Product & Service Reviews Feed

Product Review: COMFEE' Stainless Steel Electric Kettle

COMFEE' Stainless Steel Electric Kettle
Better than a stovetop teapot, and faster than a microwave...

Better than a teapot, faster (and safer) than the microwave, and far superior to bringing a pot of water to a boil, if you don't already have an electric kettle, you're going to want one after reading this...

I enjoy 2-3 cups of green tea in the afternoon.  Up to now, I've been content with boiling water in the microwave, using a 2-cup measuring cup, nuking it for three minutes then pouring the boiled water into my teacup and letting the bagged green tea do its thing.  

Enter, the COMFEE' Stainless Steel Electric Kettle

The electric kettle boils water for my tea in half the time it takes in the microwave.

I've thought about buying a teapot for the stovetop, but I bought an electric kettle instead.  In addition to the faster boiling time, another benefit to the electric kettle is saving burner space on the stovetop. I do a lot of scratch cooking, so open burner space in my house comes at a premium for all the sauteing, frying, boiling, and simmering that goes on.  

With that cooking in mind, which could mean boiling up a pot of water for pasta, potatoes, eggs, other veggies, etc., well that bring-water-up-to-boiling time has been cut by more than half with the new kettle.  The kettle can boil up to 1.7 liters of water (that's a bit over 7 cups for those of you who live in Valley Center) in 5-7 minutes.  TIP:  Warm up your pasta/potato/egg/soup/veggie, whatever pot over medium-high heat, no water, then dump in the electric kettle water.  You'll cut at least 10 minutes off your prep time.  No more waiting for the big pot to come to a boil.  The electric kettle is also beneficial for adding hot liquid to loosen up or create any number of dishes, sauces, gravies, etc.

The stainless steel pot is good-looking and has an automatic shut-off once the water starts boiling, as well as boil-dry protection.  Can't get that with an old-school stovetop teapot! The cool-touch (no hot pad required!) handle features a simple release button for the pop-up lid to protect you from accidental burns.

Costing me $21.74 on Amazon, I'm giving the COMFEE' Stainless Steel Electric Kettle 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Not only is it better than a teapot, faster than a microwave, and superior to boiling up a pot of water, it's mobile too!  The 360° swivel base with UL standard power cord can deliver you hot water anywhere there's an outlet.   Bonus, it was cheaper than most stovetop teapots.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Product Review: Meker Fire Starters

Meker Fire Starters
You get tumbleweed-style and brick-style starters

Not so long ago, Weber Lighter Cubes and Royal Oak Tumbleweeds were pretty much the only two fire starter products you saw in the grill section of a general merchandise or home improvement store.

Now there are many fire starter choices on the store shelves, including several copycat products.

I used to be a newspaper and charcoal chimney guy, but since fire starter products are readily available, super convenient, and cheap, I hardly use my chimney anymore.

Today I'm reviewing one of those newer products, Meker Premium All Purpose Fire Starters.

You get a mix of tumbleweed-style starters (a copycat version of what Royal Oak makes) and some brick-style starters.  I like the mix, it's multi-purpose.  The tumbleweeds are ideally suited for lighting charcoal, and the bricks are best suited for lighting kindling and logs which means you don't have to buy two products.   The Meker product serves all grilling, campfire, and fireplace needs. Both styles have a burn time of 8 to 10 minutes according to the packaging, but the tumbleweed is larger and puts out a bigger, broader flame, which is what makes it superior to lighting charcoal over the little brick.  In other words, the tumbleweed is going to start a larger number of briquets or lumps vs. the little brick.

Made from paraffin wax and sawdust, it's an all-natural product, so it's non-toxic and there's no risk of fume-tasting food - hello lighter fluid rookies and putting food on the grill before the coals are ready...  I'll just come out and say it, lighter fluid sucks and so does matchlight style charcoal.  There's absolutely no need to use lighter fluid or pay more for matchlight charcoal when there are fire starter products so readily available and every bit as convenient when it comes to starting a fire.

Costing me $10.74 for a 32-count box, I'm giving Meker Fire Starters 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  The out-of-pocket expense is a tad higher than other products, but you do get more starters per package.  The popular package count for Royal Oak Tumbleweeds is 16 and Weber Cubes is 24.  The per-use cost breakdown for Meker falls in line with the others, with a window of $0.33 - $0.45 depending on how many you choose to use to start a fire.  Weber for example, recommends you use two cubes, but I say that's just to get you to burn through (pun intended) product faster, hello replacement purchase...  But I digress.  You can't go wrong with these, especially if you're a multi-kind of fire person, who grills, goes camping, and/or has a wood-burning pizza oven or a fireplace.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Related: No charcoal chimney necessary when using Tumbleweeds to fire up the grill

Related: Using newspaper to start your charcoal is good, but Weber Lighter Cubes are even better

Product Review: Besiter Hose Nozzle

Besiter Hose Nozzle
Two-Pack, Available for less than $10 on Amazon

Tired of using my thumb to create spraying action for lack of a spray nozzle, I finally got around to buying a couple of nozzles for the backyard hose setup.

Enter, the Besiter Hose Nozzle 

As an avid gardener, I went with a dial nozzle with 10 spray patterns to handle various spray needs.  In addition to watering the garden, this nozzle should be able to tackle just about any other spraying need as well, from cleaning the wheelbarrow, spraying down the patio, or washing my truck.  I've noted typical use for some patterns.  

  • Angle - good for tough spots, like washing mud from wheel wells
  • Jet -  forceful stream, good for rinsing
  • Shower - soft general spray, provides excellent broad coverage, good for watering plants that don't mind getting all wet, rinsing soap off vehicles.
  • Mist - good for seedlings, starter plants, delicate plants
  • Soaker - in my book, a more efficient way to water your lawn, especially on elevated grades.  Better than a traditional sprinkler which wastefully throws water up in the air. Simply set on soak, engage the hold clip, lay it down, and let gravity do the work.
  • Center
  • Cone
  • Full - as the name suggests, a full spray provides the best distance, and most force, good for filling water cans, buckets
  • Flat - a line of spray good for watering the base of plants that are prone to fungal diseases and shouldn't get all wet
  • 1/4vert
Hose Nozzle
I like the orange color, easy to spot in a 50-foot coil of hose

Coming in a two-pack set, the product comes with extra washers.  These are plastic sprayers making them lightweight and won't get near as cold to the touch as metal with extended use.  I also like the simplicity of it, it's a rear trigger model which is easier on the hands.  The easy dialing is straightforward, there's no twisting trying to find just the right kind of spray like on one of those old-school brass nozzles.  With proper care, minimal exposure to the sun (the hose rack is in shade most of the day), and laying the nozzle on the ground - not dropping it - these nozzles should serve me well.  The plastic seems durable and handled water pressure well on all settings in two days of use, with no irritating/unwanted drippage. 

Costing me $9.66 for two nozzles on Amazon, I'm giving the Besiter Hose Nozzle 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Reasonably priced, I only gave them 4 stars because I simply can't predict the future and don't know how long they'll last.  Time will tell if the plastic used holds up, doesn't become brittle, and starts leaking all over.  With care (like the aforementioned nozzle drop on concrete), hopefully, the nozzles will last a good while.  It's another reason I bought the two-pack set, I have a backup should the first one go bad prematurely.  Compare that price to a similar plastic nozzle, Sevenlady Brand, with 8 spray settings priced at $11.68 at Walmart. 

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Sprayer settings
10 settings to handle any spray need


Gardeners, grab some Gardenline Potting Mix from Aldi while it is in stock

Gardenline Potting Soil
Available at Aldi

As a Bachelor, I've got several hobbies and things I like to do with my downtime, fishing, grilling, cooking, landscaping, and what's been occupying the bulk of my springtime downtime here in my Wichita neck of the woods as of late, gardening.

With playing in the dirt in mind, I always try to have a bag or two of potting mix on hand.  I prefer potting mix over garden soil, it's lighter and multi-purpose.  I can use it indoors and out and given my preference for raised bed and container gardening, I've found that a lighter soil mix leads to larger root vegetables and in general, a better harvest.  And yes, that means flowers will flower faster too for those of you who live in Valley Center.

Enter, Gardenline Potting Mix from Aldi

During my visit to Aldi this week, I noticed the stack of potting mix sitting next to the spring plants they typically have on display.  I grabbed a bag to try.

My go-to bagged potting soil has typically been Expert Gardener from Walmart.  It's cheaper than Miracle Grow and produces good plant growth, but the last couple of bags I purchased had a gnat infestation.  Not good, especially when potting a couple of indoor plants!

Gardenline Potting Soil
It's a good mix, also containing composted materials such as tree bark, pete, and other aged forest products.

I broke open the Gardenline Potting Mix yesterday, no signs of gnats!  According to the features printed on the bag, this mix will feed plants for up to 9 months via a slow-release fertilizer and contains Perlite to assist with drainage and aeration.  In working with it to plant some marigolds, moss rose, and a variety of vegetable seeds, it appears to be a quality potting mix.  Harvest time will tell the full story.

Costing me just $4.99 for a 1 cubic foot bag at Aldi, I'm giving Gardenline Potting Mix 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Finding a quality bagged product potting mix for this price anywhere else would be a challenge.  Compare that price to Expert Gardner, also a 1 cubic foot bag at Walmart for $6.97, or Miracle Grow priced at $8.97.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

While supplies last, Gardenline Potting Mix can be found at the Aldi located at 8011 E Kellogg Dr, Wichita, KS 67207

Turning your crock pot into three

A 7-quart crock pot
Large is good, but it's single use... or is it?

The menu for Super Bowl Sunday was a Taco Bar.

A Taco Bar is a versatile self-serve menu and perhaps one of the cheapest to put together.  Everybody loves tacos and bonus, it's multi-purpose!  In setting up for tacos, you've also set up a salad bar.  Staying warm in the crock pot all game long, people can help themselves to tacos throughout the festivities, it's a low-maintenance, low-prep work-required meal. 

But a large crock pot can't keep taco meat, AND refried beans, AND Queso dip warm, or can it?  I thought about buying one of those Triple Slow Cooker Buffet setups, but those can run $75 and up.  I'd rather spend that money on the party fun.  I could have borrowed a couple of crock pots, but then there's the amount of space needed at the buffet table, extension cord(s), and the untimely cleanup involved.

Silicone Divider Inserts
Turning your single use crock pot into three crock pots

Enter the YSF Silicone Slow Cooker Divider Inserts

A perfect fit for my 7-quart crock pot, these things split the slow cooker into three separate containers, so I was able to keep the taco meat, refried beans, and queso dip all warm under one lid.  The Food-Grade silicone is heat tolerant up to 446 degrees, non-stick, and it's dishwasher safe making for easy cleanup.  After the inaugural Super Bowl use, these reusable liners have been deemed crock pot essentials!  

Costing me $9.99 on Amazon Prime, I've given the YSF Silicone Slow Cooker Divider Inserts 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Reasonably priced, the dividers are easy to use, hold a lot of food, and are super easy to clean.  There are all kinds of divider inserts available for a variety of crock pot sizes and brands, and it's quite a savings vs. buying that $75 and up Triple Slow Cooker Buffet setup.  

Crock pot with dividers
Three items under one lid

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Taco Bar on Super Bowl Sunday
Embrace the crock pot, and divider inserts


Dishwasher Soap Battle: Palmolive vs. Great Value

Palmolive Power Pacs
Popular name brand, so it's got to be good, right?...

Running low on dishwasher detergent and not wanting to travel out to Walmart for just one item, I purchased some dishwasher soap on Amazon Prime.

My regular detergent buy is Great Value Dishwasher Pacs.  This product is a repeat buy for me because it does a fine job of washing dishes, there's no detergent residue, and no rinse aid is required.   Priced at $4.38 for a 32-count bag of pacs, it's also very reasonably priced at $0.14 per wash.  But like I said, making a trip out to Walmart for just a single item didn't seem worth it.  

Enter, Palmolive Essential Clean Liquid Dish Soap, Power Pacs

Palmolive Powerpacs
Typical detergent pod

I regularly buy their old-school dish soap for hand-washing dishes, available at Dollar Tree for $1.25, but I've never tried their dishwasher pods before.

According to the packaging as read on Amazon, the detergent is supposed to do all those standard things you expect a dishwasher detergent to do, tackle stuck-on food, no pre-wash or rinse aid needed.  I paid $6.99 for 36 pacs, or a bit over $0.19 per wash.  Palmolive also promotes how the product is free of parabens, phosphates and chlorine bleach; no added fragrance.  

This stuff doesn't wash as well as Great Value.  Not even close.  I've run three loads now with this product, and after each load there have been spotty, unclean dishes.   I didn't alter how I typically load and wash dishes and I routinely check the dishwasher for food waste buildup and clean the filter as needed.   This product is flat out inferior.

Great Value Dishwasher Pacs
Great Value does a WAY better job of cleaning than Palmolive!

This was the first and last time buying Palmolive Dishwasher Pacs, I'm giving them 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Having to hand wash dishes after running them through the dishwasher defeats the whole purpose of having a dishwasher, not to mention the water and time wasted.  This product is free of parabens, phosphates and chlorine bleach, but what is the point of that if it doesn't clean well, resulting in using more energy and more water to get them clean? 

I'll stick with Great Value Dishwasher Pacs, it actually cleans the dishes and costs less to boot.  I should have made the trip to Walmart for just the one item.

Related: Product Review: Great Value Dishwasher Pacs

Firewood Review: White Birch Bundles by Eco Forest

White Birch Bundles by Eco Forest
Bigger bundles than what you find at the grocery or convenience store

In the winter months, having that cozy fire for warmth and ambiance is a nice thing to have.   For those with wood-burning fireplaces, having a cord of wood on hand to fuel those fires is ideal for homeowners who have the space, but a cord of wood around isn't always practical for apartment dwellers. 

A cord of wood isn't cheap either, the average price for a cord of good firewood is about $300, but you can pay up to $700 depending on the type of wood, plus delivery and stacking fees.  You can get a cord of wood for as little as $150, but it's not necessarily going to be dried, pest-free, and you'll likely have to pick it up yourself.

White Birch
Two bundles of wood

A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet.  Think a pile of stacked wood, 8 feet long, by 4 feet high, and 4 feet wide.  That's not something an apartment dweller can do, and many elderly folks might not be into the chore of gathering, cutting, splitting, and stacking a supply of wood.

Enter White Birch Bundles by Eco Forest

Ideal for an apartment setting, smaller-sized fireplaces, or for those who simply don't have fires all that often, buying wood by the bundle is perhaps the most practical thing to do.  The Eco Forest product is white birch that comes in a 0.6 cubic foot bundle.  It's kiln dried, nicely split, and the bark is a great fire starter making it very easy to light.  Birch burns well, but it does burn faster than other woods, so you may want to consider mixing the types of wood bundles you buy, to include some longer and hotter burning wood such as hickory or oak.

Tag Details
Kiln dried, easy to light, pest free

White Birch Bundles by Eco Forest are available at Lowe's for $11.99 each and I'm giving the product 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  You get a lot of wood for the money and it's easy to light, but I wouldn't recommend it as a primary wood source or long-burning fires.  These are nice to have on hand for a cozy fire on date night, but heating your home, no.  Compare that price to those small bundles of wood from the mainstream grocery store or convenience store, about 4 or 5 little logs for about $5. 

The Lowe's visited on this occasion is located at 11959 E Kellogg Dr S, Wichita, KS 67207.  The wood is stacked and available on pallets outside near the main entrance.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike



The Manastin Beverage Cooler is an excellent value

Manastin Beverage Cooler
Manufacturer's marketing pic

I recently updated my Mancave to include putting in a beverage cooler so I didn't have to run into the kitchen to grab a cold beverage.  Who wants to miss a big play on game day, right?  No stepping out of the room to grab a drink required...

I wanted something that was a step up from a dormitory-size, compact refrigerator with a solid door and could only hold a couple of six packs.  I wanted a unit that could dress up the bar area a little bit, something with a glass door that could hold at least a case of beer, capable of servicing a game-day watch party.

Enter the Manastin Beverage Cooler

With adjustable shelves and a digital temperature display, this 2.47 cubic foot unit can hold up to 100 cans and/or bottles of soda, beer, wine, water, and other adult beverages.  Freestanding and with adjustable feet, it's large enough to be a floor unit, yet small enough to be a tabletop cooler, it's that flexibility that sold me on it.

It's got a glass door that seals well, and offers great visibility. The digital display is push-button-easy to use with a temperature range of 35-65 degrees.  The unit also has a soft blue LED light enhancing a dressed-up look which is also very convenient for nighttime use, there's no irritating bright white light coming on when opening the refrigerator door to grab that drink.  Perhaps the most overlooked or not considered feature, the unit is super quiet.  It operates without vibration and doesn't distract from the game.

Manastin Beverage Cooler
The soft blue LED lighting adds to the Mancave atmosphere

Costing me $149 on Amazon, I'm giving the Manastin Beverage Cooler 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  In comparing this unit to others I found in my online shopping efforts, this one is priced lower than similar-sized units, which typically run in the price range of $179 - $299 with similar features such as the glass door, digital display, LED illumination, and adjustable shelves.  I got free delivery with my Amazon Prime membership and I received the fridge within a week of placing the order.  If you're in the market for a beverage cooler, give this one a look.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Product Review: Popcorn Machine - Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper

Popcorn MachineI recently had a birthday and my sister Teri gave me a popcorn popper which was very thoughtful, as I'm a big-time lover of popcorn.

The Popcorn Machine Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper is a healthier approach to popping corn, no oil is necessary, and no worries about microwave popcorn in that paper bag that comes with various food safety warnings...

Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper
One measure of kernels = 2 bowls of popped corn

This is a nice little popper.  Easy to use, the lid is dual-purpose, good for portioning the popcorn as well as adding melted butter to the corn while it pops.  Measuring kernels to the fill line gives you two nicely portioned bowls of popcorn.  That fills the popper up about half full of popped corn, two 'lidfuls' of measured kernels give you a full popper, and four bowls of popcorn.  The perforated lid is a nice feature, allowing you to melt the butter as the popcorn pops, evenly distributing that golden, theatre-style taste experience.  It's a way better method than melting butter in a separate dish in the microwave after the pop (as the popcorn starts to cool), or melting butter in a small pan on the stovetop, and good luck getting that butter evenly distributed!   I also like the pourability of this popper, you can pour a serving directly into individual bowls, rather than popping some corn in some other type of popper, then transfer it to a large bowl (dirtying another dish), then dip individual popcorn bowls into that large bowl to get some, which usually results in some spillage.  

Dual-function lid
Melt the butter as the popcorn pops

Popping corn in a microwave is a very efficient way to make popcorn, especially vs. traditional stovetop methods, microwaving minimizes the number of Old Maids.  The unit is dishwasher safe, but I'm still going to hand wash due to the plastic parts.  Over time, dishwashers tend to prematurely age plastic, warping fitted parts.

Available on Amazon for about $16, I'm giving the Popcorn Machine Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Featuring easy measuring, I had delicious, airy, crisp, buttered popcorn from the microwave in about 2.5 minutes.  

Related:  Popcorn Reviews & Recipes

Related: Product Review: The Salbree Popper


Product Review: Best Choice Products 3-Piece Bistro Set

Bistro Table and chairs
Manufacturer's marketing pic on Amazon

I've got a great front porch on my house.  It's a good size, there's a roof overhead providing shade as well as protection from the rain, and I've been busy planting in the beds around the porch and in containers, but up until now, no outdoor furniture to speak of to relax and enjoy sitting outside.

Today I remedied that issue with the purchase of a bistro table and chairs.

I considered a small bench for the porch, but I hate working with a laptop computer literally in my lap, and there wouldn't be a place to set a beverage.  So I opted for a bistro set, a perfect furniture pairing for the space.

Shopping on Amazon, I purchased the following:  Best Choice Products 3-Piece Bistro Set, Aluminum Outdoor Dining Furniture Set for Patio, Porch, Backyard w/Umbrella Hole, 2 Chairs, 2 Cushions, Polyester Fabric - Black/Red.

Delivered in just a couple of days, the set was easy to put together with minimal effort.  All the parts were packaged well and the instructions were easy to follow.  The cast aluminum is sturdy and the cushions for the chairs are quite comfortable.  The table can accommodate an umbrella, but I won't be needing that with the porch roof overhead.  The tabletop is plenty big enough to handle a laptop, a couple of coffee cups, and more.

Bistro Table and Chairs
Now that's an enjoyable "office space"

I'm very pleased with this purchase, it's a good fit for my porch and comfortable to sit at.  I can see myself spending quite a bit of time now on the porch, relaxing, working, and enjoying sunrises, and sunsets.

Purchased on Amazon Prime for about $162 (including tax and free shipping), I'm giving the Best Choice Products 3-Piece Bistro Set 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  It's quality material, easy to put together, looks good, and it's comfortable.

Cost Comparison:  If you want to bypass the shipping, similar Bistro sets are available at Lowe's and Home Depot starting at $150, but you are limited to what they have in stock.  I found a very similar set at Lowe's, but their price was $189, before tax.  A similar set on Wayfair starts at $185.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike