Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archive for December, 2005

[ Currently Eating: Cream of Zucchini Soup ]

Well, I decided to get in one more quickie review before the year is up. May I present Tootsie Pops Miniatures.

Miniature Tootsie Pops in Assorted Flavors

You heard right. MINIATURE Tootsie Pops… what will those wizards at Tootsie Pop think up next? I was at Sav-Ons the other day (a common Cheap Eats store hangout) when we saw this enormous bag of 300 Tootsie Pops for about 6 bucks. Hm… is that really 2 cents a piece? Not bad. But then again these are Miniatures.

Sorry, I didn’t get a chance to take a pic of the actual bag as it was pretty torn up from me attacking it to get the tootsie pops out of it. So anyhow, as advertised these are fairly small, maybe 1/2 the size of a normal tootsie pop. I wonder how many licks it takes to get to the center of the miniatures… I know they did many studies on them before.

Here is what is said on the back of the bag:

America’s favorite lollipop is now available in miniature! Tootsie Pop Miniatures feature that great Tootsie Roll center and familiar flavors that kids have loved since 1931! And the fun, miniature size is perfect for give-aways and rewarding life’s little accomplishments.

Leave it to them to sum up all of your life’s accomplishments in a piece of candy.

There are 5 flavors in the bag: Grape, Cherry, Raspberry, Orange and Chocolate. My least favorite is the Chocolate… the taste of the “chocolate” hard candy is downright nasty. i don’t know why they don’t replace this one with just about any other flavor: lime, kiwi, chicken, beef, whatever. Anything else would be better. My favorites are the Grape and Raspberry… these guys are fairly sour which for some reason goes really well with the tootsie pop center.

Interestingly, most of the billions of people that I offered a miniature tootsie pop to actually had not heard about them making the small sizes before and were mighty intrigued. This almost distracted me enough from the slightly chalky taste of the outside of nearly every one of these pops. It’s sort of that texture where hard candy has been left out for too long. You have to sort of get through that weird yucky exterior texture before enjoying anything. Because the pops outer hard candy shell is so thin on these miniatures, by that time you’ve only got about 5 minutes of hard candy before you get to the center.

I must say that the white cardboard sticks that these are impaled on can be pulled out pretty easily out of the tootsie. I actually found them easier to eat by pulling out the stick immediately. I put the pop in my mouth, closed my teeth on the end and yanked the stick out. Hard on your teeth though.

A lot of people don’t like the combination of hard candy and the chocolate tootsie roll center, but I’ve grown quite addicted to it. Mind you, I’ve had about 55 of these gems (not in a row thankfully) and there are still about 150 left in the bag. The “chocolate” is sort of pasty but at least a little bit tasty. It sure does stick in your teeth though.

Price: about $6 for 300 pops
Bought at: Sav-ons
Cheap Eats Score: 5/10

[ Currently Eating: Ooooolong Tea ]

Morton Salt Layout
So, I’m not sure how well this bodes for the nutritional health of today’s average Cheap Eater but the winner of this poll was Salty Food. I’m sure potato chip and cracker manufacturers are breathing a sigh of relief.

I must say that salty food is my Cheap Eats of choice as well. I will take a bag of Doritos over a slice of cake any day of the week. And don’t get me started on mashed potatoes with gravy versus Sweet Potatoes.

Well, Spicy Food didn’t go down without a fight. Salt won over Spicy by a narrow margin of only 11 votes with a total of 328 versus 317. I am pretty surprised that Spicy did so well. Incidentally, when I first put up the poll there WAS no Spicy. I had “Bitter” until I realized who the hell is going to say they like Bitter Cheap Food? You would be some kind of sadomasochist or something.

Cheap Eats Sense of Taste PollI was a bit torn over Salty versus Spicy as well since I’m a big fan of Chili Sauce, Peppers, Hot Sauce and Salsa. I like quite a bit of burn in food (Thai food is a favorite). But in the end, my salt-tooth won out.

The Sweets Coalition mustered up significant representation but fell short of garnering even half the votes of either Spicy or Salty. When I was younger I know I used to eat a lot more sweets and candy. It seems like over the years the sweet tooth has fallen out. It remains to be seen if in 10-15 years there will be another reversal and I’ll again go for sugar. I’ve heard of that happening to quite a few people actually.

Of course, I didn’t expect hardly anybody to choose Sour. With just 29 votes, the pucker-up posse was left in the dust. I do enjoy sour food, though I wouldn’t eat it for every meal. For me, it’s sort of an appetizer or between-meal pickup for me. I like sour and tangy fruits like oranges, green grapes, lemons, limes, pineapple and berries.

Well, I’ve put up another poll as you can see. First, I want to say that I don’t judge a person on whether they’re a carnivore, omnivore, veggie, or whatever. To each his own… as long as you don’t try to convert me over to your food lifestyle. But still, I’m curious to see what the stats are among Cheap Eaters. I expect quite a few less vegetarians/vegans and more meat-eaters or equal opportunity eaters, but who knows?

[ Currently Eating: Pork Chop Rice ]

Kraft Cheddar Cheese CrumblesIt takes quite a bit for me to banish a particular product to the Cheap Eats Hall of Shame. In most cases, it’s a combination of factors and not only the price of the item.

In the case of the prophetically named Kraft Cheese Crumbles (as in: that’s the way the cookie crumbles) the thing that put it over the top was the commercial on TV that I just saw. I have NO idea what marketing was thinking when they gave the thumbs up to what must be the WORST butchering of a rewritten – for – commerical song.

The song in question is one-hit wonder EMF’s “Unbelievable”. I find it quite Unbelievable that they decided in the chorus to replace the syllable “Un” with “CRUMB”. Yeah, you’re “Crumbelievable“. I kid you not. They sing this line with gusto, nay with absolute JOY throughout most of the commerical.

I never liked the EMF song that much anyhow… but it’s just the cheesy (pun intended) way that it was mangled in order to get the product word embedded in it that got to me. I have resorted to keeping the remote close by so that I can MUTE the stupid song whenever that commercial comes on. That’s how much it offends. And can you imagine somehow who actually LIKED that song. They’d be out for blood.

Ok, so buffoons that the ad agency that created this commerical may be… what about the actual product itself? Cheese Crumbles. Sounds vaguely appetizing… if it were a chip or cracker. Nope. Kraft Cheese Crumbles are oddly shaped bits and crumbs of cheese. I sort of think of when you’re grating a block of cheese and you always end up with a tiny bit that you don’t want to run through the grater for fear of shredding your fingers. That little bit, to me at least, is a Cheese Crumble. And that’s what’s in the bag.

Ok, so let’s just say I had use for cheese crumbles… say like blue cheese crumbles in a salad. How hard is it to do it yourself? Why would I pay the extra money for the convenience of someone pre-crumbling my cheese. You can just get a block of cheese and do it yourself. I’m not a big fan of pre-shredded cheese in general; it tends to be more dried out and it’s more expensive. Convenience be damned… this is Cheap Eats.

I can’t tell you how the cheese actually tastes (though I do like many other Kraft products) because there’s no way I’m buying these crummy, song-butchering crumbles…

Cheap Eats Score: 1/10

[ Currently Eating: Vanilla Coke ]

Domino's Large Pepperoni PizzaAh yes, Domino’s Pizza. The other day I was super lazy and decided to order some food for dinner to be delivered. This is generally not a good idea for Cheap Eats as it’s cheaper to make your own food and plus you are generally expected to tip the driver some extra moola for the convenience.

The only delivered food I usually make an exception for is Pizza. One of the reasons is that unless you have an extremely large stomach capacity (or a bunch of people with extremely large stomach capacities are at your house), a single pizza can be dinner, then lunch and then sometimes dinner again.

When you divide the cost among all the meals, it comes out much cheaper. Anyhow, for pizza delivery, I usually choose among the two biggies around here which are Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut.

I haven’t ordered from Pizza Hut in a long time, but the difference between their standard pizza and Domino’s (I know you can get both deep dish and thin crust for both companies, with varying results) is that I feel Pizza Hut is a bit greasier with thicker crust that is sometimes almost “cake-like”. Domino’s is more of a standard flat pizza with crunchier crust, at least from my experience.

One of my fondest memories of Domino’s Pizza is the “Dorm Pizza Sneak”. What is this? For those who’ve lived in dorms you probably know about the unwritten rule that any large quantity of hot food is automatically subject to community “sharing” by all members on that particular floor. Occasionally, this sharing can extend to R.A.’s and members of OTHER floors as well. You may not appeal this decision as well.

The end result is that you only get one slice of pizza for your $10. Suck ass. So we used to try and sneak the pizza into our rooms. This was accomplished by exiting the elevator, looking both ways, and then making a mad dash to the designated “pizza room” with the pizza tucked under your arm like a football.

The only problem was this is Pizza Topping Slippage. This happened often, because the Domino’s Pizza near my campus was not known for their crust to topping adhesion properties. So tipping the pizza sideways and then running with it like a football was pretty disastrous for the pie; all the toppings and much of the cheese slid off into on corner of the box! Still, it beat having to share the mess with everyone.

Continue reading “Dominos Pizza Coupons” …

[ Currently Eating: Some sort of pasta ]

Jack In The Box Cash CardI decided to sort of experiment with writing slightly (very slightly) shorter posts every so often for Cheap Eats… the reason being is that it’s easier to write more frequently if I don’t need to write a novel every time we review something. Well, this will probably please some readers who are tired of long winded paragraphs favored here, so anyhow…

What do we have here… hmm, looks like a Jack Cash Card from Jack In The Box. It’s a sort of fast food credit card that you can fill up with cash and then spend willy nilly on 99 cent tacos and chicken sandwiches. And interestingly enough, it actually Spends Like Real Money™. You’ve probably heard of the card, since they’ve been saturating the airwaves with commercials for it for the past couple months.

Jack In The Balpha LogoRegarding the commercials: interestingly, I feel somewhat in the same position as their clown faced president because I haven’t actually gotten a Jack Cash Card yet. I was hoping that they’d think I’m someone famous (perhaps Jet Li) and give me a free one. But we all know that doesn’t work. You saw how Mr. Jack himself wasn’t able to get away with it in the Jack In The Box commercial.

Well, I’ve been meaning to get one but have been staying away from. So why would you want one anyway for Cheap Eats? Well, it won’t get you into Spago’s, but for one it’s mighty convenient. Hunting for spare change in between the car seat cushions while at the drivethrough is something you do a lot for Cheap Eats… the card can eliminate that. Just keep the card in the car and pay with it. I think they’ll even fill it up for you at the drive through when the balance gets low.

I guess the kicker for me was that For A Limited Time (yes, it sound like a sales pitch) you can get Two Free Tacos when you get a card and fill it up with 10 bucks. These are the soggy but strangely satisfying, meat-toothpaste filled tacos that they sell for 99 cents a pair normally. That’s pretty good, since you’re probably going to fill it up with around that amount anyhow.

I think the Jack Cash Card is a pretty decent idea if you eat at JITB frequently, nearly as good an idea as their introduction of Snowman Ball and Reindeer Ball…

Price: $10.00 card gets 2 Free Tacos
Found at: Jack In The Box
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10

12/8/05 | Split Pea Soup

[ Currently Eating: Coffee, not surprisingly ]

Split Pea SoupHomemade split pea soup is something I’ve always wanted to try to make. The comforting image of steaming bowls of the olive colored soup with chunks of ham, carrots, celery and onion floating around in it has been ingrained into my subconsciousness. And it’s all Anderson’s fault.

Anderson? Yeah, I’m talking about Anderson’s Pea Soup in Buellton off Highway 101 very close to the “Dutchtown” of Solvang. Anyone who’s ever driven on a long trip up the 5 or 101 freeways in California HAS to have seen these billboard signs seemingly in the middle of nowhere proclaiming: “Try Anderson’s Split Pea Soup, only 227 miles!”.

I don’t actually have a picture of one of the signs but I plan to take one next time I drive up north. This is some marketing genius who thought of this. There is absolutely nothing to do while driving up these long stretches of highway, but look at the scenery. So they just buy up some cheap ad billboard space in 50 mile increments or so and plop their signs down advertising how far it is to their Pea Soup Headquarters.

Anderson's Split Pea SoupI’d like to know how successful they are in getting people to think about Pea Soup… I know it’s certainly worked on me! I recently decided to make use of the extra ham and ham hock bones that are inevitably left over from Thanksgiving. I’ve never tried to make Split Pea Soup so I stopped by the market and picked up a few bags.

Helpfully, there was a recipe right on the bag. One thing about dried peas, beas, lentils… they are pretty much the same as far as I can tell. Thus, you might as well by the darned cheapest bag you can find. In this case it was the Albertson’s store brand of peas which came out at 69 cents for a 1 lb. bag.

These dried peas and beans actually expand quite a bit, so while a half pound might not seem like enough, resist the temptation to add more. They soak up an amazing amount of liquid. Also, I didn’t know that they would break down in the manner they did. I thought I might need to use a stick blender or something to get the right consistency. But all you need to do is cook it.

Green Split Pea Soup With Ham

1/2 lb of dried green split peas — $0.35
4-6 cups of water — negligible
1 Ham Hock or Ham Bone with meat still on it — free!
1 bay leaf — $0.05
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped — $0.25
2 stalks celery, chopped — $0.20
1 carrot, chopped — $0.10
2 garlic cloves, minced — $0.05
1/2 tbsp oil — $0.05
salt, pepper to taste — negligible

Total: $1.05

Wash and drain the dried peas. Watch out for tiny ROCKS in the peas… the occur every so often and can break your teeth if left in! If you’d like to, cut off the ham from the bones, cube it and set aside. Some people leave it on and then cut it off after cooking, but cutting it off before will decrease the saltiness of the soup.

Heat up the oil in a large pot, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

Add the water, peas, ham bones, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Cook half covered over low heat for about 1 to 1.5 hours stirring occasionally. When you get near the end of cooking, you can add the cubed ham if you’ve reserved it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Delicious split pea soup is now ready!

Continue reading “Split Pea Soup” …



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