Living well on a budget, without being truly cheap.

Drink Review: Clos du Bois Chardonnay

By Mike Thayer

National Drink Wine DayIn honor of National Drink Wine Day - who thinks up these days of celebration things anyway? - Well, I'm rolling with it!

A drink review on a Chardonnay, produced by Clos du Bois

Clos du Bois is one of California's longest standing names in the marketplace, walk into almost any liquor store and you'll see their wines on the shelf.  Their Chardonnay is a popular choice because it's a reasonably priced, no-nonsense wine.  It's not top shelf stuff, but it's not bottom shelf stuff either.  This wine is popular because it delivers top shelf taste without the cost, a great bang for the Chardonnay buck.

Here are the tasting notes from the winemaker's website:  Brilliant silver straw yellow in color. Intense aromas of apple blossom, ripe pear, and sweet lemon drop are complemented by toasty oak, spice, and cream. In the mouth, the silky texture of the wine is overlaid with bright, juicy flavors of ripe apple and pear for a long and fresh finish.

Those tasting notes are spot on!  In layman's terms, it's good!

Chardonnay is also arguably the world’s most popular variety of white wine and in large part we have California to thank for that.  Winemakers there have successfully marketed the straightforward but very pleasant aromas of apple and pear and Clos de Bois is a pick of choice with many who keep a Chardonnay or two at the ready at home.  It's also a pick of choice in the bars as well.  That's saying something.

Costing me about $10, this is another wine that's easy to like, it's reasonably priced, drinks easy after a long day at work and compliments a variety of fish and chicken dishes, especially those prepared with butter, cream or herbal sauces.  It's a repeat buy and gets 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Related:  Drink Review: The Ned Sauvignon Blanc

My first meal at Logan's Roadhouse may have been my last

By Mike Thayer

Logan's Roadhouse presentation
Sloppy presentation, skimpy portions, well, EXCEPT the broccoli....

A friend of mine was celebrating a birthday the other day and so a group of us met her and her significant other at Logan's Roadhouse to celebrate.  It was a Saturday night, a busy night for the restaurant, but there was no waiting as the birthday table had already been seated when I arrived.  In fact I was the last of our little party to do so.  Fashionably late, right?   That's my story and I'm sticking to it....

I had never eaten at Logan's before this night and I was looking forward to eating a juicy steak.  It was a bit of a challenge deciding on what to eat, it all looked pretty darn good on the menu with a nice variety of options to choose from.  Our waitress took our drink and appetizer orders as we continued to peruse those dinner menus.  After a few more minutes and with everyone set on what to order, we sat and waited, and waited some more.  That's OK, there was some great table conversation going on, but it did take a long while for our waitress to deliver that first round of drinks, let alone take our dinner order.  Granted, it was a Saturday night, the place was busy, but not that hopping busy....  The waitress was nice, polite, but easily distracted and slow.

The drinks finally arrived and so did our appetizers which were pretty tasty.  I sampled the potato skins which were above average.  Sometimes a restaurant will over bake them, turning that potato skin into a piece of shoe leather, not so with these. 

For my entree' I went with the Surf & Turf, a sirloin steak and grilled shrimp.  Here's the description from the Logan's website:  Get the best of both worlds with our 6 oz. USDA Choice, grain-fed Sirloin and a skewer of wood-grilled shrimp on a bed of rice pilaf. Served with your choice of one side. Upgrade to an 8 oz. Sirloin for a little extra.

Logan's Roadhouse rareWhen our dinners arrived, I was visually disappointed.  I highlighted the word 'bed' in the description above, check out the pic up top, does that look like a BED of rice to you?  No, it's more like three little spoonfuls.  This dinner looked mouthwatering on the menu, but what gets delivered to your table doesn't measure up.   And that's NOT an eight ounce steak.  I inquired about the steak with my waitress, but she insisted that was the upgraded steak.  It was NOT grilled to a medium rare as I ordered either, it was delivered rare.  But hey, those bread rolls they serve with the meal were good!  Yes, stated with a side of snarky.

My meal wasn't the only one not quite right either.  A couple in the group ordered the Prime Rib.  When delivered tableside it didn't measure up to the picture on the menu either, not even close.  It was a VERY thin cut of Prime Rib and the Au jus was COLD!  My friend sent the Au jus back to be heated up, it came back only marginally warmer, but still pretty much cold.  Who wants cold Au jus with their Prime Rib?   With temp in mind, the meals weren't delivered to the table hot, they were warm at best, food got cold quick!  Another downer.

Overall, while my dinner was seasoned well enough, I found the portions to be on the skimpy side, to include the five little shrimp on the skewer.  Coupled with the slow service - no water refills kind of tells you how slow - Logan's fumbled the ball on this dinner.  I felt kind of bad for my birthday friend, but we all made up for it in some great table conversation and laughs!

I paid $15.99 for my meal, that's a reasonable price for a steak dinner, but the slow service, warm but not hot food, skimpy portions and food not measuring up to the menu picture hype made for a disappointing dining experience.  I'm giving Logan's Roadhouse 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  If it's up to me, I won't be going to a Logan's Roadhouse again.  There's far better steak to be had out there.

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

The Logan's Roadhouse visited on this occasion is located at:

353 S Rock Rd, Wichita, KS 67207

Drink Review: The Ned Sauvignon Blanc

By Mike Thayer

The Ned Sauvignon BlancHere's a wine you may want to have on hand.

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc.

The Ned hails from New Zealand and the Marisco Vineyards located in the Waihopai Valley.  A number of wines made there are award winning, receiving accolades in several international competitions to include the Sauvignon Blanc.

If you're not familiar with what a Sauvignon Blanc is, it's a white wine, a dry wine with the fruity flavors of lime, green apple, passion fruit and white peach. What makes Sauvignon Blanc unique from other white wines are the other flavors a producer will include such as bell pepper, jalapeño, gooseberry and perhaps even a gram or two of sugar to add a bit of richness.

Here's the tasting note description of the wine from the Marisco Vineyards websiteDelightfully ripe aromas of gooseberry and white peach are laced with refreshing notes of kaffir lime. The fleshy mid palate is tamed by an underlying minerally acid backbone that culminates in a bright, zesty finish.

This wine is easy to like, it's bright, nicely fragrant and balanced.  All that flavor from a screw cap wine!  And I'm not any kind of wine connoisseur, but I'm not a wine snob either, I know what I like and this is a good one.   This is a pretty darn good wine, no cork needed!  Besides, after enjoying a glass, the bottle is easy to cap, you don't have to worry about trying to re-cork it or grab a wine stopper.  

Costing me about $10, I'm giving The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's reasonably priced, refreshing and pairs well with seafood, chicken dishes and salads.  It's definitely worthy of a repeat buy!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....



Food Review: Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger

By Mike Thayer

Pierre Signatures Angus CheeseburgerWith a busy work and play schedule in mind, I've been buying groceries with convenience foods on the shopping list rather than buying ingredients to cook with as of late.  The weather has played a role in the switch to my grocery buying routine too, I don't do a lot of grilling during the winter months.  This week's grocery run was no different and in searching for a convenient lunch item, I picked up a box of Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburgers. 

Here's the description on the box:  Premium Flame Broiled Angus Beef Steak with American Cheese on a Sesame Seed Bun.

Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger openThe box contains eight individually wrapped burgers, with heating instructions for the burgers if refrigerated, or frozen.  I keep mine in the freezer and for lunch today I grabbed a burger from the box and prepared it in the microwave per the box instructions.  The Angus Cheeseburger was ready in about four minutes.  Talk about convenience, you can't do that on a grill! 

In taking that first bite, I was pleasantly surprised, this burger is better than what you get at some fast food burger joints!  Weighing in at 6.2 ounces (burger, bun & cheese), it's a good sized burger, the patty was juicy, seasoned well, nice burger to bun ratio.  The bun was nice and fluffy - no hard, rubbery edges from nuking.  The cheese, well, it's American cheese, a classic choice for a burger.  I took that first bite without dressing the burger, pretty tasty, then added the mustard, ketchup, lettuce and tomato making it even tastier.

Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger dressedOverall, this is a good burger, especially considering it came out of a microwave.  Costing me $14.99 for that eight count box, that's $1.87 per burger.  Convenient and priced cheaper than a burger equivalent at a fast food joint, I'm giving the Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  I'll be buying these again.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Current fast food and fast casual promotional meal deals

By Mike Thayer

Bachelor on the Cheap 2Here's a short list of the fast food and fast casual meal deals currently going on.  Sadly, only 1 out of the 10 "limited time" offers on this list is the promotion of a new menu item.  Only Taco Bell is offering something new with an asterisk* to try!  Otherwise, all deals are for existing menu items suffering from slow sales or the "bringing back" of old promotions in lieu of introducing a new product.  It's like the fast food/fast casual kingdom isn't interested in being innovative in 2020.

Here's the list in alphabetical order and remember that caveat, available at participating locations for a limited time:

Burger King: The #2 burger chain (sales, U.S) has brought back the 5-for-$4 Deal.  You can get a bacon cheeseburger, four-piece order of chicken nuggets, a cookie, a 16 ounce soft drink, and value sized fries - all that for $4 (plus tax of course). 

Dairy Queen: America's favorite soft serve ice cream chain has brought back the popular $6 Meal Deal, which features a 1/3 Double with Cheese, OR a 3-piece order of Chicken Strips, regular fries, a 21 ounce drink and a sundae.  The $6 Meal Deal is available all day, nationwide, but of course - only for a limited time.

Hardee’s: Normally not one to offer "Meal Deals" the likes of Burger King or McDonald's, Hardee's is offering their version of a Mix and Match deal with a 2 for $5 menu that includes the choices of its Roast Beef Sandwich, Double Cheeseburger, Hot Ham ‘N’ Cheese, and Bacon Cheddar Double Cheeseburger in the deal.

IHOP:  Announcing the return of the Pancake Special, you can get free all-you-can-eat pancakes when you order any breakfast combo until March 1.  The free pancakes come two at a time.

KFC:  The #2 chicken chain (sales, U.S.) is offering its Famous Bowls, layered with KFC's creamy mashed potatoes, sweet corn and bite-sized chunks of crispy chicken, drizzled with home-style gravy and then topped with a blend of three shredded cheeses.  All that for just $3.  You can get the classic Famous Bowl or go for the Nashville Hot sauce option.  

McDonald's:  The 2 for $5 is another repeat promo.  You can get two iconic McDonald's items such as a Big Mac and a 10-piece McNugget, or a Filet-O-Fish and a Quarter Pounder with cheese - and pay just $5. 

Pizza Hut: Living up to their tag line of "No One Out Pizzas the Hut," the former #1 pizza joint (sales, U.S.) launched a $10 Meat Lover’s Pizza value deal, which is 30% off the usual price.  Pizza Hut, now the #2 pizza joint, lost its crown to Domino's.  I still don't understand that one, Domino's pizza sucks.

Ruby Tuesday: Back for a "limited time," the $7.99 fajitas special.  Choose from Veggie, Chicken and Shrimp Fajitas.  And here's where the upsell comes in.... You can round out your meal with the Endless Garden Bar for an additional $3.99 and/or add an individual side of Chips & Queso for another $1.99. 

Subway: Calling it the Fresh Values Promotion, Subway is offering the Oven Roasted Chicken and the Veggie Delite sandwiches for just $2.99.  That's cheap and probably driving franchise owners crazy.  They lost money with the $5 foot long deal.

Taco Bell:  Calling the deal Happier Hour, buy a regular freeze or medium drink for $1 and get a Doritos Locos Tacos for $1.  Happier Hour runs from 2pm to 5pm local time, every day. Also available for just $1 are the new* Double Stacked Tacos, with the flavor options of Nacho Crunch, Chipotle Cheddar and Reaper Ranch.  Double Stacked Tacos with the aforementioned flavors were introduced on December 22, 2019.  But the Double Stacked Taco is actually not a new concept.  The Double Stacked Taco (minus the Nacho Crunch, Chipotle Cheddar or Reaper Ranch flavors) was first introduced by Taco Bell in 2016, but for.....  yes, you guessed it....  a limited time and has been missing from the menu since, well, 'til now.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

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Food Review: Ajinomoto Yakitori Chicken with Japanese Style Fried Rice

By Mike Thayer

Anjinomoto Chicken Fried RiceLooking for some convenience foods to prepare at home for those times when I don't feel like cooking, I picked up a box of Ajinomoto brand Yakitori Chicken with Japanese style fried rice when shopping recently at Costo.  I'm a sucker for fried rice and this looked pretty good.  

"What is Yakitori Chicken?" you ask....

It refers to the Japanese method of grilling skewered chicken over charcoal.  The chicken is typically cut into bite sized pieces, put on bamboo or metal skewers and placed over hot coals, the meat is seasoned over the fire.

Here's the description from the package:  Made with grilled white meat and tender vegetables in an authentic savory sauce.  In addition to the chicken and rice, the veggies include carrots, leeks, edamame soybeans, peas, red bell peppers and roasted sweet corn. 

Chicken fried rice in bagThe box contains six, nine ounce bags and preparation is easy peasy, just pop one of those bags in the microwave for three minutes and boom, dinner is served!

It's not bad for a grab and go meal, I was pleasantly surprised, Ajinomoto makes a decent fried rice.  The bite sized chicken is cooked nicely, you can see the char from the grilling.  The veggies are indeed tender crisp and everything is nicely portioned and balanced - there's no rice overkill.  It is a bit underseasoned though and I blame that on the sauce, there's frankly not enough of it.  In reading the ingredients on the box, it's a fairly typical sauce made with soy, mirin (rice wine) a few other ingredients and thickened with tapioca starch, but it lacks a little punch and the dish overall is a bit on the dry side for a fried rice.  I ended up adding some chili and sesame oil to my bowl to kick things up a notch.

Chicken fried riceI paid $12.59 for the box of Ajinomoto Yakitori Chicken with Japanese Style Fried Rice, that's just $2.10 per serving.  That's a cheap meal.  It's convenient, easy/fast to prepare, filling and although it needs a bit of doctoring to bump up the flavor, it's worthy of a repeat buy.  I'm giving this product 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Need a quick lunch?  Throw a bag of fried rice in the microwave.  Looking for a convenience meal that ISN'T a burger or run-of-the-mill sandwich?  Nuke some fried rice.  Don't want to dirty up a bunch of dishes when cooking for one?  You guessed it, grab a bag of fried rice, dinner in three minutes.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Food Review: Crazy Cuizine brand General Tso's Chicken

By Mike Thayer

Crazy Cuizine General Tso's ChickenUniquely Chinese-American, General Tso's Chicken is a battered and fried chicken dish served with a delicious 'sweet heat' sauce made with a combination of soy, garlic, ginger, chili peppers, sugar and other ingredients.  It's my preferred go-to dish when I'm in the mood for Chinese food. 

I'm always looking for a restaurant quality version of the dish to prepare at home, and today I'm trying General Tso's Chicken made by Crazy Cuizine.

Here's the description from the front of the box, which is pretty straight forward:  Battered Chicken Breast with Rib Meat in a Zesty Ginger Sauce.

I prepared the chicken in the oven per the box instructions and my dinner was ready in about 20 minutes.  You can also prepare them on the stove top, but with the LSU vs. Clemson National Championship game on, I opted for the convenience of the oven.

Serving the sauced up chicken over a bed of Ramen noodles, I took that first bite....

General Tso's ChickenNICE!  I didn't think I would get that same crispy texture you get from a restaurant/wok preparation, but boy this was close!  I got a light crunch from the battered exterior and the chicken was tender and juicy.  The sauce was pleasant, delivering on the General Tso's notes of some sweet heat, but it was on the mild side.  I had to doctor things up a bit with some chili flake and cayenne pepper powder to kick the sauce up a notch.

General Tso's Chicken, the combination of that battered/fried preparation along with the sweet heat sauce is what makes this dish.  It's a delicious marriage of texture and flavors that puts it at or near the top of the list of Chinese favorite eats for many folks.  I'm looking forward to trying of another Crazy Cuizine batch using the stove top directions which surely will provide that restaurant quality crispiness I'm looking for.  Crazy Cuisine puts out a good product, it's worthy of a repeat buy.

Costing me $9.99 at Costco, that's just $1.11 per serving and the serving size - 1 cup - is generous and quite filling when served over a bed of noodles or rice.  I'm giving Crazy Cuizine General Tso's Chicken 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  The price is VERY reasonable, the chicken is easy to prepare and quite tasty after just a bit of doctoring to the sauce.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Food Review: Tiger Thai Shrimp Vegetable Nests

By Mike Thayer

Tiger Thai Shrimp Vegetable NestsI've been looking for something a little different to put into my meal and snacking routine.  Yes, believe it or not, chips, popcorn or Little Smokies can get old. 

During my latest shopping trip to Costco and focused on shaking up the 'house menu' I happened across some Shrimp Vegetable Nests which looked quite tasty and I'm a sucker for just about anything with an Asian Flare.

The description from the box:  Tiger Thai Tempura Shrimp and Vegetable Nests are a delightful combination of onion, carrot and kale.  We julienne the vegetables, then form them into a ring, or nest, and finish them off with shrimp on top. 

Tempura battered shrimp nestsThese 'nests' are indeed delightful!  Prepared in the oven per the box directions, I had a very tasty appetizer - which turned into a dinner - in about 15 minutes.  One nest is a pleasant mouthful and it delivers a fantastic bite of nicely seasoned shrimp and veggies wrapped in a Tempura batter crunch.  DELICIOUS!

The nests also includes a dipping sauce which was tasty on it's own but I did doctor it up a bit with a couple splashes of red chili and sesame oils.

Excellent as an appetizer, entree or snack, these things are also a great way to get a little seafood and a few veggies into your diet.  Four nests plus the dipping sauce is just 240 calories.

Purchased at Costco for $8.89, that's just 37 cents a nest!  That price is Bachelor on the Cheap friendly, they taste great, they're easy to prepare, what's NOT to like?!  I'm giving Tiger Thai Tempura Shrimp and Vegetable Nests 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars and they are most definitely worthy of a repeat buy.

5 stars

Food Review: Brazi Bites, Brazillian Cheese Bread

By Mike Thayer

Brazi BitesI've been tempted to try these for awhile now, they always call out to me as I pass them by in the freezer section at Costco, but I've never reached for a bag, until today.

I'm glad I did!

Prepared per the package instructions, in 20 minutes I had myself a delightfully crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside cheesy bread appetizer, packed with the flavors of Parmesan and cheddar cheese.  These things rock!  I sampled them on this occasion as an appetizer, enjoying them as I prepared my dinner, but they would also be fantastic as a change of pace snack.  They would do you proud served as an appetizer or party snack for guests as well.  It's convenient as heck, just pull some from the bag and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes.

I picked up a  2 lb, 4 oz. bag of Brazi Bites at Costco for $12.49, that's about 35¢ per ounce, or 42¢ per serving.  The price is quite reasonable and the bites deliver on flavor.  I'm giving Brazi Bites 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  They are most definitely a repeat buy and I'll probably always have a bag of these on hand in my freezer.

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Brazil Bites YUM

Food Review: El Monterey Mexican Grill Chicken & Cheese Taquitos

By Mike Thayer

El Monterey TaquitosHaving recently enjoyed some Rolled Chicken Tacos from Taco Bell (pretty much a fried taquito), I happened upon a more traditional taquito offering in the freezer section at Costco:  El Monterey Mexican Grill Chicken & Cheese Taquitos.

Here's the description from the package:  We take tender charbroiled chicken breast, real Monterey Jack cheese, our rich tomato sauce, the most robust of Mexican-style ingredients and roll it all up into a crisp flour tortilla.

How can you go wrong with that?

Excellent Snack!

I prepared them in my oven per the box instructions and in about 13 minutes I had a VERY tasty snack.  I got all those flavors in every bite, the juicy chicken, the gooey cheese, the nicely seasoned tomato sauce all brought together in that crispy tortilla.  These things have all the elements in a great snack, savory, cheesy, some crunch.  They taste great on their own, but I did kick things up a notch by dressing them up with a little Crema (a little sour cream, heavy cream, lime juice mixed together), a light sprinkling of Mexican oregano and a few splashes of Tapatio Salsa Picante Hot Sauce.  It was another dose of YUM!  If there's a knock to be made on these, it's that I wanted more filling, it's quite tasty, a thicker taquito would be nice.

I purchased a 3lb, 3oz (that's 30 taquitos) box of El Monterey Mexican Grill Chicken & Cheese Taquitos at Costco for just $9.99, that's 33¢ a taquito.  You can have a snack of three taquitos for under a $1, bargain!  I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars, they're quite tasty, convenient, easy to prepare and are worthy of a repeat buy.  Have a box of these at the ready in your freezer, no travel to Taco Bell required!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....