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November 2017

Finding great grocery deals post Thanksgiving Day

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Timing is everything when it comes to finding some great deals at the grocery store during the holidays.

You really have no choice but to buy items at full price when prepping for that great Thanksgiving meal, the turkey or a ham being a key ingredient.

But what about after Thanksgiving?

When a grocery store orders too many turkeys or hams for the Thanksgiving holiday, they have to discount them to move them out and make space for incoming shipments in stocking up for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

20171207_103253Can you say, "Savings!"  Why yes, yes you can.

I bought an 8+ pound ham today for 99 cents a pound at Aldi.


That's enough to feed me for more than a week and store some in the freezer for later days, or, I can keep that ham on hand for a nice Christmas dinner.  I didn't bother to look at turkey prices because 1., I'm not a big fan of turkey (I would rather eat chicken) and 2., I don't have the freezer space.

Aside from turkeys and hams, other items that you might find great deals on because stores ordered too much or a "sell by" date may be looming are eggs, dairy products, fresh veggies and selected fruits.

But remember, timing is everything.  As soon as grocery stores move these items to make room for the new product coming in, those prices are going to go back up!


Food Review: Marie Callender's Pie

By Mike Thayer

I love pie, I'll take pie over any other kind of dessert offering, but I hate making them, namely the pie crust.  Making the dough is a labor intensive project if you want a flaky, golden brown and delicious final product.  It entails using chilled water and really cold butter with the flour, resting the dough, dusting the dough, rolling the dough, folding the dough, trimming the dough, pinching/decorating the edge, then finally, pre-baking the bottom crust of dough to make sure it's cooked through in presenting the final product, the pie.  I'd rather put that kind of labor into grilling or smoking meat.

Enter, Marie Callender's

Blueberry pieSo this Thanksgiving, I bought two pies made by Marie Callender's, a pumpkin and a blueberry.  Blueberry isn't a traditional Thanksgiving pie for most folks, but it is my favorite and it was calling to me as I pulled the pumpkin from the grocery store freezer.... 

"Pick me, pick me, you don't want cherry or apple, pick ME!" 

Originally intending to get a pumpkin and a cherry pie, I grabbed the blueberry with hesitation, not because I may or may not have been hearing voices, but because it's a new product offering from Marie Callender's.  I wondered if it had been refined enough in the company's test kitchen before making it to market.  There's only one way to find out.

The directions on the packages were straight forward, nothing complicated about it.

The blueberry pie went into the oven on Thanksgiving eve, brushing the top crust with a beaten egg before baking.  TIP:  Baking your pies the day before or first thing in the morning on Thanksgiving Day ensures your oven is free for the main events of the day, namely the turkey and the casserole sides, which need to be served hot.  You don't want to wait and bake your pies after roasting the turkey thinking they'll be done in time for dessert because they won't.  Pies need time to cool and set up.  The last thing you want is a runny (too hot and not set up yet) pie and the flavors just won't be there like they are with a cooled and set pie.  Although to admit, hot fruit pie over vanilla ice cream, while a bit messy, IS pretty darn good....

So after baking per the package instructions, I pulled the blueberry out of the oven, hit that top crust with a little melted butter and set it aside to cool.  The package recommends cooling the pie at least three hours, which I did.  Perhaps not even 30 seconds past that mark, I sliced into the pie with a side of vanilla ice cream on a dessert plate standing by to receive......   When Marie Callender's suggests at least three hours to cool, they should have stated at least four.  The pie was runny, filling falling aside as I plated the slice.  The picture on the box, NOT taken after just three hours of cooling.  So while the runny filling was a bit disappointing, the flavor was not!  Even though I didn't get a full amount of filling a slice deserves, the blueberrys were plump and juicy as advertised and that crust was flaky, golden brown and delicious.   Marie did a nice job on this new product offering, the only knock I've got against it is the cooling time, more patience is needed.  It's a repeat buy!

Pumpkin pieThe pumpkin pie was put in the oven first thing Thanksgiving morning.   I pulled it out of the oven and gave it the toothpick test when the time went off, put it back in the oven as the toothpick didn't come out clean.  I baked it off an additional 10 minutes to ensure doneness.  Oven temps do indeed vary.  Once cooled, this pie too delivered the flavor.  There is a reason pumpkin pie and whipped cream is the favorite on Thanksgiving Day and Marie's pie delivers!  Over the years of Thanksgiving celebrations, I've had home made pies from Moms, Grandmas, Aunts, pies from restaurants, pies from bakeries, pies from specialty stores....  I think I could put this pie in a lineup and folks would be hard pressed to pick which one was the store bought pie from the freezer in a taste test.  

Thank you Marie Callender's!  Your pies rock and the price is Bachelor on the Cheap friendly!  I don't think you could make a scratch made pie for what I paid for these.  The cost was about $5.50 each and think of all that time I saved without sacrificing flavor!


The blueberry, fresh out of the oven.  TIP:  Always line your cookie sheet with foil, MUCH easier clean up!



Pre-Planning Meals from the Grill

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

What sounds better, a bologna sandwich for lunch, or a leftover grilled cheeseburger from last night's dinner?

Cheeseburger - no brainer.  If you've got some leftover burgers in the fridge, you can heat that patty in the microwave and assemble a burger about as quickly as you could in making a bologna sandwich.  And a burger is SOOOOO much better! 

If you've never pre-grilled a whole lot of great eats to consume for breakfast, lunch or dinner later in the week, you should start doing so.  Your meals - especially those on the go - will be more satisfying.

What I'm suggesting you do isn't a whole lot different than perhaps what your mom, grandma or spouse did/does in pre-making a few meals and putting them in the freezer.  It's convenient to be able to pull out a lasagna or a beef stroganoff and throw it in the microwave and/or oven on a busy night, when family members are all on busy schedules and there's just no time to prep a good meal.  This works out great for unexpected company too.  So take that pre-made lasagna thought and turn it into grilled fare.....  And grilled is SO much better!


When you've got some time on the weekend, fire up the charcoal and get to grilling!  If you've got room in the fridge and freezer for leftovers, there's no reason not to stock up with grilled fare and enjoy it later in the week, without having to light a match or push that igniter button.

Got a package of hot dogs in the fridge?  Throw them on.  A couple grilled hot dogs reheated in the microwave for lunch is MUCH better than just a couple hotdogs taken out of the package and nuked or boiled.  Get the charcoal!

Got some of those frozen hamburger patties in the freezer?  Throw them on.  I always grill up more hamburger patties than I think will be eaten.  I like deli meat sandwiches, but a burger, even leftover, is SOOOO much better.  And burgers aren't just for making burgers either.  Patties can make a great impromptu Salisbury steak.

Here's the key to pre-grilling:  Don't cook items all the way through like when you're going to eat it/them right then, for dinner.  You want to pull meats and veggies off the grill slightly under-cooked to the way you typically like them if you're pre-grilling meals for later in the week.  The reheating you do for that future breakfast, lunch, or dinner will finish the cooking process, charcoal flavor, preserved.

Grilling fare to consider, for some quick meals and/or sides/toppings later in the week:

  • Bratwursts.  I love brats, but who has time to do these properly for lunch during the week?  Cook some up (I like to poach mine in wine or beer and then finish them off on the grill) on the weekend to enjoy later.
  • Thinly sliced Ribeye steak for Philly cheese steak sandwiches.
  • Grill up your favorite fish for some fish tacos.  YUM!
  • If you ever make kabobs for dinner, do more than you think will be eaten.  Leftover Kabobs, along with a side of rice and pita bread, makes a fantastic quick meal!
  • Pork chops - this one is a big go-to for me.  I always cook up some chops when pre-grilling meals.  Grilled chops are great leftovers for sandwiches, chopped up and put in a quick stir fry, or smothered in gravy!
  • Chop up a few potatoes, steak fry style, toss them in olive oil, season them, throw them on the grill.  All entrees need a side right?
  • Breakfast sausage.  You'll stop going to the drive-through at McDonald's on the way to work if you've got some pre-grilled and ready to assemble breakfast sausage with a biscuit or tortilla.
  • Bacon.  See sausage, above.  And grilled bacon has so many uses.  Crumble it up and put it on a salad, turn those steak fries into cheesy/bacon steak fries.
  • Chop up an onion, throw it on.  Onions seasoned with your favorite seasoning salt and olive oil, then grilled, add a lot of flavor to that deli sandwich!
  • Slice up a couple of bell peppers.  What you did with the onions, can be done with peppers.
  • Pizza dough, yes, pizza dough.  A nice pizza crust with a smoky flavor makes for a nice, quick lunch or 'everyone is eating dinner at a different time tonight' kind of thing.  Just throw on some sauce, toppings and slip it under the broiler until the cheese melts.  Grill up a half-dozen personal pan size crusts.
  • Make a fruit cobbler in a cast iron skillet.  Combined with some vanilla ice cream, a great dessert for later in the week!

Those are just a few ideas, use your imagination.  Anything you enjoy in grilled fare, can be done in pre-grilling meals for later in the week.  Just remember to pull whatever it is, off the grill, slightly under-cooked to how you like it.  

If you don't have the time to plan out and pre-grill some meals on the weekend or during some downtime, if you still have some heat left on the grill from doing dinner, or maybe you used too much charcoal for the task....  Take advantage of that heat and don't let that charcoal flavor go to waste!  Grab that package of hot dogs, pull out that breakfast sausage.  Even if it's something as simple as slicing up a lemon or lime, getting a little char, then using that great flavor in the preparation of another dish later in the week is a good thing!  Heck, pull out the cast iron skillet and simply brown some ground meat for putting in a meal next week.  I can't say it enough I guess, take advantage of that heat.

And if you don't like to grill in inclement weather or winter time....  Brisket chili is a great cold weather treat and wouldn't it be nice to have something like apple wood smoked chops in your freezer? 


Download the Pacer walking app - it's FREE

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I downloaded Pacer, a walking app, to my phone.

A free download, Pacer tracks your steps throughout the day and you can easily track your progress at any time.  The app even indicates stages for you, which is kind of a motivator....  Zero - 2,999 steps = sedentary. Walking 3,000 - 7,499 steps and you are lightly active.  Taking 7,500 - 9,999 steps and you are somewhat, or moderately active.  Walking 10,000 or more and you are active, as in taking steps to be healthy.  Helping you stay motivated to do more, the app also provides calories burned, 'active' time and mileage stats.  For even more data and features, you can subscribe, but I don't see the point.  All the basics you need are there in the free download.

The goal is to take at least 10,000 steps a day, or 4+ miles and keep my calorie count at around 1,800 a day.  If I'm disciplined enough, that should help me stay on track to losing about a pound a week. 

Walking your way to health....  It's fat losing and heart/cardiovascular healthy!  Get the Pacer app - it's a free tracker and that Bachelor on the Cheap friendly!

Don't buy extended warranties

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Buying a car?  You get the pitch.  Purchasing a major appliance?  You get the pitch.  Shelling out a chunk of your payday on a new TV?  You get the pitch.

Don't 'buy' into any pitch pushing you to purchase an extended warranty.  They're not worth it.

First off, if you are buying a quality product, there really is no need to purchase an extended warranty.  The standard warranty provided by the manufacturer is ample. 

Second, the odds of having to make a repair on the product you purchased range from 5 - 37% according to consumer reports. 

Third, the cost of the repair - IF that happens - is much more likely to be less than the cost of the extended warranty being offered.

Let's say you're buying a used car, average miles, 2-years-old...  The salesman is really pushing you to buy a 12-month, bumper-to-bumper extended warranty at a cost of $1,700 (figured into your car loan, adding another $30 or so to the monthly payment).   The likelihood that you'll have a $1,700 repair on a 2-year-old car in the next 15 months (a typical 90 day dealer warranty + 12 month extended warranty) is slim and remember that the salesman is pushing the extended warranty because he works on a commission.  He is NOT offering you an extended warranty because it's in your best interest.  Frankly, if a salesman is pushing that hard, I'd be looking for a vehicle at another dealership.

Suppose you purchase a new laptop computer for $700.  The guy at Best Buy convinces you to purchase a "Protection Plan" for 2 years for another $100.   You make the purchase on your cash rewards credit card.  Odds are, nothing will go wrong with your laptop.  If something does happen, it's most likely to happen soon after purchase and will be covered by the manufacturers warranty.  While you're waiting for something to 'go wrong' with your laptop, you're paying interest for a 'Protection Plan' that isn't being used (unless you have the good habit of paying off purchases every month... but that's another story for another day....)  And if by chance something does happen and it's past the manufacturer's warranty, you're probably covered by your credit card company.   Did you know many cash reward cards offer to double the length of the manufacturer's warranty, free of charge?  That's information you could use before making the laptop purchase.  Check with your card company.

Don't get marketed.  Avoid the exclusions and fine print that extended warranties come with.  Keep that money in your pocket.

Making grill clean up a bit easier

Mike Thayer 2016 (2) By Mike Thayer

Keeping your grill clean is a dirty job, but an important job not only because it makes the act of grilling itself easier and far more pleasurable, but cleanliness helps extend the life of your grill as well. 

FoilIf you're a charcoal griller, like yours truly, the dirtiest part of grill cleaning is getting rid of the charcoal ashes.  It can be a pain scooping out the spent coals and ash, lifting that bottom grate, removing the ash, scooping it into a bucket, getting hands super dirty if you're not wearing gloves, 'ash dust' flying....

A common practice is to line the bottom grate with foil, leaving gaps on the sides to allow air to vent.  Then when the coals/ash cool and it's time to clean, you simply wrap the ash up in the foil liner and throw it all away. 

There's a better way.

I was recently washing some dishes, to include a cookie sheet that had seen better days.  The finish was starting wearing off, to the point where I didn't want to bake anything on it anymore.  I was about to throw it away when it hit me, save it for the grill!

Cookie sheetNo more having to take the time to line that bottom grate with foil, no more foil breakage as I'm wrapping up the spent coals, spilling onto other parts of the grill and leaving a trail of charcoal dust from the grill to the trash can.

An old cookie sheet placed on the bottom grate of your grill leaves ample room for air to vent while keeping coals in place for some great heat while grilling and keeping ashes easily manageable for cleanup.  The dirty job of cleaning up spent coals is a lot less dirty with the use of a cookie sheet/tray.  Simply lift the tray off the bottom grate, dump the ashes, return the tray to the grill for reuse.  Easy Peasy!  About the only extra step you might have to do is scrap a little grease off the tray before returning it to the grill.  The price is right too.  Repurposing a cookie sheet cuts down on the foil use and beats the pants off what you might spend on a bunch of those disposable foil products to line your grill/manage coals with. 

And here's a bonus tip from my grilling blog,

Grilling Tip #13: Don’t wait until the next time you grill to clean the grate. No, putting a lid on things thinking you’ll burn the food off just isn’t enough and if you’re a gas griller, all you’re really doing is wasting fuel. Clean your grilling grate when the grill is still warm. If you’re a gas griller, that would be after you shut the grill off and before you sit down to eat (clean the grate while the meat you prepared is resting). If you’re a charcoal griller, clean the grate after you’ve enjoyed that delicious meal. It’s easier to wire brush the grate clean when it’s warm, vs. trying to brush it clean when it’s cold, when the flame is high or when you just fired the grill up that next time…. And who wants smoke in their eyes right? Besides, a clean grill grate extends the life of it. Leaving the charred remains of burgers, steaks, fish, whatever, on the grate prematurely ages it, leading to rust. Yes, rust, even if you cover your grill or store it in the garage when not in use.







Don't order pizza, make some goulash instead!

Mike Thayer 2016 (2) By Mike Thayer

Craving some pizza, that oooey-gooey cheese, the savory sauce and those delectable meat toppings?

In the time that it takes to order a pizza and have it delivered, you can satisfy that craving with a really nice alternative that costs far less.


That's right, goulash, that Hungarian concoction of meat, veggies, tomato sauce, noodles and in this case, cheese!

Sausage PizzaSo don't do this for $15 - $20 + tip....

Goulash Do this for about $8 instead!

Goulash is easy to make, it will satisfy that meat, sauce and cheese craving you've got going, it will cost far less and bonus - you'll have leftovers for lunch and/or dinner the next day!


  • 1 pound of pork sausage or ground beef, heck, some pepperoni if you want!
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4-5 button mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 12-16 ounces of pasta
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Your favorite brand of pasta sauce in a jar
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tab of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to taste


In a big pot, make the pasta according to package instructions.  While that's working, brown the pork sausage and veggies over medium heat.  Just before the meat is completely browned, add the garlic power, paprika, a pinch of Kosher salt and a couple dashes of black pepper.  If adding pepperoni to the dish, now is the time.  Stir to incorporate and set aside when completely browned.  Drain the pasta and put it back in the big pot over low heat.  Add the butter, introduce the meat mixture and your favorite pasta sauce, start with a 1/2 cup and adjust to your liking.  Stir to incorporate and then add the shredded cheese.  Serve yourself immediately, salting, peppering and Parmesan cheesing to taste of course!  Enjoy.

This dish only takes about 20 minutes to prepare, makes plenty for great leftovers and only costs about $8 tops to put together.

Save yourself about $7 - $12 and satisfy that pizza craving with goulash!






Create a taco bar for College Football Saturday

Mike Thayer 2016 (2) By Mike Thayer

There is a great slate of games on TV this Saturday, Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, Iowa State vs. West Virginia, Alabama vs. LSU, and so many more!

With that many great games on, it's imperative then that you free up as much time as possible to glue your butt to the couch or your favorite chair.

Create a taco bar.

Whether it's just you or several buddies to feed, creating a taco bar saves you time.  Served buffet style, people can help themselves as they wish, it's a low maintenance, low prep meal.

Crock PotThe key is the use of the crock pot!

Brown some ground beef, drain and throw it in the crock pot on the keep warm setting.  You can brown the ground beef the night before and refrigerate or brown it the morning before company arrives for the games.  Here's a quick taco meat crock pot recipe using a pound of ground beef:


  • Browned ground beef (one pound serves approximately four people)
  • One Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • One Tablespoon dried minced onion
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • One teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup beef stock


It's pretty straight forward, dump everything in the crock pot.  Since the ground beef is already browned, you can set it on the keep warm setting and four hours later you've got some great tasting taco meat!  Set up your 'bar' with soft and/or hard taco shells, some sliced tomato, lettuce, onion, black olive, shredded and/or jar cheese, sour cream, some guacamole if you feel ambitious and a big bowl of chips and you're rocking the taco bar!  Self serve good eats!


What to do for Thanksgiving

Mike Thayer 2016 (2) By Mike Thayer

So what are you doing for Thanksgiving? 

If you're not into cooking, the smart play is to go to a friend or relative's house.  Be sure to take a bottle of wine, you can't go in empty handed.  It you don't live near the 'nest' and you like to entertain, then the fun play is to have some other single friends over for the holiday.

Offer to make the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and have your friends bring the sides, the green bean casserole, stuffing, rolls, the cranberry sauce, some pies for dessert.  This is a really fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving and you get to learn some new things about your friends, like who can cook and who can't!

And don't settle for a turkey in the oven, screw that!  Out of all the ways to prepare a turkey, that is the LEAST flavorful way to do it!

Grill your turkey!

You read that right, grill it.

Grilling Good EatsHere's a recipe for a grilled chicken, but the same preparation can be done with a turkey as well and for Thanksgiving, you might want to skip the BBQ sauce, but absolutely use the rub!  The rub, combined with the smoke from the coals means FLAVOR!  You won't go back to a turkey prepared in the oven after this.  Mopping option:  Instead of mopping the turkey with BBQ sauce, spray it with apple juice.  This recipe can be found on my grilling blog:

Butterfly Chicken

This is a great recipe if you don’t have a smoker or a pit, because doing a whole chicken on a grill can be a tough thing to do. Many folks who have tried to do a whole chicken on the grill have found their chicken to be crispy good looking on the outside, but ‘medium rare’ on the inside. OOPS!….. That’s no good. It’s GOT to be cooked all the way through. Butterfly Chicken alleviates those, “Is it done inside?” worries because you‘ll be able to lay that whole chicken down flat on the grill, you get even cooking.


  • Whole chicken, about 3-½ to 4 pounds
  • ½ cup Olive Oil
  • ½ cup of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub
  • ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce for glazing

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to rinse your chicken off, it comes pre-washed from the producer, just make sure there are no pin feathers sticking out. Remove the neck and giblets, set aside to make chicken stock or discard. Butterfly the chicken by cutting the backbone out. Use a big knife, perhaps some kitchen shears, cut down along either side of the backbone, remove. TIP: Save that backbone, neck and giblets to make the chicken stock. Flip your chicken over, placing it breast side up in a big baking pan and press down firmly on the breast bone to break it. You should be good to go, you have now butterflied a chicken! Rub it down inside and out, over and under with Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub. You’ll want to do this at least one hour (four hours is better) before grill time. Cover and refrigerate your chicken. If space is a concern, it’s OK to fold the chicken up. About 30 minutes before grilling, take your chicken out of the refrigerator. Coat it with the olive oil. When your coals are ready, place the chicken on the grill, skin side up - indirect heat is key here, so the grill set-up is the Snake Method referenced in Chapter 3. Place your grill cover on and walk away for 45 minutes. When that time is up, it’s time to baste/mop the chicken with that BBQ sauce and then flip your chicken over to the breast side. Gauge your heat, now is the time to perhaps add a few coals if needed. Baste/mop the ‘inside’ of the chicken and put the grill lid back on. Cook about another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the breast temperature of the chicken is at least 165 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, check the chicken legs, if you can start to easily pull them away from the chicken, like, falling apart, it’s done. Pull that beautiful butterflied chicken off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes. This makes for a great center piece served family style on the picnic table.

TIP: After you’re done grilling dinner is an excellent time for making chicken stock, beef stock, lamb, fish or even a veggie stock for later use or to store in your freezer. Take advantage of that leftover charcoal heat. Don’t be afraid to adjust your remaining coals if necessary then just put a stock pot over the heat and dump in those chicken bones, skin or that trimmed off beef fat from prepping steaks. Shrimp shells and tails make a nice fish stock. Cover with water, add your favorite aromatics and/or seasonings and let that residual heat go to work for you.


And for bachelors who really like to grill, here's a poultry brine recipe to try:

Mike’s Poultry Brine
If you’re looking for something a little different in how to do grilled chicken or turkey, this might just be the ticket for you. Talk about moist and tender poultry! It’s an easy brine and adds a lot of flavor to any cut, chicken breasts or thighs, turkey breasts, turkey drumsticks, in fact, this brine is excellent with pork cuts as well.


  • One gallon of warm water
  • ¾ cup of Kosher salt
  • One heaping tablespoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Put the salt, sugar and olive oil into a big pan, add the warm water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, which the warm water helps to do. After the water comes back down to room temperature (VERY important, we’re brining the poultry, not cooking it), give the brine another quick stir and add your chicken or turkey, letting them brine for at least four hours in the fridge. Overnight is even better. This amount of brine is good for a whole chicken, or up to about 8 pounds of breasts, thighs or drumsticks. This brine is so good, you don’t have to add a dry rub to the meat if you don’t want to. Grill naked…… keep your mind out of the gutter, that means no seasoning. I’ve grilled poultry ‘naked’ plenty of times, just brushing the chicken or turkey with garlic infused olive oil after each quarter turn (about every 2-3 minutes), hitting it again with the olive oil when moving it to the cooler spot on the grill (indirect heat) to finish cooking and then hitting it again with the olive oil just before plating.

TIP: Don’t pour brine down the sink after you pull the poultry out of it. Use a cup of it or so to cook up some rice. Prepare the rice per the package instructions, replacing 25% of the water needed, with the brine. Talk about flavor city!