Baby Steps

I am a fledgling adult. I know this. At 23, I have no expectations for myself than to do my best to be open to learning. Being ambitious is a part of it. I know that some of you are in the same boat and some of you (bravo!) are ahead of me. I’m seriously jealous of you. I posted before about doing some Marathon Cooking, and I was pretty darn ambitious. Then I got sidetracked, and then I got sick. Life happens, I know, but I still got pretty down because not only did I want to share the experience but I wanted to know I could do it. 

So, like I mentioned here, I got to shopping. Problem is that I can’t find tomatillos. Que lastima. Also, for some ungodly reason, the second I walk into a grocery store I completely forget I need potatoes. WHY? Despite my difficulties in having a memory or specialty produce selection, I did a little baby half marathon cooking. One afternoon of cooking got me 3 meals. I’d say pretty good meals too. I went ahead and my the Andouille Sausage/Pinto Bean Stew and the Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. The stew was delicious. So delicious in fact that I don’t have a picture because I was preoccupied cooking and it’s all gone now. The Penne was awesome (I used an insane amount of mushrooms in it-heaven) and the recipe is specifically written so you cook one and freeze one for later. Love it.

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So despite my Sunday falling short of the epic proportions (portion pun intended), I still consider it a success. We are still eating and I still get to go home and relax over a bowl of penne.

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Marathon Cooking

Tonight, I’m grocery shopping. I know, hold the presses! This seemingly mundane task is the beginning of an experiment. We eat out a lot at my house. That’s money down the drain, and I don’t like money in my plumbing. To remedy this, I’m going to try to cook a week’s worth of dinners in one weekend in an attempt to eat healthier and cheaper. That’s 7 meals in 2 days. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot of work but it is. A frick ton. In my mind, make ahead meals are all casseroles. Apparently, they are also hearty soups.

Here’s the proposed line-up:

  1. Black Bean Mushroom Chili
  2. Pinto Bean and Andouille Sausage Stew
  3. Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes
  4. Lasagna
  5. Broccoli Cheese Chowder
  6. Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes

I’ll be doing the shopping tonight and probably doing most of the cooking tomorrow. Let’s see how actual meal planning goes.

Do you think I’m crazy? Have you ever done any marathon cooking?

I$lands of Adventure

In just 6 anxious days, my boyfriend and I will be embarking on a vacation! While I’m sure you want to hear all about the silly girl giddiness I feel about it, I’ll spare you. Being the poor 2o somethings we are, we had to be very budget conscious.  I bet you want to know some sweet money-saving tips we used to book this wondrous vacation though. I’m happy to share.

We are traveling to the wondrous city of Orlando, Florida.  This is how we do:

Hotel – The Fountains Orlando. Yeah, it’s part of the bluegreen timeshares. The boy is a part owner thanks to his thoughtful parents so we get to stay there for free. Ok, so not everyone has parents who are part of something like this, but I bet you know someone who is. Or maybe they have a cabin near a lake, or a campsite, or a hookup. Trust me, if you look you will find something.

Transportation – We booked our flights as early as possible. The closer to your departure, the higher the cost. We are saving ourselves from having to park at O’Hare (which is practically theft) by parking his car at my office and taking the bus. It’s pretty convenient, but not everyone works within spitting distance of a major international airport. Do the fun thing and beg someone to drop you off. We also saved money on a rental car for Orlando by finding a company that doesn’t charge the renter for being under 25, and they will pick us up from the airport. Shout out to Carl’s Van Rentals! I called to double-check about the fee and the gentleman on the phone was very friendly. A+!

Dining – The Fountains only has 2 room villas with kitchens. You won’t hear me complaining. We plan on taking our lovely van to a local grocery store to pick up some way-cheaper-than-eating-out essentials like milk, cereal, lunch meats, etc. It is still vacation, but we plan on keeping the costs down by eating groceries and eating out with local deals groupon style. Your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchen or fridge? Buy some non-perishable snacks and pick up lunch from a local supermarket. Most have prepared foods for a fraction of the cost of even fast food.

Entertainment – The Fountains (like many other hotels) include DVD players in their rooms so we’ll be bringing along a few of our faves (forecast is showing rain for the entire length of our trip, hence the DVD precaution). We will also be (hopefully) hitting up a few theme parks. I got reduced price tickets through a perks program at work, but our hotel also offers more wallet friendly deals on the local parks and I bet yours would too. Google it, and they will come. We will also be bringing along a book or two and an ipod just to keep us occupied constantly.

Here are a few extras I picked up:

  1. Bring your own empty, refillable water bottle to the airport. You can’t bring more than 3 oz of liquid through security, but you can bring an empty water bottle to refill after you get through. Save yourself the $5.
  2. Bring your own snacks to the airport. It is suggested that we arrive 2 hours before our midday flight. This girl gets crabby when she is hungry. Save yourself the stress and the money and bring yourself some snackage.
  3. A vacation is an exciting thing, but you don’t need an entire new wardrobe. My closet is packed with clothes and I won’t be buying any new vacation clothes. If you really need to feel fresh and new for your vacation get a mani/pedi or a haircut. $30 well spent.
  4. Set a budget for your spending. We know that a nice picture frame with a picture of us on vacation will be more sentimental and long-lasting that 2 $40 hoodies, or any other wildly overpriced souvenir. If you see something you like and immediately have a place for it in your home that people will see and appreciate it, then fine. If not, pass it up. 
  5. If your family is anything like mine, they will be expecting you to bring them back some souvenirs. I started a little tradition of sending my younger siblings postcards from my various excursions and they always seem to love them. Less than $1 per person. I might grab another small something, but I don’t feel obligated to spend $20 on each of them (there are a lot of us).
  6. Book your vacation off season! Everyone is going to be traveling during the holidays, summer, and spring break. We booked our vacation during the fall when everyone else has run out of vacation days (it just so happens to fall on my birthday also). Orlando will still be sunny and exciting in September and maybe even less hellishly hot and humid than it would be when it’s also packed with people.