Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pizza, Pizza!!

My daughter came home from school yesterday and told me she had a craving for pizza. She requested that I make pizza for dinner. Since I only had a marginal plan for dinner, I thought this was a great idea. I quickly got out my Kitchen Aid and made a ball of pizza dough.

While that was rising, I made a quick tomato sauce.

1 can whole tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup wine
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
salt to taste
1 pinch of sugar

For a smooth sauce, put in a blender or food processor. If you like a chunky sauce, crush tomatoes with a spoon or fork. Simmer in a sauce pan.

I made two different pizzas. I have a daughter who does not like sauce. On her pizza, I drizzled olive oil, sprinkled Italian Seasoning, topped with Mozzarella cheese and a frozen broccoli and cauliflower mix. On the second pizza, I layered the sauce, mozzarella cheese and linguica (Portuguese sausage). Both were baked in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

This pizza only took me about 20 minutes of hands on time and only about 1 hour total. I am writing about this because it illustrates why I do not have a menu plan for the month or week. I certainly do not know what my family will want to eat for dinner on any given night and I sometimes have leftovers that I need to deal with on a daily or weekly basis. I decide what we will have for dinner, sometime in the morning or afternoon. By having staples and a full pantry on hand, I can adapt to what I have decided to make for dinner. I also only buy meat when it is on sale, then package and freeze. I change my meals depending upon what I need to use up and what was on sale at the store. My family has found that this flexibility works for us. By having a well stocked pantry I can make quick meals at a great price. This keeps us eating at home instead of the drive-thru and keeps my food bill at a thrifty rate.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thrifty Vacation

I have not been able to post anything over the past 2 weeks due to our family vacation. We are used to vacationing in style. My family is fortunate enough to earn a free vacation each year with my business. However, my husband and I decided to take our free vacation alone this year, much to the displeasure of my children.

Since we did not go on a family vacation, we decided to once again, drive to Florida for our spring vacation. This is a budget vacation for us since we have family in Florida. Last year was our first experience driving to Florida and since it worked out well, we felt like trying it again.

This is what we did. The day before we left, I baked cookies, bought water and snacks and made oven baked chicken. All perishable foods were put in a cooler and off we went. The kids made sure they had DVD's to play on their portable players and I made sure I had 2 Harry Potter books and my Hetty Green book for book club. My husband just made sure he was well rested.

Off we went. The first stop at 5:00 am was in Myrtle Beach, SC. We were invited to stay with family at a condo they rented. We re-energized by the pool and on the beach. My kids had fun with their cousins. We decided to stay in for lunch and dinner that day, so we bought sandwich meats and food for dinner. The total cost was around $25. Lunch and dinner out would have been much more.

We were off again the next morning at 11:00 to our next destination, which was my father's house in Florida. We arrived at 11:00 pm which was much later than my father stays up but he made the sacrifice for his darling daughter and gorgeous grandchildren. The next day we visited and saw some sites. We did not go to Disney, since we have been there before and are going for free next year. This was all about seeing my father. We had breakfast and lunch with my father. My kids were very happy because they got to go shopping. Grandpa gave them money to buy something. We took the family out to dinner and paid only about $60 because we hit the early bird special. Those of you who are familiar with Florida know that if you go out to supper before 6:00, you receive a discount.

That night, we left to go to my sister-in-law's house for my kids to be spoiled by their aunt and uncle. They have no kids and adore my kids and the feeling is mutual. We arrived at their house around 11:00 at night. This is where we stayed for the rest of the week. We swam in their pool, went to the ocean, went on site seeing expeditions, shopping (for my kids, of course) and visited with our family. Again, we decided to buy food to cook at their home because we can be as loud as we want and talk at the dinner table without anyone wanting the table.

When it was time to leave, again we packed our cooler with food and other supplies to keep the expense of buying out down to a minimum.

I have described this because many people just don't think they can afford to go on vacation because they can't spend $400 each for airline tickets, $200 a night for hotel rooms and $200 a day for food. I understand, that is why we choose to take a less expensive approach to our spring vacations. If we did not have family to stay with, we would still have gone to an inexpensive hotel with some type of cooking facilities. The large cost associated with vacationing is sometimes the flight and then the food you need to buy along the way. If you drive to your destination and then cook many of your meals, you can drastically cut the cost of your vacation.

When we went to Disney one year, we bought a large bag of oranges, a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly, snacks and water bottles. This cut the cost of lunches and any type of drink out in the park. When traveling to the Bahamas, we packed a cooler with waters and snacks because water by the pool was about $4.00 and snacks were very expensive. This significantly cut down on our expenses.

Plan well before you leave and you can have a great but inexpensive vacation.