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January 2022

Dollar Tree raises prices for first time since opening 35 years ago

By Mike Thayer

Dollar Tree Raises Prices
Dollar Tree's price hike is a double whammy

I'm a Dollar Tree fan.  I like the fact that I can go into a Dollar Tree and find a bargain, such as over-the-door robe/coat hook for $1 rather than pay $7 for the very same thing at Ace Hardware.  But that hook is no longer available for $1, it now costs $1.25.  That's still a bargain!  The price increase has already gone into effect for a number of Dollar Tree stores to include the one I shop at locally.  The price increase is to be implemented by all stores nationwide by the end of the first quarter.  

But there's something else I noticed while shopping in Dollar Tree the other day.  Not only has there been a price increase, many of the products have been downsized.  Check out the laundry detergent for example.  What was available, a 64 ounce bottle of detergent for $1, is now a 42 ounce bottle for $1.25.  Still a bargain, but this isn't something mentioned in the price increase news.  It's not as blatant as a price increase, but downsizing product is another form of price increase, more subtle, but a price hike nonetheless.  Less bang for the buck, er, $1.25.

Will the price increase and product downsizing discourage me from shopping at Dollar Tree?  No, you can still find some great bargains there, especially on party supplies, holiday decorations and household items like cleaning supplies.  Dollar Tree has to keep up with inflation and rising costs just like any other business.  A 25% price hike may sound like a lot, but is it?  When I shopped there the other day and bought 12 items, it cost me an extra $3 over what I used to pay.  OK, but in comparing the Dollar Tree price to name brand items, Dollar Tree remains a bargain.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Shopping at Dollar Tree

Related: Don't pay too much for household cleaning products


Restaurant Review: Wahlburgers

By Mike Thayer

Wahlburgers
It just looks inviting, doesn't it?

It was lunchtime during a recent business trip to the Kansas City area and I was driving from one visit location and on my way to another, but looking for a place to stop for a bite.  I wasn't sure what I was in the mood for, the only thing I knew is I wanted to try something local, or at least some place I've never eaten at before.  It unveiled itself to me at a stop light - Wahlburgers!

I've been wanting to try this place for awhile, but have not been in a town that has one.  Wahlburgers is a casual dining burger and bar chain owned by  chef Paul Wahlberg and his more famous brothers, actors Donnie Wahlberg and Mark Wahlberg (a.k.a. Marky Mark is his rapping days). As of January 2021, there are 49 Wahlburgers franchise locations in the United States.

Boy did I pick the right spot to have lunch!  I had a seat at the bar and was greeted warmly by the bartender who had a big smile and after saying "Hello!" with great enthusiasm asked me if I had ever been to Wahlburgers before.  Letting her know it was a first time visit, she quickly showed me the option to scan the menu and then asked if I preferred to look at a traditional menu.  I went traditional.  Meanwhile, she poured me my drink of choice as I perused the menu,  Aly was her name.  

Wahlburgers "Our Burger" & Fries
Wahlburgers "Our Burger" & Fries

Wahlburgers has seven different specialty burger options on their menu, a nice selection and not too busy.  And what's nice is they offer a toppings menu so you can customize your burger.  They also have a nice variety of salads, sides, starters and other sandwich options to choose from.  Everything on the menu looks great!

But I was here for a burger, so I went with the "Our Burger" an all beef burger, with "government" (American) cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles & Chef Paul’s signature Wahl Sauce. 

Not missing a beat in seeing that I was done reviewing the menu, Aly took my order and in placing my order, she flashed that big smile, upsold me to include bacon on my burger.  Because everything is better with bacon right?  

It wasn't long before my burger and fries were placed before me.  The visual appeal was fantastic with a spot on presentation.  A picture perfect burger alongside a little basket of golden brown fries.  Eating with my eyes first, I couldn't wait to bite into that toasted bun, what looked like a perfectly prepared burger patty, that melted cheese and SUPER fresh veggies!

Wahlburgers
A perfectly prepared burger, everything was spot on!

I wasn't disappointed, this burger DELIVERED ON FLAVOR!  This burger was juicy, seasoned well, I got layers of flavor with the tartness of the pickle, balanced out with crispy lettuce, onion and fresh red tomato, but what puts this burger over the top is the special sauce.  It's not like a McDonald's or Thousand Island dressing hybrid, it's SO much more, it was fantastic, but not overpowering.  This burger was perfectly dressed, letting that beef shine.

Costing me $11.99 for the "Our Burger" with bacon and a side of fries which were golden/brown delicious and perfectly seasoned, so good I didn't need ketchup, I'm giving Wahlburgers 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  This is an upscale burger joint and it's well worth the price.  This was one of the best burgers I've had in quite awhile, I intentionally didn't order anything elaborate, I stayed with the burger basics and this burger was fantastic, the execution in preparation was spot on!  The food was stellar, the service was top notch and if I didn't have to drive back to Wichita that day I probably would have had dinner there as well!  Thank you Wahlburgers!  If you have a Wahlburgers near you and you haven't tried it yet, you've GOT to do so!  If you've already tried it, I know you're a repeat customer, that's how good Wahlburgers is.

The Wahlburgers visited on this occasion is located at 11935 South Black Bob Road, Olathe Pointe, Olathe, Kansas 66062.  Great service, great food, and Aly is a food service professional, attentive, asked all the right questions, I didn't have to ask for a drink refill, she was sure to ask how my meal was, and yes, it was DELICIOUS! 

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 


Energize Your Week with a Free Extra Shot of Scooter’s Coffee World-Class Espresso

OMAHA, Neb., – Let Scooter’s Coffee add some extra pep to your step with a free shot of freshly pulled world-class espresso during Extra Shot Week, Jan. 31 – Feb. 4, 2022.

Free Shot of Espresso at Scooter's Coffee“Any day is a great day to enjoy the rich and renowned espresso at Scooter’s Coffee, and we’re excited to share a little extra of our finest coffee with our guests to make their day amazing!” said Bill Black, Chief Marketing Officer at Scooter’s Coffee.

When placing an order at participating Scooter’s Coffee locations, customers can simply add a free extra shot of high-quality espresso to any of their favorite
handcrafted beverages, including the limited-time Sea Salt Caramelicious® and Crème Brulee Latte. For a full list of espresso-based drinks, visit scooterscoffee.com/menu.

For more exclusive deals and rewards, customers can download the Scooter’s Coffee Mobile App from the App Store or Google Play Store. Once downloaded, customers can create an account to begin earning loyalty “Smiles” for future Scooter’s Coffee rewards.

About Scooter’s Coffee

Founded in 1998 by Don and Linda Eckles in Bellevue, Nebraska, Scooter’s Coffee roasts only the finest coffee beans in the world at its headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. In more than two decades of business, Scooter’s Coffee’s success is simple: stay committed to the original business principles and company’s four core values, which are Integrity, Love, Humility and Courage. The Scooter’s Coffee Brand Promise, often recited to franchisees, customers and employees is: “Amazing People, Amazing Drinks… Amazingly Fast!®” It represents the company’s business origins from 1998 and reflects a steady commitment to providing an unforgettable experience to loyal and new customers.

Scooter’s Coffee is at the dawn of a strategic growth phase nationwide. With over 400 stores in 23 states, the company continues to grow rapidly. The U.S. coffee market is an estimated $48 billion a year recession-resistant industry, and Scooter’s Coffee is striving to become the #1 drive-thru coffee franchise in the nation. Visit ownascooters.com to learn more about the benefits of owning a franchise of a well-established company.

For more information, visit, scooterscoffee.com, facebook.com/scooterscoffee, ownascooters.com or call 877-494-7004.


Product Review: Relief Factor

By Mike Thayer

Relief Factor
Does this drug-free option for pain relief work?

You may have heard the commercials on the radio for Relief Factor, a drug-free option for reducing or eliminating everyday aches and pains.

Here's the hype from the Relief Factor websiteRelief Factor has helped tens of thousands of people struggling with everyday aches and pains. Taken as designed, Relief Factor reduces or eliminates pain all day, every day.

I'm one of those people that suffers from everyday aches and pains.  I endure mild arthritis - joint pain and stiffness - and I fractured my hip back in 2014 which put me on bed rest for six weeks.  I will eventually need hip replacement surgery when my real one finally gives out.  Doc recommended I hang on to my real hip for as long as I can tolerate the pain.  I can still do all the things I love such as gardening, fishing, landscaping and going for walks, but the bending, twisting and grabbing is getting more painful as I age.  Even something as simple as going down a flight of stairs is challenging to the hip.

So after hearing the Relief Factor commercial for the umpteenth million time on the radio, I decided to give it a try, ordering their '3 Week QuickStart' package.  The marketing claim is I could be mostly or completely pain free like so many others using the product after three weeks. 

I'm not really into taking any drugs for pain, I don't take things like Tylenol, Ibuprofen or Advil.  I take a daily aspirin but that's more for heart health than it is for pain.  So that's another reason the Relief Factor product appeals to me, it's a drug-free option for pain relief.

I received my 3 Week QuickStart pack on January 18th, so I've been taking it as recommended for four days now.  We'll see if their claim of being mostly or completely pain free in three weeks rings true.

Costing me $19.99 plus shipping for the QuickStart package, I'll keep you posted on the pain in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned!  Will this be money well spent, or money wasted?

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Food Review: Subway's Baja Chicken & Bacon Sub

By Mike Thayer

Subway's Baja Chicken & Bacon Sub
Subway is generous with the Baja Chipotle sauce, but it doesn't make up for the dry, under seasoned chicken

After a long hiatus from eating at Subway because they flat out aren't the best sub shop out there, I recently went in to try a sandwich from their new and supposedly revamped menu which they've been marketing as "Eat Fresh, Refresh."

On that visit I sampled the Baja Steak & Jack sandwich and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.  Not only were the flavors there and more exciting than the old menu options, the sandwich prep itself was better than what I experienced in the past.  Those factors contributed to Subway's decline as the sandwich king in recent years, a ho-hum menu with average ingredients and food prep that was sloppy.  But they seem to have stepped up their game.

So in enjoying that Baja Steak & Jack, today I decided to give the the Baja Chicken & Bacon Sub a try.

Featuring hand-pulled rotisserie-style chicken, hickory-smoked bacon (new to the "refreshed" menu), pepper jack cheese and all drizzled with Subway’s Baja Chipotle sauce (also new to the "refreshed" menu) I was looking forward to another smoky and spicy "Baja" kick.

I ordered a foot long on the Italian Artisan bread, toasted, and I had it topped with lettuce and tomato, the suggested adds from the menu board.

Baja Chicken & Bacon
Uneven distribution of meat, some empty bread bites there at the heel

Subway hasn't completely kicked it's old bad habit of some sloppy food prep and not so great ingredients.  I'm a bit amazed at how there can be such a product quality gap and lack of attention to detail from different staff at the same shop.   The meat for my sandwich wasn't distributed evenly on the bread, it was just slapped on, the lettuce was looking a bit wilted and needed to be changed out and the tomatoes, half the slices had very green centers.  After doing some quality control on my own behalf because the staff wasn't, I paid for my to-go sandwich and chips.  Hey, if I'm going to pay $12 for a sandwich, I want fresh green lettuce and red tomatoes.  With the chips, the total price was over $14.  Subway has raised their prices in introducing their new menu and while I appreciate the new hickory smoked bacon and Baja Chipotle sauce as part of that price hike, I also expect better food prep and improved quality control with the other ingredients. 

In taking the first bite of the Baja Chicken & Bacon sub, I was not as impressed as I was with the Baja Steak & Jack.  The rotisserie chicken was dry and under seasoned. I got crispy bacon in every chicken bite, kudos there, and the pepper jack cheese was nicely melted.  The toasting of the bread was good but had I not done some quality control on the veggies, I think I would have been rather disappointed in the quality of this sandwich.  As it was, the overall flavor is underwhelming.  I'm left wondering if it would have been the same employees that prepared my Baja Steak sandwich the other day, would my Baja Chicken have been a much better sandwich?

Costing me over $14 for a foot long sub and a bag of chips, I'm giving the Subway Baja Chicken & Bacon sub just 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  I paid too much money for an "Eat Fresh Refresh" sandwich.  It is NOT worthy of a repeat buy, well, not prepared by the same staff anyway...  That's a reflection on management and the inconsistency in food prep and ingredients.

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Food Review: Subway's Baja Steak & Cheese Sandwich

Buy Me a Coffee


Chip Review: Kroger Cuban Style Sandwich Flavored Potato Chips

By Mike Thayer

Kroger Cuban Style Sandwich Flavored Potato Chips
I know these aren't Lay's, but you can't eat just one...

This trend into trying to make chips imitate the flavors of iconic foods intrigues me.  Chip makers have now gone way beyond flavor combinations like Mesquite BBQ, sour cream & onion, sea salt & vinegar, cheddar or jalapeno offerings...  Screw the typical one or two added flavor concept, chip makers are going for entire sandwich and entree' flavors!

I recently did a review on such an offering, you can read that review here: Chip Review: Private Selection Chicken Tikka Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips.

Those chips were quite tasty and after enjoying that chip tasting experience, I tried another: Chip Review: Kroger Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips - Bachelor on the Cheap.

Those chips were also quite enjoyable.  This bigger, bolder, outside-the-box flavor profile thing is working for me!

So with those positive chip adventures on a nice trend, I'm trying another variety today:  Kroger Cuban Style Sandwich Flavored Potato Chips.

Of the 'sandwich and entree' flavors I've sampled so far, this one is my clear favorite.  A good Cuban sandwich is freshly baked bread piled high with sweet ham, slow roasted pork, Swiss cheese, topped with tart pickles and yellow mustard, then grilled on a sandwich press with plenty of butter.

You get those notes in these chips!  The crunch of the kettle prepared chips is like the crispy sandwich pressed bread and that's followed immediately by the tartness of pickle and the twang of yellow mustard.  Those flavors then fade into sweet and savory notes along with a hint of Swiss cheese goodness and yes, there's a buttery finish.  The range of flavor in these chips really does mimic those you get in a good Cuban sandwich!   

Costing me just $1.69 for an 8 ounce bag, I'm giving Kroger Cuban Style Sandwich Flavored Potato Chips 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Very reasonably priced these chips do indeed mimic the flavors of a classic Cuban sandwich and will most definitely be a repeat buy!  Put a Cuban Sandwich chip dance in your mouth!

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Chip Review: Kroger Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips

By Mike Thayer

Kroger Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips
Do they really mimic a Reuben?

This trend into trying to make chips imitate the flavors of iconic foods intrigues me.  Chip makers have now gone way beyond flavor combinations like Mesquite BBQ, sour cream & onion, sea salt & vinegar, cheddar or jalapeno offerings...  Screw the one or two added flavor concept, chip makers are going for entire sandwich and entree' flavors!

I recently did a review on such an offering, you can read that review here: Chip Review: Private Selection Chicken Tikka Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips

Those chips were quite tasty.

So with bigger flavor profiles in mind, today I'm reviewing Kroger's Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips.

A Reuben sandwich isn't for everybody but it is an American deli classic featuring corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, topped with Russian dressing and served on grilled rye bread.  It's a tangy sandwich dance in the mouth!

Kroger does a nice job of mimicking Reuben flavors, these are definitely tangy chips!  Up front right away in that chip bite you get the twang of sauerkraut notes.  That fades into subtle spices that make corn beef, corn beef and it's followed by the tomato and spice presence of Russian dressing.  If these chips were served on the side of an actual Reuben sandwich, you would be a very happy camper.  And these are kettle chips, so you've got the crunch factor accentuating all those great Reuben flavors.

Costing me just $1.99 for an 8 ounce bag of snack heaven, I'm giving Kroger Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  My only knock on these chips is I wish they came in the wavy cut.  The regular cut is fine, you get a nice kettle crunch, but the wavy cut is just that much better in the crunch department. Very reasonably priced, they're wallet friendly and an awesome change of pace chip from the ordinary, the sour cream & onion, the sea salt & vinegar, cheddar or jalapeno flavored kettle chips.  Kick things up a notch with a Reuben!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 


Chip Review: Private Selection Chicken Tikka Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips

By Mike Thayer

Private Selection Chicken Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips
These are no ordinary chips

I love kettle chips, ripple cut kettle chips are even better which seems to pack more of that kettle flavor than regular cut chips.

So when in the chip aisle yesterday and looking for something a little different than your ordinary kettle chip, sea salt flavored or cheese variety, I happened upon a Chicken Tikka Masala flavored chip.

"Really?"  I thought to myself, "A chip flavored like an iconic Indian dish?"

I had to try these.

Private Selection® if you didn't already know, is Kroger's "upscale" store brand, offering unique products and unexpected flavors, an appeal to the gourmet palate.  Well they certainly hit the unexpected flavor category with Chicken Tikka Masala flavored chips!

Not knowing what to expect with that first chip bite, I was pleasantly surprised.  First you get that strong crunch you're looking for in a kettle chip, but then you get hit with the tomato and fragrant spices of the classic curry dish, it's not subtle, in a good way.  No dip is necessary with these chips, and if you feel the need, just a straight sour cream does the trick as these chips pack SO much flavor.

Costing me $2.99 for an 8 ounce bag, I'm giving Private Selection Tikka Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It truly is a unique chip, packs a boat load of Tikka Masala flavor and is worthy of a repeat buy.  Reasonably priced, if you're looking for something different in a chip, you've GOT to try these.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Product Review: Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pans

By Mike Thayer

Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pans
High quality, value priced

Down to my last sauce pan and the Teflon coating wearing thin, I was need of some new pans, like yesterday... 

If you like to cook, you need to have some reliable cookware, something that will last and can hold up to regular day-to-day use.  Buying the el cheapo pans (Mainstays) at Walmart for $7 - $9 a pop and no lid just doesn't cut it.  That's actually what I'm replacing, Mainstays sauce pans, which lasted me maybe 4 years with regular use.  Lesson learned.

I considered stainless steel saucepans, but since I'm not going to be searing anything in these pans - they're sauce pans not skillets after all - they'll be used for soups, stews, gravies, pastas, making mashed potatoes and the like, I don't need to apply high searing heat to brown something in these pans, that's what skillets are for.  And the convenience of easy clean Teflon came into play.

Stackable Sauce Pans
Stackable Sauce Pans, a HUGE plus in a small kitchen

I did some shopping online, I looked at Target and Kohl's, but I found what I was looking for at Sam's Club.

I bought a Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pan set for $29.99.  BARGAIN!  I became familiar with this brand when doing some saucepan homework online.

Not only do I get to take advantage of the easy to cook with and easy to clean Teflon surface, this pan set stacks! Not all pan sets lend themselves to easy stacking by inverting the lid, this set does, which comes in handy in a galley style kitchen with limited cabinet space.  Another plus, this easy clean Teflon surface is supposedly metal utensil safe, but I'm not even going to test that.  Using rubber, silicone and/or wood/bamboo utensils extends the life of any pan.  And here's a tip:  Although this set is dishwasher safe, don't do it.  I don't care what kind of pan set you buy, routinely cleaning them in the dishwasher ruins the finish.  Hand wash your pans and do NOT use any abrasive scrubbing pads!  You'll prematurely scratch the finish and wear the Teflon coating thin.  Additional features:  The glass lids are tempered and the pans are oven safe up to 350 degrees.

Tramontina Pans
Melting some butter for a bechamel sauce

I'm giving the Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pan set 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  I was looking for high-quality cookware that is value-priced and I found it in Tramontina Cookware.  The set met my budget (it actually came in way under) and totally serves my cooking needs.  I would say this is a repeat buy, but I won't have to, not for quite a few years!  I won't be trashing any of these pans as I did so soon with Walmart's Mainstay pans.  The only knock I have is the set doesn't come in black, I 'had' to settle for metallic blue.  Obviously not a deal breaker.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...