What does "living the simple dream" mean to me?

I always hear people from our generation saying "Ahh, living the dream" when they are doing somthing our of the ordinary - for example: sipping cocktails in a spa of a fancy resort or perhaps they post "living the dream" as the caption beneath a photo of them moving into their new $500,000+ mansion-esque home they have just mortgaged their life away for. At first I was confused by how simple my ambitions were. All I wanted was to live in a caravan and be able to spend as much time enjoying the outdoors with my husband and son, without my husband having to be at work all the time. So for me, this became my simple dream. I find myself having those "Ahh living the dream" moments when I am sitting in a natural hot spring with my husband and son, drinking a beer, ten feet away from a crocodile infested river. Now mine, my husbands and my sons life is all about chasing our simple dream.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What have we taken away from this lesson?

Takeaway food... Its overpriced, over-oiled and never quiet leaves you feeling as satisfied as you'd like it to. When we started living a far more frugal lifestyle we very quickly discovered that takeaway was a massive wallet drainer. Embarassingly some of our favourites were foods like Macdonalds, Dominoes, Subway, and KFC (pretty much all the major ones, right?)

The last time we had dominoes our meal was $50, yes you read right. Theres three of us. When we got home and started eating it we discovered that the cheese wasnt entirely melted and the pizza was cold in the middle and the pizza was soggy right through to the cardboard box which was also soggy - so afrter $50 we couldn't even eat our meal. Now, I'm not joking when I say - I can (and have) fed my family for $50 a week before, when times were tough. So wasting an entire $50 for one nights food certainly was the wake up call I needed.

We decided that there was a definate pattern to our takeaway experiences, the meals were either too small, too big, too oily, or when we arrived home and opened the package it just was not what we ordered at all. So we decided to stop buying takeaway, I mean - if they can make it, we can too right? YES, we can.

It was that easy and honestly saved us so much money. We are also able to control things like cooking times, oil levels, ingredients used, portions, additives/processed ingredients. We dont compromise on taste at all and find that we achieve even better flavours.

So now we have our favourite takeaway meals on a frugal budget, we also have them whenever we like because they are far healthier options. Most of the ingredients can be stored int he pantry or the fridge/freezer and will be enough to make an array of different meals. Some of the things we make?

Making our own homemade pizzas is somthing we do EVERY week, without fail. Its our "go-to" Friday night meal. They are eaasy, delicious and nine times out of ten cover the next days breakfast too. We usually use "mountain bread" (avaliable from woolworths and coles) as a low calorie long life pizza base to travel with (they are very thin though so each pizza requires two). However last night we splurged a little and bought proper pizza bases (from now on weve decided we will make our own bases, I hadn't realised how simple they are). We add ingredients like ham, chicken, frozen prawns (cheap from Woolies), tonns of capsicum, onion, tomato, fetta, pineapple and much more. We try to make sure they have lots of healthy ingredients. We quickly discovered (one week when I forgot to buy it) that they taste just as good without pepperoni as they do with it, so we no longer purchase that anymore. Homeade pizza is simple, budget friendly and 100% effective at curbing those cravings for takeaway. Pizzas are a fantastic meal for other caravanners when you are somewhere remote and craving somthing delicious (and seemingly unhealthy/naughty).

Home made burgers are so quick and easy to make. All you need is beef mince, salads, cheese and a roll. All we add to our home made beef patties (for that macdonalds cheeseburger effect) is salt and pepper, simple. They takte delicious (fresh!) and if you splurge a little on the healthier mince you dont end up with your bun being a sponge to all the oil. They are also a great BBQ food for when you are on the road.

The thing we like about hot dogs is that they last - they come in a long life package and sometimes last weeks or months, plus you can freeze them if you find you havnt eaten them close to the use by date. When you find yourself in a little town with a nice bakery, all you need to do is pick up some lovely fresh rolls and you have yourself a VERY easy, cheap and kid friendly meal. You can have them for lunch, or dinner!

Subs are another option for when you pull up near a small town bakery and find yourself with some nice fresh rolls. The filling is only limited by your imagination but here are some of our favourite combinations:

- tuna, cheese and tomato (toasted)
- pazza (tomato paste with herbs, pizza meats, cheese, toasted)
- chicken parmijana (tomato paste, chicken, ham, cheese, toasted)
- fresh ham and salad
- fresh chicken and salad

Subs are delicious and filling and are certainly one of th ehealthier options of this list! They are easy to make and there will  be a combination to suit the entire family!

One of my absolute favourite takeaway meals would have to be the trusty garlic prawn noodles. I absolutely love these! I realised very quickly though (after leaving the town with my FAVOURITE version of them) that I would have to learn to make a simple, yummy version myself. Challenge accepted! I bought a bulk pack of home brand "2 minute noodles", popped them in a bowl in the microwave (submerged in water) until they were soft. Meanwhile I heat up a frypan with a few sprays of the most low calorie oil I can find (it's 1.7 calories a spray and is avaliable from Woolworths - "Lupi, extra light olive oil" in a pump spray bottle) I add in some prawns from my trusty frozen bulk bag, some chopped shallots, frozen peas (and optional snow peas and broccoli) aswell as a heaped tablespoon of crushed (or fresh) garlic and a dash of soy sauce, wallah! Thats it! Once the prawns are cooked, the noodles should be too, just drain them - add them to the fry pan, spritz a little more light oil onto them and enjoy. Sometimes if I dont have shallotts I will use an onion and just the frozen peas instead of the other vegies, this way I can make this recipe when we are nowhere near shops!

Home made fried rice is quiet possibly one of the simplest and most delicious things I know how to cook. Its my absolute favourite! I always make sure I have eggs at home aswell as shredded ham, prawns and frozen peas in my freezer. Sometimes I will cook fresh rice for it, other times I will use some I have pre-cooked in the freezer and somtimes I will be a lazy a** and use those microwave rice packets fromt he supermarket. Either way - it always tastes the same amount of yum! I simply oil the fry pan, lightly whisk an egg and throw the egg, prawns, frozen peas and ham into the pan, basically scramble it all around the pan until the egg and prawns are cooked, then add in either onion or shallotts and any other vegies you want then a spoon of garlic and a good splash of soy sauce, throw the rice in, DONE! It takes just minutes to cook and is absolutely delicious!

These are some of our versions of the takeaway meals we enjoy. They may not all be stupendously healthy but we dont have them all, all the time! Learning how to make your own favourite takeaway foods can save you ALOT of money and alot of hassle. Its also a fantastic way to limit your own and your childrens intake of food additives, fats and oils. If you like somthing different to what I have posted about here why not google a few recipes and give them a try? I once made a very simple and delicious peanut satay chicken noodle dish and im sure you could find a simple recipe for your favourite takeaway meals.

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