Wednesday, February 28

Refined Food Mania

While reading about egg rice at Trying To Make A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cents, I had a few thoughts:

The Wonders of Egg Rice
I am going to write about one of the favored staples at my house that I whip up for breakfast, lunch, or dinner that is quick, simple, easy and nutritious. It is egg rice. The recipe started when I was little and my mother would often scramble an egg in butter and then add a little cooked rice and give it to us for breakfast. We loved it! I started making it again when I became a mother, for my son and I started expanding and adding other ingredients like onions, green peppers, mushrooms, frozen mixed vegetables...

My first thought was that I'm getting hungry! Fried rice is great, especially with a bit of butter and eggs and perhaps a few scraps of leftovers added. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

My second thought was about the difference between brown rice and white rice. Alternately, the difference between brown bread and white bread. At this point in my life I can't even imagine why anybody would buy white bread, white rice or other highly refined foods anymore.

Heck, when I was growing up I remember when my mother switched from white bread to brown bread. It was, shock and horror, different! The bread actually had some little bit of texture and flavor of it's own all of a sudden. I find it so hard to imagine liking white bread or white rice. Heck, brown rice is okay, but best of all is something like a mixture of long grain and wild rice.

Who is it that tricks us into eating overly refined reduced flavor foods when the good stuff is sitting right next to it on the shelves? Anyway, just some things that sprang to mind while I was reading. Time to go fry up some rice!

Oh, before I forget, for the first time reader, please note that rice is one of the more frugal foods available. Bought in large sacks it will keep for ages, when stored properly, and you can easily keep a family fed for only pennies a serving.

Update: I should note that I did actually cook up a large pot of rice and later made a nice fried rice dish using my trademarked spice selection process.

Tuesday, February 27

What's For Breakfast?

Breakfast is where I like to really save dough. Though I'll sometimes pick up some bagels, which are great toasted with peanut butter, I usually just stick to my oatmeal.

This morning, for example, it was frozen blueberries, oatmeal and milk. If you can get past your taste for commercially sweetened cereals and other usual junk breakfast fare, you'll find this is just fine.

You might want to thaw the berries in the fridge overnight. Heck, if you are like me and don't cook your oatmeal, then you might want to let the berries, oatmeal and milk all sit overnight.

Note: Don't buy flavored, sugared, instant or quick oatmeal. Get the plain stuff with the largest flakes you can find and buy it in bulk. You can also use steel cut oats, but you'll find that they would require soaking or cooking. With flakes that is optional.

Monday, February 26

Dinner For Two

Well, this meal probably wasn't the cheapest thing on the planet, but it was quick, convenient, easy and reasonably healthy. Oh, it was of course also a combination of the usual suspects...

Let's see. Chunk of ground beef frying in the pan. Spice with cayenne pepper, maybe a bit of ginger and/or a bit of garlic. Pot of tri-color pasta boiling on the side (add the pasta when the beef is nearly done). Pretty standard so far, right?

Now, when the beef is done, turn the heat down and add a can of cream of mushroom (low fat) soup. Mix that up. Toss a can of romano beans into that and keep warm while the pasta finishes.

When the pasta is done, drain, then toss in a box of black bean and red pepper soup. Throw the beef, bean and soup mix into the pot. Stir it altogether and you are ready to go. Serve with a bit of shredded cheese on top of the bowl.

Hey, it's not gourmet, but it tastes good, is healthy, is cheap and takes very little time and effort. It's time to stop thinking frugal has to be time consuming and inconvenient. You could save a little more by not using prepared soups, but I'm not going to complain.

Promote Your Blog

I figured I'd let you in on a little secret. Okay, it isn't much of a secret, but I'm the guy behind the Grokodile blog directory. Recently I've been using PayPerPost to encourage some bloggers to add themselves to Grokodile and then write a review of the directory.

I've gotten some great feedback and suggestions because of this! For example, I've added small bits of help information and streamlined a few things to make it even easier to submit a blog correctly.

If you are a blogger, here are some good reasons to submit your blog to the Grokodile directory:

  • Get Some Link Love: Inbound links help your blog rank better in search engine listings. You don't have to link back to the directory but it would be nice if you did.

  • Find Local Bloggers: Grokodile is a regional directory that lists blogs and sites at the community level. Adding your blog in your own community will help you connect with other local bloggers.

  • Get More Readers: Obviously we can't promise loads of traffic, but we do rank listings such that sites not visited recently rise higher on the page over time.
What does this have to do with frugality? Not much. However, the directory is a startup Internet site that is being launched on an extemely limited budget. Other than hosting costs there are currently zero non-marketing expenses - which is really only possible because I'm an Internet programmer by trade.

Please visit the directory and add your blog to your own local community. It's free and may just bring you some readers and will help you find other local blogs.

P.S. If you feel real generous today feel free to write a review. Or, if you prefer, perhaps leave a comment to let me know about something I need to improve or correct.

Saturday, February 24

Cocooning vs Blowing High Dough

Your lifestyle can have a lot to do with whether or not you can hang onto your money. Many people, including myself when I was younger, like to go out and party during evenings and weekends. Of course, this would usually involve buying expensive drinks, playing pool, watching sports, listening to music, perhaps even looking for a significant other.

Finally, at the end of the night, after drinking too much it was generally time to buy some overpriced greasy food and find a cab to get home in.

Holy crap! A few days of this per week serveral times a month and you are literally throwing your cash away. You do realize that there are things you can do that don't involve such blatant waste and consumption, don't you? For example, if you had a pair of cross country skis, then you could use them all winter, year after year, with very little expense and be healthier to boot.

If you can't ski or can't afford skis, then you can probably afford to go for a walk. Bundle up and enjoy a sunny winter day. What about skating? Window shopping down main street? Relaxing on your couch with a comforter, good company, a book and perhaps some music or maybe a movie in the background. Maybe a warm pet curled up somewhere close by?

I know a lot of people go out a lot in the hopes of finding a significant other, but there are better ways to show the world that you have something to offer. Get involved in things around the community. Find people that are interested in the same sports, activities or hobbies that interest you. Once you are in the company of other people, whether partying or not, you'll be socially active. Partying all the time does not make you a good catch, it's a warning sign to anyone that has their act together already and isn't partying all the time anymore themselves.

Anyway, I realize this can be somewhat of an age based thing, but if you are trying to spare your cash, then you need to realize there are other strategies available to you while in pursuit of your goals.

When you have met someone, consider cocooning from time to time. It's very nice to curl up and relax with someone special on a cold winter day, even if it doesn't cost anything. Contrary to popular consumer philosophies, you don't actually have to actively spend loads of money to be comfortable and happy.

Friday, February 23

Review My Post

Well, I can't imagine how you would miss it, but I have added an offer from PayPerPost to the bottom of all my posts. Basically, if your blog is active and has been online for several months, then you can review my post and earn some revenue from PayPerPost.

The idea is that from that point on you will be a "postie" and participate in the PayPerPost system. Well, that's the idea from the point of view of PayPerPost. The idea from my point of view is that if they do accept your review, then I will earn a referral fee for getting you to join their network.

I'm considering writing paid posts using this blog. This is not one, since I have not been accepted into the network yet. Apparently I have not been writing often enough to qualify! So, now, I'm endeavoring to be more of a spendthrift with my words. Hey, don't get me wrong, frugality is great, but it's a lot nicer to be frugal by choice than it is to be frugal by necessity.

Strange how that works...

Update: I didn't like the look of the banner on the bottom of every post. While I'm not against commercial activity in blogs, I also don't want to ruin my blog.

Sunday, February 18

Square Juice Containers

I've found a use for used juice containers. The large rectangular ones that is. Because they are "square" they organize well.

Anyway, once you have washed, rinsed and dried the used container, they are great for storing dry goods such as rice, pasta, flour, salt, sugar, oats or other cereals. You can lie them on their side to stack them, if you want, or stand them up and keep plenty of food safely stored for relatively long periods of time.

Opened bags or boxes are hard to close as securely. Longer term storage invites mishaps by moisture or pesture... okay, so that's a made up word.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, there are only so many of these that you'll need. You will end up going back to recycling eventually.

Saturday, February 10

Date Worthy Budget Meal

Eating cheap doesn't mean you can't eat well. Just the other day I was at the supermarket, picking up some much needed odds and ends, when I spotted these bulk packs of pork chops at a great price. Further inspection revealed it was "best before" day, which explained the fire sale pricing.

So, I picked up a package of nine large juicy chops and immediately rushed them home to my freezer. Individually wrapped and frozen, of course, so that I don't have to cook them all at once! I probably should have bought more, but I chose the best looking chops and really wasn't impressed by the rest of the packages that were still left. Apparently I was late to the party.

Okay, okay, yes, the title hinted, but Frugal Guy is dating.

Anyway, my girlfriend was coming over for dinner, but I wasn't sure exactly when she'd get here, she hadn't eaten all day and she had a "girls night out" thing to go to after dinner. What on Earth should I make? Come on, I'm a single guy who generally cooks a big plate of one thing and calls that dinner. Oh the pressure!

Hey, guess what, it's pork chops to the rescue.

Straight from the freezer to the pan. Once the pork chops are thawed and nearly cooked, simply turn the stove to low or simmer and add a can of cream of chicken soup (and the can of water, as directed). Excellent, these things can simmer for ages, waiting for your dinner date to arrive, without suffering any ill effects.

I'm afraid I cheated on the side dish a bit. Usually I'd cook rice from scratch, because it's one of the "cheapest dishes on Earth" when bought in bulk. However, it takes a long time to cook and, as mentioned, arrival time was a bit up in the air. To the rescue came Uncle Ben's Bistro Delight. Two minutes in the microwave and, bingo, a nice side dish of long grain wild rice, ready when you need it.

Oh, a secret ingredient. About the same time I nuked the rice I added a sprinkle or two of sage on top of each pork chop and cranked the heat for a short period of time. When the rice is done, plop a chop on each plate, being sure to keep some soup and sage on the top, and split the rice down the middle. The extra soup can be used as a sauce or gravy and it's all delicious. Trust me, the sage adds a lot to what might otherwise seem like a plain meal.

Frugality scale... date worthy dinner for two at $5, super. Utility scale... quality meal ready in an instant, literally two minutes, on a variable schedule, awesome. Points scale... getting big time bonus points for being able to cook and work around a tough schedule, priceless.

Sunday, February 4

Newest Frugal Meal Ideas

So, I've been eating a lot of ground beef, as usual. Hey, not only is it fairly cheap, I actually do like it! Anyhow, here are some simple meal ideals suitable for one or two diners.

Meal #1: Beef and Mushroom Sauce
Fry up your slab of ground beef, as usual, spicing to taste. When the beef is cooked, simply throw on some cream of mushroom soup. I've been using the low fat variety myself. It doesn't add much by way of calories but it does provide a lot of flavor and basically helps fill you up with water. For a side dish, just choose some vegetables that go well with mushrooms. For example, since I like simple meals I just tossed in a can of romano beans and stirred until the soup was mixed well. Serve and eat!

Meal #2: Beef and Black Bean Soup
Pretty much the same as above, but a very different flavor. I found some ready to eat soup that comes in a carton. It's red pepper and black bean soup. It's pretty yummy all on it's own. If you want to change up the meal a little bit, don't add the soup to the beef. Simply serve a side dish of long grain and wild rice with your beef and use the black bean soup as if it was gravy.

Meal #3: Chicken Pasta with Mushroom Alfredo
Honestly, I do actually eat things other than beef! Anyway, fry up some chicken breasts or whatever chicken you have around the house spicing to taste. At the same time, prepare a pot of pasta. I recommend tri-color rotini as it has carrot and spinach as well as regular pasta. One way to serve this is to break the chicken into chunks and then add the mushroom soup to the pan. Once the soup and chicken is ready it can be dumped into the drained pasta and stirred together. Another way to serve this is to put portions of chicken and pasta on your plate and drizzle mushroom soup over them.

Mix and Match
The meals above are ones that I have recently prepared. They are very cheap, especially with a side dish of pasta or rice. However, you can substitute any meat that you have on hand, any flavor of soup that goes with the meat you choose, and any side dish of vegetables, beans, rice or pasta that you enjoy. With this you have the frugal dining trifecta, tasty, cheap and healthy!