Have a backup plan for those 'disaster' dinners

Sunday, November 29, 2009

DEAR SARA: What do you do when dinner doesn't go as planned? We stick to a strict meal plan. However, we've run into problems with it sometimes when something goes wrong and it can't be fixed. For example, if the meat for the meatballs is bad and I don't know it until an hour before dinner, then I don't have a meal for that night. We're stuck getting fast food. What are your ways of fixing this issue? What have you done in place of your strict meal plan that allows you to keep the price under control?

-- Tisha, Canada

DEAR TISHA: I've ruined dinner a few times through the years. We always have something else that can be made quickly if something goes wrong. Even if it was a time when we were low on dinner ingredients, it's still easy to put together pancakes, eggs, spaghetti without meatballs, soup, sandwiches, etc. Instead of fast food, consider picking up a rotisserie chicken at your grocery store. You can make your side dishes at home.

DEAR SARA: I work for a campground. When my boss was hired, he did away with all the things that had been working for years and started doing activities that interested him and his wife. People just weren't interested in the things he wanted to do. So he stopped having any activities at all. People ask constantly about them, so in the three years I've been there, I've been trying to bring back some things on holiday weekends. My winter project is to come up with some fresh, fun ideas.

Here are my problems:

n No budget. My boss will donate prizes at times -- things such as pool passes, etc. -- but there is no money for supplies, etc. All of that comes out of my pocket, and sometimes my co-worker will pitch in some money. I need a lot of ideas.

n My boss is a fuddy-duddy, and will turn down anything that sounds like fun. So I need a lot of options to throw at him.

n I need things that we can do from my office. With only two of us on duty at a time, we cannot leave the office to go out and do things with people. So they need to be options that work without us or things we can do from the office. I need things for children to do, as well as some family things.

-- Sherri, West Virginia

DEAR SHERRI: A scavenger or treasure hunt would be fun. You can plan a cooking contest (soup or chili come to mind); potluck or progressive dinner; holiday decorating contest; karaoke or singalongs; bingo or game nights; pet parade; a fashion contest, such as pajama catwalk or crazy hat; murder-mystery games; movie night; craft night; handmade/homemade gift exchange; talent show; swap meet; or clean up the campground.

Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail sara@frugalvillage.com.<I>

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