Living well on a budget, without being truly cheap.

Chick-fil-A temporarily closing dining room seating

Chick-fil-ATemporary Closure of Dining Room Seating

Our highest priority continues to be the health and well-being of everyone who comes into our restaurants. As we navigate the evolving impact of coronavirus on our communities, we are temporarily closing our dining room seating to help limit person-to-person contact. Some of our restaurants may only offer service through our drive-thrus, while others may be able to offer takeout, delivery or mobile order options. Thanks for your patience. We know these are challenging times, but we’ll continue to do our best to serve you.


Starbucks will temporarily change to a “to go” model in U.S. and Canada stores

StarbucksIn a letter to all U.S. partners today, Starbucks shared changes the company is implementing to encourage social distancing, in an effort to help contain the COVID-19 virus.  

“As we all know, the situation with COVID-19 is extremely dynamic and we will continue to review the facts and science and make the proactive decisions necessary to protect our partners, customers and communities,” wrote Rossann Williams, executive vice president and president, U.S. company-operated business and Canada.

Starting today, Starbucks will be moving to a “to go” model in all company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • We are pausing the use of all seating, including both the café and patio areas
  • Customers can still walk up and order at the counter, through the “order ahead” feature in the Starbucks app, via the drive thru and use delivery
  • We will have a modified condiment bar in all stores
  • You may see modified “order ahead” handoff areas on a store-by-store basis
  • Temporary closures for company-owned stores in high-social gathering locations, such as malls and university campuses
  • Temporary store closures or reduced operating hours in communities with high clusters of COVID – 19 cases 

Williams continues, “Every community’s needs are incredibly different. We want to make sure we play a constructive role by taking responsible actions, in partnership with the CDC and local public health authorities, so we can continue to do what’s right for our partners and customers.”

Today’s announcement builds on a foundation set by Starbucks chief executive officer Kevin Johnson last week in a letter sharing how the company has been preparing to respond quickly to COVID-19 emerging situations.  

Restaurant Review: PF Chang's

By Mike Thayer

It was a birthday celebration for one of my friends and for dinner on this occasion, we headed to her restaurant of choice, P.F. Chang's.

If you've never been to a P.F. Chang's, it's an Asian restaurant founded in California and they take great pride in making food from scratch every day in every restaurant.  Featuring wok cooking, they slice and hand chop the veggies and meats and all sauces are scratch made.  Their approach in the kitchen has lead to some pretty impressive growth and today, P.F. Chang's has over 200 restaurants in the U.S. plus over 95 restaurants abroad.

P.F. Chang's AppetizersThe restaurant was quite busy on a Saturday night, but our 'party organizer' had a table reserved so our party of seven was seated upon arrival.  Greeted warmly by our waitress, we ordered some drinks and waters to go around, along with some appetizers. For my drink, I ordered an Old Fashioned made with Japanese Whiskey but I can't recall the brand.  It was a very good Old Fashioned, the bartender did it right, but a bit on the pricey side at $12.   After that I opted for the house whiskey and Sprite at $7.  On the downside, one of my friends in the party ordered a Long Island Iced Tea and the bartender didn't do that one so well.  It was terrible, VERY lemon forward, it was more of a Arnold Palmer drink than it was a genuine Long Island.  It was so bad in fact, it got taken off the tab.

One appetizer item you HAVE to try if you don't already love them, are Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps, they are STELLAR!   There isn't a description of this item on the restaurant website, only to say, A secret family recipe and our signature dish. Enough said.  What you get is perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken, crispy noodles which you wrap in fresh baby Romaine leaves.  It's another dose of YUM!  Other appetizers we ordered and shared were Crispy Green Beans which are Tempura battered and accompanied by a signature spicy dipping sauce, as well as some Sushi, California rolls.  These other appetizers were excellent as well, but those Lettuce Wraps were hands down the favorite for everyone.

P.F. Chang's Cripsy Honey ChickenThe danger to ordering a number of fantastic appetizers, is getting full before the dinner orders arrive, but that didn't stop us.  I went with the Crispy Honey Chicken, which is lightly battered, tossed in a tangy honey sauce, topped with some green onion and served over those tasty crispy noodles. 

Other orders around the table included the Honey Chicken - a VERY popular dish - but a variety of other items to include Mongolian Beef, Pepper Steak and Egg Drop Soup.  It was ALL good, everybody thoroughly enjoyed the appetizers and their entrées, nobody had a bad meal and the kitchen served up some really great food, no flaws, no disappointments, no complaints!

Then came dessert.

I did NOT realize P.F. Chang's cranked out such great desserts!  The table treated the desserts like we did the appetizers, sampling and sharing Banana Spring Rolls, Tiramisu and New York Style Cheesecake.  Now Tiramisu and Cheesecake aren't exactly authentic Asian cuisine desserts, but WHO CARES!  All the desserts ROCKED!  It was fun tasting them all, they were all excellent but the consensus favorite was the New York Style Cheesecake.  What a great way to cap off a fantastic meal and yes, they taste as great as they look!

P.F. Chang's DessertsThe P.F. Chang's visited on this occasion is located at: 

1401 Waterfront Pkwy.
Wichita, KS 67206
The service was courteous, friendly, conversational, but a bit slow at times when it came to things like drink refills be it the adult beverages or water, and removing appetizer dishes and plates when done.   P.F. Chang's is also a bit pricey, not exactly Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly and I say that considering what you pay and the portion size you receive.  It's a nice place and the food is excellent don't get me wrong, but when I go to an Asian restaurant, I'm usually taking something home in a to-go box, not so on this occasion.  I paid about $73 - not including the tip - for an appetizer, meal, dessert and a couple drinks.  I'm giving P.F. Chang's 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Even if paying a bit more, the place is definitely worthy of a repeat visit.   It's excellent food, fun food and that Cheesecake ROCKS!
4 stars
$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Drink Review: Clos du Bois Chardonnay

By Mike Thayer

National Drink Wine DayIn honor of National Drink Wine Day - who thinks up these days of celebration things anyway? - Well, I'm rolling with it!

A drink review on a Chardonnay, produced by Clos du Bois

Clos du Bois is one of California's longest standing names in the marketplace, walk into almost any liquor store and you'll see their wines on the shelf.  Their Chardonnay is a popular choice because it's a reasonably priced, no-nonsense wine.  It's not top shelf stuff, but it's not bottom shelf stuff either.  This wine is popular because it delivers top shelf taste without the cost, a great bang for the Chardonnay buck.

Here are the tasting notes from the winemaker's website:  Brilliant silver straw yellow in color. Intense aromas of apple blossom, ripe pear, and sweet lemon drop are complemented by toasty oak, spice, and cream. In the mouth, the silky texture of the wine is overlaid with bright, juicy flavors of ripe apple and pear for a long and fresh finish.

Those tasting notes are spot on!  In layman's terms, it's good!

Chardonnay is also arguably the world’s most popular variety of white wine and in large part we have California to thank for that.  Winemakers there have successfully marketed the straightforward but very pleasant aromas of apple and pear and Clos de Bois is a pick of choice with many who keep a Chardonnay or two at the ready at home.  It's also a pick of choice in the bars as well.  That's saying something.

Costing me about $10, this is another wine that's easy to like, it's reasonably priced, drinks easy after a long day at work and compliments a variety of fish and chicken dishes, especially those prepared with butter, cream or herbal sauces.  It's a repeat buy and gets 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Related:  Drink Review: The Ned Sauvignon Blanc

My first meal at Logan's Roadhouse may have been my last

By Mike Thayer

Logan's Roadhouse presentation
Sloppy presentation, skimpy portions, well, EXCEPT the broccoli....

A friend of mine was celebrating a birthday the other day and so a group of us met her and her significant other at Logan's Roadhouse to celebrate.  It was a Saturday night, a busy night for the restaurant, but there was no waiting as the birthday table had already been seated when I arrived.  In fact I was the last of our little party to do so.  Fashionably late, right?   That's my story and I'm sticking to it....

I had never eaten at Logan's before this night and I was looking forward to eating a juicy steak.  It was a bit of a challenge deciding on what to eat, it all looked pretty darn good on the menu with a nice variety of options to choose from.  Our waitress took our drink and appetizer orders as we continued to peruse those dinner menus.  After a few more minutes and with everyone set on what to order, we sat and waited, and waited some more.  That's OK, there was some great table conversation going on, but it did take a long while for our waitress to deliver that first round of drinks, let alone take our dinner order.  Granted, it was a Saturday night, the place was busy, but not that hopping busy....  The waitress was nice, polite, but easily distracted and slow.

The drinks finally arrived and so did our appetizers which were pretty tasty.  I sampled the potato skins which were above average.  Sometimes a restaurant will over bake them, turning that potato skin into a piece of shoe leather, not so with these. 

For my entree' I went with the Surf & Turf, a sirloin steak and grilled shrimp.  Here's the description from the Logan's website:  Get the best of both worlds with our 6 oz. USDA Choice, grain-fed Sirloin and a skewer of wood-grilled shrimp on a bed of rice pilaf. Served with your choice of one side. Upgrade to an 8 oz. Sirloin for a little extra.

Logan's Roadhouse rareWhen our dinners arrived, I was visually disappointed.  I highlighted the word 'bed' in the description above, check out the pic up top, does that look like a BED of rice to you?  No, it's more like three little spoonfuls.  This dinner looked mouthwatering on the menu, but what gets delivered to your table doesn't measure up.   And that's NOT an eight ounce steak.  I inquired about the steak with my waitress, but she insisted that was the upgraded steak.  It was NOT grilled to a medium rare as I ordered either, it was delivered rare.  But hey, those bread rolls they serve with the meal were good!  Yes, stated with a side of snarky.

My meal wasn't the only one not quite right either.  A couple in the group ordered the Prime Rib.  When delivered tableside it didn't measure up to the picture on the menu either, not even close.  It was a VERY thin cut of Prime Rib and the Au jus was COLD!  My friend sent the Au jus back to be heated up, it came back only marginally warmer, but still pretty much cold.  Who wants cold Au jus with their Prime Rib?   With temp in mind, the meals weren't delivered to the table hot, they were warm at best, food got cold quick!  Another downer.

Overall, while my dinner was seasoned well enough, I found the portions to be on the skimpy side, to include the five little shrimp on the skewer.  Coupled with the slow service - no water refills kind of tells you how slow - Logan's fumbled the ball on this dinner.  I felt kind of bad for my birthday friend, but we all made up for it in some great table conversation and laughs!

I paid $15.99 for my meal, that's a reasonable price for a steak dinner, but the slow service, warm but not hot food, skimpy portions and food not measuring up to the menu picture hype made for a disappointing dining experience.  I'm giving Logan's Roadhouse 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  If it's up to me, I won't be going to a Logan's Roadhouse again.  There's far better steak to be had out there.

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

The Logan's Roadhouse visited on this occasion is located at:

353 S Rock Rd, Wichita, KS 67207

Drink Review: The Ned Sauvignon Blanc

By Mike Thayer

The Ned Sauvignon BlancHere's a wine you may want to have on hand.

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc.

The Ned hails from New Zealand and the Marisco Vineyards located in the Waihopai Valley.  A number of wines made there are award winning, receiving accolades in several international competitions to include the Sauvignon Blanc.

If you're not familiar with what a Sauvignon Blanc is, it's a white wine, a dry wine with the fruity flavors of lime, green apple, passion fruit and white peach. What makes Sauvignon Blanc unique from other white wines are the other flavors a producer will include such as bell pepper, jalapeño, gooseberry and perhaps even a gram or two of sugar to add a bit of richness.

Here's the tasting note description of the wine from the Marisco Vineyards websiteDelightfully ripe aromas of gooseberry and white peach are laced with refreshing notes of kaffir lime. The fleshy mid palate is tamed by an underlying minerally acid backbone that culminates in a bright, zesty finish.

This wine is easy to like, it's bright, nicely fragrant and balanced.  All that flavor from a screw cap wine!  And I'm not any kind of wine connoisseur, but I'm not a wine snob either, I know what I like and this is a good one.   This is a pretty darn good wine, no cork needed!  Besides, after enjoying a glass, the bottle is easy to cap, you don't have to worry about trying to re-cork it or grab a wine stopper.  

Costing me about $10, I'm giving The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's reasonably priced, refreshing and pairs well with seafood, chicken dishes and salads.  It's definitely worthy of a repeat buy!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....



Food Review: Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger

By Mike Thayer

Pierre Signatures Angus CheeseburgerWith a busy work and play schedule in mind, I've been buying groceries with convenience foods on the shopping list rather than buying ingredients to cook with as of late.  The weather has played a role in the switch to my grocery buying routine too, I don't do a lot of grilling during the winter months.  This week's grocery run was no different and in searching for a convenient lunch item, I picked up a box of Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburgers. 

Here's the description on the box:  Premium Flame Broiled Angus Beef Steak with American Cheese on a Sesame Seed Bun.

Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger openThe box contains eight individually wrapped burgers, with heating instructions for the burgers if refrigerated, or frozen.  I keep mine in the freezer and for lunch today I grabbed a burger from the box and prepared it in the microwave per the box instructions.  The Angus Cheeseburger was ready in about four minutes.  Talk about convenience, you can't do that on a grill! 

In taking that first bite, I was pleasantly surprised, this burger is better than what you get at some fast food burger joints!  Weighing in at 6.2 ounces (burger, bun & cheese), it's a good sized burger, the patty was juicy, seasoned well, nice burger to bun ratio.  The bun was nice and fluffy - no hard, rubbery edges from nuking.  The cheese, well, it's American cheese, a classic choice for a burger.  I took that first bite without dressing the burger, pretty tasty, then added the mustard, ketchup, lettuce and tomato making it even tastier.

Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger dressedOverall, this is a good burger, especially considering it came out of a microwave.  Costing me $14.99 for that eight count box, that's $1.87 per burger.  Convenient and priced cheaper than a burger equivalent at a fast food joint, I'm giving the Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  I'll be buying these again.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Current fast food and fast casual promotional meal deals

By Mike Thayer

Bachelor on the Cheap 2Here's a short list of the fast food and fast casual meal deals currently going on.  Sadly, only 1 out of the 10 "limited time" offers on this list is the promotion of a new menu item.  Only Taco Bell is offering something new with an asterisk* to try!  Otherwise, all deals are for existing menu items suffering from slow sales or the "bringing back" of old promotions in lieu of introducing a new product.  It's like the fast food/fast casual kingdom isn't interested in being innovative in 2020.

Here's the list in alphabetical order and remember that caveat, available at participating locations for a limited time:

Burger King: The #2 burger chain (sales, U.S) has brought back the 5-for-$4 Deal.  You can get a bacon cheeseburger, four-piece order of chicken nuggets, a cookie, a 16 ounce soft drink, and value sized fries - all that for $4 (plus tax of course). 

Dairy Queen: America's favorite soft serve ice cream chain has brought back the popular $6 Meal Deal, which features a 1/3 Double with Cheese, OR a 3-piece order of Chicken Strips, regular fries, a 21 ounce drink and a sundae.  The $6 Meal Deal is available all day, nationwide, but of course - only for a limited time.

Hardee’s: Normally not one to offer "Meal Deals" the likes of Burger King or McDonald's, Hardee's is offering their version of a Mix and Match deal with a 2 for $5 menu that includes the choices of its Roast Beef Sandwich, Double Cheeseburger, Hot Ham ‘N’ Cheese, and Bacon Cheddar Double Cheeseburger in the deal.

IHOP:  Announcing the return of the Pancake Special, you can get free all-you-can-eat pancakes when you order any breakfast combo until March 1.  The free pancakes come two at a time.

KFC:  The #2 chicken chain (sales, U.S.) is offering its Famous Bowls, layered with KFC's creamy mashed potatoes, sweet corn and bite-sized chunks of crispy chicken, drizzled with home-style gravy and then topped with a blend of three shredded cheeses.  All that for just $3.  You can get the classic Famous Bowl or go for the Nashville Hot sauce option.  

McDonald's:  The 2 for $5 is another repeat promo.  You can get two iconic McDonald's items such as a Big Mac and a 10-piece McNugget, or a Filet-O-Fish and a Quarter Pounder with cheese - and pay just $5. 

Pizza Hut: Living up to their tag line of "No One Out Pizzas the Hut," the former #1 pizza joint (sales, U.S.) launched a $10 Meat Lover’s Pizza value deal, which is 30% off the usual price.  Pizza Hut, now the #2 pizza joint, lost its crown to Domino's.  I still don't understand that one, Domino's pizza sucks.

Ruby Tuesday: Back for a "limited time," the $7.99 fajitas special.  Choose from Veggie, Chicken and Shrimp Fajitas.  And here's where the upsell comes in.... You can round out your meal with the Endless Garden Bar for an additional $3.99 and/or add an individual side of Chips & Queso for another $1.99. 

Subway: Calling it the Fresh Values Promotion, Subway is offering the Oven Roasted Chicken and the Veggie Delite sandwiches for just $2.99.  That's cheap and probably driving franchise owners crazy.  They lost money with the $5 foot long deal.

Taco Bell:  Calling the deal Happier Hour, buy a regular freeze or medium drink for $1 and get a Doritos Locos Tacos for $1.  Happier Hour runs from 2pm to 5pm local time, every day. Also available for just $1 are the new* Double Stacked Tacos, with the flavor options of Nacho Crunch, Chipotle Cheddar and Reaper Ranch.  Double Stacked Tacos with the aforementioned flavors were introduced on December 22, 2019.  But the Double Stacked Taco is actually not a new concept.  The Double Stacked Taco (minus the Nacho Crunch, Chipotle Cheddar or Reaper Ranch flavors) was first introduced by Taco Bell in 2016, but for.....  yes, you guessed it....  a limited time and has been missing from the menu since, well, 'til now.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

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Food Review: Ajinomoto Yakitori Chicken with Japanese Style Fried Rice

By Mike Thayer

Anjinomoto Chicken Fried RiceLooking for some convenience foods to prepare at home for those times when I don't feel like cooking, I picked up a box of Ajinomoto brand Yakitori Chicken with Japanese style fried rice when shopping recently at Costo.  I'm a sucker for fried rice and this looked pretty good.  

"What is Yakitori Chicken?" you ask....

It refers to the Japanese method of grilling skewered chicken over charcoal.  The chicken is typically cut into bite sized pieces, put on bamboo or metal skewers and placed over hot coals, the meat is seasoned over the fire.

Here's the description from the package:  Made with grilled white meat and tender vegetables in an authentic savory sauce.  In addition to the chicken and rice, the veggies include carrots, leeks, edamame soybeans, peas, red bell peppers and roasted sweet corn. 

Chicken fried rice in bagThe box contains six, nine ounce bags and preparation is easy peasy, just pop one of those bags in the microwave for three minutes and boom, dinner is served!

It's not bad for a grab and go meal, I was pleasantly surprised, Ajinomoto makes a decent fried rice.  The bite sized chicken is cooked nicely, you can see the char from the grilling.  The veggies are indeed tender crisp and everything is nicely portioned and balanced - there's no rice overkill.  It is a bit underseasoned though and I blame that on the sauce, there's frankly not enough of it.  In reading the ingredients on the box, it's a fairly typical sauce made with soy, mirin (rice wine) a few other ingredients and thickened with tapioca starch, but it lacks a little punch and the dish overall is a bit on the dry side for a fried rice.  I ended up adding some chili and sesame oil to my bowl to kick things up a notch.

Chicken fried riceI paid $12.59 for the box of Ajinomoto Yakitori Chicken with Japanese Style Fried Rice, that's just $2.10 per serving.  That's a cheap meal.  It's convenient, easy/fast to prepare, filling and although it needs a bit of doctoring to bump up the flavor, it's worthy of a repeat buy.  I'm giving this product 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Need a quick lunch?  Throw a bag of fried rice in the microwave.  Looking for a convenience meal that ISN'T a burger or run-of-the-mill sandwich?  Nuke some fried rice.  Don't want to dirty up a bunch of dishes when cooking for one?  You guessed it, grab a bag of fried rice, dinner in three minutes.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Food Review: Crazy Cuizine brand General Tso's Chicken

By Mike Thayer

Crazy Cuizine General Tso's ChickenUniquely Chinese-American, General Tso's Chicken is a battered and fried chicken dish served with a delicious 'sweet heat' sauce made with a combination of soy, garlic, ginger, chili peppers, sugar and other ingredients.  It's my preferred go-to dish when I'm in the mood for Chinese food. 

I'm always looking for a restaurant quality version of the dish to prepare at home, and today I'm trying General Tso's Chicken made by Crazy Cuizine.

Here's the description from the front of the box, which is pretty straight forward:  Battered Chicken Breast with Rib Meat in a Zesty Ginger Sauce.

I prepared the chicken in the oven per the box instructions and my dinner was ready in about 20 minutes.  You can also prepare them on the stove top, but with the LSU vs. Clemson National Championship game on, I opted for the convenience of the oven.

Serving the sauced up chicken over a bed of Ramen noodles, I took that first bite....

General Tso's ChickenNICE!  I didn't think I would get that same crispy texture you get from a restaurant/wok preparation, but boy this was close!  I got a light crunch from the battered exterior and the chicken was tender and juicy.  The sauce was pleasant, delivering on the General Tso's notes of some sweet heat, but it was on the mild side.  I had to doctor things up a bit with some chili flake and cayenne pepper powder to kick the sauce up a notch.

General Tso's Chicken, the combination of that battered/fried preparation along with the sweet heat sauce is what makes this dish.  It's a delicious marriage of texture and flavors that puts it at or near the top of the list of Chinese favorite eats for many folks.  I'm looking forward to trying of another Crazy Cuizine batch using the stove top directions which surely will provide that restaurant quality crispiness I'm looking for.  Crazy Cuisine puts out a good product, it's worthy of a repeat buy.

Costing me $9.99 at Costco, that's just $1.11 per serving and the serving size - 1 cup - is generous and quite filling when served over a bed of noodles or rice.  I'm giving Crazy Cuizine General Tso's Chicken 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  The price is VERY reasonable, the chicken is easy to prepare and quite tasty after just a bit of doctoring to the sauce.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....