Living well on a budget, without being truly cheap.

Food Review: Long John Silver's Lobster Bites

By Mike Thayer

Long John Silver's Lobster Bites
You have to appreciate the packaging

Opting for Take Out food has been a huge trend in 2021, with many folks looking to support the restaurant industry thanks to but no thanks to COVID. Whether it's pickup, drive through or delivery, eating out and taking home/delivery has been HUGE this year.

That's what I did today again for lunch, ordering Long John Silver's Lobster Bites for lunch, to go.

Costing me just $3.99, one has to ask, are these SO tempting morsels of goodness really made with lobster?  I mean c'mon, $3.99 for lobster meat?  Really?

The answer is YES, really!  The lobster bites are made from the meat of Langoustines, a member of the lobster family, the on-the-smaller-side but VERY tasty lobsters caught in the wild North Atlantic off Norway. Yes folks, they're the real deal, nothing fake or substituted about it.  These bites are all lobster!

Long John Silver's Lobster Bites
Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, decent portion size

From a Long John Silver's press release:  Long John Silver's Lobster Bites pair the sweetness of lobster tail with a light, buttery breading to pack a flavor adventure into every bite!

True statement!

These things ROCK!  You do get the sweetness of the lobster tail, the breading is perfectly light yet crispy and enhances the lobster flavor rather than smother it.  The portion size is decent, you don't get slighted.  It's OMG good and a repeat buy.  I'm giving Long John Silver's Lobster Bites 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  For just $3.99, you get a nice portion of buttery crisp, sweet lobster, it's SUCH a tasty treat that's unique. 

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Food Review: Chipotle's Smoked Brisket

By Mike Thayer

Opting for Take Out food has been a huge trend in 2021, with many folks looking to support the restaurant industry thanks to but no thanks to COVID.  Whether it's pickup, drive through or delivery, eating out and taking home/delivery has been HUGE this year.

That's what I did today for lunch, ordering Chipotle's new Smoked Brisket for lunch, to go.

Chipotle Smoked Brisket Bowl
Brisket goodness in a bowl

Here's the description of the limited time new menu item from a recent press release:  Made with Responsibly Raised® beef, the new protein is smoked to perfect tenderness, charred on the grill, and seasoned with Mexican spices, including fire-roasted jalapenos and chipotle chili peppers. The protein is hand-chopped and finished with a new Brisket sauce made with smoky chili peppers.

I ordered a Smoked Brisket bowl, with the Cilantro-Lime brown rice, black beans, topped with onions/peppers and Queso Blanco.  I mean, c'mon, meat, onions, peppers, cheese, what's not to like?  I could have really loaded the bowl up, but I didn't want to over-do things, I wanted to taste that brisket!

The brisket was nice, it was seasoned well, I got a hint of smoke, the meat had a bit of char (short of having some bark) there were some nice warm spice notes and it was very tender, but there wasn't enough of it!  The portion wasn't exactly what I would call generous and the chop prep was on the small side.  The brisket gets lost in the rest of the bowl and given how Chipotle's other proteins are chunked rather than diced up like this brisket was prepped, well it was disappointing.  When you get a Chipotle bowl, you mix it to combine all the flavors in the bowl and no, I didn't get brisket in every bite, not even close.  It was really good when I did, but it wasn't enough.

The Chipotle Smoked Brisket Bowl cost me $10, plus another $1.30 for Queso.  It was pretty tasty but the portion of brisket was small and that tender, smoky beef flavor gets a bit lost in all the other bowl ingredients.  I'm giving the Chipotle Smoked Brisket Bowl 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars and for me, this is NOT a repeat buy.  The price isn't exactly Bachelor on the Cheap friendly and for $10+ I want more brisket.

3 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Food Review: Pop Tarts Bites

Pop Tarts Bites
What a great snack, SO portable too!

By Mike Thayer

Growing up as a kid, there was always a box or two of Pop Tarts parked in that Lazy Susan cabinet in the house I grew up in.  Back in the day, Frosted Pop Tarts only came in four flavors, strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon and apple currant.

I haven't had a Pop Tart in like, forever, so when my girlfriend Cindy gave me a few packages of Frosted Blueberry Pop Tarts "Bites" - I took a trip down memory lane.  Frosted Blueberry remains one of my favorites today and now I can get them in this great snack size!

These tasty filled pastry bites are a great snack; something to take and eat on the run; something to stow in your bag for a bite to enjoy when sitting in the airport waiting on a flight; heck, as inexpensive as these things are, they would make great Halloween treats!

20211005_150106A Pop Tarts Variety Pack of 24, 1.4 ounce bags costs just $9.22 at Sam's Club.  I'm giving this great little treat 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars, they are most definitely a repeat buy and wallet friendly at just 38 cents a bag.  BONUS:  There are more flavors to enjoy these days as well, like smores, cookies and cream and chocolate fudge.

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

 

 


Food Review: Little Caesars Crazy Calzony

By Mike Thayer

Little Caesars Crazy Calony
What a mess for dinner!

Needing some dinner grub on a recent business trip, I decided to see if all the advertising hype surrounding Little Caesar's Crazy Calzony was valid, or if the dreaded looks better than it tastes line would apply.

I got the latter.  The Little Caesars Crazy Calzony is a marketing gimmick, and what you see in advertisement is NOT what you get in the box.

What IS a Little Caesars Crazy Calzony you ask?

Described as part-pizza and part-calzone, it features a pepperoni pizza in the center with four Calzone-like appendages filled with garlic sauce, mozzarella cheese and more pepperoni.  It sounds like a good concept, too bad Little Caesars didn't execute.

The Crazy Calzony was overbaked, leaving the top portions of crust dry and chewy and perhaps that's why this thing appears to be laden in grease, because whoever baked it tried to 'save' it by putting WAY too much melted butter on it.  Combined with the actual grease from the not top grade pepperoni, well that left the bottom portion of the crust sitting in a pool, which = SOGGY!  After eating a bit, (mostly pepperoni and cheese) I couldn't eat anymore it was that bad, I threw the bulk of this thing away, I had NO desire to refrigerate this thing for leftovers later, let alone have some for breakfast on the road.  NO THANKS!  The flavors were unremarkable, the tomato sauce was 'eh' and there was some salt overkill.  I was hoping the creamy garlic sauce would have kicked things up a notch, but considering the too dry up top and soggy on the bottom of the crust - the foundation of a good pizza for crying out loud - well, there was no saving this pizza/calzone concoction.

I paid $8.49 for the Little Caesar's Crazy Calzony and it was money poorly spent.  I'm NOT a fan.  I'm giving the Crazy Calzony 1 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars, it is NOT a repeat buy and Little Caesars will NOT get a repeat visit.  This is the third time I've tried a Little Caesars product and the third time I've had a disappointing pizza experience.

1 star

 

 

 


Whiskey Review: Ole Smoky Salted Watermelon Whiskey

By Mike Thayer

Ole Smoky Salted Watermelon Whiskey
Watermelon and Whiskey is a good pairing

Blended and flavored whiskeys continue to be red hot in popularity, consumer demand for brown spirits remains on the rise with American Whiskey in particular seeing some phenomenal sales growth.

Regular readers know that I am a fan of flavored whiskey, I've always got a bottle of something in my freezer for a chilled shot or flavored specialty in the liquor cabinet to enjoy on the rocks.  My favorite in all this tasting fun so far, has been Ole Smoky Peanut Butter flavored whiskey.  It's BETTER than Skrewball!

Given how much I enjoyed the Ole Smoky Peanut Butter, I decided to give another one of their flavored whiskeys a try.

Today's tasting:  Ole Smoky Salted Watermelon

If a shot of whiskey can be refreshing, this is it!

You get the whiff of watermelon in the nose, the hint of salt kisses the tongue along with the fruity note and then there's the warm whiskey finish.  It's slightly sweet, not overpowering at all and it's balanced by that salt.  It's smooth and yes, refreshing! 

As always, I tried this whiskey neat, on the rocks and in a chilled shot. It's very good any way served. It would also lend itself well to mixology, adding a splash of ginger ale comes to mind.  A friend of mine recommended mixing it with lemonade which sounds real good. 

Costing me $19.99, Ole Smoky Salted Watermelon is definitely a repeat buy and gets 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars. 

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Food Review: Cookie Pop Popcorn made with real Oreo cookie pieces

By Mike Thayer

Oreo Cookie Popcorn
1 oz. trial size pictured

Oreo cookie popcorn, what a great idea!

If you're in the mood for a sweet and savory snack, this one nails it!

Combining popcorn and Oreo cookies, what's not to like, right?  The popcorn is drizzled with vanilla and covered with ground up Oreo cookie for a VERY delicious sweet and savory treat!

Available in a variety pack at Sam's Club for $10.48, you get an 18 bag (10 oz. bags) assortment of Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Nutter Butter!  I'm looking forward to trying the other flavors. 

Cookie Pop Popcorn - Oreo
A great sweet & savory snack!

Very tasty, this is a Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly snack at about 58 cents a bag and I'm giving Cookie Pop Popcorn made with real Oreo cookie pieces 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Cindy!

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 


Food Review: Hardee's Hot Honey Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich

By Mike Thayer

Back in June, I wrote about the Chicken Sandwich War going on in fast food and who makes the best chicken sandwich.

That sandwich war is still happening and Hardee's has re-grouped on the battlefront with a new weapon.

Introducing the Hardee's Hot Honey Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich

Hardee's Hot Honey Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich
It's looking mouthwatering good!

Hardee's kicks it up a notch by adding some sweet heat to their hand breaded chicken sandwich.  Here's the description from the Hardee's website:  Premium, all-white chicken fillet, hand dipped in buttermilk, lightly breaded and fried to a golden brown, Applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese and Hot Honey sauce served on a potato bun.

I reviewed the Hardee's hand breaded chicken sandwich back in June as part of the Chicken Sandwich War Challenge and I was NOT impressed.  The Hardee's chicken sandwich on the menu at the time was bottom tier.  But this sandwich?  GAMECHANGER!

Thank you for stepping up your game Hardee's!  The chicken was fried to perfection, it was crispy, tender, juicy and the meat to bun ratio was MUCH IMPROVED!  It still wasn't chicken extending beyond the borders of the bun like Popeye's, but still, improved over what Hardee's has served in the past.  All the flavors on this sandwich were on point, with the hot honey sauce elevating the crispy chicken to a higher level and that melted Swiss cheese providing a perfect, smart choice compliment to flavortown.  It helped me overlook that I didn't get bacon in every bite.

Hardee's Chicken Sandwich
The Hot Honey sauce makes this sandwich, it's tasty!

Costing me $9.39 for a combo meal, I'm giving the Hardee's Hot Honey Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich 4 out of 5 stars, it's quite tasty and Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly.  Hardee's has without question upped their game and while this sandwich doesn't topple Popeye's sandwich as king, it's still VERY worthy of a repeat buy.  That hot honey sauce rocks!  And is it just me, or doesn't "Honey Hot" sound better than "Hot Honey?"  'jus say'n.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

 

 

 


Food Review: Taco Bell's Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco

By Mike Thayer

Taco Bell's Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco
It's more of a 'slider' taco, than a sandwich taco...

Back in June, I wrote about the Chicken Sandwich War going on in fast food and who makes the best chicken sandwich.

That sandwich war is still going on and Taco Bell has decided to enter the battlefield.

Being marketed as both a sandwich and a taco, Taco Bell sandwich war weapon consists of a piece of white-meat chicken that was marinated in jalapeño buttermilk and seasoned with bold Mexican spices, then rolled it in a crunchy, tortilla-chip coating to give it that crunch. Topped with creamy chipotle sauce and tucked into puffy flatbread shell, the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco appears to be a pretty good weapon.

On the small side, the portion of this 'sandwich' is more like a slider sized helping rather than a sandwich, a 'slider' taco...  'jus say'n.  But the flavor is there, crunchy, juicy chicken, it's seasoned well although the jalapeno flavor came up a bit short.  The creamy chipotle is on point and the puffy flatbread shell is a nice touch.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco
The flavors are good, but lacks a jalapeno bite

I got the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco as part of a box meal which included a crunch taco, a burrito and drink for $5.90.  If I was going to order again, I think I'd just get a couple of the Sandwich Tacos.  More of a slider than a sandwich, I'm giving the Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco 4 out of 5 stars.  At $1.50 each it's a tasty, Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly snack/meal and is worthy of a repeat buy.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

 


Meat Subscription Review: ButcherBox and free ground beef

20211005_122825
Meat Subscription Club

By Mike Thayer

I love to cook and grill (and bake too thanks to Cindy!), 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.

So a few months back, I tried one of those meal club kit outfits, getting a week's worth of groceries delivered to your door.  The outfit I tried was EveryPlate.com, they provided high quality ingredients, timely delivery, the cost was BELOW what I paid for similar items at my local grocery store, the recipes were easy to follow and the most important thing - the food tasted really good!  My only problem was not enough recipes to my liking and you can only eat so many carrots and Yukon Gold potatoes (limited sides).

I like EveryPlate and may go back to them after they've added some more recipes and variety to their menu, but now that I travel a lot more than I used to, I also have to consider switching from a refrigerated product meal/grocery outfit - like EveryPlate is - to one that is frozen based.

Enter ButcherBox

20211005_123412This is a meat club, a box of meat shipped to your door once a month.  It's not a box of groceries, it's just MEAT, which is right up my alley!  You can order just beef, just chicken, just pork, or just seafood, you can custom order, mix and match, go with the deal of the month or just go with their pre-set options which is what I did.  I went with a monthly mix of beef, chicken and pork.  Bonus, is they do provide a number of recipes you can use to help you enjoy those fine cuts of meat and right now if you sign up, you can take advantage of free ground beef with your monthly orders!  There's no obligation you can subscribe to the 'meat club' for as long as you like, you can cancel at anytime.  Another Bonus, you can add meats to your order.  Want a side of bacon?  Add it to your box, my next box for example, will include a slab of bacon and a package of all beef hotdogs for just $9 more.

Here's what I got with my first order:  Boneless skinless chicken breasts; 85/15 ground beef (2 pounds free promo! A total of 4 pounds); NY Strip steaks; Sirloin Cap Roast, pork chops and bacon!   All told, about 15 pounds of meat for $133.  That breaks down to $8.86 a pound.  Given the price of beef these days that's not a bad price.

In comparison, pricing things out at my local grocer, Dillon's (a.k.a., Kroger), buying those same cuts of meat at regular price would have saved me some money, that 15 pounds of meat breaking down to $7.26 a pound.  At a savings of $1.60 a pound, I have to reconsider the convenience factor and the 'free' ground beef from ButcherBox becomes a "so what?"  I'm still paying more for meat.

ButcherBox is interesting and I'll be ordering a second box to sample, but the savings just isn't there like I thought it might be.  To continue to subscribe to this meat provider would be purely from a convenience standpoint.  It may be worth looking into another similar service.  I do like the convenience factor, but when considering the higher price, buying local becomes that much more important to me.  I haven't sampled the meat yet, so I'm giving ButcherBox 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  The price isn't worth a repeat buy, it's NOT worth the free ground beef.

3 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

 


Food Review: Arby's Real Country Style Pork Rib Sandwich

Arby's Real Country Style Pork Rib Sandwich
Nice marketing twist from the slogan, "You" have the meats

By Mike Thayer

It's the fall season.  How do I know?  No, not the weather, McDonald's has announced the return of the iconic (in fast food only) McRib Sandwich.

Not to be 'outribbed'.....  Arby's has added a rib sandwich to it's menu for a limited time.  Funny how that timing worked out huh?

Marketed as a "Real" Country Style Pork Rib Sandwich, that's a poke at McDonald's and their VERY processed  and SHAPED to look like a rib, McRib Sandwich...  'jus say'n.

Here's the description of Arby's rib sandwich from the restaurant's website:  Texas pit smoked pork rib, melted smoked Gouda cheese, crispy onions, Smoky BBQ sauce and mayonnaise on a toasted star top bun.

Arby's Rib Sandwich isn't processed meat
Generous portion of real meat!

No, Arby's sandwich isn't heavily processed like McD's is, the meat isn't blended, mixed with water and other ingredients and then shaped into a rib-like thing...  But do know that "Country-style ribs" aren't actually ribs.  The meat doesn't come from the rib area of a pig, it comes from the shoulder blade section near the loin.  They're called 'ribs' because they are similar to standard ribs in terms of flavor and consistency and the finished butcher cut resembles a rib - a big boneless rib.  That's the appeal and the meat is very real!  See what I did there?  I'm a poet and didn't know it, give me a dime for my rhyme... But enough of the meats lesson and rhyming already.

So how is the Arby's Real Country Style Pork Rib Sandwich you ask?

Arby's Pork Rib Sandwich
Soggy 'Crispy' Onions

It's good, but not great.  In taking that first bite I got the smoke, the meat was tender yet firm, not fall apart which you're not going to get with a country style cut anyway.  The Gouda was melted nicely, the mayo was 'eh' and the bun was toasty warm and 'pillowy', a nice topper.  However, those 'crispy' onions, not so much, not much crispy at all as a matter of fact, they got soggy from the mayo and BBQ sauce.  This sandwich is also missing some tartness to balance out the heaviness of the mayo, BBQ sauce and Gouda, something to freshen it up a bit, lime juice, some pickles or even just pickle juice, something...

Costing me $6.44 the price is reasonable as this sandwich is generously portioned.  But it's a borderline repeat buy so I'm giving it 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.

3 stars

Toasted Star Top Bun
Does the 'star' add any flavor to the sandwich? Of course not, but it looks nice

 

$pend Wisely My Friends...