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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Potato Corn Chowder with a dash of nostalgia

Oh, how I needed some potatoes, my comfort food of choice.

Visiting the dentist is fairly stressful in and of itself.  Plus, we have a new dentist, thanks heavens, this time with a decent office staff, but still--no dentist ever says the same thing. Today's visit was something of an emergency (more stress); the new dentist's advice had/has to be weighed with my common sense. I will spare everyone the details.

I had to park in a grocery parking lot. Time for potatoes, the ultimate comfort food. I wanted to make a soup, but am without stock of any kind. I remembered the first potato/corn chowder I ever ate: at a departmental pot luck at a small school where I used to teach (1987), my genial colleague (who I later discovered wrote me a fairly negative letter of recommendation--thanks GT!) made a delicious soup from the Vegetarian Epicure. The secret, he said, was the nutritional yeast Anna Thomas called for

I couldn't find my old copy, but I found the recipe online. As expected too goopy (flour???) with various things I didn't have.

Here's what I did: threw some frozen caramelized onions (I do this in the crock pot every few months) in the pot with 2 peeled and chopped potatoes. Put in a little of that nutritional yeast. Then covered with water. Simmered for a while. Mashed everything up when done and added salt, some milk, and a can of drained corn. Served with extra sharp cheddar. Oh, and I stirred in a bit of butter, a trick I learned from the great Marcella Hazan.

Soooo good. I hadn't made this vegetarian version in years, having gone over to Ina Garten's with bacon and chicken stock. Hers is even more goopy. I think I am going to return to the simpler vegetarian version. The nutritional yeast has a definite umami effect. We use it on popcorn (a friend calls it hippie dust). You can get it at Whole Foods. Or leave it out, of course.

It's amazing how good a stock potatoes and onions produce. This soup is so cheap to make that it will offset the cost of my dental treatment, at least if I eat it once a week for the next--oh--thirty years.

Is there anyone of a certain age who doesn't have this cookbook somewhere? A mere glance at the cover triggers a wave of nostalgia. Do you still cook anything from it? 

Do Medical Providers--DENTISTS, ORAL SURGEONS, in particular--give kickbacks for recommendations?

This is a question I have long pondered, given my issues with dental providers of all stripes. Wondering if there is a gifting or other system in exchange for recommendations and referrals.

If anyone knows, please let me know. I am wondering what weight to give to recommendations...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Paula's Serums and AHA BHA Exfoliants 20% off w/ free shipping

I know it's weird, given my pathological frugality and skepticism over advertising claims, but this is an exciting sale for me. Miss Em and I adore Paula's Choice skincare, for info AND for products. And it's not even that cheap. Miss Em and I both use the serums and the exfoliants. These are--in our opinion--Paula's best products.

Paula's BEST SALE is 20% off everything with free shipping on any size order, but this is pretty close. 20% off on serums and exfoliants and free shipping on any order (usually free over $50). She has some other items on sale also at the moment.

The CODE for this particular sale is EDDSERUMS14. This weekend only.
If you haven't shopped with Paula before and would like to use my link, you get $10 off and I get $10 too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unexpected Savings: Car Insurance

I live in a high insurance state. I'm not sure why, but family members in other states pay substantially less than we do.

The high cost of insurance has kept us from springing for a new car. Well, that and pathological frugality. And Mr FS's desire to have the totaled 1998 Camry live to be 20. Oh well.

The somewhat scuzzy rep who tried (?) to tack on the $695 Accessories Fee the other day also mentioned that the safety features of the new Accord would lower the insurance rates. To wit: the camera that shows what is BEHIND you as you back up. He was right.

Our insurance was $460 (or $406? can't remember) for 6 months! That's half of what we expected it to be.

Something to think about when choosing between new or used. Let's hope this car makes it to 20 years....and does not come into the path of a speeder who was driving without license or proof of insurance. And sped away after showing a state ID.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Avocado Quest

Frugal Son and I both love to scan grocery ads. In fact, he sometimes gets annoyed when I send him a list of bargains, thereby depriving him of the pleasure of discovering them for himself (isn't that a continual problem for parents?? Doing too much for the kid? See below. I did it again).

Last week, I spotted a great sale at Savalot, a little discount grocery that does not have an outlet in my town. That doesn't stop me from looking. I noted that the New Orleans stores had a three day sale (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) that included avocados for 50 cents and grapes for 89 cents.

I alerted Frugal Son, for whom a trip to Savalot is a bit of a schlep, especially since he gets around by bike.

Emergency email Sunday morning! Frugal Son says he can't find the avocados in the ad!!! Oh no!!! They changed the ad! I told him I was sure it was till Sunday and--mom-like,  for my little guy--called Savalot to ask. Of course, no one answered the phone.

Frugal Son was unsure what to do. Later, I sent him this email:

How was the avocado quest?

This morning came the laconic reply:

Got a few. Only 30.

Newsflash: According to the experts, you can freeze avocados. The texture is compromised, but they are still ok for guacamole.

Image from Tate Gallery.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti ‘The Damsel of Sanct Grael’, 1857

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Buying a Car: Do You Still Have to Beware of Tricky Salespeople?

Last time we bought a car (2002?), we actually purchased something from Consumer Reports which gave you "behind the sticker price" info and suggested target prices. I think the info cost $30 and this was a big improvement over previous modes of negotiation.

Now, there is a lot more transparency and everything is pretty much free on the internet. In fact, Mr FS emailed a bunch of dealers with info about what we wanted and waited for offers to come in. Eventually, he got the price we wanted at the local dealer; the salesperson was a friend of a friend, so all was good.

When we got to the dealership to pay up, our guy David was "busy" so we had a substitute for the preliminary paperwork. He brought a contract for signature and Mr FS noticed that, while the price was the one we had negotiated, there was also a $695 "Accessory Charge." He pointed out to substitute sales guy that David had waived that fee. "Oh, so sorry. I'll fix it."

Question: Was the substitute salesman a ruse whereby such a "mistake" would we made and--perhaps--not noticed by the tired customer? Would David himself have "forgotten" that he had waived the fee and included it on the contract?

Thank heavens Mr FS kept his wits about him and was paying attention.

Interestingly, we got a 2014 Honda Accord for $1000 over the cost of our beloved 1998 Camry. Pretty amazing.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We're buying a car today!

Miss Em said "Does it bother you to buy a car?" That is because she knows I sometimes balk at the most minor expenses if they seem "overpriced." The great Amy Dazycyn of the Tightwad books had similar issues.

She had an essay about how she balked at tuna if it was more than 69 cents but had no trouble buying a beautiful and expensive antique bed. It was a question of value, not cost.

I'm the same with tuna. I'm pretty serene about the car--a Honda Accord--because our totaled Camry was about to turn 16 and our "new car"--the Civic Hybrid--is about to be 12. We were hoping the Camry would hit 20, but a bad man with no license or license plate plowed into poor Frugal Son and left the scene. He gave us a copy of a state ID.

We are hoping the new car will last more than 10 years. Thank heavens we  saved for the car.

Frugality as stress relief once more. Thank heavens for the emergency fund. So I told Miss Em that no, I'm not stressed. I continue my search for a good price on tuna.

I think we are getting a white one (ugh) because Mr FS read that white is the safest color.

Honda Accord
'13 Honda Accord Sedan.JPG