Think Cost Per Serving, Not Price Per Pound

Pop quiz: Which is the better buy: Pork sirloin roast for $2.89 per pound or boneless pork chops at $3.79 per pound? If you answered the roast, you’re in good company (most of us did), but you are wrong. Price-per-pound can be misleading because all cuts of meat and poultry will not yield the same number of servings per pound.

You can feed twice as many people from boneless pork chops as from pork sirloin roast because the boneless chops have about four servings per pound, compared to two servings per pound for pork sirloin roast. What you pay for the edible portion is the important factor.

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If you want to reduce your food costs and at the same time raise your grocery shopping intelligence, start thinking cost-per-serving rather than price-per-pound.

If you could use some help figuring out how much meat to buy, cost per serving and servings per pound from all types of meat cuts, go to the University of Nebraska’s Cooperative Extension. They’ve done all the math and created simple charts you can print to take with you to the supermarket. For example, a whole chicken yields 2 – 2 1/2 servings per pound, while you can count on 3 1/2 to 4 servings from one pound of boneless chicken breasts.

Reader Jacquelyn L., North Carolina, has taken the price-per serving idea further. “I’ve tried clipping coupons religiously and planning meals, but when time runs short these methods fail me.” She says she needed a new method; something that didn’t require organization skills she doesn’t possess. She now uses the one-dollar-per-person-per-meal method. The goal is to feed her family for under one dollar per person per meal.

Of Meatloaf and “Homade” Chili Sauce

My sweet mother-in-law loved chili sauce. But not any ol’ version. It had to be Homade Chili Sauce,  which for the longest time I thought was her personal spelling of “homemade.”  But she was right. Homade Chili Sauce it is.

She’d put it on almost everything, which surprised me. I’d always thought chili anything meant spicy hot. Her chili sauce was not that way at all. In fact, I’ve come to love it, too. It is slightly sweet, perfectly spiced and yummy delicious.

Photo Credit: Ravenousfig

Photo Credit: Ravenousfig

When Gwen couldn’t bring herself to buy as much Homade Chili Sauce as she wanted (by the case) because it could be pricey if not on sale, she set out to make it herself. After many attempts, she nailed it.

From then on it become properly spelled, “homemade” chili sauce,  and stored in the refrigerator in any size container available—even in a few of those cute chubby jars the real stuff comes in.

My mind flooded with memories of my mother-in-law one day recently when I heard from reader, Janie S., Florida. She was kind enough to send us her family’s favorite meatloaf recipe, which to my amazement lists “Grandma’s chili sauce” in the ingredients, along with a note that “homemade from Ball Blue Book Recipes using garden tomatoes also works.”

A Look Behind No-Interest! No-Payments! Come-Ons

Have you ever wondered how retailers can possibly afford to offer the no-interest, no-payments and no-downpayment kind of deals you see advertised? That was the subject of a letter I received recently.

Dear Mary: There are several appliance, electronic and furniture stores in our area that run television commercials offering no money down, no payments and no interest until 2016. It sounds like I can just walk in and take what I want and not pay for a year! How do these companies really make money? Kate

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Dear Kate: First, these offers are on approved credit and come with a lot of other fine print. It takes pristine credit to qualify for those attractive terms. One retailer told me only about 25 percent of the people who apply for the amazing offers that get people through the door, can actually qualify. The other 75 percent are offered some other deal with horrible terms, which they usually accept because by the time it gets to filling out the paperwork, they’re so emotionally involved and have their hearts set on that “free” big screen TV, they’re anxious to sign anything.

How to Slash the High Cost of Gas

I can sum up my response to the price of gasoline soaring once again in just one word: Aargh!

While waiting for prices to come down again (do you think they will?) don’t sit around complaining all the while paying through the nose to drive your car.

Photo Credit: Debbie

Photo Credit: Debbie

There are lots of things you can do to increase the number of miles you can squeeze out of each gallon of gas, effectively reducing its cost. Here are a few:

Empty the trunk. The heavier the car the harder the engine must work to move it around. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it burns. So unload all that other stuff you’ve been carrying around in the trunk for no good reason (please, leave the spare tire and emergency equipment). It’ s trunk, not a mini-storage unit. Unload and you could easily increase your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

Check tire inflation. Get into the habit of checking tire pressure every time you fill up, but when the tires are cold. The recommended PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) is printed or stamped on a metal tag affixed to the edge of the front driver’s side door jamb—or on a older car, inside the glove box. Underinflated tires cause the engine to work harder than necessary, over inflation causes tires to wear prematurely.

Clean the air filter. One of the main causes of low gas mileage is a dirty air filter. If yours cannot be cleaned, replace it and repeat often. Check with a knowledgeable professional at an auto parts store or your mechanic about how often to clean or replace the air filter on your particular model. This is a task you can probably do yourself. 

New Life for an Old Eyeglass Case

Recently, I dropped off several out-of-prescription glasses at a facility that collects old eyeglasses for medical missions. With the cost of glasses equalling a year’s salary in some countries, donated eyeglasses are the best hope for bringing sight to many visually impaired people who could simply not afford the cost. The attendant kindly asked, however, that I not leave the cases.

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My first thought was to toss them into the trash on the way out and just be done with it. But it didn’t feel right. There just had to be a way to give new life to these sturdy, protective cases. Some quick research turned up these clever ideas:

Electronic accessories. An eyeglass case is the perfect size for headphones, charging cord for the typical mobile device. No more tangled mess.

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Photo Credit: Details-Etc.

Sewing kit. Travel-size thread, scissors, needles, pins and so on fit easily inside one of these cases. Gluing a couple of magnets in the lid helps to keep sharp items in place so they’re handy.

Photo credit: Sulky

Photo Credit: Sulky

A Compulsive Shoppers Guilt-Free Playground and Other Quick Tips

Today I have a bunch of tips for you. These are short, quick, wonderful ways to save time and money every day. I’m crazy about tips. Actually, I collect them, test them, sort them, categorize them, file them and then turn around and share them with friends like you.

You might find yourself asking, “But Mary, will any one of these ideas really save me any money?” Probably not very much if you consider only one tip, but many tips applied over a period of time can result in serious cumulative savings.

Photo Credit: infomatique

Photo Credit: infomatique

Library. What a fabulous place the library is. There you and your kids will find current newspapers (perhaps you will need to explain to your kids what a newspaper is), magazines, children’s books, adult books, videos, audio books, DVDs, CD’s and wonderful storytellers. You get to take home something new and it doesn’t cost anything. If you like to shop for fun, satisfy the impulse by visiting a library.

Some libraries have begun adding household items you can borrow—things like coffee urns and cake pans in the shape of characters. You can check them out for an event to host a family reunion and make your kids’ birthday cakes in the same way you borrow books.

Cooking Under Pressure

I’m a big fan of pressure cooking because I can make an entire meal in just a few minutes. Pressure cooking is crazy fast which means I save a ton of time—and energy, too. I do find this fact rather amusing as I am equally fond of slow cooking.

I have come to love and adore my 5-quart Kuhn Rikon Duromatic pressure cooker and I wanted you to see it.

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I don’t know how I could manage my busy life without my pressure cooker. There are cheaper models out there, but this Duromatic stands head and shoulders above the rest. This cooker comes with an excellent manual and recipe book. Totally safe and idiot-proof, this pressure cooker is known as Einstein in my house. That’s because it makes me feel like a genius.

Pressure cooking saves me time and money helping me to prepare delicious meals that retain nutritional values often lost in other cooking methods. Pressure cooking does require some adjustments, however. Follow these tips for the best pressure-cooking results:

Brown meats, poultry and even some vegetables like chopped onions, peppers or carrots in the pressure cooker first. This is the secret to producing intense flavors and beautiful color. In a stove-top model (like my Kuhn-Rikon) add a small amount of oil then heat uncovered over medium-high heat. Remove the food to a bowl and set aside. Now loosen up and remove those delicious cooked on juices and bits by eglazint eh pot with a small amount of wine, broth or water. Return the food to the pot and you’re good to go.

Go easy on the liquid. Because food cooks in a closed pressurized atmosphere, your liquid will not reduce. You must use some liquid however, so a good rule of thumb is to at least 1 cup of liquid. Never fill the pot more than halfway with liquid.

Best Car Trash Can Ever Plus a Few More Favorites

Wouldn’t you think that if car manufacturers can perfect self-driving cars, they could also come up with a way to conquer the car trash problem?

I’ve always thought that a built-in trash compactor would be great. Or even better, some kind of incinerator that sucks the accumulation of trash and garbage right out of the car and into a holding tank somewhere that magically converts it into purified drinking water. Or gasoline.

While waiting for that kind of invention to appear, I’ve been in search of the perfect car trash receptacle. I’ve tried plastic bags, plastic tubs and every kind of frugal trick and tip you can imagine to handle the annoyance of car trash. Nothing has ever proven satisfactory. Until now. I am so excited to tell you that finally, I have found a car trash can that works.  

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Best car trash can. The Car Trash Can by Freddie and Sebbie is extra large and perfectly designed to fit most vehicles. It has four solid sidewalls that do not collapse and a lid. It is leakproof, sturdy and doesn’t tip over because it has gripper strips that grab onto carpet.

If I sound giddy about this discovery, that’s because I am. Giddy with joy that finally I’ve found the  perfect car trash can that will work just fine until someone invents the kind of compactor or incinerator I described above. This is the trash can every family vehicle needs to keep the car clean, tidy and litter free. 

After using my cool trash can for a few weeks, I turned around and bought a second one for a gift—quite possibly the best gift ever, too.