Previous month:
June 2016
Next month:
August 2016

July 2016

Essential must haves for stocking your pantry and fridge

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Even if you don't like to cook, there are going to be those times when you are perhaps short on cash or eating out just isn't a timely option.  Why settle for a peanut butter sandwich, when you can make a nice pasta dish?  You need to have something available to fix and eat at home and you'll save some cash to boot vs. eating out so often.   And here's a bonus to a well-stocked pantry....  If you don't like to cook but you have a friend or girlfriend that does - they can cook something up for you!

The whole key here is to stock a pantry and fridge/freezer with items you really like.  Don't buy things that are "good for you" or items that are "OK" but you really don't eat that often.  If you're not a peanut butter person, there's no sense in having a lot of that in your pantry, buy a larger amount of something you really like instead.  When it comes to dried herbs and spices, they can get pricey, so don't buy a large variety just because it might impress somebody or you think you'll try it..... but it just ends up getting old.  Buy what you know you like and if you want to experiment, great, but go small.  And when it comes to buying these items, don't shop at the high priced grocery store, you'll find every essential you need at Dollar Tree or Aldi and save a lot of cash doing so.

Basics for the Pantry ~ Items you need for just about whatever you're making, be it frying, roasting, grilling or baking

  • Kosher salt
  • Regular table salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Some kind of vegetable oil
  • Vinegar ~ you could go crazy here, there are a lot of vinegars out there, regular, red wine, rice wine, balsamic, champagne, apple cider, sherry...  go with what you know and like.  I keep regular, rice wine (it's mild), apple cider and balsamic on hand

Baking Basics for the Pantry

  • All purpose flour
  • Pancake/waffle mix
  • Biscuit and/or cornmeal mix
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Cream of tartar
  • Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • Baking chocolate
  • Evaporated milk
  • Vanilla extract

Sweetener Basics for the Pantry

  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Artificial sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses ~ a must have to make BBQ sauce!
  • Honey

Dried Herbs, Seasoning and Spice Basics for the Pantry ~ remember, go with what you know and like

  • All purpose seasoning salt
  • Bouillon cubes and/or powders or pastes, beef & chicken
  • Bay leaves
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground ginger
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground pumpkin spice
  • Italian seasoning mix
  • Minced onion
  • Old Bay, regular ~ excellent with fish/seafood
  • Oregano
  • Paprika ~ sweet and smoked
  • Rosemary
  • Sesame seeds
  • Thyme

Beverage Basics for the Pantry

  • Coffee
  • Tea ~ remember, go with what you like, if you're not a tea person, grab more coffee from the store shelf, a different flavor/roast for a change of pace perhaps
  • Lemonade/Gatorade drink mix

Rice, Grain, Pasta Basics for the Pantry ~ You could go crazy here, there's such a variety

  • White rice ~ long grain, medium grain, short grain, par-boiled, jasmine, basmati
  • Brown rice ~ I don't really care for brown rice, personal choice, I'd rather stock up with some wild rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Corn meal
  • Breadcrumbs ~ plain, Italian seasoned, Panko, etc., your call
  • Pasta ~ keep a variety on hand, egg noodles, elbow macaroni, spaghetti noodles, spirals, bow ties...

Snacks and Cereal Basics for the Pantry

  • Apple sauce
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruits
  • Granola bars
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Your favorite breakfast cereals

Canned Good Basics for the Pantry ~ stick with what you know and love, if you don't like navy beans, don't buy 'em

  • Beef broth
  • Chicken broth
  • Beans ~ you can go so many ways here, cannellini, navy, black, pinto, heck, baked!  And yes, refried counts
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Peas
  • Potatoes ~ yes, really, sometimes you just don't feel like boiling and peeling potatoes to make something
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes ~ all varieties, diced, sauce, paste, etc.
  • Chili's and salsas
  • Tuna, salmon, sardines
  • Chicken
  • Spam ~ yes, Spam, go with the low sodium varieties, Spam and eggs for breakfast is rather tasty

Egg and Dairy basics for the Refrigerator

  • Eggs ~ I like to buy the 18 count containers and I've always got two on hand
  • Milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Coffee creamer
  • Sour cream and/or plain yogurt
  • Butter
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • American cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Fresh Produce for the Refrigerator

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli and/or cauliflower
  • Lettuce and/or leafy greens
  • Lemons/limes
  • Apples

Must-have Condiments for the Refrigerator

  • Jellies/jams
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard ~ keep a variety on hand, yellow, brown, Dijon, it's a change of pace and it keeps well
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ranch Dressing ~ Italian dressing is a good one too, an excellent impromptu marinade
  • Pickles, relish
  • BBQ sauce ~ I prefer to make my own, but hey, sometimes you need a "quickie"
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce, or Sriracha
  • Soy or Teriyaki sauce ~ a quick stir fry is a go-to meal for me

Basics for the Freezer

  • Ground beef
  • Pork sausage
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • Bacon
  • Frozen veggies ~ peas, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, mixed, whatever you'll eat
  • Frozen fruit ~ strawberries, blueberries, peaches
  • Dough ~ pizza crust, pie crust, puff pastry
  • Vanilla ice cream  ~ topped with some of that fruit, yum!

Fresh Produce for the counter

  • Tomatoes
  • Onions ~ store in your pantry if you've got the space
  • Potatoes ~ another item for the pantry if you've got the space and have fun with this one, there's russet, Yukon Gold (a personal favorite), red potatoes, fingerlings, new potatoes, purple/blue potatoes (great for grilling)
  • Garlic
  • Bananas

Another basic item to keep at the ready and fresh on your counter, a good loaf of bread.  Get away from the mass produced sliced stuff, spend the extra buck here and get a whole loaf, it tastes better.  And no, you don't want to store it in the fridge thinking it will extend its shelf life, it won't.  Putting bread in the fridge actually dries it out which means it won't hold up in a sandwich like it's supposed to and there's the loss of flavor thing.... 

So there you have it, a nicely stocked Bachelor on the Cheap pantry, fridge and freezer.  The nice thing is, you can build this up a little at a time.  Whenever you make a grocery list, refer to this article and add a few items from it to your grocery list.  You'll stock your pantry in no time.   And remember the best benefit:  Properly stocking a pantry leads to more cooking/baking/grilling, which means eating out less, eating better and saving money!

Save

Save


Tuna salad is a quick, easy, satisfying lunch or snack

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Tuna is a bachelor's friend, it's cheap, easy to prepare and can be used in a number of 'Bachelor Friendly' recipes.

Today, it's tuna salad.  Needing only a five minute preparation, if that, you can make a quick tuna salad in the morning before work to be eaten for lunch, or make it the night before for a snack or lunch the next day, five minutes in the kitchen, that's it.

Ingredients:

  • One 5 - 6 ounce can of tuna (I like tuna packed in oil, better flavor)
  • One heaping Tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • One Tablespoon dried, minced onion
  • One teaspoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite seasoning salt

Directions

This isn't rocket science, in a small bowl, mix all ingredients together.   I like to make this hours ahead of time and refrigerate to give that dried minced onion time to absorb some moisture and let those flavors marry.

This quick  tuna salad is great all by itself, or you can slap it on a couple slices of bread if you're not on a low-carb diet.  Served on a leaf of romaine lettuce is another option.  You can change things up by sprinkling some shredded cheddar cheese on top, or get out the bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce and doctor it up with that.  Enjoy!   And enjoy the fact that all ingredients together cost less than $1!

Save


Embrace the crockpot

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

20171005_135032The 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.

I get 30 minutes for lunch at work, so time is critical.  I really don't want to spend 10 minutes of that in the drive-thru and frankly, I can make better food while spending less money to boot.

Here's a great crock pot recipe for you to try, it takes like 5 minutes to put together, doing so before leaving the apartment/house for work.

Meatballs & Marinara

Ingredients

  • Take about 8 - 10 of your favorite pre-cooked, frozen variety meatballs out of the freezer
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Get out a jar of marinara or your favorite marinara/spaghetti sauce (or better yet, something you made)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried, minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • A pinch of Kosher salt
  • A handful of shredded mozzarella cheese (for serving)

Directions

Place the meatballs and olive oil in the crock pot, pouring in just enough marinara/spaghetti sauce to cover the meatballs.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Put the lid on and set the crock pot on low.  In about 4-5 hours, you'll have a great, no fuss, no wait-time lunch!  Top with the shredded mozzarella.  This dish is great by itself, or with a good Italian bread for a meatball sub.  Substituting the mozzarella cheese with Parmesan is a nice alternative.

Save

Save

Save

Save


Buying in bulk

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I've heard friends and co-workers over the years throw out a number of claims on why they don't buy in bulk to save money:

  • You really don't save much money doing that, it's not worth it
  • You have to buy so much stuff to get the savings
  • I can't afford the membership to places like Sam's Club or Costco
  • I don't have the freezer/fridge/cupboard space
  • I'm too busy, I don't have the time to repackage/re-wrap stuff for storage
  • I'll never eat a 5 pound bag of cheese

That's all horse manure.

Portioning out a 5 pound bag of mozzarellaIf you have time to watch an episode of Big Bang Theory, you have time to break down some meat, cheese and vegetables for the freezer and you'll be glad you did because you'll save a surprising amount of money.  And a side benefit, your food gets portioned out they way you like it.  That saves time in dinner preparation and your freezer will be more organized, easier to pull items from. 

Tonight I spent some time stocking up my freezer with pork chops and a couple roasts by breaking down a 10 pound boneless pork loin, portioning out shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese, as well as a brick of sliced American cheese.  I'm doing this as I watched, you guessed it, Big Bang Theory.

Bachelor on the cheap.....  Buy some food in bulk, portion cheese out for example in smaller bags and stash them in the freezer until needed. It's WAY cheaper than paying $3 each or more for those 12 - 16 ounce bags at a standard grocery store or Walmart.

I portioned out a 5 pound Kirkland brand (Costco) shredded mozzarella bag into 6 smaller bags. Price per pound - $2.37. *Weigh* that (yes, pun intended) vs. the typical everyday price for a 12 - 16 ounce bag at the standard grocery store.... $3 and up.  By breaking down a bulk bag, I saved approximately $3.15 vs buying 5 separate 12 - 16 ounce bags.... In Cheech & Chong terms, that's like a free bag of cheese man!

Portioning out shredded cheddarI did the same thing with Kirkland Brand shredded mild cheddar, a twin pack of cheese, 2.5 pounds each.  I won't eat 2.5 pounds of cheddar cheese in a week, heck even two, and keeping that amount of cheese in its original bag runs the risk of spoilage before it's all eaten.  Hello freezer!  Bachelor on the cheap savings by shopping in bulk at Costco: $2.57 per pound for shredded cheddar vs. $3 and up for 12 - 16 ounce bags at your standard grocery store or Walmart.

The brick of sliced American cheese I bought contains 120 slices.  At $10, that's just over 8 cents a slice and this is deli quality sliced American cheese, not that processed, plastic wrapped singles stuff.  I portioned the brick out into 9 smaller 'bricks', wrapped them in heavy duty foil and put them in the freezer.  The same amount of deli quality cheese like in say, Kraft's Deli Deluxe American Cheese Slices will cost you about $18.

Giving you even more savings is becoming your own butcher and it's not hard to do at all!  I've written about breaking down a pork loin before, here's that link:  Bachelor on the Cheap: Being Your Own Butcher.

My savings today by cutting up my own chops and pork roasts was getting all that meat for $1.89 per pound, vs. $2.49 a pound at a place like the local grocery store.    Buying in bulk - under $19.  Buying the same amount of meat at the local grocery store - $25.  

So to sum, I saved about $3 on portioning out mozzarella cheese, another $3 or so portioning out some cheddar, about $8 with the American cheese and saved about $6 being my own butcher....  All while enjoying an episode of the Big Bang Theory!   Now I've got $20 I can use for gas, or a movie & popcorn, or maybe a bottle of wine to share with a date on date night.

Being your own butcher

 

Save

Save