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Category: From My Kitchen

The Best Bran Muffins

These are the BEST bran muffins of all time! They are SO delicious, packed with nutrition, and easy to make!

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know I love Chocolate Covered Katie. So naturally, I loved her cookbook, too!

When I first got the cookbook, I dog-eared a bunch of pages with recipes I wanted to try. But one I didn’t really pay attention to was her Ironman Muffins.

However, when my friend, Stacy, said these were a family favorite, I knew I had to try them. Because I’ve learned to pay attention when Stacy recommends something. She know her stuff — especially when it comes to food!

Kaitlynn (my 10-year-old) made the first batch of these and I promptly fell in love. I fell so much in love with them, that I have been making 1-2 batches every week and eating at least a few of these every DAY.

They are easy to make, they don’t require a lot of steps, they are delicious, and they are packed with nutrition. If you’ve been looking for a good bran muffin recipe that is also really good for you, try these out!

By the way, Stacy sent me these USA Pans as a gift. Now I know why she has sung their praises over and over and over again. They are amazing!

In typical Crystal style, I took the original recipe and re-did it. 🙂 You can see the original recipe here.

Looking for more muffin recipes? Check out my post on My Top 7 Favorite Freezer-Friendly Muffin Recipes.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

7 Freezer-Friendly Dessert Recipes

Check out this list of fun dessert recipes that you can make ahead of time and freeze for later?

Looking for some fun dessert recipes that you can make ahead of time and freeze for later?

These are 7 of my favorite freezer-friendly dessert recipes…

1. Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies — This a staple dessert recipe in our family. It’s a hearty cookie that blends two of my favorite foods together — chocolate and peanut butter. And the whole-wheat flour and oats might help balance out the sugar and fat… or at least I like to tell myself that!

2. Better Than Mounds Bars — This delicious dessert from my sister is great for special occasions! If you take a plate of these decadent candy-bar-like cookies to a get-together or party, you will have people begging you for the recipe! They are very rich (which means one pan goes a long way!), indulgent, and an amazing addition to a plate of assorted homemade Christmas goodies.

3. Oreo Ice Cream Cake –Need a quick and easy recipe for a hot day? This is such a simple recipe and pretty much everyone loves it! This cake is perfect for a summer birthday or get-together. Plus, it doesn’t heat up the house!

4. Pumpkin Bars — For as long as I can remember, this recipe has been a family favorite during the fall months. Since these pumpkin bars are easy to make and the recipe makes a huge pan, they are perfect for serving to company or taking to a party. They also freeze beautifully, thaw extremely quickly, and stay incredibly moist without getting soggy.

5. Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies — These buttery gems are crispy on the edges and soft and gooey in the center. Not too puffy, and not too flat. Perfect. It’s a pretty basic recipe with a couple of interesting additions. I don’t recommend making any substitutions or leaving anything out!

6. Peanut Butter Bon-Bons — These bon-bons only take a handful of ingredients, make a large batch, and store in the freezer very well. They look fancy and indulgent and taste amazing. Just one word of warning, though: these are extremely addictive!

7. World’s Easiest Christmas Candy — We used to have a yearly family tradition of making this Christmas Candy. It’s the easiest stuff ever to make, it is inexpensive, and it’s SO addicting! And I think this would be a fun dessert any time of the year. 😉

Looking for other freezer-friendly recipe ideas? Try these:

What are some of your family’s favorite dessert recipes? I’d love to hear!

This Week’s $47 ALDI Shopping Trip

I stopped by ALDI today and got some great deals (as always!):

ALDI Shopping Trip

  • Mangoes — just $0.49 each (we’re not a huge fan of mangoes, otherwise I would have bought more!)
  • Watermelon — $2.99 (I thought this was seedless because it was in the seedless watermelon bin, but it was actually with seeds. Oh well!)
  • Organic Arugula — $2.49 (I eat this on salads almost daily and love that it’s so fresh and inexpensive at ALDI!)
  • 3 packages of Strawberries — $1.49 each (I was excited for a deal on strawberries — my kids love berries and so do I!)
  • 2 bags Frozen Broccoli — $1.19 per bag (I usually roast this with a little olive oil and seasonings. SO good!)
  • 1 3-lb. bag of Boneless Chicken Breasts — $5.49 (We’re going to use this for chicken on the grill & Southwest Roll-Ups this week, since I already have salsa, tortillas, cheese, and beans!)
  • 2 packages Beef Smoked Sausage — $2.19 each (We’re going to use this for Sausage, Sauerkraut, and Sweet Potatoes in the crock pot since I already have sauerkraut and sweet potatoes on hand and we’ll probably have enough for two dinners from this.)
  • Red Grapes — $1.98 for the bag (My kids love grapes and they make for an easy lunch or for easy snacks. Growing up, we love to freeze grapes for a summer snack, too!)
  • 1 can Pineapple — $0.89 (I use this in my morning smoothies.)
  • 1 bag Frozen Blueberries — $2.29 (I use this in my morning smoothies.)
  • Bananas — $0.82
  • 1 block Mozzarella cheese — $1.79
  • Cantaloupe — $1.49
  • Bacon — $3.89
  • 4-lb. Pure Cane Sugar — $2.59 (ALDI has such great prices on sugar!)
  • Feta crumbles — $1.49 (I love this on my salads!)
  • Hummus — $1.99
  • Total + tax: $47.94

New to shopping at ALDI? Read how we save close to $1,000 per year by shopping at ALDI.

I planned our menu based upon what we had on hand and what was on sale at ALDI… well, and what I was hungry for (hello, pancakes for dinner!)

We still need to buy 2 dozen eggs (we don’t buy them at ALDI as we buy the farm-fresh brown eggs at Kroger and we are down to 6 eggs) and we will also need to buy some veggies/fruit to bring to the barbecue on Friday.

I also ordered some honey from Amazon (using Swagbucks gift cards) since we were all out. And there’s a good chance I’ll stop by Kroger at least once or twice this week to see if I find any great markdowns.

But other than that, I think we have everything on hand we need to feed our family for the week.

This Week’s Menu Plan

Breakfast Options: Oatmeal and/or smoothies (I am having eggs, whole-wheat English Muffins, and fruit.)

Lunch Options: Cheese Quesadillas, Leftovers, PB & J, Snack-y Lunch (I will have a salad with canned tuna or salmon or hard-boiled eggs, plus whole-wheat bread.)

Snacks: Healthy Cinnamon Sugar Apples, Apples & Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Dip, Fruit, Popcorn, Peanut Butter Fat Bombs

Dinners: Breakfast for Dinner, Chicken on the Grill, Southwest Roll-Ups, Sausage, Sauerkraut, and Sweet Potatoes x 2, Dinner out, BBQ with friends (we’re bringing veggies & fruit).

Want to see more details on my ALDI shopping trip? I did a quick video for Facebook Live below…

What’s on YOUR menu plan this week? Let us know in the comments!

Gretchen’s $50 Grocery Shopping Trip and Menu Plan


2 lbs Ground Beef – $2.69 each

2 pkgs Hamburger Buns – $0.85 each

1 pkg Ramen Noodles – $1.94 (My husband did the shopping at Aldi this week!) 😉

3 Frozen Pizzas – $0.99 each

1 pkg Tortillas – $0.99

1 can Baked Beans – $1.39

1 jar Pasta Sauce – $0.99

1 can Grill Style Beans – $1.49

1 Half & Half – $1.79

1 loaf Bread – $1.39

1 jar Dill Pickles – $1.29

1 dozen Eggs – $0.89

1 gallon Milk – $1.78

2 cans Cream Soup – $0.49 each

1 pkg Tomatoes – $1.29

1 pkg Baby Carrots – $0.99

Total: $28.14


1 Nabisco Ritz Crackers – $2.49, use Free e-coupon (no longer available) – Free after coupon

1 Nestea Tea – $1.49, used Free e-coupon (no longer available) – Free after coupon

1 Sunbelt Granola Bars – $2.69

1 pkg Frozen Broccoli – $1

4 Ronzoni Pasta – $1 each, used 2 $1/2 printable – $0.50 after coupons

3 American Beauty Pasta – $1 each and 1 American Beauty Lasagna Noodles – $1.99, used 2 $1/2 printable – $0.74 each after coupons

1 Kroger Cottage Cheese – $2.50, used $0.40/1 e-coupon – $2.10 after coupon

1 Kroger Sour Cream – $1.69, used $0.10/1 Mobisave rebate – $1.59 after rebate

1 Kroger Peanut Butter – $1.49, used Free e-coupon – Free after coupon

1 Romaine Lettuce – $1.29

Used $0.25 Ibotta rebate for any receipt

Total after coupons: $13.41


0.67 lbs Broccoli – $0.86

2 Cucumbers – $0.50 each

1.62 lbs Fuji Apples – $1.59

2.11 lbs Navel Oranges – $2.07

1 Seedless Watermelon – $2

2.11 lbs Sweet Potatoes – $1.86

Total: $9.38

Total for all stores: $50.93

Menu Plan for This Week


Cereal x 2

Toast & Eggs x 4

Donuts (for our Sunday morning special family date) 🙂


Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Carrots, Apples x 2

Mac & Cheese, Carrots

Apples & Peanut Butter, Crackers, Sliced Cucumbers

Cheese Quesadillas, Fruit

Turkey Sandwiches, Carrots, Chips



BBQ Beef Sandwiches (using venison), Steamed Peas (from the freezer)

Hamburgers, Chips, Baked Beans, Green Beans

French Toast, Eggs, Watermelon

Crockpot Lasagna, Tossed Salad, 30 Minute Rolls

Sour Cream Enchiladas, Rice, Watermelon

BBQ Meatballs, Sweet Potatoes, Tossed Salad

Baked Chicken, Steamed Broccoli, Amish White Bread

7 Make-Ahead Freezer-Friendly Pancake Recipes (plus Tips & Tricks!)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

This list of freezer-friendly pancake recipes will give you delicious and nutritious breakfast ideas that you can make ahead of time!

I have always been a total pancake aficionado. I love pancakes, because you can almost always tweak the recipe to be wholesome and nutritious.

For as long as I can remember, pancakes have been a regular weekly breakfast item for us. I know what you’re thinking. Pancakes? On rushed weekday mornings?

Yes, absolutely! Because here’s a little secret…you can totally make pancakes ahead of time, freeze them, and pull them out for a tasty breakfast when you’re craving them — even on a busy morning!

That’s right. Pancakes don’t have to be saved for special weekend mornings anymore. 😉

Here are my 7 favorite Make-Ahead Freezer-Friendly Pancakes Recipes (and you might notice — ahem — how much we love chocolate chips in this household)…

1. Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes — This recipe is a family favorite that we’ve used countless times over the years. It was originally tweaked from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

If you add chocolate chips to this batter, you don’t even need to use syrup on it. But if you want to make these more amazing, smother them in syrup and lots of butter. And it’s a like a little piece of heaven on a plate!

2. Whole Wheat Chocolate Pancakes — This recipe was adapted from an old issue of Kiwi magazine, and our family loves it for a little twist on the usual pancakes!

3. Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes — If you’re looking for a wholesome and yummy pancakes recipe that doesn’t have any sweetener in it, this one is for you!

4. Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes — These pancakes are delicious straight from the griddle or served cold as a snack (well, our family might be the only people who thinks they are yummy cold, because we’re weird like that!). I usually triple the recipe so that we have plenty leftover to freeze.

5. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes — This is a hearty and yummy pancakes recipe that freezes and reheats really well, and I love the addition of pumpkin for something different!

6. Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes — I started making these for Jesse when he first started working out and had really ambitious fitness goals. They are packed with protein and have a nutritious punch!

7. Oatmeal Pecan Pancakes — This recipe comes from my sister Brigette. These pancakes are a little bit healthier and a whole lot heartier than traditional pancakes, making them especially yummy during the cold winter months. They are fairly simple to make, but the toasted pecans add that “special” factor.

A few tips on making pancakes…

Get yourself a griddle. Seriously, it makes pancake recipes SO much easier. You can whip up a huge batch for the family at one time! This one is a really great budget-friendly option — and it’s even on sale right now!

Not a fan of reheated pancakes (or eating them straight from the freezer the way we crazies do!)? Try this Make Ahead Pancake Batter method or this Homemade Baking Mix. These will at least takes a few steps out of the process, so that the mix is ready to go on those mornings you want pancakes.

Pancake making can be educational! It’s a fantastic and fun way to reinforce the shapes and sounds of letters with young children. We used to make Pancake Letters & Numbers all the time with our kids while they were growing up. And the best part? It’s really frugal!

Looking for other freezer-friendly recipe ideas? Try these:

What are some of your family’s favorite pancake recipes? I’d love to hear!

My #1 Tip for Getting Dinner on the Table Every Night

Get dinner on the table every single night with this ONE super easy tip! It makes weekday family dinners SO much simpler!

Do you struggle to get dinner on the table every night? Do you feel like you’re constantly waiting until the last minute to figure out dinner and then sort of going into panic mode when 5 p.m. rolls around and the people in your home are hungry?

(I know. What is it about people wanting to eat every single night?? I always say that if we didn’t have to eat, sleep, or wear clothes, it would save us so much time and effort! I mean, no laundry, we could use all 24 hours in our day, and we wouldn’t ever have to make food or clean up dishes!! ;))

If making dinner every night is a challenge, here’s my #1 tip for getting dinner on the table every night:

My #1 Tip: Plan & Prep Your Dinner in the Morning

Don’t wait until 5 p.m. to think about what you are going to eat for dinner. Don’t even wait until 5 p.m. to start making dinner. Get into the habit of planning and prepping your dinner before breakfast or right after breakfast.

I know that you have a lot to do in the morning. I know you might just feel like, “I gotta get out the door! I don’t have time to think about dinner in the morning!”

But trust me on this: you will be SO glad you planned and prepped ahead later on in the day.

I’ve been experimenting with using my Slow Cooker almost exclusively the past month and I’ve been challenging myself to make dinner and have it in the Crock-Pot before 11 a.m. (Yes, that’s not really breakfast time, but I’m all about giving myself some grace! ;))

You guys! I cannot believe the difference that this makes! When I get dinner made in the mornings, I go throughout the rest of my day feeling like I’m so on top of things (even if I am kind of a hot mess the rest of the day) because dinner is DONE!

In addition, it encourages our family to eat healthier since we aren’t tempted to grab quick food or take out, it saves money because we are eating at home, and it encourages our family to be more consistent about eating dinner together. Plus, it just makes me really happy to be making yummy food for my family and having them love what I’m cooking!

3 Resources to Help You Get Dinner Done Early

  1. Follow Me on Facebook — At least 3-4 mornings every week, I’m doing a live video on Facebook in the mornings as I’m making dinner. This is not only public accountability for me, but I’ve heard from my followers that this morning video reminds them to get dinner prepped and gives them some great ideas of very simple recipes they can make. Follow me on Facebook here.
  2. Join the Eat at Home Challenge Facebook Group — Need more encouragement to get dinner on the table every night? Join the Eat at Home Challenge Facebook Group. It’s a group full of women who share what they are making every night for dinner. It’s filled with great ideas and inspiration! Go here to request to join the Eat at Home Challenge Facebook Group.
  3. Sign up for the Eat at Home Menu Plan — I cannot sing the praises of this menu plan enough! We’ve been using it for our family for the past month and just love, love, love it! The recipes are so simple, so yummy, and have been a hit at our house. Plus, it’s only a few dollars per week and you get three different menu plans for every week — which is so worth it if it saves you a lot of time, money, and stress! (We use the Slow Cooker menu plan and highly recommend it.) Find out more about the Eat at Home Menu Plan service here.

What tips and advice do you have for getting dinner on the table every night? I’d love to hear!