The Costs Of Bringing It All

Posted on May 28, 2008 by Eric 
Filed Under Automobile, Frugality, Moving | 60 Comments

Yet another great moving tip…My brother has been planning a long distance move that’s supposed to happen next month. Until I talked to my mother the other day, I had no idea how much it would actually cost him to move halfway across the country.

I figured it would probably cost a few thousand dollars when all was said and done. I was wrong.

By packing and loading a truck himself he’s saving some money, but he’s still having to pay someone to drive that truck long distance. He’s moved long distance before and the “load it yourself” plan was much cheaper then hiring a full-fledged moving company.

However, it’s been quite a while since that last big move and he’s accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. It’s easy to do after living in one spot for a long time. The problem is that hauling all that additional stuff means higher costs.

It’s now going to cost over $5000 to get all that stuff carried long distance in a moving truck.

On top of that, he plans to rent a UHaul to bring the items he doesn’t want to send with the movers, and he’ll haul one of his cars behind that truck. His wife will drive their second car.

When he arrives at his destination he won’t be ready to move in to a permanent residence. He plans on living with his in-laws for at least a few months (probably closer to 6 months) until he and his wife figure out where they want to move, and what they can afford for housing there (the cost of living will be higher in his new city of residence).

But, his in-laws don’t have any room for all of the stuff he’s bringing with him. This means he’ll have to get a storage unit for most of his furniture and belongings until he finds a new home. That’s 6 months worth of storage!

I decided to check some pricing on storage. I think based on the amount of stuff he’s bringing, he’s likely to need a storage unit that will cost around $400/month. Figure a 6 month time frame and you’re looking at about $2400 for storage alone!

There’s also the cost of gas to move across the country. He’s driving a small moving truck in addition to his wife driving a car, so it’s going to cost more in gas. He’ll also be towing a second car behind the truck, which is likely to negatively affect the gas mileage.

A quick Google search on MPG for a moving truck showed about 7-8 MPG. I’ll go with the lower estimate because he’s towing the car. The distance he’s traveling is ~1700 miles, so that’s 1700 Miles/ 7 MPG = ~242 gallons of gas. Ouch! At today’s prices (lets say $3.80 a gallon), he’ll be spending about $920 in gas for the UHaul!

So, just looking at estimates on the major expenses (not including the second car that his wife will be driving, snacks/food and lodging along the way), we’re potentially looking at:

That’s a total of nearly $10,000!

To make this move cheaper, I’d try to avoid moving everything.

If you were able to reduce the amount that had to be moved by half, that could potentially remove the need for a secondary truck, reduce the cost of the initial move (let’s say by a third but I’m not sure), and save on storage by being able to rent a smaller unit at the final destination. If you were able to sell a some of it before you left, you could save yourself a bundle AND earn a little extra cash!

Sometimes you just gotta let it go…Maybe you really like that sofa, but is it really worth the amount of money you’ll have to spend to move it and then store it? What if the new house is smaller due to the higher cost of living and you don’t have room? Could you get a new sofa after moving into the new house for around the cost you would have paid to move and store your old one?

In his case, most of the furniture isn’t new or very expensive. Some of it is sentimental (from a relative who passed), so I understand taking those items. But do you really need everything? The move might be a good chance to clean house.

I know it’s hard to let go of things and “downsize” and I’m concerned about bringing up this particular idea with my brother because I think he might feel defensive. I doubt many people would enjoy hearing that they might be better off financially by selling some of their belongings. I feel it’s still something to, at the very least, consider for a long distance move like theirs.

Melissa and I downsized our belongings considerably when we moved. We’re actually still doing that, reducing even more the clutter and unused stuff in our lives. I hope I can help my brother see things similarly. I know it will give him more peace of mind with the move as well as help them keep more money in their pockets while they make this transition.

Do you know anyone who’s had a similar situation? How did they save money during their long distance move?

Image Sources: Just-Us-3 and The Consumerist

Reducipe – Pork Adobo

Posted on May 23, 2008 by Melissa 
Filed Under Reducipes | 19 Comments

Sooo good!I’ve been trying to share this household favorite for a while now but I kept forgetting to take photos of the rub components. Finally I didn’t forget this time and it’s ready to post.

My Pork Adobo is an adaptation from a recipe I found in a diet cookbook. Not only is it good for your wallet, it’s good for you!

This is a great recipe to serve to a mixed group of dieters and non-dieters because everyone will love it and feel satisfied. Serve it with charra beans (I’ll post that recipe soon) or a green salad and you have a nice little meal.

This is a simple combination of lean pork, sweet onions, and spicy tomato sauce all rolled up in a tortilla. How can you go wrong?

Pork Adobo

1-2 teaspoons canola oil
2 large sweet onions, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
1/4 cup water
10-15 oz tomato sauce
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo, pressed through strainer, reserve sauce
1-2 lb pork tenderloin
Flour tortillas

Rub:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into the pork and let marinade for at least 30 minutes in fridge.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil. Place the pork in the pan and roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of meat reads 155 degrees, about 25 minutes.

While pork is roasting, heat a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the oil then add onions, sugar, salt, and water. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly browned – about 20 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and the strained adobo sauce and simmer uncovered until flavors blend, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

After you remove the pork from the oven, transfer pork to cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven to warm. Thinly slice the pork and stir into the onion mixture. Spoon into tortillas and serve like tacos. Serves 6-8.

Be sure to cook the onions over medium low heat so they become soft and translucent without becoming caramelized. If the onions are too long they can be awkward to eat in the tacos. It’s best to keep the slices bite size. I find that cutting the onion slices into fourths works really well.

Use more Adobo sauce to increase spiciness or less if you prefer a milder flavor. I tend to like my tacos saucy so I use the full 15oz tomato sauce.

Ingredients for the Pork Adobo Rub
Ingredients for Pork Adobo

Please do not skip the resting period for the pork after you remove it from the oven. It is very important that you let it rest and give the juices time to redistribute within the meat. If you don’t, be warned that you will have a cutting board full of juices and dry meat. (this is a cooking school tip)

The best part is that this meal is even better the next day as leftovers! Just heat up the Pork Adobo and tortillas in the microwave and roll into tacos.

Ingredient Cost Ingredient Cost
Canola Oil $0.10 Pork Tenderloin $3.69
Onions $1.17 Tortillas $1.59
Sugar N/A Brown Sugar $0.05
Tomato Sauce $0.92 Vinegar $0.02
Chipotle Peppers $1.09 Total $8.63 or $1.44 a serving

If you want to stretch the meat even further you can add beans to this recipe although the texture suffers a little. Personally, I prefer to cut the slices of meat into quarters and add more onions to increase the yield. Either way the dish is very economical. Enjoy!

Manage Rising Fuel Costs With Plastic

Posted on May 12, 2008 by Eric 
Filed Under Automobile, Credit Cards | 23 Comments

My feelings exactly!Gas prices have been out of control lately. Now that Melissa is driving to school everyday, our monthly gas costs have gotten much higher and our budget is feeling the pinch (or should I say punch).

We do have a plan for reducing our gas costs outside of the obvious suggestion of driving less.

First, using the Internet we can find the cheapest gas around. Personally I prefer Gas Price Watch. There is a good article with several options for finding cheap gas at Search Engine Watch. The article is a bit dated, but the few links I checked beyond Gas Price Watch still had some useful information.

Even though I like to confirm the information on the Internet, I know the cheapest place in our area already. There is a huge Mr. Car Wash nearby with a ton of pumps that uses cheaper gas prices to pull in more folks. I try to fill up at that location exclusively and judging by the traffic, I’m not the only one.

This location’s strategy relies on high volume and upselling with their car washes and oil changes (both heavily advertised). They even have unique gifts like local jellys and gifts inside the store. I bet they more than make up for the cheaper gas prices through these other services. This isn’t an issue for me as I generally won’t pay to get my car washed – it’s just too expensive – and I always pay at the pump so I avoid all temptation by not even going inside the store.

Another way we’re looking to save money at the pump is through our credit card. We have a Citibank Driver’s Edge card and get 3% back on gas and automotive purchases (as well as on grocery store purchases – our other big expense every month.) We took a while to choose our credit card and now it’s paying off. By transferring our Driver’s Edge rewards points to ThankYou network points, we can get rewards of $50 Shell gift cards.

Originally we wanted to use our reward points to get gift cards to chain restaurants so we could eat out without affecting our budget. These days we eat nearly all of our meals in as Melissa practices new techniques for culinary school. When we do get a chance to go out, we rarely want to go to a chain restaurant but instead want to try new and interesting foods.

Because we haven’t been choosing the same old restaurants (the only restaurants for which we can use our ThankYou reward points), we have a backlog of unspent points that will now be buying us gas. Even just one giftcard will make a noticeable dent in our monthly gasoline purchases. Short of changing to a motorcycle for a commute, I think this will be one of our best bets for helping our budget absorb higher gas prices in the short term.

So what are you doing to save money on your fuel costs? How has it affected your household?

Image Source: A_Siegel

You Can Avoid The 24 Hour Flu

Posted on May 3, 2008 by Melissa 
Filed Under Food, Medical | 13 Comments

Didn’t I ask to hold the Shigellosis on mine?You know why? Because it really doesn’t exist.

Most likely what you were experiencing was a bout with foodborne illness. No joke.

Why am I talking about foodborne illness on this here blog? Well, as we all know, medical care is expensive. With food prices on the rise more people are cooking at home to help stretch their dollar. Learning how to prevent our home cooked meals from making our families ill can save us valuable funds and sick time.

The CDC estimates that there are about 76 million cases of foodborne illness every year; with 325,000 serious enough to require hospitalization. Even if most of the cases are mild and go away after a few days that’s still a lot of downtime for the American worker.

Think it’s all from shady restaurants? Probably not.

The odds are that many cases of foodborne illness start in our very own kitchens.

At least restaurants (hopefully) have the proper equipment, training, and monitoring to reduce their risk of serving up a plate of foodborne illness. Who is teaching the home cook about proper sanitation? Is anyone performing inspections to make sure you are cooking and storing your food correctly?

I learned some really interesting things in my sanitation class that could actually benefit us home cooks. I’m far from a germ-o-phobe but I’m much more conscious of my practices now. I’ve already changed some of my cooking habits after learning a bit more about how to prevent potential illness.

Reduce your chances of serving a side of salmonella with your chicken pot pie with these tips:

Stop cross contamination. The biggest source of cross contamination is from your hands. Wash your hands (along with your cutting board AND knives/utensils) with soap every time you change foods. Simply wiping your board after cutting up raw chicken isn’t enough. Wash it and dry it with single use paper towels. I like to use a sanitizing spray for my surfaces, too.

Think about how you store your food. Don’t place your raw chicken on the top shelf where juices could drip down and contaminate other food or surfaces. You should always try to place cooked or ready-to-eat foods above and away from raw foods.

The industry stores food (top to bottom):

Cook your food properly. Heat can kill many of the pathogens that cause illness. The only way you can definitively know that your food is cooked to the recommended internal temperature is with a thermometer. You can find a nifty brochure containing the USDA’s temperature guidelines here. Oddly enough, some of the USDA’s current recommendations are higher than what is in my book for pork and ground meat.

Avoid the danger zone. The “danger zone” refers to the temperature range that bacteria multiply rapidly in; currently that temperature range is 41 F to 135 F. Food exposed to this temperature range for 4 hours or longer could accumulate enough bacteria to cause illness.

An example of this time/temperature abuse is leaving your thanksgiving meal out on the table all afternoon. Put away leftovers promptly and keep them below 41 F. If food sits out, especially longer than 4 hours, toss it.

Thaw safely. There’s a reason why you aren’t supposed to set that frozen turkey on the counter to thaw. By the time the center starts to warm up the surface has already been in the bacteria-friendly danger zone for too long. That’s just no good. The best ways to thaw food are:

Wash all your fruits and veggies. Just do it. Many bacteria and viruses can be spread through contaminated soil, water, or equipment that has touched your food. Before using your veggies make sure to thoroughly wash them. I always wait to wash them until immediately before use to lower my chances of food spoilage.

Do you have any home food sanitation advice or concerns?

Image Source: kaibara87

Reducipe: Mirin Wasabi Glazed Salmon

Posted on April 22, 2008 by Melissa 
Filed Under Reducipes | 18 Comments

Simply awesome!This is one of those recipes that’s easy to make, tastes great, and it’s good for you, too!

This is Eric’s most requested salmon dish and every time he finishes, he licks his plate clean. No joke.

It really is that tasty, folks.

This Mirin Wasabi glaze is out of this world. It blends sweet with a little tangy and a little hot. It matches really well with the fattiness of the salmon and complements it beautifully.

If you are concerned about the kick of wasabi, there is a trick to controlling the heat. If you want it on the milder side just add your wasabi along with the other sauce ingredients before cooking. Cooking really seems to temper the flavor and heat of wasabi. If you want your wasabi at full strength (like us) whisk it into the sauce after cooking.

Mirin Wasabi Glazed Salmon

3 tablespoons Mirin
1 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-2 teaspoons wasabi paste (more if you like it hot)
1 lb salmon fillet, cut into 4 equal pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced

To make the sauce combine the Mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and ginger in a small bowl and whisk. Transfer to small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat until the flavors blend and the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the wasabi paste. Set aside.

Sprinkle the salmon with the salt and the pepper. Set a large nonstick skillet over high heat and add a little olive oil. Add the salmon and cook, turning once, until the fish is browned on the outside and almost opaque in the center, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Transfer to plates and spoon the sauce over the salmon. Sprinkle with scallions. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

As far as cooking temperatures go, my sanitation guidelines state that fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F. However, this must not be a hard and fast rule because restaurants often serve salmon medium and tuna rare. Personally, I like to remove my salmon from the heat when the thickest part reaches 132 F and I let carry over cooking take it the rest of the way to 135 F.

I chose farm-raised salmon for this recipe because it was fresh (not previously frozen) and on sale. I couldn’t believe I found it for only $4.99 a pound this week, especially with food prices rising every where. Turns out they overstocked. Yea for me!

Ingredients for Mirin Wasabi Salmon

I highly recommend finely grating fresh ginger when it’s being used in sauces. This step helps break down the fibers within fresh ginger and creates a better texture. To grate my ginger I use a microplane. They aren’t too expensive and can be used to grate all sorts of things like spices, chocolate, or even hard cheeses.

This time I had to make an educated guess at the cost for the Mirin. I always seem to have it on hand and I forgot to jot down the price at the grocery store as a reference. I decided to estimate high though, just in case.

Ingredient Cost Ingredient Cost
Mirin $0.10 Wasabi $0.12
Rice Vinegar $0.05 Salmon $4.94
Soy Sauce $0.10 Olive Oil $0.06
Honey $0.16 Scallions $0.15
Ginger $0.09   Total $5.77 or $1.44 a serving

Wow, a yummy salmon dinner for less than a $1.50 per serving. Not bad. As you can see in the picture I paired it with some plain rice (to soak up the sauce) and a frozen Asian veggie mix. Even with those additions it’s still well under $2.00 a serving. I hope you will try this out and tell me what you think! Enjoy!

Older Posts →