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Archive for May, 2008

Not So Frugal Fries

May 31st, 2008 at 08:01 pm

I submitted my dissertation to my committee on Friday. I still need to get through the defense but this is a step in the right direction!

Thursday night I stayed on campus until about 8:30pm finishing up some last minute revisions. Walking home I was hungry and feeling celebratory, so I decided to stop at Five Guys for a burger. I had never been there before, but had heard that their burger and fries were among some the best in town. Plus, it fit the bill for what I wanted: tasty, cheap, indulgent, and quick.

I ordered a little cheeseburger and medium fries (medium and large are the only sizes available) without paying much attention to the price aside from noting that the "little" burgers (which were still pretty big) were at least a dollar less than the original burgers.

I was just cleaning out my wallet and entering expenses into Quicken this evening, I noticed that my cheese burger was $3.29 and the fries were $1.99. That seems like a lot for fries. I think it's one of those things where if you go to a burger joint it's almost sacrilege not to get fries.



I'm not that big of frugal nut that I'd skip the fries if I go there again since I eat fast food about 1x/ year. It's just interesting to note that they weren't that good and cost nearly 40% of the total bill. I wouldn't recommend eating this type of food regularly, if you do it's pretty easy to see how just making minor adjustments to your order could save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.

My New Favorite Freebie

May 31st, 2008 at 06:44 am

I'm in love. With a woman. Her name is Pandora.

I think you'll fall in love with her, too.

Pandora is the culmination of project started in 2000 which assembles hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. To quote the Pandora site:

Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.


So what does this mean for you? Pandora allows you to create, for free, "stations" by defining musical elements you like, specific singers, bands, etc. There are no audio commercials, just free streaming music chosen specifically for the qualities you indicate. Furthermore, you can give individual songs a thumbs up or down to further guide Pandora to the types of music you like. Also, unlike radio, if you don't like a song you can just push a button and move onto the next.

Check it out! But beware, like a new relationship, you might find yourself wanting to spend all your free time with her!!

Cooking from the Pantry: Afghani Lentil Casserole

May 27th, 2008 at 06:21 pm

I was clicking through old entries and couldn't help but notice how how long it's been since I've posted any recipes!

As I've alluded, I'm getting ready to move and trying to eat up the foods in my pantry. This has led to some ho-hum meals like green bean casserole, but also to tonight's Afghani Lentil Casserole. The recipe calls for lentils, canned tomato sauce (although I used canned diced tomatoes tonight), lasagna noodles, an onion, plain yogurt, and spices. The ingredients are probably things you have in your kitchen, too. Unlike many recipes that utilize kitchen staples, this one is pretty original.

1 large onion -- chopped
1 cup green or brown lentils -- picked over and washed
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups tomato sauce (I used 1-14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coriander (I used fresh cilantro)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (I used paprika)
9 lasagna noodles
3 cloves garlic -- chopped
2 cups fat-free yogurt
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
vegetable cooking spray
1 tablespoon mint

Saute onions until golden. Stir in the lentils and add the vegetable stock.



Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt, coriander, cumin, pepper and cayenne, simmer 30 minutes.



Cook noodles. Combine yogurt, flour and garlic, stir well. Spray a 13x9 inch baking pan, put half yogurt on the bottom, layer with 1/2 noodles, 1/2 lentil sauce, repeat ending in lentil sauce. Sprinkle mint over top and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Adapted from :
"A cross between Syrian Rishtah from The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean: A Celebration of the World's Most Healthful Foods by Sheryl and Mel London



(See the little rose plant on the table? It was an impulse by at the grocery store for $2.99. Being frugal is great, but who can resist beauty?)

More Sales!

May 26th, 2008 at 09:39 am

Sidestream Income:
$3154.93 old total
$60.00 AC unit

--------------------------
TOTAL: $3214.93

My AC unit (priced at $75) didn't sell at the yard sale. The Craig's List ad elicited some calls and emails, but no one came to look. So, when a college kid offered me $60, I decided to accept the offer.

I'm nearly at last year's total for the $20 Challenge!

5 Yard Sale Tips

May 24th, 2008 at 08:09 pm

Sidestream Income:
$2993.93 old total
$161.00 yard sale

--------------------------
TOTAL: $3154.93

Today's yard sale was a success!! I surpassed my expectations and made $161.00. That doesn't include the $60 I'll earn when I deliver my dehumidifier to a neighbor. I don't move for another month and I don't want to stop using my dehumidifier until then. I posted a sign at the sale saying "Dehumidifier Available: Inquire for Details"-- the "details" included the fact that I would take your name and number if you were interested and call you in a month. My neighbor expressed great interest, so I feel pretty confident (more so than I would with a stranger) that the deal will go through. In fact, he even offered to pay me now but I said I'd rather wait until delivery.

I'm surprised I sold over $150 worth of stuff because much like my last garage sale, I seemed to be selling a whole lot of nothing. My biggest sale was a set of shelves for $25, followed by my kitchen curtains for $10 and a hand held vacuum for $5, but after that it was all small ticket items. Truly all those $2-$3 sales (often comprised of a bunch of $0.25 and $0.50 items) add up!

Tip #1: Advertise
I placed two free online classifieds and four homemade, easy to read signs pointing car and foot traffic to my location.

Tip #2: Organize and Stage
It takes a little extra time, but items that look gently used sell a lot better than items that look like they fell off a garbage truck! For example, I had two small rugs in my basement that looked so dirty I nearly threw them out. However, after a few minutes of vacuuming with my powerful Hoover, they looked good enough to sell. I marked the rugs at $1 / each and they were promptly scooped up within the first hour. In their former state of filth, I would have been embarrassed to put them in the free pile! Be certain to price all your items. People are shy. It's been my experience that marked items sell better. Set the mood. I have a little wicker table that I positioned in the sunniest part of the yard where I displayed all my glassware and linens for sale. Even through the table itself wasn't for sale, it evoked a garden party image and (I think) created a vision for what people could use the items displayed on it for. I covered all the rest of my tables in inexpensive plastic yellow table cloths (leftover from a baby shower). Nothing fancy, but better looking than the icky folding table underneath. I also mowed the lawn the day before and swept the sidewalk and walk way. A clean yard signifies a home in which the items for sale were cared for.

Tip #3: No Holds Barred!
If you're having a sale because your moving, don't be afraid to sell everything! For example, I had a big package of styrofoam cups left over from when I brought a hot beverage to a charity walkathon. I have no use for them. Had I not been moving, I might have been tempted to stash them away "just in case", but there's no need for me to transport styrofoam cups across three state lines "just in case"!! Sure enough, the cups sold! Another example of an atypical yard sale item was my random assortment of holiday paper napkins and plates. I bundled them together and sure enough, they sold, too! These are just a few examples of things that could have been thrown out, but instead helped me to earn some cash.

Tip #4: List Big items on Craig's List
List your big items on Craig's List. With any luck, the items will sell before the sale. This didn't happen for me, but I had people contact me about 2 of my Craig's List items after 9pm on Friday night so I replied and said that it would be at my yard sale the following day. Both people showed up to purchase the item they wanted from Craig's List and picked up a few extras.

Tip #5: Have Fun! Make small talk, meet the people in your neighborhood, and enjoy the opportunity to make a little cash while parting with stuff you'll never miss!

Prepping for the Yard Sale

May 22nd, 2008 at 08:09 pm

Preparing for this upcoming Yard Sale is exhausting!

I put some of the bigger ticket items (air conditioner, microwave, glassware, curtains, etc) on Craig's List. I've had a number of emails, but only one sale: a bicycle for $125.

I don't know what my goal for the Yard Sale is-- I guess if I make $100 and get rid of stuff I'll be happy. Whatever doesn't sell on Saturday is going to Goodwill on Sunday!

Sidestream Income:
$2868.93 old total
$125.00 sold bike

--------------------------
TOTAL: $2993.93

I've also been thinning out my pantry in preparation for the move. Tonight I had the Thanksgiving perennial 'Green Bean Casserole' for dinner so I could use up 2 bags of frozen green beans and a can of mushroom soup!! Not exactly a springtime dish, but hey- that's the beauty of cooking for one.. there's no one to complain!

Decluttering, selling, defending

May 21st, 2008 at 06:23 am

Sidestream Income:
$2818.93 old total
$50.00 rideshare

--------------------------
TOTAL: $2868.93

I went back to look at apartments this past weekend. Luckily, I was able to find another rider and earn $50 to cover the gas. On another good note, we did find a place to rent. The price is $1800 / month but it beautiful (no damp basements!). I think I will be happy there.

I've been in massive de-cluttering mode and plan to have a garage sale Saturday. I don't expect it will be a big money maker, but it encourages me to get rid of things I don't have the heart to throw away but don't seem appropriate for GoodWill (ie- used but perfectely re-useable baby shower decorations, books, etc).

Someone from a moving company is coming to give me an estimate on Tuesday. My re employer re-imburses up to 3K in moving expenses. I don't think I will have a problem staying under that limit.

Oh yea, and I'm defending my dissertation in month! THAT at least, seems to be under control!

Rental Sticker Shock!

May 5th, 2008 at 08:19 am

Sidestream Income:
$2765.93 old total
$50.00 rideshare
$3.00 PineCone surveys
--------------------------
TOTAL: $2818.93

I drove down to see Mr. Bean this weekend and to look for a new apartment for the two us in his area.

Oi Vey! Sticker shock!!

Would we like to live in a dark, damp basement for $1600/ month? No, not really! We saw about 15 places and put an application in for one. Unfortunately, I think there were other applications ahead of us so I'm not holding my breath.

On the upside, I was able to take someone with me and get $50 in gas money for the round trip ride. We also got a better understanding of what our money will and will not get us. If our application on the one place isn't successful, we're going to start looking into some condo units that aren't selling and are going up for rent. W
e looked at one and I must say that although the location was a little far from public transportation, the unit was beautiful!