May 05, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 18 - May 5th

Today we discover which chili is the cheapest. Also Amy analyzes using a bread machine versus baking hand kneaded bread.


A reader wrote in to say that she wanted a few stepping stones for her yard but they were expensive. So she bought a bag of concrete mix and a cheap plastic 5 gallon bucket. The bucket was wider at the top than at the bottom. The reader mixed the concrete right in the bucket to a 2 inch level.

She let it set for awhile and while it was still wet, she pressed in aggregate stone (or you can imprint a design such as a child’s hand or foot). Mist frequently with a water sprayer to keep the concrete from cracking. After two or three days, turn the stone out gently onto soft ground, so as not to break it.

I have seen kits that contain the concrete mix and a few stones and these kits are quite expensive. Other things you can do to decorate the stones is to decorate the stones with marbles or mosaic tiles. This would be a wonderful gift for a mom or grandmother.


This reader wrote in to say that they had two cats and they were moving from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. They needed a cat carrier but they were too expensive. So this reader took two similar laundry hampers and flipped one basket over the other. Then he took bolts and fastened them together in back. He tied them securely in the front. Once the move was over he was able to use the baskets as laundry baskets.

We did this several years ago when we were driving from Iowa to Ohio to visit my in laws. We took our cat with us. It worked perfectly and we saved money by not having to get a cat carrier (nor to pay for boarding).


Amy did a comparison to see how much chili would cost if you bought it at a restaurant, purchased it canned, made homemade with expensive store bought items, made homemade with dried beans and hamburger, made homemade with homegrown vegetables and TVP down to using dumpster dived canned chili.

Well, obviously the dumpster dived canned chili was free so it was the cheapest. A canned national brand chili was more expensive than if you bought chili at Wendy’s.

It’s well worth the time to make chili from dried beans. But the cheapest chili (except for the dumpster dived) was chili made with TVP and dried beans. A little more expensive was chili made with dried beans and hamburger.

I find that chili supplies go on sale in the late fall so I stock up on canned diced tomatoes, canned chili beans and tomato sauce. I buy enough to last me until the following year. Chili is one of those concoctions that you can make with a lot of meat, a little meat or with no meat. I have made chili with ground beef, ground pork or ground turkey and have loved each batch.

We serve chili with garlic bread or toasted cheese sandwiches. I have also served it topped with grated cheese and used corn chips as a dipper into the chili.


Yes bread machines are convenient as they make one loaf at a time and all you have to do is push a button and it mixes, kneads and bakes the dough. You don’t even have to be home while it bakes the bread.

Amy looked at the time aspect first. Amy and her staff borrowed several bread machines. It took less than 5 minutes to add the ingredients to the bread machine and that was it. But it only makes 1 loaf. Also a bread machine can take up quite a bit of space on your counter.

In contrast using the hand knead method you can bake four loaves at a time. Of course you have to be around for a few hours while the bread rises and bakes.

Amy also talked about a gizmo called a bread bucket. It is a manual hand cranked bucket that when you turn the crank it kneads the bread dough. Evidently they have been around for years.

This is how her tests ended up with the cost analysis (remember this was 1995). The cost of a store bought loaf of bread was $1.49, frozen bread dough was 69 cents, thrift store was 57 cents, homemade was 27 cents and bread machine bread was 26 cents a loaf.

In the end Amy concluded that a bread machine was neither a time saver nor a big money saver. With a little planning, traditional bread making can fit into a busy life as easily as the bread machine method per Amy.

Baking bread is not essential to the tightwad lifestyle. Amy and her family were able to purchase very high quality bread at a bakery thrift shop for the times when life was too hectic for baking homemade bread.

I have a bread machine that has sat on a basement shelf for a few years. I prefer to make my homemade bread, three loaves at a time, and then freeze the loaves. I keep thinking that someday I will resurrect the bread machine for those busy times, but I keep forgetting about it. I love to knead bread dough. I could use the dough attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer, but I prefer (and enjoy) to do it by hand.

Bread machines have been on the market for a very long time now and if you want one, I would search at garage sales for one. When I was working I did enjoy using my bread machine. There was something about coming home from work to the smell of fresh bread.

Baking bread from scratch does not appeal to everyone. So if you have a bread machine or find one at a garage sale, by all means use it as often as you can to make your own bread. I would avoid buying those expensive bread machine mixes. For the price of one mix you could buy a lot of the basic supplies for baking the bread using a recipe.

For tomorrow’s reading, read pages 157 through 166. In this section is in my opinion one of the most interesting articles that Amy ever wrote. It is called “Create a Breakfast Muffin” and she gives you what you need to know to create your own muffins from what you have on hand.


Granny said...

I use pizza boxes to make stepping stones. I line the box with waxed paper that I save from cereal boxes, lay stones, shells etc. on the waxed paper, then pour the cement mix in. I cover the stepping stone with plastic to keep it from drying out too fast.

Sherry said...

I used to have a bread machine, found that I liked kneading the bread myself better. Also, I make a batch and knead it up the night before, cover it well and leave it set all night.