Do It Yourself Feed

Cooking vs. Fast Food

By Mike Thayer

Why be on the rush for fast food, when you can enjoy something you cooked?  Why shell out $7 or more 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, heck, regular readers know I do enjoy reviewing the latest in fast food.  But I also 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 and up (for fast food) to prepare.  And you can't get this kind of deliciousness at a fast food joint!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Help support the continued content for Shopping, Dining, Best Deals, Product & Service Reviews, Tips, Hacks, Recipes and other great information by buying me a coffee. Your support to keep Bachelor on the Cheap a free resource is much appreciated! ~ Mike

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Bake your own bread

By Mike Thayer

If you don't like to or have time to bake, then this isn't for you.  But do you like specialty breads?  I don't know anyone who doesn't.  And sure, you can buy a loaf of bread at your local mainstream grocery store starting at $5 and up, but then again, you can buy a bag of flour and some yeast for around that much, maybe even a little less and make many loaves of bread!  All you knead (get it, 'knead'....  I crack myself up....), is a little time.....   And you can make your own specialty bread. 

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.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Help support the continued content for Shopping, Dining, Best Deals, Product & Service Reviews, Tips, Hacks, Recipes and other great information by buying me a coffee. Your support to keep Bachelor on the Cheap a free resource is much appreciated! ~ Mike

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Being Your Own Butcher - Bachelor on the Cheap

Bachelor on the Cheap Update 06/12/2022:  This post was originally written back in 2016.  Just look at how much the price of pork has gone up since then with most of that increase coming in the last year setting record highs in 2022.   The price per pound for chops is now around $4/lb depending on the cut.  So the recommendation to become your own butcher has more value now than ever.

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

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Help support the continued content for Shopping, Dining, Best Deals, Product & Service Reviews, Tips, Hacks, Recipes and other great information by buying me a coffee. Your support to keep Bachelor on the Cheap a free resource is much appreciated! ~ Mike

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Don't Buy Jar Spaghetti Sauce, Make Your Own

BachelorontheCheap.com

Tomato Sauce
Make your own sauce, it's easy, it's tasty, it's cheaper than the jar stuff

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

Sauce ingredients
If you don't have fresh ingredients, that's OK! The dry stuff will do just fine.

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.  Simmer this sauce for a bit to let all those flavors get happy.  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 less than $1.  We're talking bargain provided you've got some basic seasonings in your pantry.

$pend Wisely My Friends...
 

Help support the continued content for Shopping, Dining, Best Deals, Product & Service Reviews, Tips, Hacks, Recipes and other great information by buying me a coffee. Your support to keep Bachelor on the Cheap a free resource is much appreciated! ~ Mike

Buy Me a Coffee

follow me on twitter @Bacheloronthe1