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December 2017

Take advantage of coupon deals, weekly specials of your local chain grocery store

Mike Thayer 2016 (2) T-boneBy Mike Thayer

If you don't already subscribe to your favorite/local grocery store's emailed coupon deals and/or online weekly specials, you should.  They really do make it worth your while, providing significant savings over regular prices.

Here's an example, the current weekly special at my local grocery store includes ground chuck for $2.49 a pound, T-Bone steaks for $4.99 a pound and avocados for just 69 cents each.

I challenge you to find better prices elsewhere.  Everyday prices at Aldi are at or a bit above these prices, but my local chain store is much closer to where I live.  That's about the only drawback I have when it comes to Aldi, it's where I do my regular grocery shopping, but I do have to drive a bit to get to one, there just aren't enough of them.  Hence the reason I shop specials at the local chain store...  They do indeed make it worth my while....

Weekly specials are convenient not just because of the price savings, but because it is a time saver if you don't live close to a discount grocer like Aldi.  Weekly specials are also convenient to meal planning for the coming week.  Why not plan out a steak dinner with prices for T-Bones at just $4.99 a pound?  That is menu YUM at a great price!

My local grocery store chain's weekly special price for ground chuck is saving me 50 cents a pound over what I usually pay at Aldi, their regular price is $2.99....  I'll be racking up quite a few chubs of ground chuck for my freezer.  If I buy ten chubs at that sale price, I've saved $5 over what I would pay for ten chubs at Aldi.   In further comparison, I'm not saving anything by buying the avocado at the local store, it's at the same price as Aldi, but I am saving time with store proximity.  Then there's the T-Bone, not even Aldi has a T-Bone price that low.  I'm saving a buck a pound.

Coupon deals and weekly specials are something to take advantage of at your local chain grocer, the key is to stick to buying only what's on special, don't drift off your list with impulse buys!  That's where the local chain store gets you.....  As in, you need some chips with that guacamole you'll make with that avocado right?  DON'T DO IT!  That's where the $20 budget for some quick, weekly special shopping turns into $40!

Spend wisely my friends......


Product Review: The Salbree Popper

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

A friend of mine gave me a popcorn popper for Christmas, something I've never seen the likes of before.

Without question it is THE most easy to use, most efficient popcorn popper I've ever used and I've tried them all!  I've done Jiffy pop, cast iron over electric and gas stoves, stove-top poppers with a built-in crank handle, electric poppers using oil, air poppers, glass poppers for the microwave and of course, microwave popcorn in that paper bag that comes with food safety warnings.....

I was gifted a Salbree Popper for Christmas and it ROCKS!

This is a silicone popper that is so simple to use, even a caveman......  Wait a minute, can't be insulting cavemen or man cave dwellers.....

Seriously, this popper is dummy proof.  Expand the bowl, put some popcorn in to the fill line, lid it, nuke it for 2-4 minutes until pops are about 5 seconds apart.

20171228_102341Being a veteran of popping corn in the microwave in both the bag and glass popper varieties, I assumed I would be getting a lot of Old Maids with this.  Not so!  The Salbee pops evenly and doesn't use oil.  I also popped too much corn!  No, I didn't fill it past the fill line, but because the Salbee pops so efficiently, minimal Old Maids, the corn popped well past the top of the bowl and with my fairly low profile microwave, I had a tough time getting the bowl out when done!  There was popcorn spillage..... 

After gathering all the spillage (gathering for the mouth as well as back in the bowl), I topped the corn with some jalapeno salted butter I had melting on the stove.  DELICIOUS!

A big thank you to my friend for gifting this and I strongly recommend purchasing a Salbree Popper!  They retail on Amazon for $15.95 and come in a variety of colors.  They wash up easy peasy and the bowl collapses for easy storage.

The Salbree Popper is Bachelor on the Cheap friendly, the price is very reasonable.  Decent popcorn poppers of any traditional variety to include air go for about $20 and up.  This popper gets 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars!

5 stars

Bachelor_on_the_cheap


Indoor Edible Garden Update: Harvesting green beans

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

20171221_184330It's a meager harvest, but the green beans are starting to produce.

I haven't posted an Indoor Edible Garden Update in awhile and I am pleased to report that I have been enjoying radishes, spinach and a variety of micro-greens harvested from my apartment dining room.  And now, it's a pleasure to see a lot of blossoms and small beans on the bean shelf of the indoor garden!

The beans were planted back in late October and early November, a couple pots being planted each week to provide on ongoing harvest.  With a maturation date of 60 days, these plants are right on time in the controlled environment - a consistent 70 degrees, 16 hours of light a day (natural sun through the window supplemented with fluorescent lighting) and watering when things get dry to include some occasional misting to keep humidity levels up.

I'm in a 'hurry up and wait' mode for broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and some turnips.  I'll have some peas very soon though and look forward to making some stir fry!

20171206_200035


Affordable Wines by Dark Horse

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Dark Horse ChardonnayI'm not much of a beer drinker, although I will have the occasional Miller Lite or perhaps a Killian's Red.  When I do enjoy an adult beverage, it's usually either a mixed drink with blended whiskey or a glass of wine.

I prefer sweeter wines over dry, whites over reds, but each has its place.  What you pair wine with plays a huge part in what you uncork.  Another plus to having a bottle or two of wine in the liquor cabinet is the opportunity to cook with it.  I only recently discovered in the last year or so of doing more cooking for myself (beyond grilling) how wine can really enhance a dish, giving both savory and sweet dishes a whole new level of flavor!

I stick to the rule of cooking only with wines I like to drink.  Why buy a Merlot for example, just because a recipe calls for it?  I don't like to drink it (too dry for my taste, I hate Merlot), so odds are I won't like it in the dish I prepare with it either (it's true, I don't, been there, tried that).

Dark Horse Big Red BlendI like to keep at least one bottle of a white and a bottle of red in my cabinet, in case of company or if cooking calls for it.  My go-to wines are Dark Horse wines, they taste good and the price is right at around $8 - $10 a bottle.  Their line-up is versatile that's Bachelor on the Cheap friendly.  I like everything they offer - except the Merlot of course, I don't like anybody's Merlot - with my top two Dark Horse favorites being the Chardonnay and the Big Red Blend.

Dark Horse wines are indeed reasonably priced and ridiculously good!


Food Review: Marie Callender's Cherry Crunch Pie

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I recently did a review of two Marie Callender's pies that I enjoyed over the Thanksgiving holiday, a pumpkin pie and a blueberry.  They were tremendous!

Cherry pieFor Christmas, I decided to try the Marie Callender's cherry pie, what the company describes as a "Cherry Crunch" pie.

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

Given how I truly enjoyed the pies I bought for Thanksgiving, it was a no-brainer then to purchase another pie offering from Marie Callender's for Christmas.

The "Cherry Crunch" pie features tart red cherries and a luscious streusel crumble topping.  The baking directions are straight forward and easy to follow.   The pie browned nicely and filled my apartment with an outstanding pie aroma while it was baking.  The taste was scrumptious!  The plump cherries were perfectly sweet yet tart as advertised, the flaky crust was YUM, the generous amount of struesel topping dances in the mouth and every bite of pie was nicely complimented with two scoops and vanilla bean ice cream.  Priced at $4.99 it made for a perfect Christmas meal dessert! 

I've had three different pies from Marie Callender's and I would buy them all again in a heartbeat.  But before I do a repeat buy, I have other flavors to try!

Baking on a cookie sheet lined with foil makes for easier cleanup


Shopping for a chest freezer

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

The freezer compartment in the typical apartment size refrigerator/freezer just doesn't have enough storage space for a guy like me who likes to cook and grill.

So in dire need of more freezer space, I've been on a quest to find the best deal for an 'apartment size' chest freezer.  It's a Merry Christmas present - to me!

I've been doing some shopping 'homework' online, checking out Best Buy, Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, Menards and Target.....  Target?  Yes, Target sells freezers, I was surprised too.

Merry Christmas to me - a freezerI've got enough space in my kitchen/dining area to comfortably fit a 5 cubic foot chest freezer and my budget is less than $200.  Why a chest freezer and not an upright/stand-up you ask?  While some jokes from the stand-up would be welcome.......  Sorry, couldn't resist.....  A chest freezer performs better than a stand-up and uses less energy.  Besides, with a unit in that size range, it's actually easier to retrieve items from a chest freezer for a taller guy like me.  Lastly, price....  Stand-ups in the 5 cubic foot range start at about $190, busting my budget after taxes.

In shopping around, I found the following 5 cubic foot freezers, all with manual defrost:

Best Buy:  Insignia - $149.99

Costco:  Danby - $249.99

Home Depot: Magic Chef - $169.00

Lowe's:  Idylis - $148.00

Menard's:  Criterion - $162.99

Target:  Frigidaire - $159.99

Walmart:  Arctic King - $169.

All freezers came with multiple online reviews in the 4 to 5 stars range, with an overall average rating of 4.7.   While I take caution in putting too much stock into online reviews, they do provide a gauge of sorts in prepping for a purchase and a number of negative reviews on a specific product does raise some red flags.  No flags were found in this search.

In doing the home work on this, I was surprised to see Costco being the most expensive, a bit surprised by the Walmart price too. 

I went with the Idylis freezer at Lowe's.  It's Bachelor on the Cheap friendly with the lowest price, the online reviews were favorable and right in line with all the other brands and Lowe's is actually the most conveniently located store for me (along with Walmart, in the same parking lot in fact).  I purchased the unit online using the 'pick up at store' option.  I made my purchase at 6:30am and picked the unit up at my convenience at 9am that same day.  After letting the freezer set for 24 hours before plugging in per the instructions (due to tilting in the loading and unloading), I'm pleased to report the freezer is happily freezing some veggies, cheeses, chicken, chicken & beef stock, etc., quite nicely! 

Make meal planning and prepping an easier task with a chest freezer!

My Happy Freezer

 


It's cold outside, making it a soup day

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Looking outside my apartment window this morning, I see ice covered vehicles, frozen fog.....

It's a work day and part of my job means spending some time outside, it's going to be a cold one....

Can you say, "Soup for lunch?"

Yes, yes you can....

Make no mistake, winter is here and there's nothing quite as satisfying in addressing both the cold and hunger, than a hearty bowl of soup.

So how do you get a good bowl of soup during a 30 minute lunch break and no restaurant nearby with soup on the menu?

Embrace the crock pot

Ramen porkThe crock pot is an easy, quick way to put a few things for a soup together before work and let those flavors simmer all morning, developing a great tasting broth.

Here's the Bachelor on the Cheap way, using a package of pork flavored Ramen.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • One package of pork flavored Ramen soup
  • 4-6 ounces of leftover ham or pork roast, roughly chopped
  • One teaspoon garlic powder
  • One Tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6-8 baby carrots
  • One stalk (rib) of celery, chopped (optional)

Directions:

Pour the water into the crock pot and put it on the high setting.  Pour in the contents of the pork flavor packet from the Ramen, set the noodles aside (these get introduced later, much later).  Add all remaining ingredients, give it a quick stir and put the lid on.  While you are at work, these flavors are going to get all happy!  Come lunch time, put those Ramen noodles in a bowl and pour that crock pot soup over the top, cover the bowl with a saucer plate for about 3-4 minutes to soften the noodles.  Enjoy! 

Taking maybe five minutes to prepare, this soup is hearty enough to hold you until dinner with all that delicious pork, and that hot broth takes the edge off the cold.  This soup is also Bachelor on the Cheap friendly, costing only about $1.25 to put together, if that!  Try getting a couple bowls of soup at a restaurant for just $1.25.......


Looking Good with Hanes

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

HanesGuys, you're wearing a t-shirt under that dress shirt right?  Nobody needs to see the outline of your nipples....

Don't be the talk of the office (in a bad way), do some online shopping at Hanes.

You can't beat their prices, they frequently have sales and free shipping.  In fact, I've got a t-shirt order right now that is on back order.  It's testimony to how good their deals are!  They have sizes for everybody and a color selection for all.

My order is for two tagless t-shirts for $5 and free shipping.  That's not $5 each, that's $5 for two t-shirts.  You can't beat that deal, not even at Walmart and these are quality t-shirts, not those thin, cheap, tees that start falling apart after a couple washes.

Dress in quality, shop at Hanes.

 


Crock Pot Breakfast Goodness

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

This is another Embrace the Crock Pot moment, give it a Big Bromance Hug!

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and typically my biggest meal of the day.  I like a hot breakfast though, cereal just doesn't cut it for me.  But there are times when I just don't feel like cooking in the morning, especially when I know I've got a very busy day ahead of me at work.

Enter the trusty crock pot, perhaps the bachelor's best kitchen friend.

Cook your breakfast from the comfort of your bed.

That's right, put the crock pot to work while you sleep.  If you can put your coffee pot on a timer to start brewing at 6am, why not do something similar with breakfast?  Let your crock pot do the cooking for you overnight.

Here's a simple to put together recipe that will get you out of bed quicker than a Chief's exit from the NFL playoffs. 

Crock Pot Breakfast Goodness 

Ingredients:

  • One Tablespoon olive oil
  • One Russet potato, peeled, rough chopped
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • Splash of milk
  • One teaspoon of seasoning salt
  • 4-6 ounces of little smokies or diced ham
  • One teaspoon dried, minced onion
  • One teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (American is a nice alternative)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

'Twas the night before breakfast....  (OK, a little seasonal humor there...).  Put in the olive oil and brush it around the bottom a bit.  Add the chopped potato and the seasoning salt, this serves as the foundation of the dish.  Toss in the meat.  Scramble the eggs with the milk, minced onion, garlic powder and pour over the meat and potatoes.  Put the lid on setting your crock pot to low.  Go to bed.  In the morning and about 15 minutes before you're ready to eat, top the crock breakfast goodness with the shredded cheese and let it melt.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!


Christmas Shopping - Give the gift of 'Freedom of Choice"

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

If you hate Christmas shopping, you're not alone.  Trying to figure out what to buy for everyone, budgeting for it all, fighting the crowds while thinking about something else you'd rather be doing with your time....  I know, not a very holiday friendly mindset, but it is the reality for many folks.

Enter, gift cards

Some people think gift cards aren't personal enough, that not enough 'thought' was put into the gift....

Horse manure.

Gift CardsGiving a gift card means the recipient gets to purchase what THEY want, spend the free money as THEY choose.  You can't GET any more personal and suited-to-the-individual than freedom of choice.

Don't worry about Mom giving you the, "Tsk, tsk."   If she was to really think about it, there is no downside to giving a gift card.  Just about any retailer takes a Visa or Mastercard giving the recipient the freedom of choice to shop where they want and yes, you can even personalize gift cards these days.  If you know a person's favorite store, you can get them a card for their favorite store because just about all the popular retailers offer gift cards. 

And here are the best reasons to give the gift of gift cards:

  • It's a virtual guarantee the person you gifted will get what they want.
  • It's a lot easier to budget your Christmas shopping.  While it's true there is no mystery in a person knowing how much you spent on them, there's no more surprise to you in learning how much that drone costs and still feeling obligated to buy it for little Johnny and then having to adjust (reduce) your budget for everybody else.  With gift cards, everybody gets 'X' dollars and you can't get any more fair than that.  
  • It's far easier to be able to focus on just gift cards for everyone, speeding up your shopping experience.  There's no going from one store to another, from the mall to that plaza, to that downtown boutique or specialty store across town.  You can pretty much get any kind of card you want in one trip to the grocery store.  You'll be done faster, able to focus on other holiday things, like decorating, volunteering, spending time with family, visiting with friends you haven't seen in awhile, going to a party you might otherwise miss, baking up goodies.
  • Gift cards are far more easily mailed.  There's no standing in long lines at the post office needing to mail a bunch of packages.  Just drop a Christmas card with that gift card enclosed at the drop box from the comfort of your warm car.

Gift the gift of a gift card for Christmas, it's freedom of choice for the recipient and greater holiday freedom for you.