Snack Hack: Honey Mustard Pretzels

As I was in the grocery store looking for a decent snack, I incubated a new idea.  I absolutely love mustard pretzels, but they are usually $2-3 more than I want to spend, and several extra ingredients more than I want to eat.  An idea started incubating and now it’s hatched!

Why not make my own mustard pretzels, I thought?  So I did, and now you can too.  I like making my own snack foods when I have time because I like controlling the ingredients.

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I used:

1 bag of sourdough pretzel pieces, 15 ounces

Plain yellow mustard, 1/2 cup

Honey, 1/4 cup

Small bowl, whisk, large mixing bowl, sheet pan.


I started by measuring the mustard, then made a kind of cup in the mustard by coatingDSCN1598 the sides with it.  That way I could pour the honey into, straight from the jar.  I did this with half my mustard so it would fill a half cup measure in total.  It was really easy to clean the measuring cup afterwards!

Similarly, I poured a little water into my mixing bowl first, so the honey would have less chance of sticking there, too.  Don’t use much here, a quarter cup at the absolute most.  I whisked it all together then added the other 1/4 cup of mustard.  I gave it a final whisk.

I poured the pretzel pieces into the large mixing bowl, then poured the coating on top, mixing it all thoroughly with clean hands.

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I placed the coated pieces on the baking sheet in a single layer, then baked in the oven for 60 minutes at 250 degrees.

Stir them every fifteen minutes or so.

If your pretzels are still damp, they may need a bit of drying on the counter or in a warm oven.  I live in a dry climate so don’t have that issue.

 

I found these to have a milder flavor than my favorite brand, but I liked the price and DSCN1601ingredients a lot better!

You can, of course, alter this recipe to your own tastes.  You could add cayanne or garlic, both would be amazing, change the mustard type to something else, or dream up something interesting like using ranch dressing mix as part of the recipe!

Happy crunching.

 

via Daily Prompt: Incubate

A Clean Sweep – low cost minimalism

You already know all the benefits to minimalism.  Health, a cleaner home, less time spent reorganizing, less stress, etc.  Sometimes it seems like you have to be rich to be minimalist.  You really don’t, though.  Not if you do it right. In fact, you can even save money. Here’s how.

Right now, this very moment, is a fantastic time to live in if you are interested in minimalism. Data storage is tiny and cheap, multi-function electronic devices are common, and almost every book, magazine or song is available for download.  What once could only be stored in stacks and stacks of boxes or on shelves, can now be fit into a small pocket.  That’s a real benefit for someone who is trying to be more minimalist.

I have been able to fit nearly my entire library into one SD card, and my music collection consists of four or five CDs plus several hundred songs in an 8 GB Mp3 player that cost $5 including shipping. My eReader cost $50. My computer maybe $300 and I’ve had it for about four years so far.

What has this done for me?  Simplicity, even the basic level that I practice, allows me to support two adults in fair style on one income, even though I barely make over minimum wage. (Of course, I own my car, allowing low insurance rates, I don’t pay for cable, I found an apartment that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and my phones are $25 a line. That helps a lot.  Even so, the principle is sound.)

My point here is that minimalism is easier to achieve with some of this modern technology and it can save you a bundle, in time, in storage space, and in money. It can be a great feeling when you walk into a neighbor’s house and think “wow, they have something on EVERY wall, and things stacked on EVERY surface. I couldn’t live like that!” Then you think “wait, I did live like that. I love my new life.”

I see it as freedom.  Freedom from this:

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You don’t have to turn your home into a monk’s cell to embrace minimalism.

Also, I won’t advocate getting rid of certain spare items. Sometimes stuff breaks, and you will be better off if you don’t have to buy a replacement right away. That’s what poor folk often do, poor folk like me, because we don’t have a spare wad of cash lying around. When you do keep spares, though, keep them in good order and keep them out of the way, such as in a labeled box. Know what you have, why you have it, and where it is.  I have a few extra cooking knives in my drawer, and also my trusty (and old) eeePC in my desk in case the main PC has something happen to it. It doesn’t take up much space.

I took a hard look at my appliances and got rid of my food dehydrator, my juicer, and my printer. Print jobs are ten cents a page at the library on a high quality full color printer. My printer takes thirty or forty dollars to fill with ink, and then it expires before I even use it halfway. With the juices I drink, it would cost more to buy the fruit than just buy the juice. The food dehydrator was poor quality.

That brings me to another good guideline – if you buy something, buy the best quality you can afford. Ultimately, it costs less to buy better quality then to have something break. That saves money too, as well as headaches.

With these tips, and modified ideas from the innumerable other minimalism articles out there, you can save money and have a better life.  The key is not to go ultraminimalist but simply be mindful in what you buy and why you buy it.

By contrast to the clutter I left behind, each bit of minimalism I find feels like this:

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via Daily Prompt: Clean

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/clean/

Watching your medication costs might save your job!

Who know?  This shocked me when I heard it.

I recently took a call from a human resources worker at a company. One of their new hires had a medication that he took daily and the HR lady needed to know how much it was going to cost. Why? Because the cost of insuring that patient was going to affect whether they could afford to renew the insurance for their company. The story had a happy ending because I was able to tell the HR lady that the medicine would be $1,500 a month to cover, not the $45,000 a month they had feared, but what if it had been that much? A talented, skilled employee might have been let go or might have had to go to an insurance exchange because the company couldn’t afford to keep him insured.

Sometimes medications are expensive for a good reason – because the medications are highly effective, expensive to make, or for many other reasons. However, sometimes doctors will choose newer, more expensive medications because a drug rep said so, or because they aren’t thinking about the cost. It’s definitely worth a chat next time you see your doctor, and another chat with your insurance company. There very well may be a good medication that has been out longer, has had more time for the price to drop, and will work just fine for you! Keep in mind that most doctors aren’t aware of the cost of medications, or what your drug coverage is.

Most of the time, the best place to start is by calling your prescription insurance company and talking with one of their pharmacists. Working with the customer service representative, they can tell you what lower cost alternatives are, price them out, so you can then ask the doctor if a change would be appropriate. I’ve seen this save people many thousands of dollars without sacrificing any quality.

Personally, when I take medication, I try to ask for older, tried and true medications that are well understood and well studied. I let someone else be the high-paying guinea pig.

The true cost of cable

When I asked my friends how much cable costs, I was shocked!. One told me she pays $275 a month for TV and internet, and she’s thinking of cutting out the movie channels so she can save $30 or $40 per month. That’s it? That would still leave her about a $235 bill!

It seems to me that cable is not much more than a vacuum cleaner attached to your wallet.

How many DVDs can a person buy with $200 a month? I deduct $75 because that’s the price for cable internet, in my area at least. That’s all I pay, and I get all the entertainment I can handle.

An Amazon Prime subscription only costs $100 a year. You get unlimited 2 day free shipping plus a huge selection of movies and TV shows.

A Netflix membership doesn’t cost much more.

The library is free, and so is Youtube.

Now, let’s consider the time expense of cable. I used to be completely addicted to it, and watched TV all the time. My grades suffered, I didn’t work on my homework, I learned less. Ultimately, I wasn’t qualified to get as good a job because of this behavior.

I don’t blame cable for this. I did it to myself. I ask this question now: would it have been a good idea for me to pay for the privilege of having poorer earning power?

Yet, isn’t that what we do? We pay a company a lot of money (often thousands a year) for content we can buy for far less elsewhere! Learning is free. Entertainment is free. Even so, the addiction of passive entertainment can be really hard to shake. We don’t think logically when it comes to TV. We think emotionally.

If you are thinking of kicking the cable habit, consider how much more time you’d have if you didn’t watch as much TV. Consider the benefits to your eyesight. Also, tor your waistline. Think about how much you could get done if you freed up three or four hours every day. You could start a side business, read great books, exercise, spend more time with your kids.

Are you too tired at the end of the day to do anything else? Think about that, too. Is that really true, or could it change? Watching TV always made me feel more tired and lethargic, while doing things always made me feel better right away. This blog is about making your life more awesome. It’s hard to be awesome just watching TV all day. It saps your creativity and your energy.

There’s one final benefit to getting rid of cable. You will be exposed to less slick advertising and therefore you won’t feel like you need as much. This can lead to you spending less and being less of a slave to consumer culture.

With all the benefits of getting rid of cable, why keep it? The reason I keep hearing is that somebody else in the house wants it, so it can’t be gotten rid of. I’d say that some persuasiveness is in order here, if you do want to unplug the cable and plug into more money every month.

I’m not telling you to get rid of cable. I’m just asking you if the cost is worth it.

When you want to publish your book: tips for aspiring authors

The only thing worse than failing as a writer, is failing as a writer and paying someone else for the privilege.  Writing and getting your things published doesn’t have to be hard, though it often is. There are certain things you can do so you aren’t taken for a ride. I’ve watched the publishing industry change over the years, helped publish a few books, and in all of it I’ve seen that certain things remain true. So I have come up with some tips and rules to help protect you from career-breaking mistakes.
Do not ever pay an agent fee or publishing charge. Those are used by vanity publishers and scam artists to separate you from your money and give you nothing.

There is one small exception to this. If you complete the NaNoWriMo writing challenge and earn the 75% off coupon from FastPencil, that’s actually a pretty good value. For around a hundred dollars you get a fair amount of marketing help and wide distribution for your book, as well as a larger cut of the profits. Otherwise, don’t pay agent fees or publishing charges.

Also be cautious of anyone who says “you need to help us pay for a thousand books and you need to do all your own marketing.” Real agents don’t charge the author.

If you are an aspiring writer and want to be published traditionally, do not let your desire blind you to scam artists. Be particularly wary of any unsolicited emails from publishing companies with glowing testimonials, compliments about your work, and promises of big profits. I’m looking at you, SBPRA! Unless you are really well known, publishing houses don’t approach you unasked, and if you are well known, you won’t be needing these tips.
Carefully check any contracts to make sure you retain control over your work. Look for hidden fees. Read them. Reread them. If anyone objects or tries to get you to rush, don’t sign.

Before signing up with any agent or publishing company, check their online reputation. Several good authors groups, like the Science Fiction Writer’s Association, have lists of scammers. No reputation might not be a deal breaker but a bad reputation is.

When you self publish, and even if you don’t, use a beta reader. Have one or more people carefully read your work, looking for typos, misspelled words, awkward grammar, or anything else that will make your work look less than its best. The more eyes, the better!

Write what you love, write what you know, and never ever write something you don’t know about unless you have expert help. That is, talk it over with someone who knows the subject very well, and then listen to what they have to say!

Finally, any time emotion (especially love or fear) is involved, the market is ripe for scammers and they know it. You love your book, you love the idea of success. You fear failure. Scammers know that and they play to your emotions. This is your work, hopefully your best work, and you owe it to your future to let reason rule over emotion. You’ll be thankful later.

If you have any comments or tips, comment here and I’ll add them with attribution.