Do It Yourself Feed

Copy Cat Arby's Sauce

By Mike Thayer

Arby's SauceMost every bachelor has those leftover condiment packets in his fridge, one I always seem to have on hand lately is Arby's Sauce, which is fantastic on roast beef sandwiches, steak sandwiches, a change of pace from regular ketchup on burgers and so much more!  I like to slather that sauce on my sandwich, but one of those packets is never enough....  So why not make a big batch of my own "Arby's Sauce" and put it in a squeeze bottle, right?

Ingredients:

  • 1 heaping cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine (optional, no the real Arby's sauce doesn't have wine in it, but this is a nice add)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

20181203_083506-1Directions:

Heat up a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and heat until boiling, stirring often.  Reduce to simmer and let all those flavors marry for about 5 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and cool.  Store in a squeeze bottle in the fridge, it's good for about two weeks.  Now you have your own batch of Arby's Sauce, it's another dose of YUM!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 

 


Essential 'Must Have' Tools for the Bachelor

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Screwdriver SetEven if you're not handy with tools, you still need to have some on hand to do simple things like hanging a picture or tightening down loose screws on a door knob. 

Here's a list of the essential 'must have' tools for your house or apartment:

  • Hammer:  No, don't settle for a small tack hammer thinking all you'll ever do is hang a few pictures.  That's all a tack hammer is good for unless you're into cabinetry or upholstering and one of these days you'll find yourself needing something 'beefier'.  Get yourself a 16 ounce claw hammer.  It's a great all-purpose hammer and will suit most needs and basic tasks.   
  • Screwdrivers:  Purchase a nice quality variety set that includes both slot head and Phillips head screwdrivers of different sizes.  Do NOT get one of those cheap "multi-tip" screw drivers with the interchangeable screwdriver bits, they suck, the screwdriver tips are soft, won't last and you'll end up losing a few of those bits over time, rendering that "multi-tip" screw driver useless.
  • Pliers:  There is a large variety of pliers out there to choose from, slip joint, tongue & groove, cutting, long nose, long reach, etc.  Like for any other tools, focus on quality, get yourself a quality set of three pliers that includes slip joint, long nose and cutting.
  • Saw:  No basic tool set is complete without a saw.  An all-purpose crosscut hand saw will suit most needs.
  • Level:  You'll use one of these a lot more than you might think.  Hanging a large picture on the wall, putting up a floating shelf or making sure that new four-tier media shelf is sitting level are just a few uses.  Don't go small in size on this purchase, go with a 24" level, a good size for all-purpose applications.
  • Drill:  This is the only power tool on the list.  A cordless drill for the bachelor is the way to go, but don't go cheap - Black & Decker sucks.  An 18 volt model will suit most all basic needs.
  • Drill Bits:  A drill is pointless without them.  A basic set will do you just fine.
  • Tape Measure:  Here's another tool where you don't want to go small.  Get a 25' measure.  You'll probably reach for this tool more than any other, measuring a space for that new couch, measuring a room to re-arrange furniture, measuring wall space to hang pictures, heck, checking the size of your TV because you can't remember if you got a 62" or 65" model.
  • Wrenches:  A basic set of open end wrenches will help you accomplish many tasks.  Starter sets usually come in 10 piece sets.  For good measure, pick up an adjustable (crescent) wrench to cover anything the open end wrenches can't handle.
  • Duct Tape:  Yes, duct tape is a tool!  If you can't fix it with a nail, screw or some other fastener, duct tape it!

Keep your tools organized buy a tool box to put them in.  Don't toss them in a junk drawer or have screwdrivers in a closet somewhere and the hammer and tape measure somewhere else in the house.  Having the right tools and keeping them organized is key to making repairs and projects easier.

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


O'Reilly Auto Parts vs. Advanced Auto Parts vs..... Walmart?

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I drive an old pickup truck, she's now an antique in vehicle years, I call her Ol' Nellie.  She's not the purdiest truck around, but she runs good.  She has 129,000 plus miles on her, she's paid for (No, she's not that kind of truck....) she's not nickle and diming me yet (If only something else was that cheap....) and she gets me from point 'A' to point 'B' just fine.  So I aim to keep her as long as I can, I see no need for a new truck, Ol' Nellie is fine by me. 

I do a few do-it-yourself things for my truck, top off the fluids for example and she does have a bit of rust on her, so lately I've been working on a few body repairs. 

So who has the best prices for that kind of thing?

O'Reilly and Advanced are auto parts specialty stores (obviously), but guess what, you pay a little extra at 'specialty' stores.

The Walmart price for the same product is significantly lower and bonus, the hours are better, with many Walmart locations being open 24 hours.

Rain-xJust check out the price difference on something as simple as windshield washer fluid.  The price for a gallon of Rain-X brand, 2-in-1 All Season Windshield Washer Fluid is $4.79 at O'Reilly Auto Parts.  It will cost you $4.49 at Advanced, but just $2.87 at Walmart.  O'Reilly is gouging you on the windshield washer fluid.

PrestoneNeed some power steering fluid?  The price for a 32 ounce bottle of Prestone Power Steering Fluid with Stop Leak will cost you $6.99 at Advanced Auto Parts.  It's 'on sale' at O'Reilly for $5.99, but it's only $4.27 at Walmart.  That's ouch on the wallet at Advanced!

And it would seem that the higher the dollar amount, the deeper the gouge....  When it comes to Bondo, the project I'm currently undertaking, a person can pay WAY too much for a one gallon container of Bondo Body Filler.  It will cost you a whopping $29.99 at O'Reilly.  It's 'on sale' at Advanced for $21.99.  You can get the very same thing at Walmart for just $15.44.  On sale at Advanced means you're still paying far too much!

BondoSo if you do light work on your vehicle, items needed for an oil change or topping off fluids like windshield washer fluid, get them at Walmart.  Doing some body work?  Buy your Bondo at Walmart.  But if you do more tasking things yourself, like replacing an alternator, you'll have to go to O'Reilly or Advanced for something like that.   I would wonder though, am I paying too much for that alternator?

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

 

 


Where to buy a battery for your vehicle

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

So in the latest cold spell we had, my truck battery died.  It could no longer drum up the power to crank the engine.  May it rest in peace......

It's been quite awhile since I've had to buy a battery for a vehicle, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when it came to prices.....

HOLY CRAP Battery Man!

For my vehicle, in a cold-weather climate and needing 850 cold cranking amps..... Here are the prices of the leading battery providers:

Interstate:  $164

AutoZone:  $134

O'Reilly Auto Parts:  $134

Sure, Interstate is perhaps the most well known, considered the top of the line, but is it?  Really?  Is Interstate's 850 cold crank amp battery really any better than anybody else's, or is it just marketing?  And then you get the two most popular auto parts stores and their respective offerings....  Gosh, can you tell there is competitive pricing there? 

Everstart 65 MaxxEnter, Walmart.

The price for Walmart's Everstart 65 Maxx, with 850 cold cranking amps, is $95.  It's got a 5 year warranty, just like all the others.

If you are going to install a battery yourself, this is a no brainer.  Walmart is the way to go.  And here's something you may not know.....  Take your old battery into the store when buying a new one, it saves you about $18 in a "core fee".  If you turn in your old battery, you won't get charged.

And if you do decide to have a service center install a battery for you, make sure they don't charge you a "core fee."  They took out the old battery and kept it.  They didn't ask you if you wanted to keep it, they didn't put it in your trunk, so don't let them charge you that fee.


Eating Breakfast at Home vs. Fast Food

Mike Thayer 2016By Mike Thayer

Breakfast kick starts your day, providing your body the fuel it needs to drive through the day.  But it's important to eat right whether you're on a diet or not. 

I suggest eating at home if you can.  Not only will you save a few bucks, you'll save on some calories and believe it or not, time as well. 

Consider this, you get ready for work, but you have to leave early so you can either sit down at a fast food joint or wait in line at the drive through.  Don't leave early, don't wait in line, eat at home.

You can whip up a great quick breakfast, right in the comfort of your own home.   In the amount of time you had to leave early, eat at the restaurant or sit in a drive through then eat in your car or at your work station, you can scramble some eggs, fry up some bacon and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

Don't Eat This:

McDonald's breakfastCosting you about $6, this breakfast comes with over 1,000 calories (that's half the government's daily recommended allowance), over 100 grams of carbohydrates (you don't need that many, especially all those at once in one meal) and 17 grams in sugars.  And don't forget the time factor, time to drive to the fast food joint (5-10 minutes), time spent in it or in the drive through (at least 10 minutes dining in, around 5 minutes in the drive thru (and hopefully they got your order right).  And about consuming that meal, you have to weigh it against eating in the comfort of your home.

 

Eat This Instead:

Veggie egg scramblePictured left, a veggie egg scramble with cheese and a side of bacon breakfast.  This meal took about 10 minutes to prepare is all, cost about $2 in ingredients and here's the nutrition breakdown:  About 600 calories, about 7 grams in carbs from the veggies and 1 gram in sugars.  Yes, this meal will make you feel full, satisfyingly so, not overstuffed like the McDonald's meal will (and never mind the pending carb/sugar crash that goes with that).

The best part of this meal, you get to eat in the comfort of your own home.  I don't know about you, but I'll take that over eating in the car or at the office!


Cooking vs. Fast Food

Mike Thayer 2016By Mike Thayer

Why be on the rush for fast food, when you can enjoy something you cooked?  Why shell out $7 for a burger, fries and a drink, when you can fix yourself something just as good for about $2 or $3?

And no, I'm not overlooking the convenience of fast food, I just happen to think that your kitchen is far more convenient than a fast food joint is, especially if your lunch time is only 30 minutes.

Even if you don't cook, think hard about exploring the potential of your kitchen, because eating fast food frequently hurts not only the wallet, but the body as well.  The key to eating at home or brown bagging it is time.  You may not think time is your friend during your lunch break, but that's actually missing the boat.  The time you spend prepping meals when you're not working is how you enjoy better meals, save money and have more time for yourself at lunch. 

The Fast Food Trap

OK, you clock out, you've got 30 minutes for lunch, you leave your work station, jump into your car and head for the fast food pick of the day.....  There's five minutes, maybe ten right there in travel time.  If you do the drive-thru because you don't have time to go inside and eat, there's another five minutes spent ordering, paying for and getting your order.   Assuming your order was done right, now you start traveling back to work, open up the bag to start munching on fries, take a drink of pop to wash them down and finally, eat the burger in your car in the parking lot at work or at your desk.   You've got five minutes to piddle around with your phone before you have to clock back in to work.  Does this sound like you?  Does this sound attractive to you?  This lunch trap most likely cost you around $7 and it's far from ideal.  Do that on a daily basis and you're spending about $35 a week on lunches and the caloric intake is going to cost you as well.  There's a better way.

Eat in your own home or brown bag it (and I'm not talking bologna sandwiches)

OK, you clock out, you've got 30 minutes for lunch, you leave your work station, jump into your car and head HOME!  That sounds better than sitting in a fast food drive thru right?  There's five minutes, maybe ten in travel time.  But now, instead of sitting in a line of cars at the drive thru, you are putting a pre-made meal you created in the microwave or are pulling something delicious out of the crock pot.  Yes, the crock pot is your friend.  In the comfort of your own home, you can eat a delicious meal, hot and homemade.  Meatballs and marinara, pot roast, grilled chicken and yes, even burgers.  You can go home and nuke a pre-made meal, faster than you can get through the drive thru at a fast food joint.  BONUS:  Check to see if you got any snail mail, pet the dog, water the potted plants, you have the time.  And if you live too far from work to do that and have to do the break room thing, then you get even more personal down time during lunch because you got smart and prepped a meal for the microwave.  BONUS #2:  You're also saving money.  Throwing a chicken breast and Italian dressing with some potatoes and carrots in the crock pot before work can cost as little as $3.

Time management

I like to prep a bunch of meals during my days off.  I put together up to seven days worth of meals, food prepping and/or cooking all the meats, veggies and sides I'll need for some great lunches in the coming week.  I might grill up a bunch of fare, I might pan sear some meats or oven roast them. I'll chop veggies, move items from the freezer to the fridge for thawing, whatever I can do to help make my work day meals more enjoyable and more importantly, easy to heat up for lunch.

Cooking more than what you'll eat for dinner on a given night is a lunch time-saver as well.  For example I always cook more bacon than I'm going to eat for breakfast so I can have some bacon with a burger, or crumble some bacon for a tossed salad.

Another lunch-time saver thing you can do, is marinate some meats for the crock pot the night before.  Chop up some veggies and tear up some lettuce for a salad the night before, heck if you're an early riser, you can also do some food prep the morning before work.   Food prep doesn't really take that much time, you can marinade some meats while you're watching Big Bang Theory or a football game.  Putting a combo of tasty items in the crock pot before work takes just minutes to do and it's WAY worth it!  And what would you rather smell, awesome aromas coming from your kitchen, or car exhaust in the drive thru?

Don't risk spilling a fast food bite on your shirt as you change lanes or shift gears scurrying back to work, don't feel the 'road rage' building up because the drive thru is taking WAY too long......  Prep a meal for the microwave, or better yet, enjoy a no wait crock pot meal.

Better food, money better spent.....

Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • One 15 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-1/2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese, be it mild cheddar, colby jack, pepper jack, shredded American, or Velveeta...
  • 3 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
  • A healthy pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 ounces of elbow macaroni.  Spirals or bow ties work too.

Directions:

Crock pot mac and cheeseCoat the crock pot with cooking spray.  Combine the milks, beaten egg, salt and pepper and garlic powder in the crock pot, whisk until smooth.  Add the macaroni and cheese, gently stirring things together with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.  Cover and cook on low for 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

Options:  Throw in some diced ham.  Some folks like tuna, browned ground beef is good too for the cheesburger mac meal....  

Even with the optional add of a meat, this meal didn't even come close to costing you $7 to prepare.  And you can't get this kind of deliciousness at a fast food joint!


Make your own bread

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

If you don't like to or have time to bake, then this isn't for you.  And sure, you can buy a loaf of bread at Aldi or the Dollar Tree for $1, but then again, you can buy a bag of flour and some yeast for about $2 at Aldi and make many loaves of bread!  All you knead (get it, 'knead'....  I crack myself up....), is a little time..... 

Below are two recipes, one for a simple cheesy bread, the other for a cinnamon bread, they are both pizza dough style breads, quick, easy, delicious!

Cheesy Bread

Ingredients

  • One packet of yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • One cup warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • One teaspoon salt
  • One Tablespoon garlic powder
  • One Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Couple pinches of Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cheesy BreadPreheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl or cup, put the sugar in with the water, give it a little stir, add the packet of yeast and set aside TIP:  Yeast loves sugar, it rises more aggressively when sugar is added and doing the yeast separately like this helps in that process.  In a large bowl, put in the flour, salt, garlic powder and oregano, stir lightly to mix.  Add the cup of yeast water and start mixing to form into a dough.  I like to simply mix with a fork.  When the dough is starting to come together, add the olive oil.  You may have to add a little more warm water, what you're looking for is that dough to start forming into a ball, not too dry, but not too wet either.  Now it's time to use your hands to really shape that dough ball.  Oil your hands first, you don't want sticky dough fingers!  Once that dough ball is formed, place it in a warm place to rise.  This is where that time factor kicks in, waiting for the dough to rise.  I like to lightly oil a bowl using olive oil spray, place the dough ball in and then cover with some olive oil sprayed plastic wrap (so the dough ball doesn't stick to the wrap).  After that dough ball gets to at least double in size, place it on a lightly oiled (Olive) cookie sheet and spread it out to about a 1/2 inch in thickness.  Blind bake (no cheesy toppings yet) in the oven on a center rack (never bake bread on a rack that is placed low or high in the oven!) for about 10 minutes.  Pull from the oven and sprinkle with the Kosher salt, Parmesan cheese and the Mozzarella.  Bake for another 10 minutes, or until that Mozzarella is golden brown and delicious!  Slice into strips and serve.

There's nothing quite like the aroma of fresh baked bread coming from the kitchen, it's enticing! 

Simple Cinnamon Bread

Ingredients

  • One packet of yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • One cup warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • One teaspoon salt
  • One cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon

Directions

Cinnamon BreadPreheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl or cup, put the sugar in with the water, give it a little stir, add the packet of yeast and set aside TIP:  Yeast loves sugar, it rises more aggressively when sugar is added and doing the yeast separately like this helps in that process.  In a large bowl, put in the flour, salt and brown sugar, stir lightly to mix.  Add the cup of yeast water and start mixing to form into a dough.  I like to simply mix with a fork.  When the dough is starting to come together, add the vegetable oil.  You may have to add a little more warm water, what you're looking for is that dough to start forming into a ball, not too dry, but not too wet either.  Now it's time to use your hands to really shape that dough ball.  Oil your hands first, you don't want sticky dough fingers!  Once that dough ball is formed, place it in a warm place to rise.  This is where that time factor kicks in, waiting for the dough to rise.  I like to lightly oil a bowl using Canola oil spray (but regular vegetable oil will do), place the dough ball in and then cover with some Canola oil sprayed plastic wrap (so the dough ball doesn't stick to the wrap).  After that dough ball gets to at least double in size, place it on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and spread it out to about a 1/2 inch in thickness.  Combine the cinnamon and sugar and then sprinkle on the bread.  Bake in the oven on a center rack (never bake bread on a rack that is placed low or high in the oven!) for 20 minutes.  Slice into strips and serve.

Tell me you don't have time to make these breads, I dare you!

Enjoy.

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Being Your Own Butcher

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

So you are grocery shopping, you're looking at that package of 4 boneless pork chops going for around $2.50 a pound.....   Don't buy them.

Buy a pork loin instead.  It may cost more out-of-pocket at the time, but I bought a 10 pound pork loin at Costco the other night for just under $17.  Now I've got a freezer full of chops, not just four.

Pork loinBe your own butcher for this kind of thing.  The convenience of buying something all ready for the frying pan is great, but it comes with a cost.  Cutting your own chops from a pork loin - THE most under-rated cut of meat on the planet - saves you a lot of money and really doesn't cost much in terms of time at all.  Just weigh the financial comparison - 4 grocery store butchered chops @ $2.49 a pound (2 meals?), vs. about 16-20 chops (depending on how thick or thin you want them - 10, 12 meals?) @ $1.69 a pound. 

Cutting the loin down into chops and some stew meat didn't take much time at all, maybe 10 minutes and now I've got everything portioned out for meals and in the freezer.

TIP:  Don't trim the fat when cutting the loin and creating the chops!  Fat means flavor during the cooking process.  Trim it before serving.

For some great pork recipes go to my grilling blog:  www.grillinggoodeats.com

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Don't Buy Jar Spaghetti Sauce, Make Your Own

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Ragu, Prego, Bertolli, Classico, Emeril's, Newman's Own, and so on....   They come in an array of flavors (many of which you've probably never tried before) and an array of costs, $3, $5, $7 a jar and so on....  Sure, they're convenient, but don't buy them.

Make your own, it's so easy and WAY cheaper than buying the jar stuff.  The best part, you control the flavor!

Here's a quick sauce you can make, use it as a base to incorporate your favorite flavors.

Ingredients

  • One Tablespoon olive oil
  • Half a medium onion, finely chopped (alternative - dried minced onion or onion powder)
  • Two cloves of garlic, finely chopped (alternative - garlic powder)
  • One 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • One cup water
  • One Tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat up a medium sauce pan over medium heat, put in the olive oil and onion.  Saute until translucent.  Add the garlic, stir for about a minute.  Add in the tomato paste, water, oregano and stir.  Salt and pepper to taste.    This is a base sauce, take the flavors where you want to go from here.  Add some red chili flake, or some Parmesan cheese.  Try a beef or chicken bouillon cube.  Basil is a great add.  Melt a tab of butter into the sauce just before serving.  Personally, I like to add some sliced mushrooms and Cookies Flavor Enhancer to my sauce.  The flavor profile is all up to you, it's easy to do and you didn't have to spend $5 or $7 bucks to bring it to your table!  A 6 ounce jar of tomato paste costs around 75 cents.  We're talking bargain provided you've got some basic seasonings in your pantry.