Wednesday, May 29, 2013

CONFESSIONS OF A BUTCHER, Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$

CONFESSIONS OF A BUTCHER, Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$

Author: John Smith

Genre: Non-fiction, Frugal Living, Cookbook, Butchering

As I listened to the early morning news shows talking about how meat prices were escalating I thought of this book.  I’ve actually owned it for several years, but periodically refer back to it.

I first became familiar with it after I had spoke with a few butchers on how to cut large pieces of meat to meet my family’s needs for lower prices. One of them recommended this book.  To this day I thank him.

The hundred or so pages explain how often various cuts of meats ranging greatly in price are actually all the same piece of meat.  He explains how to cut, or substitute a far less expensive piece of meat for the same taste at a much lower price.

Here is an example of the information included in the book to give you an idea of the savings you could reap with just the knowledge in this book.

From page 7: “The rib eye is the same cut of beef as the prime rib or rib steak but without the bone.  Both the rib steak and prime rib are quite a bit cheaper than the rib eye (often two to three dollars a pound cheaper). Purchase whichever is cheapest.  If prime rib is cheaper ask the butcher to cut it into steaks for you.”

He then goes on to say that the eye of chuck steak, which is even cheaper than the other meats previously listed, is basically the same cut of meat as rib eye.  That it does have a little more marbling and may be slightly smaller, but they are the way to go for a good grilling steak at a much more reasonable price.

Since reading this years ago we’ve learned how to cut a good quality chuck roast into nice steaks, especially if we are marinating, for the charcoal grill.

The book deals with various cuts of beef, lamb, veal, pork, and chicken (did you know a roasting chicken is just a fat frying chicken?—compare the prices of the two in the grocery then go looking for a good size fryer to roast)

Later on in the book are a few recipes.  There are several helpful hints on cutting up the meat yourself if your local grocery does not have a butcher.

I would say this little book is worth its weight in gold, but that would be short changing the book because it is small and the money I’ve saved over the years from the knowledge I gained from is worth far more than that.

Jan who says save serious cash on meat costs and feed your family well in OK


Monday, May 27, 2013


“I think people need hope when times are tough. I think they also need escape and adventure and fantasy. Books are like cheap mini vacations.”
Michelle M. Pillow


By: Matt Wixon

Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel

Well I finally came across a book that I give an A for its genre.  I have to admit I picked this book up on a whim.  I periodically work on ideas for Summer Time Fun posts on my Mind Your Pennies Blog.  While I was in the library I decided to look this book over looking for ways to entertain children while they are out of school on summer vacation. After all most such books deal with traveling with children only.

I choose the Memorial Day Weekend to read this book and found so many ideas for my own family of three adults I soon found myself taking copious notes so I wouldn’t forget them.

Mr. Wixon writes as most of us speak, facts sprinkled generously with humor and some sarcasm.  Yes there is a lot about traveling with children, but there are also large sections on adult travel.

My family is not new to staycations, but we have never approached them in the manner that Mr Wixon suggests and I can see how his suggestions could make it feel so much more like a “real” vacation. Remember we are big Walt Disney World fans.

The book is broke down by the various types of vacations you would normally be interested in ranging from roughing it in the outdoors to deluxe spa treatments.  Each section has a multitude of web links to help you locate the perfect staycation for your entire family. 

I have already found far more possibilities for my family than I ever dreamed was available less than 100 miles from our home in just a few hours after completing the book.

If you have any reason you are not going on a vacation this year consider a staycation of any length from just a few hours to a full blown all out two week (or longer).

A great place to start in your staycation plans would be this book.

Jan who is glad she picked the book up on a whim in OK

Friday, May 17, 2013


“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”
Alfred Hitchcock


Genre: Movie, Sci-Fi, Action

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Since so many movies are based originally on books or the characters from books I’ve decided to include movie reviews with the book reviews on the rare occasion I go to the movie.

I admit when the original Star Trek series aired in the late 60’s to be followed by the various off shoots I followed each episode and movie closely.  I laughed at how hokey some of it was, laid bets on what “red shirt” would die first and knew all the characters by name. 

So when ds offered to take dh and I to see “Into the Darkness” we jumped at it.  I still have trouble wrapping my head around seeing someone, Chris Pine,  playing the young Captain Kirk instead of William Shatner , who has moved on to if hokier (is that a word? ) commercials.  But he is growing on me, and this movie did a lot to win me over.

For some reason I’ve had no adjusting to Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock, I guess there is enough resemblance to Leonard Nimoy I can imagine him looking like Quinto when he was a young Vulcan.

I will admit I paid close attention to Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov, because he is also starring as Odd Thomas  in the movie that will HOPEFULLY be released here in the US later on this year.  If you haven’t read the Odd Thomas books by Dean R. Koontz I really recommend you do.   I’ve decided he will do quite well as Odd.

I highly recommend you get in your seat at this movie BEFORE it starts, because the action starts immediately and you really don’t want to miss any of it, because the theme plays through as the movie goes on.  I’d also vote you skip the jumbo coke so you don’t have to scoot out of the movie in the middle of it.

While it is your typical Star Trek sci-fi it is definitely a fast moving action movie, with small splashes of humor thrown in—listen for the term “red shirt” and watch for the look on the actors’ faces—it pops up more than once.

The special effects were good.  I love that they still use much of the same theme music in the movie.  What I didn’t care for was the theater I was in had the volume way too loud for the background music, which drowned out some of the softer dialog.  But I think that was the theater’s fault, not the producer’s fault.

I can’t tell you much about the plot without putting in major spoiler alerts and I HATE it when someone gives away the plot to a book, movie or tv show.  So I won’t chance it. 

I will say I was surprised to hear a few exclamations come from the crews’ lips that would have never made it to the television screen in the 60’s.  Nothing super bad that would be of concern to most parents, just surprised me.

I will save you the time of waiting through the credits to see if there is any after action.  There is none, so run for the restroom as soon as the credits start.  I told you not to drink that big coke!

Based on the action, special effects and yes even some of the acting I’d give this movie a B+.

Jan who is now looking forward to the new Star Wars movie in OK

Thursday, May 9, 2013


“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
Mark Twain

By: Dave Ramsey
Genre: Non-fiction, finance, budgeting, debt freedom 

I must confess I didn’t just read this book.  I first read it about six years ago.  At that time I read it and thought “We should try this”, but that is as far as it went.

Then in December 2008 I read it again and decided to really give it a go.  Little did I know at that time we would be unemployed two months later, and stay that way  for eighteen months.  I had no idea at the time I read it and decided to follow the plan that we would get through that time of great financial inconvenience not only staying fairly current on all our bills, but actually payoff some smaller bills as we struggled financially each month.

Over the next four years I have re-read this book numerous times and found guidance  and inspiration every time I’ve needed it.  Today we have been free of using credit cards for nearly four years, our indebtedness has dropped to less than half of what we once owed.

If all goes as scheduled we will be totally debt free, house and everything, in 18-24 months.  All thanks to the guides offered in this book.

The book itself is really an easy read where finances are concerned.  I’m a math nerd and over the years I have read numerous books on finances, investing and similar books.  Quite frankly many of those books cause my eyes to glaze over.  They are so technical, or preachy that I’ve often not finished some of them.  Or I’ve gleaned one or two items from them and ignored the rest.

Not so with “The Total Money Makeover.”  In it Dave Ramsey takes you through the baby steps of becoming debt free.  DR does not talk down to you, but instead tells of his own personal trek from being in bankruptcy with a wife and small children to being debt free and a millionaire. 

On his radiotalk show he says he gives the same advice your grandma would give you, but he keeps his teeth in.   This type of humor is throughout the book. 

As he walks you through the baby steps he gives personal stories of not only his family, but of others who have followed the baby steps to gain financial freedom.

From the very beginning he leads you through the different stages of going from being a slave to your creditors to total financial freedom. 

He starts the book with telling you in the introduction what this book is NOT about.   It is NOT a “get rich quick” book.  It is simple basic common sense. 

As the book progresses he dispels many money myths, and points out obvious things you would not normally think of.  A fine example of this is have you ever considered why there are no Pay Day Loan, or Pay at the Lot car dealerships in affluent neighborhoods?  The answer is simple, those companies will charge you such high interest and feed off the financially desperate.  Often they charge as much as 300% interest and no affluent person would ever pay that, they wouldn’t be affluent if they did.  So why should those who can least afford to pay it? He gives you alternatives that you can do for free or near free to avoid such places.

You are walked through the steps of setting up a budget, how to get current on your bills, common sense on what bills should be paid and in what order.  Most importantly how to deal with the financial bottom feeding bill collectors. I will not lie to you, it is not going to be easy every step of the way.  The very first baby step is to put $1,000 into savings for an emergency fund.  For some of us that is extremely hard to do, but he gives  you suggestions on how to get that $1,000. 

The strange thing is once you get that $1,000 you realize a certain sense of freedom.  You have a cushion, a safety net.  You will also find you guard that $1,000 furiously.  What once before  you perceived as an emergency, becomes an “I want” and will often become an “I can wait on it, until there is money in the budget.” 

Obviously there will be times, as in our case, the hot water tank went out before our household repair sinking fund was fully funded and we had to use part of the baby emergency fund to have hot water for showers. 

This, of course, put us back on baby step one temporarily, but we found the second time we had to fund the emergency fund it was easier. 

As time goes on he walks you through snowballing your bills toward being debt free and beyond your bills to plan for a future of financial freedom.

Most people, if they follow the book, will be debt free in two years or less.  Our journey was of course slowed down by our debt load,  by being unemployed for eighteen months, followed by employment that was 25% less financially than we had previously enjoyed.  I will also admit that we have not been gazelle intense the entire time.  Hey, we’re human!

I could write volumes about what I’ve learned along the way from the writings in this book, but it would be better if you read it yourself.

I must add one thing here.  One person, who was on the verge of losing their home, I suggested this book to angrily told me I was a fool for following it, that the only way such books help anyone financially is the author who sells the book, and all the add ons that could go with it.  Today that person still has their home, but only because a family member caught the loan on it up for him and they are still struggling to put food on the table.

I personally have spent ZERO money to do the plan in this book.  I originally checked it out of the library for FREE.  Later a good friend gave me a copy of the book as a gift so I wouldn’t have to keep re-checking the book from the library.  I listen to the Dave Ramsey radio show both on my computer and on my radio for FREE.  I get emotional support for free from the folks on the  . My family and I follow the plan for FREE and as a result we are becoming FREEEEEEE from debt.

Yes, DR does sell books, he does sell cds, cash envelope wallets, and numerous other things, but you do NOT have to buy any of it to follow the plan set forth in the book.  You can be free for free. All you have to do is read the book and follow the baby steps.

Jan who says the smartest thing she ever did financially was to read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and follow the plan in OK