Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

my son, patrick, reminded me this morning that it was tuesday and i needed a tip to write about.  i was kinda stuck and a little preoccupied with all the vacation stuff i had facing me, so i was very grateful when leann suggested i talk about how i prepare for vacation.  no pictures this time around, so you'll have to use your imagination... :)

i know that this is one of those things that is very specific to your situation and destination.  we have four kids and like to take a week long beach vacation each year... and with paying the expense of renting a beach house, it is imperative to me that i plan and pack our meals in such a way that does not kill our budget.

each year, the people we share a home with changes.  some years, we're in a house full of families so, splitting the dinner responsibilities becomes a piece of cake.  this year, however, we're sharing a house with chuck's parents, so dinner falls on me.  in a perfect world, vacation would mean that i'm not cooking or doing anything (except lounging and reading...)  don't get me wrong, i don't mind feeding my family... but a break is nice every now and again.  i've found that a little preparation before hand makes my vacation much more enjoyable.

1)  keep breakfast and lunch simple.  some people like to have big breakfasts, and that is cool, too - just don't overdo it!  make it fun.  i let vacation be when the kids have the fun foods for breakfast - poptarts (gasp), fun cereal, etc.  this year is the first year we don't have to work around nap time (hallelujah!) so our plan is to make sandwiches and take them along to the beach or pool.

2)  shop at home.  i do not like to do the bulk of my shopping at our vacation destination.  i simply can not justify spending more on groceries i can get for less at home.  i do some bulk shopping for snacks and drinks (i hit discount / surplus stores for special bargains).  certain things i buy "there" - milk, bread, eggs, etc - but non-perishables i like to take along.

3)  make your dinners ahead.  we'll have 6 dinners.  1 is a dinner out, and 1 is a leftover night; that leaves me with 4 dinners to prepare.  i plan meals that i can make ahead, freeze, and transport easily in the cooler.  this afternoon, i made all 4 meals - beefy mac (a meat/pasta casserole), meatloaf, lasagna, and taco meat (we'll buy all the accoutrements "down there").  when you plan ahead and have all your ingredients on hand, it doesn't take that long!  in fact, kinda makes me wonder why i don't do that more often...

4)  make / bake snacks.  this is always a nice treat.  my kids have requested Muddy Buddies, a vacation favorite.  it's easy and transports well.  i also like to take cookies, just because they are unexpected in the middle of summer.  i'm not a big fan of baking in 90 degree humidity, but when i have homemade cookie dough in the freezer, it's not such a chore.  just wait for a cooler day!

5)  take what you know won't be there.  this is easier said than done, because usually you don't know what won't be there til you get there and can't find it!  however, there are certain things that are good to pack, such as:
     - a good knife.  i hate getting in a rental house kitchen and not being able to find a good, sharp knife.
     - salt and pepper!  yes, you can just pick them up at the store, but you can also slap some tape over your own salt/pepper shakers and pack them.  think ahead regarding any other spices you may need.  yes, the local grocery store will have them, but spices can get pricy - why buy them when you have a whole container at home?
     - hand soap.  usually, beach houses have 4 or 5 bathrooms - quite a luxury for most of us.  but don't forget what each of those bathrooms need!  (hand soap, tissues, toilet paper)
     - coffee filters.  i never forget the coffee - but those filters are also pretty important :)
    -  any specific pots/pans necessary to make a certain dish.  yes, most kitchens are fully stocked, but if you absolutely must have a large stock pot for dinner #3, bring one along.

ineviteably, we make the 7 hour trek only to discover that we've forgotten something.  it's ok.  the nice thing about civilization is that we can usually find what we need.  it's also good to realize that some of those things we don't really need for the week.  and we just do without.  and then we relax.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday's Tip - let's review

i've been thinking about the tips i've shared thus far... and contemplating new ones.
so far, we've dealt with rotten bananas, static-y hair, and plant babies.
i've suggested ways to clean the sink, clean the coffee maker, clean toothbrushes, and clean strawberries.
we've found new uses for christmas cards and baby teethers and the coffee left in the coffee pot.
i've shared how i streamline lunch making and the ever-chaotic morning routine.
i've even indulged myself with a few favorites - like coconut rice and the library.

so, now, i'm curious.
do any of these tips work for you?  have you been able to tweak them and make them your own?
efficiency is only efficient if it works!