Living well on a budget, without being truly cheap.

Food Review: McDonald's Pumpkin Pie

By Mike Thayer

20181114_140616Pumpkin pie, it is THE dessert for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

So if you can't wait until Thanksgiving to sink your teeth into some pumpkin pie, McDonald's may just have the fix for you.

They've done a pretty nice job of putting some pumpkin pie filling in their classic turnover crust and dusting it with cinnamon sugar.

The description from their website:  Baked Pumpkin Pie. Smooth, rich pumpkin filling baked in a tender and flaky pastry crust and dusted in cinnamon sugar.

No, it's not Mom's pumpkin pie, but for less than $1 it's a decent, albeit temporary fix for a pumpkin pie craving. 

The bottom line, it's a repeat buy during this holiday season.  I'll take it over all that pumpkin flavored coffee/creamer/latte crap.

McDonald's Cinnamon Dusted Pumpkin Pie gets 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.

3 stars


5 Easy Peasy Crock Meal Ideas

Crock PotBy Mike Thayer

The crock pot, along with the microwave, are two of a bachelor's best buddies in the kitchen.  But crock pots are under-utilized and that's a Bachelor on the Cheap crime.

They're so versatile, easy to use and they can crank out some pretty darn tasty food.  Even if you don't like to cook, you should embrace the crock pot - give it a big Bromance hug.

Below are five easy peasy crock pot meal ideas that literally take just a few minutes to prepare and will taste like you put a lot of chef work into the dish.  All of these crock pot meals can be put together for less than $6 each and provide great leftovers!

Chicken & Italian Dressing

Meatballs & Marinara

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

Mac & Cheese

Meat & Taters

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 

 


Crock Pot 'Pulled' Pork

Crock PotBy Mike Thayer

The crock pot, along with the microwave, are two of a bachelor's best buddies in the kitchen.  But crock pots are under-utilized and that's a Bachelor on the Cheap crime.

They're so versatile, easy to use and they can crank out some pretty darn tasty food.  Even if you don't like to cook, you should embrace the crock pot - give it a big Bromance hug.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

When smoking or grilling some pork butt isn't an option, putting a small pork roast in the crock pot certainly is and it delivers some pretty darn tasty pulled pork!

Ingredients:

  • A small boneless pork roast, about 2 pounds
  • Your favorite dry rub (in a pinch, seasoning salt will do, or just plain salt and pepper)
  • One Tablespoon olive oil
  • One Tablespoon dried, minced onion
  • One cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Buns for serving

Directions:

Put the olive oil in the crock pot, brushing it around a bit to cover the bottom.  Thoroughly cover the pork roast with the rub.  Throw the roast and everything else in the pot and set it to low.  After eight hours you are going to have some very tender, easily shredded 'pulled' pork which I like to do right in the pot, mixing it with all that BBQ seasoning and sauce goodness!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Crock Pot Meat & Taters

Crock PotBy Mike Thayer

The crock pot, along with the microwave, are two of a bachelor's best buddies in the kitchen.  But crock pots are under-utilized and that's a Bachelor on the Cheap crime.

They're so versatile, easy to use and they can crank out some pretty darn tasty food.  Even if you don't like to cook, you should embrace the crock pot - give it a big Bromance hug.

Meat & Taters

Simple is good and this is simply delicious comfort food.  You can put this together or less than $6 and you'll have plenty leftover for another meal, if not two.

Ingredients:

  • One pound ground beef
  • One can cream of mushroom soup
  • Two large Russet Potatoes, sliced
  • One 4 ounce can of mushrooms
  • One Tablespoon dried, minced onion
  • One teaspoon seasoning salt
  • One teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Brown the ground beef and drain.  Throw everything in the crock pot and set it to low.  About four hours later you've got a delicious meat & tater dish!  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Easiest Recipe in the World

By Mike Thayer

Throwing a couple chicken breasts and Italian dressing with some new potatoes and carrots in the crock pot before work can cost as little as $4.

That's it and it's darn tasty!  Salt and pepper to taste.

You'll probably only eat one breast, so you've got some awesome leftovers (unless it's dinner for two - thumbs up!), the aromas coming from your kitchen will be a fantastic delight when you come home from work and you simply can't eat better at a fast food restaurant for just $4!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Kicking popcorn up another notch - "Sweet Heat" Popcorn

By Mike Thayer

Why is popcorn one of my favorite snack foods?  1.  It tastes great,  2.  It's WAY cheaper than a bag of chips,  3.  You can add just about any flavor to it by popping your own, turning it into a gourmet treat!

20181101_163628Try this the next time you make popcorn.... When melting butter, add one of those honey packets you've got stashed in your 'fridge, like from Chick-fil-A or KFC.... along with a pinch of Kosher salt, then add in a generous splash of Louisiana Hot Sauce!  It's sweet heat baby and another dose of YUM!  Yessssir.....  'Sweet Heat' popcorn, tasty, tasty, tasty!

And if you're looking for a GREAT popcorn popper, check this out: 

Product Review: The Salbree Popper

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Easy Casserole Dinner Ideas - Inside Out Ravioli

By Mike Thayer

I love casseroles, all types, dinner casseroles, breakfast casseroles, leftover casserole for lunch.... It's all good and the flavor possibilities and combinations are endless!

Casseroles can mean different things to different people, so just what IS a casserole anyway, how is it defined? For me, being a bachelor and pretty handy in the kitchen (patting self on back....), it means a simple to prepare one-dish meal, something that's got meat, a starch, a veggie and a gravy, or a sauce and/or cheese to go with it. It's a convenient mix of ingredients that go well together and is baked to perfection in the oven - THAT is a casserole. And yes, the dish it's baked in was named after it. Simplicity and convenience are keys to a good casserole, it can't be a complicated recipe that's labor intensive. If that recipe takes more than 10-15 minutes to prepare before you're throwing that dish in the oven, then it's NOT a casserole in my book.

Inside-Out Ravioli
Baked to perfection!

Inside-Out Ravioli

Meat, noodles, tomato sauce and cheese, what's not to love?  This is another dish that lends itself to putting whatever you have on hand into a casserole and baking it to perfection.  Don't have elbow or shell macaroni?  No worries, use egg noodles.  Don't have any ground beef on hand?  No worries, use pork sausage instead.  Don't have any mozzarella cheese?  Not a big deal, provolone will work just fine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground beef (I actually like to use a 1/2 pound ground beef and a 1/2 pound ground pork or breakfast sausage)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 jar of your favorite off the shelf spaghetti sauce (around 24 ounces)
  • 3 cups of elbow or shell macaroni, or whatever you have on hand, cooked and drained
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or whatever you have on hand, heck, slices of provolone is an excellent option)
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (the final touch, to top the casserole)

Directions:

Inside-Out Ravioli
It's Another Dose of YUM!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a casserole dish and set aside.  In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef/pork and onion, drain.  After draining, add all the seasonings, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce to the meat mixture and stir to incorporate.  Fold in the noodles, then transfer everything into the casserole dish.  Bake for about 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the shredded cheese and bake another 10 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted, golden brown and delicious.  Sprinkle with the dried parsley and serve.  Enjoy!

This is another one that's pretty to prepare and it's easy on the wallet, with most ingredients making use of what you already have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator.  And here's another Bachelor on the Cheap benefit to casseroles, not only do they lend themselves to very tasty leftovers, but they freeze well! After you've enjoyed the casserole for dinner, portion it out, perhaps have some for lunch tomorrow and stash the remainder in the freezer for a future meal or two.

$pend Wisely My Friends..... 


Kicking popcorn up another notch - Honey Butter Popcorn

By Mike Thayer

20181101_163628Why is popcorn one of my favorite snack foods? 1. It tastes great, 2. It's WAY cheaper than a bag of chips, 3. You can add just about any flavor to it by popping your own, turning it into a gourmet treat!

Try this the next time you make popcorn.... When melting butter, add one of those honey packets you've got stashed in your 'fridge, like from Chick-fil-A or KFC.... along with a pinch of Kosher salt.  It's another dose of YUM!  Frankly, I like this better than caramel popcorn.   I call it "HoneyCorn"....

And if you're looking for a GREAT popcorn popper, check this out: 

Product Review: The Salbree Popper

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Easy Casserole Ideas - A Mulligan Breakfast Casserole

By Mike Thayer

I love casseroles, all types, dinner casseroles, breakfast casseroles, leftover casserole for lunch.... It's all good and the flavor possibilities and combinations are endless!

Casseroles can mean different things to different people, so just what IS a casserole anyway, how is it defined? For me, being a bachelor and pretty handy in the kitchen (patting self on back....), it means a simple to prepare one-dish meal, something that's got meat, a starch, a veggie and a gravy, or a sauce and/or cheese to go with it. It's a convenient mix of ingredients that go well together and is baked to perfection in the oven - THAT is a casserole. And yes, the dish it's baked in was named after it. Simplicity and convenience are keys to a good casserole, it can't be a complicated recipe that's labor intensive. If that recipe takes more than 10-15 minutes to prepare before you're throwing that dish in the oven, then it's NOT a casserole in my book.

20181026_204908-1
Bacon, sausage and ham, Oh my!

Mulligan Breakfast Casserole

That's right, casserole for breakfast!  It's a nice change of pace from the typical sandwich, muffin, shake or bowl of cereal and this casserole is the epitome definition for casserole, since just about any kind of meat, cheese and potato you have on hand is thrown in, hence, the Mulligan reference.

Ingredients:

  • Any kind of leftover breakfast meat you have, bacon, ham, sausage, one kind is good, three kinds is even better, about 1 pound, chopped/crumbled.  Save some crumbled bacon to top with.
  • 3 eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 green or red pepper, diced (optional)
  • Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups potato, it could be tater tots, tater rounds, shredded potato, enough to cover the top of the casserole
  • 1-1/2 cups of shredded cheese, it could be cheddar, mozzarella, Mexican mix
  • One green onion, chopped
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

20181029_081054Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, lightly spray/coat a casserole dish with olive oil.  Heat up a frying pan and the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion, optional green pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, about 1 - 2 minutes.  Add the leftover breakfast meat and garlic powder.   Transfer to the casserole dish.  Add the splash of milk and seasoning salt to the eggs and beat to combine, then pour over the meat/onion mixture. Top the dish with the shredded cheese and potato.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until those potatoes are golden, brown and delicious.  Top the baked casserole with a little more shredded cheese, the chopped green onion, some bacon crumbles and black pepper to taste, immediately after pulling it from the oven.  Enjoy!

Serving Suggestion:  Try a few shakes of Louisiana Hot Sauce or Tabasco on that serving of breakfast goodness! 

This casserole is pretty easy to prepare and it's easy on the wallet, with most ingredients making use of leftovers and items you already have on hand.  And here's another Bachelor on the Cheap benefit to casseroles, not only do they lend themselves to very tasty leftovers, but they freeze well! After you've enjoyed the casserole for breakfast, portion it out, perhaps have some for breakfast again tomorrow and stash the remainder in the freezer for a future meal or two.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 


The window to plant those spring flowers is closing

By Mike Thayer

Spring flowersIf you're into the fantastic array of colors spring flowers provide, now is the time to get those bulbs in the ground.

According to the experts, when night time temperatures are consistently in the 40 - 50 degree mark that's the perfect time to put bulbs to "bed."  Yes, pun intended.  This temperature window is the optimum for those bulbs, allowing them to root and establish themselves.  You can actually plant right up until the ground freezes, but the success rate for those bulbs to root, establish and ultimately sprout in the spring really drops and besides, who wants to be digging in the dirt when it gets below freezing outside?

Also known as "Fall" bulbs, these spring flower beauties include favorites such as crocus, daffodils, hyacinth and tulips.  You can find them readily at Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, your favorite hardware store and at reasonable prices.  A lot of folks like to order them online or through catalogs, but that takes time and often comes with shipping costs.  I say if you're out running errands, pick up a bag or two, or three at some place local.

You can plant your favorite bulbs just about anywhere in your yard or garden where the soil drains well.  Avoid areas where water collects, because bulbs don't like to sit in "wetness."  Spring bulbs love the sun and that's why they look so great at the base of trees, that splash of spring color you see before the tree leaves start to pop out.

Follow the package instructions to plant your bulbs, but as a general rule of thumb, bigger bulbs like tulips and daffodils should be planted about 8" deep and small bulbs like crocus about 5" deep.  Loosely backfill your planting area with soil - don't pack it - and water those bulbs in to stimulate root growth.  These bulbs are low maintenance and I why I like them so much, in addition to the great colors they provide.  You shouldn't have to worry about watering them again until spring, unless you live in a very low precipitation area.

Enjoy those colors!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....