Living well on a budget, without being truly cheap.

Shopping for a shed - doing the homework

By Mike Thayer

Fishing at Lake VikingLast week I wrote about the need for a shed.  Now that I have my customized kayak for fishing at beautiful Lake Viking, I need a shed at the lake property to keep it in.

So I've been doing some homework online.  I'm in the market for a 10' x 12' foot shed - the maximum size allowed by the home owner's association.  It also has to be made of wood, no metal or plastic/resin kits allowed.  No problem there, I prefer sheds made from wood anyway.

I've already got a concrete pad in place, a nice foundation for the shed, but do I buy a kit that I assemble (option 1), or do I buy plans for a shed and purchase the materials myself (option 2)?  Another option, the most expensive one, is to buy an already assembled shed and have it delivered and anchored to the foundation by the shed maker (option 3).

Prices for a quality shed in the size I want range from $1,200 to $5,000, the latter being for the pre-assembled shed, delivered option. 

A little homework, Option 1 - buying a kit

Here are some options for 10' x 12' shed kits available at places like Lowe's, Home Depot, Shed Warehouse where I get to take the kit to Lake Viking and assemble:

Lowe's shed
Available at Lowe's - $2,087.00
Shed Warehouse
Available at Shed Warehouse - $2,999.00
Home Depot Shed
Available at Home Depot - $1,399.00

Right now, as far as the kits (option 1) are concerned, Home Depot would seem like the go-to place for a shed when it comes to price.  It's basic, but heck for the savings in price, I can install a couple windows if desired, just look at the price difference between the Home Depot shed vs. Lowe's, vs. Shed Warehouse.

Stay tuned, there's more homework to be done in considering option 2, buying shed plans and costing out the materials myself. 

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


EveryPlate meal kit club vs. the local grocery store - Griddled Onion Burgers with Creamy Dijon Aioli & Frites

Griddled Onion Burgers
Meal Kit Ingredients

By Mike Thayer

I love to cook and grill, I have a well stocked pantry, I've got a freezer full of goodies, which is mostly meat for grilling.  

One thing I don't love however, is grocery shopping.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate it, but it's time consumption that doesn't feel all that productive.

Enter EveryPlate, one of those meal kit clubs, where they ship you ingredients and recipe cards, the fresh ingredients shipped are pre-measured for supposedly easy and tasty meal making.

EveryPlate
5 minutes of prep, diced onion, sliced onion, minced garlic, Aioli

I received my first shipment on June 16th and after thoroughly enjoying the first meal - Pork & Poblano Tacos - I was looking forward to meal #2 which I decided would be Griddled Onion Burgers. 

Before I get into the burger recipe and how good it was, I just wanted to touch on a couple of advantages to the meal kit thing that I didn't mention in the last review.

EveryPlate cuts down on spoilage.  When talking about trying this meal kit thing with a friend, she said she was thinking about trying it too, but since she and her husband don't cook much, eating out more often than not, she was worried about spoilage, things going to waste.   With everything pre-portioned for 2 people, the spoilage factor is really super minimal, even if you don't cook everyday and if you're a single person like yours truly, I get to enjoy one meal for dinner and that second serving becomes lunch the next day.  The recipe cards that come in each box even has keep refrigerated recommendations (the meat being a no brainer) and expiration dates on the packaging.    The other way EveryPlate reduces spoilage/waste is providing individual servings of things like sour cream, mustard and mayo.  Everything comes pre-portioned preventing you from buying that 12 ounce bottle of honey dijon mustard at the grocery store for example that you end up using just once and then forgetting about it while it sits at the back of a fridge shelf until it expires.

20210617_193958Back to the burger and frites....  Taking me just 5 minutes to prep and ready to eat in a total time of about 35 minutes, the Griddled Onion Burger  with Creamy Dijon Aioli & Frites meal was quite delicious!  The toasted potato bun was light and 'pillowy', the all beef patty was seasoned well and juicy, the Dijon Aioli with sauteed chopped onion was spot on and those Yukon Gold frites dressed simply with olive oil, salt and pepper were lightly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside - PERFECT!

Griddled Onion Burger with Creamy Dijon Mustard Aioli
It's Another Dose of YUM!

All the ingredients were of high quality, the recipe super easy to follow.  This was NOT your average burger.  This meal is part of the introductory price of just $1.99 per meal in my first meal kit box.  But even at the regular price of $4.99 per meal, I'll order this one again.   It's super easy to prepare, convenient as heck and the most important thing - DARN TASTY!  In comparison, pricing these ingredients out at my local grocery store, putting this meal for two together would have cost me $5.45 each.    And the next time I make this meal, I'm going to kick things up a notch by grilling the burgers and onion.

I am totally impressed with EveryPlate so far and I see no reason to change their 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap rating.  Very reasonably priced, the first two meals I've had were thoroughly enjoyed and this meal kit thing is SUPER convenient!  EveryPlate is a repeat buy for sure!

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


EveryPlate meal kit club vs. going to the grocery store

By Mike Thayer

20210616_123656I love to cook and grill, I have a well stocked pantry, I've got a freezer full of goodies, which is mostly meat for grilling.  

One thing I don't love however, is grocery shopping.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate it, but it's time consumption that doesn't feel all that productive.

Enter EveryPlate, one of those meal kit clubs, where they ship you ingredients and recipe cards, the fresh ingredients shipped are pre-measured for supposedly easy and tasty meal making.

20210616_123843How 'fresh' those ingredients are, how the meals taste and how easy they are to prepare will be evaluated.

I received my first shipment on June 16th.  Costing me $28.89 ($20 for the food + $9 for shipping), that first box included ingredients and recipes for five different meals for two people, or $1.99 for 10 meals.  That's an introductory price, not EveryPlate's normal price which is $4.99 per meal which is still a great price.  As part of the introductory deal I got, the cost per meal in my second and third box shipments will be $3.99 each, that's a savings of 20% for each box.


20210616_123915The EveryPlate meal options have some nice variety, featuring 14 meal options in a given week, here's what I chose for week 1:

  • Pork & Poblano Tacos
  • Garlic Rosemary Chicken
  • Greek Pork Meatball Bowls
  • Honey Chipotle Pork Chops
  • Griddled Onion Burger

You can also customize your meals, swapping carrots for asparagus for example or swap out chicken for pork.  You can even add another meal!  There's flexibility with the kits, if you don't feel like cooking next week or say you're going on vacation, you can skip a weekly shipment and if you decide you don't like EveryPlate, you can cancel at any time.

Everything in my first shipment looked great.  The packing was top notch, the produce looked fantastic, the meats were kept nice and cold with ice packs and the recipe cards are nicely laid out and easy to follow.

20210616_183158For my first meal, I went with the Pork & Poblano Tacos.  As an experienced grocery shopper, I can tell you those same items purchased at the local grocery store are going to cost between $10 and $14 depending on any sales or promotions.  I priced those same ingredients by shopping online at my neighborhood Dillon's (Kroger) and the total came to $13.06, so the cost for two servings breaks down to $6.53 each.  Price-wise, EveryPlate is looking pretty darn good, even at the $4.99 per meal price!  Caveats:  A pound of ground pork at my local grocer is $3.99, but the ground pork in the EveryPlate kit was only 10 ounces.  The price of sour cream from Dillon's (Kroger) is for a 14 ounce container, the EveryPlate sour cream is two individual servings.  The cost of tortillas at the grocer is for a 10 count bag and the EveryPlate count was six.  So to be fair, that local grocer price for the 'same' ingredients is actually going to be slightly lower than that $6.53, but still NOT getting as low as the EveryPlate price.

20210616_193703Taking me 10 minutes to prep and ready to eat in a total time of about 35 minutes, the Pork & Poblano Taco meal was fantastic!  All the ingredients were of high quality, the recipe super easy to follow.  The flavors were all spot on from the southwest spice, to the marriage of ground pork and Poblano pepper with a kiss of lime.  Making six tacos, this meal was balanced, totally satisfying and I've got leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

I am totally impressed with EveryPlate so far and I'm giving them 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Very reasonably priced, the first meal I had was thoroughly enjoyed and this meal kit thing is SUPER convenient!  EveryPlate is a repeat buy for sure!

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Shopping for a shed

By Mike Thayer

Fishing at Lake VikingNow that I have my customized kayak for fishing at beautiful Lake Viking, I need a shed at the lake property to keep it in.

I'm shopping for a shed!  I'm in the market for a 10' x 12' foot shed - the maximum size allowed by the home owner's association.  It also has to be made of wood, no metal or plastic/resin kits allowed.  No problem there, I prefer sheds made from wood anyway.

I've already got a concrete pad in place, a nice foundation for the shed, but do I buy a kit that I assemble or do I buy plans for a shed and purchase the materials myself?  Another option, the most expensive one, is to buy an already assembled shed and have it delivered and anchored to the foundation by the shed maker.

Prices for a quality shed in the size I want range from $1,200 to $5,000, the latter being for the pre-assembled shed, delivered option.  I'll be doing some more homework online in my search for the best shed option, stay tuned for more shed information!

Log cabin shed
A shed possibility

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Chicken Sandwich War Challenge: Hardee's Chicken Sandwich

By Mike Thayer

20210615_121730There's been a chicken sandwich war going on in fast food, it started in 2019 and it's still going on today.  

Shots fired!  Chick-fil-A made headlines in 2019 becoming the third largest fast food chain, led with their classic chicken sandwich.  Popeyes reacted by putting a new chicken sandwich on the menu and consumers went crazy over it, so crazy in fact, Popeyes ran out of ammo. Already armed with a spicy chicken sandwich, Wendy's entered the battlefield that year by bringing back their spicy chicken nuggets, fans of the item went in a Twitter frenzy.  

Popeye's Chicken Sandwich has been so popular, it is now considered THE gold standard for a chicken sandwich.  So how do all the other fast food joints stack up?  In the name of 'food science' (cough), I intend to find out. 

Hardee's Hand Breaded Chicken Sandwich
Look at that bun/meat gap!

In this Chicken Sandwich War Challenge, sandwiches are evaluated and scored on the following criteria:  Visual appeal, the meat, bun, meat to bun ratio, crunch factor, the pickle/mayo and of course, overall taste.  There are 1-9 points available for each category for a total possible total score of 63. 

Today I sampled Hardee's Hand Breaded Chicken Sandwich.  It's been awhile since I've eaten at Hardee's and even longer since I've had one of their chicken sandwiches (Their Mushroom Swiss Burger is pretty darn tasty).  Their "Hand Breaded" Chicken Sandwich is "New", let's see how it looks, tastes and scores.....

chicken sandwich
Sloppy prep, not a pickle in every bite

For a "New" sandwich in this Chicken Sandwich War, Hardee's needs a new weapon.   This sandwich just doesn't get the job done.  There's TOO MUCH BUN!  The meat to bun ratio is not good, the chicken was NOT crispy at all, a bit dry and under-spectacular in the seasoning department.  The mayo was average and the only thing giving this sandwich some life were the pickles, which in typical fast food fashion were applied in sloppy fashion, all centered together and not providing pickle in every bite. The bun was good, but IT WAS TOO MUCH!  The chicken, which SHOULD have been the star, was not.

Hardee's Chicken Sandwich
Mayo on half the sandwich. check out the meat to bun ratio

I paid $8.31 for my Hardee's Hand Breaded Chicken Sandwich combo meal.  That wouldn't be a bad price had the sandwich been better, but what I experienced today is NOT worthy of a repeat buy.  This sandwich scored just 44 out of a possible 63 points, putting it in the lower tier of chicken sandwiches in this challenge.

3 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends..... 

Related:  KFC's Chicken Sandwich

Related:  McDonald's 'New' Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Related:  Slim Chickens Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Related:  Wendy's Classic Chicken Sandwich

Related:  Popeye's Classic Chicken Sandwich

Related:  DQ Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Related:  Burger King's Hand Breaded Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Related:  Sonic's Chicken Slinger

Related:  Church's Chicken Sandwich

Related:  Chick-fil-A's Chicken Sandwich


Food Review: Appleton Farms Premium Sliced Bacon

By Mike Thayer

Appleton Farms Premium Sliced BaconBacon has been an American breakfast staple since Oscar Meyer introduced pre-packaged, pre-sliced bacon to the country in 1924.  But it's not just for breakfast anymore....  Everything's better with bacon!  The crispy, smoky, savory goodness of bacon is irresistable and makes just about whatever you're having for breakfast, lunch or dinner that much better.

As a bacon lover, I've always got a package of the stuff on hand.  Opening up a 12 ounce package of Great Value bacon purchased at Walmart recently, I said to myself, "Self, I should do a review of bacon, find out who makes the best bacon at the most reasonable price."  You can read the Great Value bacon review here, today, I'm reviewing Appleton Farms Premium Sliced Bacon from Aldi.

Appleton Farms BaconIn making bacon for breakfast, I usually lay out six slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and dress the bacon with some black pepper. I'll enjoy three of those slices for breakfast, saving three slices to enjoy with something for lunch or dinner, later. With the oven at 400 degrees, I like the oven method because the bacon cooks more evenly than on the stove top, it gets nice and crispy and there's less mess! And in the 20 minutes that it takes to get that perfect bacon, I can multi-task.

Appleton Farms Bacon
Good Bacon!

Appleton Farms bacon is good stuff!  The slices are nice and even, easy to pull away from the package and place on the tray, it doesn't fall apart like the Great Value bacon did.  It cooked up nice with typical - but not drastic (Great Value) - bacon shrinkage.   The most important factor, the flavor was quite good.  This bacon has nice marbling, a good meat to fat balance with that hint of smoke.  This bacon deserves a spot on your breakfast plate, is worthy of topping a cheeseburger, would kick any dinner recipe or side dish up a notch.

20210611_080637The 16 ounce package of Appleton Farms Premium Sliced Bacon purchased at Aldi cost me under $4 and is most definitely a repeat buy.  It's Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly, it tastes good and I'm giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 


Garden Hack: Use coffee filters to line container drainage holes

By Mike Thayer

Weed barrier fabric
Don't use this to line your containers with...

Weed barrier fabric, a.k.a., landscaping fabric is a great product, preventing weed growth so your veggies and flowers can thrive.  It's great to line pathways with, keeping your mulch, stone or brick pathway clear of weeds.  Allowing water, air and nutrients to pass through it, weed barrier fabric also has another great use - you can line the inside bottom of your containers with it, allowing for drainage without losing soil through the hole(s). 

Starting at $12 for a small roll of thinner, lower quality fabric, you can pay up to $200 for the premium stuff, which is thicker, made of better material and comes in a bigger roll.

Coffee Filters
Use coffee filters instead!

But I say, don't even pay the $12 for the cheap roll if you're a container gardener, besides, there's way too much cutting involved to 'customize' the fabric to fit your container size.  Weed barrier fabric is good stuff, but coffee filters do the very same job and WAY cheaper!

Like the weed fabric, coffee filters allow for drainage at the bottom of your pot, without losing soil through the hole.  You just need one filter for larger pots, and you can get away with halving and quartering coffee filters down to size for smaller pots.  Here's the best part, you can get a package of coffee filters on the cheap!  A package of 100 filters cost me $1 at Dollar Tree.  That's enough "fabric" to do more than 100 pots! 

Get the weed barrier fabric for large jobs, use coffee filters for your containers!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Joining a meal kit club vs. going to the grocery store

Garlic Rosemary Chicken
Garlic Rosemary Chicken

By Mike Thayer

I love to cook and grill, I have a well stocked pantry, I've got a freezer full of goodies, which is mostly meat for grilling.  

One thing I don't love however, is grocery shopping.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate it, but it's time consumption that doesn't feel all that productive.

Enter EveryPlate, one of those meal kit clubs, where they ship you ingredients and recipe cards, the fresh ingredients shipped are pre-measured for supposedly easy and tasty meal making.

How 'fresh' those ingredients are, how the meals taste and how easy they are to prepare will be evaluated.

Will it be worth my while?  Will it be less expensive than buying the same things at the grocery store?

Stay tuned, my first shipment arrives June 16th.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Food Review: Great Value bacon not such a great value

By Mike Thayer

Great Value BaconBacon has been an American breakfast staple since Oscar Meyer introduced pre-packaged, pre-sliced bacon to the country in 1924.  But it's not just for breakfast anymore....  Everything's better with bacon!  The crispy, smoky, savory goodness of bacon is irresistable and makes just about whatever you're having for breakfast, lunch or dinner that much better.

Bacon slices
Fall apart slices, ultra-thin

As a bacon lover, I've always got a package of the stuff on hand.  Opening up a 12 ounce package of Great Value bacon purchased at Walmart the other day, I said to myself, "Self, I should do a review of bacon, find out who makes the best bacon at the most reasonable price."

In making bacon for breakfast, I usually lay out six slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and dress the bacon with some black pepper.  I'll enjoy three of those slices for breakfast, saving three slices to enjoy with something for lunch or dinner, later.  With the oven at 400 degrees, I like the oven method because the bacon cooks more evenly than on the stove top, it gets nice and crispy and there's less mess!  And in the 20 minutes that it takes to get that perfect bacon, I can multi-task.

Cooked bacon
Significant shrinkage

Great Value Bacon however, is NOT a repeat buy.

The slicing of the bacon is terrible and ultra thin.  When pulling slices from the package to place on the cookie sheet the 'slices' don't stay intact.  If you want to make bacon bits, then this bacon is OK...  But I don't buy bacon just so I can make bacon bits, I want SLICES of bacon, especially for breakfast!  And if I was making a dish that calls for wrapping bacon, this bacon won't get the job done right.  Presentation and proper coverage in a wrapped with bacon dish, matters.

20210603_074044The flavor is good, but not WOW good.   There's no robust, smoky flavor, the flavor profile is quite average. 

Costing me about $4 for that 12 ounce package, it's a rock bottom price, but you get what you pay for, thin, fall apart bacon with average flavor.   I'm giving Great Value Bacon just 2 out of 5 stars, it's not a great value.

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 


Trader Joe's Lobster Ravioli is a winner of a dinner!

By Mike Thayer

20210601_080558Looking for something a bit different to have for dinner when shopping recently at Trader Joe's, I happened upon the refrigerated section of all kinds of goodies....

Mouthwatering meats, cheeses, hummus and then I saw it.....  Trader Joe's Lobster Ravioli, it called my name.  I snatched it up and placed it in my cart.

I've never had lobster ravioli before, I've had whole lobster, lobster tail, boiled lobster, grilled lobster, lobster rolls, lobster cakes, but never, lobster ravioli.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to having it for dinner.

Why I haven't done the ravioli thing before, I can't explain, but I'm glad I selected Trader Joe's Lobster Ravioli to try it!

20210524_201917(1)Super easy to prepare and topped with some garlic butter and Parmesan, this stuff rocks!  The pasta cooks up nicely, the stuffing is portioned nicely, seasoned perfectly and quite delicious.  A very satisfying meal, this is a repeat buy.

I paid just $4.99 for my Trader Joe's Lobster Ravioli and I'm buying more in my next trip to Trader Joe's.  Very reasonably priced and OH-SO-TASTY, I'm giving it 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....