Saturday, November 02, 2013

Twelve Ideas to Eat Better for Less

Here are some ways to get better meals for less money.  It takes effort but your family will love the results.

  1. Learn to cook from scratch.  The cost of processing foods into ready-to-eat is expensive and the ingredients are not always wholesome.  If you don’t know how to prepare whole foods, such as rice, potatoes, noodles, dried beans, etc, then learn.  You're on the internet, right?

  1. Learn how to best prepare the less expensive cuts of meat and poultry.  Cuts like round roast can be prepared using moist heat (pot roasts, stews) and will be as tender as more expensive cuts when cooked that way.  Larger chickens can best be prepared as chicken and dumplings or chicken noodle soup for the same reason.

  1. Look for discounts on expired food.  The dates are not dates the food spoils on, they are dates the food should be sold by.  If you use them soon there is nothing wrong with them.  Obviously this doesn’t apply to dairy or similar fresh foods which might spoil.  But things like breakfast cereals are certainly good past their “sell by” date.  If you see meat, fish or poultry in the case on or past the sell by date, and it still looks fresh, ask the butcher for a discount.  Freeze what you won’t eat right away.

  1. Buy in bulk.  You’re going to use it all, eventually.  Why buy small shakers of something like garlic powder when you can buy a huge one for just a little more than the small shakers?  Can’t find them in the grocery?  Look for retail outlets of the food service suppliers.  In Michigan that’s Aldi, Sysco or Gordons.  You can also try Sams Club or Cosco but will need to buy a membership for those two. You can actually buy a gallon of mustard for just a couple of dollars.  Which leads us to…

  1. Share or buy co-operatively.  If you can organize a group of neighbors to buy together, you can really save a lot.  Imagine splitting that gallon of mustard 4 to six ways.  You’d each be able to fill three or four empty mustard bottles for about fifty cents.  You can also do that with large bags of noodles, flour, sugar, rice, salad dressings, bar-b-que sauce, pancake syrup, and many, many more items.  Again, look into the commercial food services that have retail stores near you.

  1. Learn the secret of top chefs.  Chefs don’t pick a recipe and then go out to buy what they need, they look at what’s in season, or what’s on sale, and then they choose the recipes that use those ingredients.  So if chicken thighs are on sale this week, make chicken and dumplings, chicken soup, b-b-q chicken, but not pot roast.  An example of this would be buying a turkey when they are on sale, just before Thanksgiving. 

  1. Learn to use the services in a grocery.  Remember that sale on turkeys?  If you buy a larger turkey the butcher can saw it in half, right down the center, and re-wrap it for you.  Freeze one half.  You might ask for this same service in produce.  Are you shopping for a group?  Ask for that watermelon to be split and wrapped as two or more pieces.

  1. Find a day old bread store.  The bread isn’t really stale.  Even if it is, it still makes great toast, French Toast, stuffing and croutons.  You didn’t know you could make croutons?  Bought more than you can use?  Bread will freeze just fine. 

  1. Learn to can or freeze.  Then you can buy a whole bushel of tomatoes for a few dollars and have canned tomatoes all winter for pennies a jar.  You can watch videos or read about canning on the internet, but if you know someone who cans, ask if you can help them for a couple of hours.  You’ll learn all the tricks and short cuts that way!  Jars can be expensive, so keep an eye out for canning jars at yard sales and re-sale shops. 

  1. If you’re going to learn to can, and you have space to grow a small garden, these two things go hand in hand.  Grow foods you like to eat.  Tomatoes, green beans, corn, carrots, and green peppers can all be either canned or frozen for use in cooking later.  You can also keep potatoes or onions for several months after harvest.  Just store them in a cool, dry place.  Again, a good way to learn to garden is to ask a neighbor, friend or relative if you can help them with their garden.  Keep an eye out at yard sales and re-sale shops for garden tools like rakes and hoes.

  1. Check for coupons, but, remember that the store brand may be cheaper, even with the coupon savings on the national brand.  You’ve got to do your homework and detective work to get the best buy.

  1. Think about left-overs when planning meals.  Some recipes create tomorrow’s lunch at the same time.  You can make chicken and dumplings and keep half the chicken for sandwiches the next day.  Just make extra dumplings to make the first meal more filling.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How My Man Came to Leave

Yesterday the Sanilac County Historical Society conducted an event called "House in Mourning" at their museum.  It included a cemetery walk where I served as a volunteer.  I read the following poem at the grave of three sailors who drowned in a storm on Lake Huron.  This year is the 100th anniversary of The Storm of 1913. In one week in November eight ships and over 200 sailors were lost on Lake Huron alone.

How My Man Came to Leave

Some men work
the factory floor;
some men work
at a trade.
But here men go down
to the sea in ships,
our husbands, brothers,

and sons.
They tell you
it’s to put food on the table,
they tell themselves
that too.
But there is a pull
beyond earning a living.
The lake is a temptress,

beguiling. In summer
she’s a siren
in shimmering sapphires.
A sailor’s seduction ensues.
Through the Summer a sailor's
enthralled with this mistress.
His home and his family

in memory dim.
But Autumn brings
a new look to the lake.
Still attractive, dignified,
but portending a change,
foretelling a graceless aging

too soon coming.
By November the lake has become
a bitter old wench, angry,
short tempered.
She senses her suitors
are longing to leave her,
to abandon her
beneath the coming ice.
But unwilling to die
old and lonely,
one week
in November
during the season of ’13,
Old Dame Huron
reached up her icy arms,
heaved her mighty breath,

and snapped eight ships.
More than two-hundred lovers
she took to bed,
never to wake.

Few were left
to tell the fate
of their ship
and of their brothers.

On shore, 
I soon learn the news
I do not wish to hear.

My sailor has abandoned me
to lie forever by the side
of that Jezebel,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dear Paul

Today I received an e-mail from someone asking where he could get his poems published.  This is a pretty common question when poets are just starting out, so I took the time to reply, and decided to share it with everyone as an open letter.

My ideas aren't necessarily the best, or complete, so please feel to add your own suggestions to Paul in the comments afterwards.  Thanks.


Hello Paul,

I'm not certain where you came by my e-mail address, but I would be glad to suggest some ways to get your poetry published.

First, find markets that are actually looking for poetry submissions.  The easiest way is to Google "calls for poetry submissions" or "calls for poetry manuscripts."  This will bring up the names of many 'markets,' which could be either print or online publications seeking poems.

Another way to find markets is to search 'Dutrope Digest'.  Google that name; it's an online directory of publishers looking for many types of submissions.  Duotrope used to be free, but now they have a subscription fee.  They do offer a free trial period though.

Another really good way to find publications for your submissions is to buy or borrow a copy of 'Poet's Market', an annual book that lists everyplace known to accept poetry.  The reason this is such a good resource is that they not only tell you the publications, they tell you how to contact them, who the editor is, how many poems they receive each year, how many they actually accept, if they pay or not, and much, much more.  For example, they might tell you that 'Ahab's Whale' accepts nautical themed poems only, by e mail only.  They might want an attachment in ten point Times New Roman font, or they may want the work in 8 point Arial Font, pasted into the body of the email.  They may only accept poems from June to September, or they may take them year round.  All that type of info is provided in 'Poet's Market', and it is critical, because many times if you don't follow their guidelines exactly, editors just delete your submission, or throw it in the trash if it's snail mailed in. 

There are a few things that are critical if you're going to submit for publication.  First, read the publication you are submitting to.  If it's online that shouldn't be too hard.  If it's in print, check the bookstore shelves or go to the library.  It's important you know what kind of work the magazine uses, and that your submissions will fit in.  No sense sending that avant-garde poem about domestic violence to Ahab's Whale if they only print nautical work, right?  My first submission was to 'Poetry Midwest' and the rejection note came back simply, "We don't publish religious poetry."  I didn't think my work was religious, but I got the point, I hadn't read the magazine.  I only sent to them because I was from the Midwest.  Another critical thing is, don't submit if you're not ready to receive brutal rejection.  A friend, who is a very accomplished poet, with many, many publication credits, recently got a note that said, "Fuck this submission."  While most editors are kinder, any rejection stings.

When you are first starting out I'd suggest you avoid contests.  Especially avoid contests that require a fee. The chances of winning a contest are slim, and it should be obvious that the prizes are paid for by the people who enter and don't win.  

I wish you luck and encourage you to jump in, and stick with it.  I still remember my first acceptance, and the modest check that came with it!  Cheers.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

An Unscientific Look at American Politics

(Or, how’s it look from there, with your head up your keester?)

As most of you have heard by now, the sky is falling.  Again. Yup, the old fiscal cliff routine is being rehashed as the Budget Sequester.  It’s awful, just ask any politician. If you ask the Democrats they’ll tell you the Republicans are killing this country, and if you ask the Republicans, well you know the drill. 

I just figure we are all adults, at least those of us who vote,
and we should perhaps take a look ourselves.

The sequester, which is supposed to be the nuclear option
to balance our budget, is going to trim spending over the next
nine years.  The amount we’ll see cut this year is about eighty
five billion dollars, half from defense and half from non-defense
spending.  That reduces the budget for defense by about eight percent
and the non-defense spending gets cut five or six percent.

Wow.  Read that again.  Eight percent and six percent.  I know a lot
of people who have seen their incomes reduced by more than eight
percent since the big crash in 2008.  A lot of Americans are working
less hours, and/or at jobs with lower pay.  Some haven’t found work
yet.  I wonder how come they haven’t just curled up and died, you know,
the way the politicians say that our country will, if we have to have these
horrible budget cuts.

If my budget were cut by eight percent, I’d have to go without popcorn
when I took my wife to the movies.  You know, that doesn’t sound like
Armageddon to me, how about you? 

There are a lot of things Americans would like their representatives to cut.
Whenever you write to your rep asking for something like this, you usually
get a reply that runs along the lines of, “Dear John, Foreign Aid is actually
less than one percent of the federal  budget, so even though no one likes
foreign aid, cutting it won’t help anything.”   OK, raise your hand if you’ve
heard that before.  Uh huh, thought so. 

Well, eight percent minus one percent is seven percent, and if we could find
half a dozen more of those unimportant things that won’t make any difference,
because they’re less than one percent, well, you do the math.  I know, this is one
of those times when “you do the math” actually involves math.

But you should be OK with that, because remember, you are an adult.  You vote.
Right?  I don’t know how you vote, but I’ll tell you, one really smart cat once said
“Never re-elect anyone.”  I don’t know his name, but I think I’m going to listen
to him at the next election.