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August 2018

Pizza Roll Battle: Totino's vs. Store Brand vs. Discount Brand

By Mike Thayer

Without question, pizza rolls, along with nachos, are in my top 5 list of favorite snacks.   Pizza rolls are that perfect little bite of pepperoni pizza, they're convenient, they're budget friendly.... tasty, tasty, tasty......  And who doesn't like pizza rolls?  Break out a bag from the freezer, pop them in the oven, please yourself, make it a snack for two, or please the party crowd.....

I always have a bag or two of pizza rolls in the freezer, be the bag for me or an impromptu party snack.   But who makes the best pizza roll?  Is it the name brand, or are the store/discount brands just as good? 

Pizza Rolls
The Pizza Roll Battle

For this pizza roll battle, I purchased the predominant player in pizza rolls, Totino's; a store brand version, in this case Kroger; and a discount brand called Mama Cozzi's, a.k.a., Aldi.  How 'bout that for a marketing name huh?  Mama Cozzi's....?  Sort of cozy like, comfort + Italian sounding....  Somebody was thinking.....  But I digress....

I compared price, weight, the look, roll size and taste. 

Pizza Roll #1, the name brand - Totino's:

Totino's has been in the pizza roll business since 1951, then known as Jeno's Pizza rolls, which got bought out by Pillsbury in 1985 and was rebranded as Totino's.  Back in the day, I remember Mom letting us have an occasional snack/dinner night featuring Jeno's pizza rolls and other delights.  Pizza rolls really haven't changed much over the years - if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? - and Totino's remains the King of the Pizza Roll hill. 

Price:  $2.99 for a 19.8 ounce bag

Pizza Roll Snacks
Ready for the oven

Breaking that price down it comes out to 15.1 cents per ounce.  Why 19.8 ounces and not 20 ounces like the other brands?  Only Totino's can answer that.  Maybe Totino's is the more accurate number, who knows, it's just an odd weight....  For the look, roll size and taste factors, I'll summarize all three pizza roll brands in a bit.

Pizza Roll #2, store brand - Kroger:

Price:  $2.79 for a 20 ounce bag

Surprisingly, the store brand isn't all that much cheaper.  Sure, it's a bigger bag, but only by two ounces - so what.  The cost breaks down to 13.9 cents per ounce.  Looks like this challenge will come down to the taste!

Pizza Roll #3, discount brand - Mama Cozzi's, a.k.a., Aldi:

Price: $2.39 for a 20 ounce bag

At $2.39 for a 20 ounce bag, that breaks down to 11.95 cents per ounce, that's the cheapest of the lot.  It's not a significant savings, we're talking pizza rolls after all, a cheap snack food no matter how you shake it out.  Taste will dictate this story.

Pizza Roll Battle
Out of the oven, golden brown and... delicious?

OK, so we've talked price and weight, now it's time for the look, roll size and most importantly, the taste. 

I put six (serving size suggestion) of each brand of pizza rolls on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at 425 degrees.  The serving size and baking directions for each brand was essentially the same. In a side by side, by side comparison, the Totino's is the smallest of the rolls. In a review of the product ingredients, Totino's had the longest list, to include a lot of stuff that's tough to pronounce....  That's not a good thing, but then again we're talking about processed food which is supposedly bad for you and so if you're eating it to begin with, you don't really care about the list of ingredients, let alone those you can't pronounce....  I don't know about you, but I couldn't give a rat's rear end about the food police.....

All the rolls baked up about the same, you know pizza rolls are done when they brown up and the stuffing starts to ooze out the sides.....  And the labeling aside, no pizza roll looked any different or any more delicious than any other.

As far as taste, the only notable difference was the Mama Cozzi's, which were a bit more oily tasting than the other two.  All rolls had crunch and that classic tomato sauce/pepperoni-ish and cheese flavor that people love in a pizza roll.   And is it just me, or shouldn't pizza rolls come in a bigger size, like the size of a traditional egg roll?  That's were the idea for a pizza roll came from after all.....    For my money, I'm buying the store brand, in this case, Kroger.  It's only a 20 cent savings per bag, but that starts to add up after awhile, buying/saving this and that... 

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

Pizza Roll Battle
Kroger wins this Pizza Roll Battle

Potato Chip Battle: Ruffles Potato Chips vs. other wavy chips

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

My name is Mike and I'm a chipaholic.......  I always have some sort of bag of chips on hand. Sometimes it's tortilla chips, it might be a bag of BBQ potato chips, heck, it could be pork rinds, but most often it's a bag of wavy/ruffled potato chips.....  THE best kind of potato chip for dipping!  Those ridges, a.k.a., 'waves' are second to none when it comes to grabbing and holding onto that great dip! 

So when it comes to chips, do you pay the premium price for the name brand?

If you do, you might think twice about doing so after reading this article.

20180830_100224For this potato chip battle, I purchased THE name brand, Ruffles (Frito-Lay); a store brand version, in this case Kroger; and a discount brand called Clancy's, a.k.a., Aldi.

I compared price, weight, the look, chip size, taste and the 'dip' factor.....  Does the chip break apart in the dip more often than not?

Chip #1, the name brand - Ruffles:

This chip was almost always available in my house as a kid.  Original Ruffles chips paired with a French Onion dip, what a great snack!  And I'm talking about back in the day, long before all these 'flavored' chips like 'Jalapeno & Ranch' or 'Loaded Baked Potato' came along...  These new renditions kind of take the dipping fun away, don't you think?  But I digress....

Price:  $4.29 for 9 ounces of chips

Ruffles chips
Chip color, pretty much irrelevant

Breaking that price down it comes out to 47.6 cents per ounce.  That may not sound like much but keep reading.....  Check out the chip size, Ruffles has the smallest overall chip size of all.  You would think in paying a premium for this chip, you would get the bigger chips, ideal for dipping......  Hmmmm....  For the taste and dip factor, I'll summarize all three chip brands in a bit.

Chip #2, store brand - Kroger:

Price:  $1.25 for 10 ounces of chips

Look how much cheaper the store brand is, a savings of a whopping $3.04 for a bag of chips!  Breaking that down it's just 12.5 cents per ounce, WAY below the premium price for Ruffles, the name brand.

Chip #3, discount brand - Clancy's, a.k.a., Aldi:

Chip Battle
Ruffles has the smallest chips!

Price: $1.79 for 10 ounces of chips

Again, like the nationally recognized store brand (Kroger), this bag of chips is FAR cheaper than the name brand, a savings of $2.50 for a bag of chips or breaking it down coming in at 17.9 cents per ounce. It is a bit more expensive however than the store brand (Kroger).

So how does the taste and dip factor play out?

When it came to the lo ok, you can see the slight differences in color, but that's inconsequential.  Chip size however IS a distinguishing factor.  Ruffles, the name brand, is the smallest chip overall of the lot.  The Aldi brand, Clancey's, is the biggest chip, favorable to dipping.  And what is the difference between 'Ridges' and 'Waves' you ask?  Although 'Wavy' chips do appear to have a deeper ridges than chips named for 'Ridges'.....  There really is no difference.  All chips tested held dip quite well, but all chip brands tested consisted of some chips breaking off in the dip.  But that's half the fun right?  When dipping chips, you might need another chip to rescue the broken one in the dip!  That's chip/dip fun!

As far as taste, there was no distinguishable difference in any of the chip brands.  They were all tasty, none any more salty than the other, all providing that crunch factor and texture you're looking for in a chip.

Of the three, I recommend Clancy's.  Even though it's a bit higher priced than the store brand, Kroger, it's the bigger chip - better for dipping - and that's why you buy a 'Wavy' and/or 'Ridges' chip.  Don't pay a premium price for a name brand chip that doesn't taste any better and is in fact, a smaller chip!  That's bad for dipping.  If you have been a buyer of the name brand, there's really no reason to continue doing so. Save yourself some money with the discount brand from Aldi or the store brand like Kroger.

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

Drink Review: Yukon Jack Jacapple

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Apple and whiskey is a great pairing, so good in fact, if you're not into whiskey, you will be if you try an apple flavored variety.

Regular readers know that I am a fan of Revel Stoke Whisky (the Canadian way to spell Whiskey) and I always have one of their flavored blends on hand, usually the apple.  I found something even better.

Yukon Jack Jacapple
Smooth from nose to finish

A blended whiskey with apple, spice and other natural flavors, Yukon Jack Jacapple is smoothly delicious.  It's got the elements of a great cider, yet it's not too apple forward.  There's that definite apple and spice nose when you swirl the glass and you also get those cider notes in the taste, but the finish and this is where Yukon Jack Jacapple is superior to Revel Stoke - It's a VERY smooooooooth and warm bourbon finish. 

I gave Revel Stoke Roasted Apple Whiskey four out of five Bachelor on the Cheap stars.   I'm giving Yukon Jack Jacapple five stars.  It's readily available at most liquor stores and if you can't find it, ask your favorite store to start carrying it.   

5 stars

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


In search of Wichita's Signature Dish - Does Knolla's Pizza offer the best in the Air Capital? - Metro Pursuit

Having fun and inspired by this Signature Dish Challenge, I decided to enjoy the offerings of Knolla's Pizza, which claims to have the best pizza in Wichita.  

I needed a pie to enjoy as I watched some Sunday Night Football (I know, pre-season, how good can that be?  NOT, but it's football nonetheless), so I called my order in for carry-out.  I ordered a large "The Works" which is pepperoni, pork & Italian sausage, onion, green peppers, mushrooms & black olives. 

LADY ON THE PHONE:  Carry out orders are taking about 25 minutes, will that be OK?

ME:  Sure, no problem.

I hopped in my truck and headed to the Knolla's on Central, I arrived about 10 minutes early and the wonderful aroma of a pizza parlor hit me in the schnoz before I even opened the door.  Nearly every table in the place was occupied at 5:30pm.  I paid for my pizza and ordered a cold beer to enjoy while I waited.


Chicken Fried Steak - Metro Pursuit

Having fun and inspired by this Signature Dish Challenge, I decided to enjoy the offerings of Fat Ernie's Family Dining, known for its Chicken Fried Steak!

Chicken Fried Steak

It's a classic comfort food dish, a classic Diner dish, it's one of my all time favorite dinners.  Chicken Fried Steak, smothered in a creamy country gravy with mashed potatoes and some fried okra on the side....  It's another dose of YUM!

Typically made with a cheaper, tougher cut of meat like round steak or cube steak, the meat is tenderized, seasoned, breaded and fried to perfection. 

Pulling into Fat Ernie's located on South Hydraulic for lunch on a Friday, there were just a couple open spaces in the parking lot.  The restaurant was about 3/4 full when I walked in and found an open seat at the counter. 


In search of Wichita's Signature Dish - How well does Dog-N-Shake represent burgers for the Air Capital? - Metro Pursuit

By Mike Thayer

Signature dishes, it's food that embodies a region, it's a celebration of iconic cultural flavors, where natives and tourists alike embrace that bowl, that plate, that sandwich, that finger food and say, "You HAVE to try this!".... 

Examples of iconic signature dishes includes the Rueben sandwich in New York; crab cakes in Baltimore; The Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia; Fried Chicken in Atlanta; Deep dish pizza in Chicago; Bratwurst in Milwaukee; Gumbo in New Orleans and Cedar plank Salmon in Seattle.

So with all that iconic food in mind, does Wichita have a signature dish, or is the Mid-Continent City a melting pot of foods and flavors?

Having fun and inspired by this Signature Dish Challenge, I decided to enjoy the offerings of another iconic burger chain that calls Wichita home - Dog-N-Shake!


Drink Review: Evan Williams Peach Bourbon

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Flavored Whiskeys are the trend right now and regular readers know I've been reviewing the Revel Stoke line of flavored whiskeys as of late.  But in my latest trip to the liquor store, I came across a peach flavored whiskey made by Evan Williams.  Not having ever tried a peach flavored whiskey before, I was intrigued and decided to give it a try.

BACKGROUND:  Evan Williams is bottled and sold as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon, considered by many to be a knock off of Jack Daniels and being a knock off, available at a cheaper price.  A fair amount of bars utilize Evan Williams as their house whiskey.

20180823_132844-1Now about their peach bourbon......  

Here's how the Evan Williams website describes their peach flavored offering: 

  •      PROOF: 70 Proof
  •      COLOR: Golden Amber
  •      NOSE: Fresh, sweet Peach with Bourbon behind
  •      TASTE: Sweet peach with hints of honey & caramel
  •      FINISH: Bourbon is present, with a lasting soft sweetness.

I'm not a fan.  It's VERY peach forward, as in too forward, I might as well have been drinking peach schnapps!  It's like the makers literally just poured a couple shots of bourbon into a peach schnapps bottle and called it a blended, flavored whiskey.  The nose is peach, the taste is peach, the finish is peach with just an ever so slight hint of bourbon.  I tried it neat, I tried it on the rocks and I was flat out disappointed with each tasting.  It's SO peachy, I think it might be best served over vanilla ice cream.   I wanted a peach flavored bourbon, not a peach schnapps with just a hint of bourbon in it.

I paid $14.99 + tax for the Evan Williams Peach Bourbon which gets just two out of five stars.  The price is wallet friendly but if you appreciate a good bourbon, you won't appreciate this.  Evan Williams Peach Bourbon is NOT a repeat buy.  Anybody have any ice cream?

2 stars

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


Can a loose meat sandwich be considered a burger?

NuWay is all about loose meat sandwiches, or as they prefer to call them, Crumbly Burgers.  Some would say that a loose meat sandwich is not a burger but I beg to differ.  Think about it, seasoned ground beef with all the classic burger toppings served on a bun amounts to a Crumbly Burger or a traditional burger.  What NuWay does is a time-tested and very delicious twist with great burger ingredients.  NuWay also offers Bacon Cheddar and BBQ versions of Crumbly that I can't wait to try! 


Au Gratin Potato Battle: Name Brand vs. Store Brand, Betty Crocker vs. Kroger

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Potato, PotAto...

Who doesn't love potatoes?

I've always got a bag of potatoes in my pantry and an assortment of boxed potatoes to choose from as well.  The boxed versions are both convenient and tasty.  They can be rather inexpensive too, but do you focus on buying name brand foods when you grocery shop?


Even with most coupons, name brand foods are still more expensive than the store brand and a taste difference is non-existent, negligible perhaps.

Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes
Au Gratin Potato Battle: Betty Crocker vs. Kroger

In another food battle, today I put Betty Crocker Au Gratin potatoes against a store brand, Kroger Au Gratin.  I compared price, weight, the look and most importantly, the taste.  I prepared each according to the package instructions, adding only black pepper and some chopped up ham.  Yes, Ham & Taters for dinner!

Au Gratin Potato #1, the name brand - Betty Crocker:

Betty Crocker has been a trusted name in food and recipes since 1921.

Price: $1.39 for a 4.7 ounce box

Note how much larger the Betty Crocker box is compared to the Kroger box, also 4.7 ounces.  It's a marketing gimmick, the name brand box is taller, thicker and wider.  Betty Crocker is betting you're like most people, who don't read the details of the labeling.  Some people think they're getting more value with a 'bigger box' of potatoes. 

Au Gratin Potato #2, the store brand - Kroger:

Price: $.79 for a 4.7 ounce box

Au Gratin Potato Battle
The look is the same

Look how much cheaper the store brand is, a savings of $.60 and remember, even though the Betty Crocker box is taller and wider making some folks think they're getting a better value, both boxes weighed in at 4.7 ounces.

So how does Kroger compare to Betty Crocker in look and taste?

Preparing and baking the potatoes in totally different baking dishes, I couldn't see or taste a difference.  The size and shape of all potatoes was virtually the same, the added ingredients the directions called for in measuring out water, butter and milk was the very same and the final products were equally Au Gratin cheesy.  The list of ingredients on the box had no remarkable differences either.  Each made for a tasty dinner and plenty of leftovers too!  If you have been a buyer of the name brand, there's really no reason to continue doing so. Save yourself some money and get the store brand.  The ONLY edge Betty Crocker had in this battle is marketing... and why pay a premium price for THAT?

Leftover Au Gratin potatoes make for a convenient microwaved lunch the next day.  They're also great for breakfast topped with an egg, over easy.  These leftover potatoes freeze well too!  You can also portion the potatoes out for future meals and/or the freezer by baking them in a jumbo muffin tin.  That's what I did on this occasion, giving each portion a nice crispy edge.  It was another dose of YUM!

Next Up:  A pizza roll battle!

Spend Wisely My Friends.....