Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cut Your Food Cost By 25%

Jeff Yeager at The Green Cheapskate blog has tons of really great tips on cutting your food budget:

Shop for groceries no more than once every two weeks. Time and again, studies confirm the obvious: Q.) How to keep yourself from buying too much stuff? A.) Shop less frequently. Grocery shopping is no different, but the key is to shop smart in order to avoid spoilage. Cook two or three meals' worth of each recipe at the beginning of the two-week period, and immediately freeze the extra portions for the second week. Freeze any meat that you won't be eating within the next 48 hours.

Use up fresh fruits and vegetables first, and then supplement them with just-as-healthy frozen as you get into the second week. Check expiration dates on dairy products before you buy them; in most cases you can find products that will remain fresh for two weeks or longer. The idea is to always USE UP what you buy before you shop again.

Think layovers, NOT leftovers. Raise your hand and repeat after me: "I solemnly swear to consume the remaining portions (if any) of meals I failed to previously consume within 24 hours of my failure to consume them." Eat 'em for breakfast, pack 'em for lunch, or host a hors de-yester-jour happy hour with friends.

How to handle restaurants. Establishments are frequently guilty of "over serving" in order to justify higher prices (call me a cynic). So order only from the appetizer menu or split a single ginormous entrée. And remember, doggy bags and leftovers have replaced Gucci bags and makeovers; green -- and cheap -- are the new cool.

Social therapy. I can't see myself ever paying for therapy (although my poooor wife has offered more than once to take up a collection for me). The best therapy for curing wastefulness is not only free, but it even helps others who really need it: Volunteer one day out of the year at a local food kitchen for the needy, and then see how much food you throw away.

The raising, processing, packing, distribution, sale, and waste disposal associated with the food we eat -- or don't eat -- leaves a sasquatch-sized carbon footprint on old Mother Earth. Save your money, save the planet ... just shut your yap and clean your plate.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Super Target Pastries

Hacking the Big Box Retailers is always a huge pleasure. Today's hack is about Super Target and pastries. But it is also about how wasteful human beings are.

Every day at 8PM, Super Targets across the USA throw away their "old" pastries. No, they won't just give them to you if you ask. Store Policy: throw those nummy little snacks in the dumpster.

Am I suggesting you Dumpster Dive? Absolutely! Freeganism at its best!

Why won't Target just give them to a homeless shelter...or to a friendly Snack Hacker who asks? Because Johnny Law doesn't take kindly to giving people food they can't sell.

It's an insane theory: we shouldn't give something away to someone, because that will keep them from actually buying it. You know it's bullshit, and I know it's bullshit, but this is the Tao of corporate retail.

At any rate, grab these darling pastries up and freeze them. Reheat them in the microwave and eat immediately. The other option is to warm them in the toaster oven...just spritz with a little water and top with melted butter for additional softness.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Microwave Hacking

This is a really short hack since we're slammed with important stuff today.

Second to the broiler, the microwave is (in our humble opinion) the most incorrectly utilized kitchen appliance. All its ever used for is reheating.

That my friends, is BULLSHIT!

Two great microwave hacks worth mentioning:

BreakFAST: our friend and fellow blogger Tim Ferriss shows you how to make a low carb, calorically dense breakfast in three minutes!

STEAM: use the microwave as a steamer! Just place the darn stuff in a plastic bowl with 1/4 cp of water and a pinch of salt. EASY!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fourth Grade Science Class and French Fries

In fourth grade, we learned that oil is lighter than water. I applied this knowledge to make crappy frozen fries taste like your favorite fast food potatoes.

Frozen bag potatoes are always mushy. Always. That's because the fine people at J.R. Simplot Incorporated (the largest manufacturer of potato food products) think you are too retarded to follow good instructions.

The secret is in the correct application of heat...

Preheat your oven 25 degrees higher than the directions. Stick your baking sheet in there with it.

Once you reach temperature, toss those fries on the hot baking sheet. Set your timer for about three minutes longer than the directions day (for me, this means 450 degrees for ten minutes).

Once your timer goes off, pull those puppies out and salt them to DEATH! Fast food fries have lots of salt...that's the big culinary secret. You'll notice the fries are paste colored and soggy. Don't worry..we're gonna fix that.

Now turn your oven on to BROIL and stick those salty fries on the top rack. Broil them for a minute or so at a time, frequently checking to make sure you don't burn them. Toss them around a bit, too, so they get even crispness.

That's all there is to it!

The trick is getting as much of the water out of the potato as possible. When you bake the potatoes on a room temperature pan, all the water gets everywhere and the potatoes essentially boil in the oven. By throwing them on a HOT pan, you quickly evaporate the water. What's left is the vegetable oil they are coated in when they are flash frozen at the Potato Factory. Broiling gives you the hottest heat possible in the most direct way, so you are deep frying the potatoes without the mess. Also, the only way you can season something that is deep fried is while there is a generous amount of oil on it, so pre-seasoning the fries makes them taste better. The salt also helps dehydrate the potato for more crunch!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Shitty Beef or Hacking Chinese Buffets

I think we are all aware of the tremendous risk one takes at eating crappy Chinese food buffet.

Alas, the lure of sugar and salt coated MSG super-fun-happy-yum-yum-beef or deep-fried-chicken-in-technicolor-sauce is just too strong.

So how do you get more bang for your buck at Chinese food restaurants?

Go For Lunch. On weekends, I make lunch out my biggest meal, then have a light supper in the evening. Cheaper prices, less crowd, and the food is fresher (if it ever was to begin with).

Make It A Day. Sometimes when the stress of being stuck at home or in the office is just too much, I'll telecommute from the Chinese Food Buffet. I'll start at lunch, stay forever (drinking water/tea and eating lil' desserts and fruit) then when the crowds start to gather for dinner, have my final epic feast. The whole time, I'm working from my laptop and using local wifi.

Drink Unsweet Tea. The problem with cheap Chinese is that it is salty and sugary. Drinking soda will only make it worse. "But Patrick," you ask, "you have to PAY for the drink. Why not have water instead?" Because at most Chinese food places, they actually build in the price of the drink with the meal. You end up getting water because you are a true Snack Hacker, but alas, you could have gotten whatever you wanted. Just check first. Unsweet tea has caffeine, which stimulate appetite!

This post brought to you by Jill and Patrick, because they are fat kids.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starbucks Hacking: DIY Latte, Short Cappuccinos, Free Flavored Iced Coffee


Three easy Starbucks Hacks...

Short Cappuccino: we learned this one from Slate Magazine (BTW, that image above is their property...oops). A stronger, cheaper tasting cappuccino than the rest, WhoreBucks aficionados know about the Short Cappuccino. Same as a regular cappuccino, just...well...stronger. Note from Victoria: some Starbucks don't have it on their keycode, and no keycode means no short cappuccino. Target Starbucks had them, but the ones at Barnes and Noble (which aren't actually Starbucks) don't.

DIY Latte: A latte is a cappuccino with steamed milk...simple as that. But all the steaming does is keep the milk hot. It barely changes the texture at all. So order yourself a Short Cappuccino and ask for it in a Grande cup (so it wont spill out while you drink it.) Run over to the milk/sugar station and add some Half and Half. Now you have a latte!

Free Flavored Iced Latte: same technique as the DIY Latte. Only you ask for a Venti cup. Also, ask for a water cup with ice because there isn't any in the water pitcher (there never is). While the coffee is still hot, add tons of sugar and one of the flavored powders they always have (cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa). Mix well, then top off with milk. Then take the ice from the water cup and pour it into the drink.

Make sure they don't catch you doing it, or they'll make you order one of those terrible biscotti they always have on the counter.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sunday may be the Lord's day...

...but at Kroger, it's also the best day for cake!

On Sunday evenings, all the baked goods are marked 50% off. And if you like to buy your carbs in bulk, everything freezes super well.

So life is good at your neighborhood Kroger store, and certainly better than Winn Dixie...and especially if you are a cross dressing truck driver