 03 22 at 10.10.30 PM Mickey Sandwich Cookie Recipe

Mickey Sandwich Cookie Recipe

For the cookie dough, first preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Then cream 1 cup softened butter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar (in a stand mixer for about a minute). Then add in 1 egg and 1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract (our is from Mexico) until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift 2 1/2 cups AP flour with 2 tsp baking powder & 1 tsp salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the stand mixer. DO NOT OVERMIX or the dough will become tough.

Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutter Dough Mickey Sandwich Cookie Recipe

Form into ball on floured surface and divide dough in half. Roll out dough to make it about 1/8 inch and then cut out Mickey heads with your Mickey cookie cutter. Bake cookies on a cookie sheet lined with a silicon baking mat for about 6 minutes…do not over-bake! Once out of the oven, allow the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Once cookies are cooled, put a generous amount of white frosting on the flat side (bottom) of one Mickey head cookie. After frosting one cookie, take the flat side of a second cookie and match it up to the frosting.

Voila! You have your Mickey Sandwich cookie.

It really amazed me that something so simple as putting two cookies together with a schmear of frosting could be such a big hit. It just goes to show that you don’t always have to reinvent a recipe, but just smush it together with itself every once in awhile icon wink Mickey Sandwich Cookie Recipe

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Sugar-Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookie Recipe

One of the biggest hits from my 30 meals for $30 Talk of the Town TV appearance were my Sugar-Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookies.

Sugar free oatmeal banana applesauce cookie recipe Sugar Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookie Recipe

Even Drs. Rodan and Fields, who happened to be appearing with me that day, loved them!

 Sugar Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookie Recipe

Here is my Sugar-Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookie Recipe:

recipeseo placeholder Sugar Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookie Recipe

sugar free oatmeal banana cookie recipe Sugar Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookie Recipe

You could also add raisins or dried cranberries (make sure they don’t have extra sugar added in them already!) for a more traditional oatmeal cookie taste.

 Sugar Free Oatmeal Banana Applesauce Cookie Recipe

When I made these cookies for Talk of the Town, I added chocolate chips to them and everyone seemed to love that touch!

If you wanted to make this sugar-free cookie recipe gluten-free as well, just exchange the quick cooking oats for gluten-free oats.

To make this sugar-free oatmeal banana applesauce cookie recipe dairy free, exchange the milk for almond milk (tastes just as good!).

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Black Bean Chicken Chimichanga Recipe

Black Bean Chicken Chimichanga Recipe

4 flour tortillas
1 1/3 cups shredded chicken (taken from your leftover garlic crockpot chicken)
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 mashed black beans
salt, pepper & hot sauce to taste
Vegetable or Canola oil to coat bottom of pan

Heat oil in deep frying pan
Stir together all ingredients (except for oil & tortillas) in a bowl.
Place 2 Tablespoons of chicken mixture into center of flour tortilla.
Fold in both sides of tortilla and then roll.
Place Chimichanga seam side down into oil until lightly browned, then flip and repeat on other side.
Remove from pan and let sit on paper towel for one minute before serving.

(serves 4)

 Black Bean Chicken Chimichanga Recipe

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The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe

ultimate cheesy bread bowl recipe 768x1024 The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe
My husband got this Cheesy Bread Bowl recipe from a friend he used to work with (thanks Brooke!) and now we can’t host an event without it! I detest mayonnaise, and I still love this appetizer.

The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe


  • 8 oz package softened cream cheese
  • 1 c Hellman’s REAL mayonnaise (my husband refuses to let me buy anything else)
  • 1/8 tsp of ground while pepper
  • 1/8 tsp of garlic salt
  • 10-12 oz of shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Round loaf of White Mountain Bread
*Cut a circle in top of bread and hollow out the top to create a large bread bowl.
*Take top of bread and pull into chunks and set aside.
*Combine first four ingredients in medium size bowl and mix well.
*Add cheese to mixture.
*Pour cheese mixture into hollowed out bread bowl.
*Bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes (until bubbly with brown edges).
*If desired, scatter chunks of bread around the bread bowl on the cookie sheet during the last five minutes of cooking.
*Serve immediately and wait for compliments to the chef icon smile The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe
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Easy Crock Pot Brownie Recipe

IMG 0201 300x300 Easy Crock Pot Brownie Recipe
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I didn’t anticipate just how many of you were intrigued by the easy crock pot brownies I made recently, so I’m fulfilling your request to share this easy crock pot brownie recipe!

I never knew you could make desserts in a crock pot, much less brownies, but my friend Matt said he had just made some amazing fudge coconut brownies (adapted from the Crockin Girls) and mentioned how easy and delicious they were. Not that I doubt his cooking abilities, but I figured if he could make crock pot brownies, anyone could icon wink Easy Crock Pot Brownie Recipe

So I bribed the kids by saying if they woke up right when their alarm went off for school, they could help me make the brownies in the morning (aka lick the spoon)…it worked!

We put them on at 7am and they were done by 10 (although, I think I could have stopped them about 15 minutes earlier).

Here is what I did:

Easy Crock Pot Brownie Recipe

*Box of brownie mix
*2-3 eggs (Depending on whether you want them cake-like or fudgy…we used 2)
*1 cup chocolate sauce (like Hershey’s)
*1 cup boiling water

1. Turn crock pot on High

2. Make brownie mix according to package directions

3. Grease Crock Pot (or I’m sure you could use a slow cooker liner)

4. Pour in brownie mix

5. Mix chocolate syrup & boiling water

6. Pour over brownie mix in crock pot

7. Cook on high for about 3 hours (or 2:45)

8. Let sit for at least 10 minutes with lid off before serving

Again, my friend said he added nuts & coconut, but I haven’t personally tried anything so fancy just yet.
I did learn a few things I wanted to pass on for people wanting to try this recipe themselves. Here is my synopsis:

Benefits to the Crock Pot Brownies

*Mix, pour, cook, eat…truly so easy!
*Very hard to overcook. I realize I said I let them go a little long above, but they were still the most MOIST brownies I’ve EVER had. I NEVER know when to pull brownies out of the oven. This took all the guess work out of the cooking process.
*Again, very moist and fudgy

Critiques of the Crock Pot Brownies

*The chocolate syrup mixture seemed to settle on one side a little more than the other, and the part I let drip on the side tasted burnt
*Harder to pick up and eat than a regular brownie…much better eaten warm with ice cream & a fork icon wink Easy Crock Pot Brownie Recipe (Ok, I guess that’s more of a benefit than a critique!)
*My daughter said “I like regular boxed brownies better” – but she’s not much of a brownie/chocolate fan in the first place, so I wouldn’t listen to her. Every other child at dinner DEVOURED these (and the adults too!)

Have you ever tried to make desserts in the crock pot? If so, what’s your favorite?

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An Easy Food Soup Swap: Talk of the Town Video

20130122 062816 An Easy Food Soup Swap: Talk of the Town Video

This month on Talk of the Town Appearance, I shared what my friends and I have just discovered to help cut back on our grocery budgets AND our cooking time in the kitchen: A food swap!

Since this was our first go-round, we decided to keep it easy and start with soup.

Here were the basic ‘rules’:

-Fill two gallon bags (approx 3/4 full) of soup for each family and then freeze flat

-Use the most natural ingredients possible (e.g. butter, not margarine; no artificial sweetener; no processed ingredients, etc).

-If possible, attach any necessary directions (probably not a big deal for our soup round) and add a recipe card so we can re-create your delicious offering icon wink An Easy Food Soup Swap: Talk of the Town Video

We did this with our small group, so at one meeting we came up with some mutually agreed upon soups to try to start out. They were:
Potato soup
Beef Vegetable soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup
White Chicken Chili
Chicken Tortellini soup
and of course, my Easy Lentil Soup Recipe

We meet every two weeks, so we decided to have everyone bring their soups to our next meeting. Taking into account that not everyone eats at home every night of the week and you’re going to want to eat some other things besides soup, we thought these would see us through about two weeks.

The beauty of this is that when you find something that’s on sale, you’re able to buy enough of it to feed all the families in your group and you don’t have to search for as many sales to fill out your weekly meal plan!

Here are some other soups we wanted to try but didn’t get assigned this time:
Pasta Fagioli soup
Italian Wedding soup
Broccoli cheese soup
Chicken Corn Chowder
Vegetable soup

Here’s the video from today’s show in case you missed it:

In our next food swap round, we’re hoping to try more main courses. We also discussed going to a restaurant supply store to get disposable food trays to freeze the dishes in.

It’s just great to know that you can spend one night cooking and end up with meals that will last your family almost two weeks! Of course the key here is to find enough people who you trust to ‘follow the rules’, deliver on time and stick with the program.

Have you ever tried anything like this?

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I share my Meal Plans every week here on SamiCone.com, but keep in mind many of my dinners are based around eMeals (although they now offer breakfast & lunch plans too!).


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Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta-Free, Easy & Healthy!

20130122 062816 Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta Free, Easy & Healthy!

On my latest Talk of the Town Appearance, I shared an easy, healthy AND kid-friendly veggie lasagna recipe….oh, and did I mention it’s pasta-free?!

So even if you’re not gluten-free, you might want to give this a try. It’s also just as easy to make a full pan for dinner (or to freeze for later) as it is to make individual portions in ramekins that the kids will love.

It’s important to note that the exact recipe isn’t as important as the technique: feel free to add meat to the sauce, add or subtract veggies or even make it with pasta if you like.

Product note: This recipe will be much easier with a mandolin. You don’t have to get an expensive one (a friend found me the one below at Goodwill for 99 cents), but you can also find them at most grocery stores for under $5. It will help you create even slices that otherwise would be hard to re-create with a knife.

20130121 220754 Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta Free, Easy & Healthy!

Bonus tip: Instead of traditional linguine or spaghetti, we also like to stack the zucchini slices after we use the mandolin and cut them in thin slices lengthwise to create ‘noodles’ that are great to eat with meatballs or simply sauté with garlic & olive oil.

Once you get your zucchini or eggplant slices, you’re going to layer them in the 9 x 13 pan. Or, if you prefer to make individual portions for the kids, you can layer them in a ramekin like so:

20130122 062722 Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta Free, Easy & Healthy!

When adding the vegetables to the sauce, make sure to season them well. This is also the stage where you could add additional vegetables or even ground beef or tofu if you prefer:

20130122 062737 Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta Free, Easy & Healthy!

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the cheese mixture. After you’ve combined the egg, shredded cheese, ricotta, salt & pepper, you can start creating your layers.

Start by adding water to the jar to loosen the leftover sauce and then pour over the bottom of the pan just enough to coat. Start with layering the zucchini or squash slices. Next, add a thin layer of the vegetable sauce. Then, smooth a layer of the cheese mixture. Repeat until all ingredients are gone.

Finish by covering the dish with the remaining shredded cheeses.

20130122 062746 Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta Free, Easy & Healthy!

Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and then broil to brown the cheese for about 5 minutes.

20130122 062759 Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta Free, Easy & Healthy!

Let sit for 10 minutes to allow layers and flavors to set properly, then slice:

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You can check out the exact ingredient list and full recipe here:

Pasta-Free Veggie Lasagna Recipe


  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 Medium Zucchini
  • 1 jar Marinara sauce (with garlic, onion & peppers if possible, or some combination of)
  • 1 package frozen spinach (thawed)
  • 1 package frozen bell pepper & onion blend
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 container (16 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 T Italian Seasoning
  • 1 T salt

Cooking Directions

  • (Day before preferably): thaw and drain spinach
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Using a mandolin (or sharp knife), evenly slice thin strips of the eggplant or zucchini (whichever vegetable you prefer to use for your \'noodles\'). Set aside.
  • In a large pan on medium, heat olive oil then add chopped garlic as well as peppers & onions. Sautee for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add jar of sauce and combine with veggies. Once incorporated, add thawed spinach, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Bring to a simmer than cover and let sit over med-low heat for ten minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, egg, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, along with salt & pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • In a 9 x13 baking dish, ladle in your sauce until bottom is covered. Then add a layer of veggie \'noodles\'. After that, spread a layer of the cheese mixture and then cover that layer with more sauce. Continue to repeat each layer until you reach the top of the dish.
  • On the very top, cover the last layer of sauce with the remaining shredded cheese. Lightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until heated through thoroughly. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking to brown the cheese. Let rest for a little while after pulling out of the oven so that the cheese doesn\'t run everywhere when it\'s cut!

One of the things that makes this recipe so easy is taking advantage of all the help you can, especially when it comes to pre-chopped frozen vegetables like the ones I used courtesy of Whole Foods Market Green Hills (Nashville). Their 365 Everyday Value brand makes it easy for anyone to get great quality vegetables, including organic, at an amazing price (under $2 a bag).

The Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand goes beyond vegetables and includes everything from Spices and Syrup to Olive Oil. Check out my video series if you’re looking for more everyday ways to save at Whole Foods!

blackened skirt steak salad 400 4 300x210 Individual Veggie Lasagna Recipe: Pasta Free, Easy & Healthy!

I created this recipe because our nutritionist thought it would be beneficial for our family to try following a more Paleo style diet for a little while. If you want some help with meal planning, I’m a fan of eMeals. Not only do they have every type of meal plan you can think of (choose based on the stores you shop at or based on the way you eat), but it is SO affordable and easy. You’ll find the majority of my Meal Plans are based around eMeals dinners (although they now offer breakfast & lunch plans too!). Plus, save an extra 15% off right now with the code NEWYEAR.

I hope this recipe has inspired you to try something new with your family in the New Year!


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Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

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Photo Credit: SimplyRecipes.com

If you’re looking for the best Thanksgiving turkey recipes to make your Thanksgiving dinner extra special this year, look no further! I put my personal virtual assistant,Time Dog, to the task of finding the best Thanksgiving turkey dinner recipes around the web, and they delivered!

Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time at your house, or simply want to shake your standard turkey recipe up a little bit, why not try one of these turkey recipes and let me know if you think they deserve the title of “Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe”!

Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

Butter-Basted Roast Turkey with Mushroom Gravy (from delish.com)
Apricot-Glazed Turkey with Fresh Herb Gravy (from delish.com)
Citrus-Marinated Turkey (from delish.com)
Southwestern Rubbed Turkey
Herb-Roasted Turkey
Apple-Shallot Roasted Turkey
Lemon-Garlic Roast Turkey and White-Wine Gravy 
Roast Turkey with Pears and Onions
Smoked-Paprika-Rubbed Turkey with Madeira & Shallot Gravy
(All the recipes above are from Delish.com)
Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage, Smoked Bacon & Cornbread Stuffing (from CookingChannel.com)
Homestyle Turkey, The Michigander Way (from AllRecipes.com)
Mom’s Roast Turkey (from simplyrecipes.com)

Which of these turkey recipes sound the best to you?

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Healthy Thanksgiving Comfort Food Recipes

Just because we’re trying to eat healthy this Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that we don’t want a little comfort food too!

So I called upon my friends at Time Dog to help find the best Thanksgiving Comfort Food Recipes.

Here are the best healthy Thanksgiving comfort food recipes that Time Dog compiled for me (and if you have a request you’d like Time Dog to complete for you, just ask them for FREE at the widget on the right!).

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Photo courtesy of Self.com

Healthy Thanksgiving Comfort Food recipes

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots (from Spyrliving.com)
Corn and Cheddar Spoon Bread (from Spyrliving.com)
Sweet Potato Casserole with Meringue Topping (from Spyrliving.com)
Mashed Roots with Buttermilk & Chives (from EatingWell.com)
Vermont Cheddar Mashed Yukon Golds (from EatingWell.com)
Cornbread & Sausage Stuffing (from EatingWell.com)
Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes (from EatingWell.com)
Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples (from Self.com)

With everything going on in getting ready for the holidays, I don’t have time to scour the web for tasks like these, that’s why I put my personal Virtual Assistant, Time Dog,to work on my behalf!

If you want more ways to save time & money this Thanksgiving, check out my top tips I shared on Fox 17 TN Mornings this week. Read and watch the show here.

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