Michelin-Quality Food on an Intern’s Budget

Lamb Chops and Vegetables

Let’s be honest. The idea of eating gourmet food every day is nice and all, but when it’s the end of a long day and you are somehow faced with the task of getting dinner on the table, it can be pretty tempting to just defrost a frozen meal or call out for help (AKA pizza delivery). You want to eat well, but you don’t exactly consider yourself a culinarian. And besides, cooking is hard and takes a long time, right? Right?!

Microwave Cooking for One
(photo credit: seriouseats.com)

Wrong.

The truth is, with just a tiiiiny bit of planning and prep, you can kick your food repertoire up several notches, making it taste better, faster. Even if you’re lazy, tired and broke, you can cook and eat like someone who knows what they’re doing.

Aaron’s Thinks “Max Your Tax!” is a Good Slogan. The Deal is Even Worse Than It Sounds

Aaron's Max Your Tax Scratch

Aarons
via Google Street View

It’s not as hilarious as Coke’s notorious “Bite the wax tadpole!” but Aaron’s “Max Your Tax!” slogan this spring sounds equally unpalatable. The posters and commercials make clear that they ostensibly want you to maximize the value of your tax return. But it’s just as well. The misreading conveys what’ll really happen to you if you shop at Aaron’s when your check from the IRS comes.

Amazon’s Ridiculously Good, Seriously Awesome Tablet Deal Du Jour

Amazon Deal Du Jour Scratch

Oh, Amazon. I can’t refuse you. Just take my money, dammit!

Yeah, the company is back to its price-slashing ways. Last month, it served up some crazy-good deals on higher-end Kindle Fire tablets, including the awesome HDX for just $199.

Today, there’s a deal for the real cheapskates out there, for folks who don’t need all the bells and whistles but still want a seriously good 7-inch tablet.

For a limited time, and while supplies last, you can get a certified refurbished 2nd-generation Kindle Fire tablet for $79 shipped. That is such a ridiculously good deal, I think I just peed a little.

I Annoyed Several Customer Service Reps to Try to Find The Most Expensive Things Online

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For no better reason than to have a reason to write an article online about one of my favorite activities – online shopping – I decided to investigate a few of my favorite online retailers to identify the most expensive thing you could buy from each of them. I don’t know where this impulse came from, but we’re exploring it anyway.

You know how you hear stories about very wealthy people who made their fortune from nothing but the grit under their fingernails, and they always have that same anecdote about framing the first dollar they ever earned, or writing themselves a check for a million dollars and then one day being able to cash it? Maybe I’m subconsciously setting goals so that when all this freelance blogging pays off with all the riches nobody promised, I’m going to be able to e-march into all of my favorite e-shops and purchase #TheMostExpensiveItems #ForNoGoodReason and worry no more.

My first target is Target.com because it seemed like a good Target. After a few minutes of browsing the site, I can’t find a “Search By Most Expensive” search parameter and just searching “expensive” isn’t getting me anywhere so I decide to help myself to some good old fashioned analog Customer Service telephone representatives.

Ditch Your Drugstore Beauty Supplies and Rub Food All Over Your Face

Food Mask Scratch

Just this past weekend I spent $70 on beauty supplies. Just six basic supplies. At a drugstore.

It’s not easy (or cheap) staying beautiful.

This surprisingly expensive outing got me thinking — are there things I could be using around my own home to curb the costs of spending so much on beauty supplies? I did a little digging and, as it turns out … there are.

Nice Over Rice: Turning Last Night’s Leftover Rice Into Tonight’s Five-Star Meal

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You know the scenario: you ordered takeout and (with or without the help of others) managed to demolish it all. All, that is, except for one last carton of rice. You know you shouldn’t waste food, but you just don’t see yourself eating a bowl of plain rice in the near future—especially after it gets hard and crumbly after a night in the refrigerator. You resign to the fact that you’ll just have to throw it out.

Not so fast. Within that crappy carton of boring rice, there exists endless possibility for culinary greatness. With just a little bit of creativity and a few minutes of prep, you can be sitting down to a totally new, totally fabulous meal in no time. (And let’s be honest, I did the creative part for you here, so you really just have to do the prep).

How to Save on Aphrodisiacs: Don’t Buy Them (Unless They’re Tasty)

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oyster aphro
Photo by Mike Pearl via Wikimedia Commons

This Valentines Day, if you must read one sentence about aphrodisiacs, please let it be this one: Don’t buy any so-called aphrodisiacs, and instead save your money for a nice dinner. That’s the FDA’s longstanding position, and the Mayo Clinic’s, but they’re obviously going to be boring and conservative about risks you might take. I’m much less conservative, but I agree with them completely.

The internet is a perfect machine designed to trick people into buying fake aphrodisiacs, and it’s been that way for decades. Imagine this was your first day here. If you were like most people, within seconds you would be aroused by the internet’s limitless free titillation, made insecure by a completely unfiltered flow of targeted advertising, and bombarded by deceptive spam messages offering a quick solution to your problem.

In many ways, the internet has made good on its promise to provide us with just the answers to things instantly, as with this amazing Google feature that automatically harvests information from reliable sources, and presents it in the search engine results page — my vote for Best thing Humanity has Ever Accomplished:

Five Dumb Things You Should Stop Paying For

Ooma Scratch

Some things in life we’re stuck paying for, like shelter, clothing, and donuts. (If you’ve worked out a way to get free donuts, let me know immediately.) However, you might be surprised to learn that a few life essentials (well, “essentials”) can be had for less than you’re paying now–and perhaps even for free. And, no, I’m not talking about trading in your car for a bike so you don’t have buy gasoline; these are practical real-world savings on stuff you use all the time. But I’m still trying to crack the donut problem.

Other Fun Things You Can Do with Those Ridiculously Long CVS Receipts

CVS Receipt Scratch

CVS, or Heaven’s Commissary as I like to think of it, has made headlines recently as the first national pharmacy to cease cigarette sales at all locations. It’s a pretty brave move, plus it makes it look like maybe Walgreens and Rite-Aid support lung cancer, which is a plus for the CVS brand. Personally, I support this move from CVS. Smoking cigarettes is like wearing a fedora: you only think it looks cool because of the black and white photographs. But you don’t live in a black and white photograph and you just look like a loser when you do it.

The other thing CVS has been known for recently, and you may know this if you’ve shopped there at all, is that if you swipe your Extra Care card at checkout, you’re subject to receiving an extraneously long receipt with multiple coupons on it. It’s great for deals, but these coupons actually have many uses that you may find helpful.

Make Money From Your Smartphone’s Lock Screen

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If you’ve ever shopped for a Kindle tablet or e-reader, you know that Amazon offers a discounted price if you opt for the “Special Offers” version, which displays ads on the lock screen.

Personally, I have no problem with that. A lock screen isn’t a place I typically linger; it’s the only thing standing between me and Candy Crush Saga (uh, I mean, books–the only thing standing between me and books). Power button, swipe, done. A quick glance at an ad during those 1.5 seconds? In exchange for money? Fine by me.

5 Reasons You Should Be Eating Garbage

Garbage Compost Scratch

It’s common knowledge that fresh vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.You know this. This is why you buy, cook and eat them on the regular. Every week, you dutifully fill your cart with your local market’s bounty. You chop, toss, roast, and sauté. You feel pretty darn good about this.

But then you go and do a stupid thing: you throw away the scraps.

Dude. Stop doing that.

Fresh vegetables (especially organic ones) can be expensive, and this means you should be making the most of them! So often, their scraps (better known as the parts of produce we tend to immediately compost) can actually be made quite delicious with just a little bit of effort. So delicious, in fact, you might even find you prefer some of these “trashy” preparations to the whole vegetable. Better yet, using every last bit means your money goes further because your veggies yield more meals. You get to pat yourself on the back for helping minimize waste (go you!).

Vine Voices and Other Reasons to Approach Amazon Reviews with Caution

Amazon.com Scratch

We all know Amazon reviews run the gamut from “insightful” to “worse than reading nothing at all,” and we can cope with the poor quality. The inane reviews lend credibility to the rest, making the good ones seem culled from a vast field of “authentic” average consumers. But thanks to some of Amazon’s sketchier practices — especially a program called “Vine Voices” — you can’t even be sure of that. Here’s a guide that should help you machete your way through the Amazon. I chose 20 reviews* and dissected them for content and other patterns.

Vine Voices:

2 out of 20, or 10 percent of the reviews I read, said “Vine Voices” next to the review. Vine is a six year-old invitation-only program for serious Amazon reviewers to smooth out their writing process by simply delivering them free swag. Yes, Vine (Which has nothing to do with the video sharing app) mails certain products to the homes of reviewers, and the reviewers agree to send the item back if requested, so it’s just borrowed, not a gift. But apparently this rarely if ever happens. In other words, a review with “Vine Voices” next to it isn’t a customer review at all.

How to Get Free 2-day Shipping Forever

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This is an update of a post I wrote nearly a year ago. What was once a time-limited offer is now free forever. Woot!

I’m addicted to free shipping. I can spend hours in the virtual aisles of an online store, padding my cart with just the items I need, then scouring for a discount code–but if I get to the checkout page and find there’s a big ol’ shipping charge, forget it.

No sale.

This is especially aggravating when you’re buying a single, inexpensive product, and the shipping costs nearly the same as the item!

That’s why I like having a subscription to ShopRunner, a nifty service that, among other things, assures you free shipping at more than 80 stores. Even better than that, free 2-day shipping.

This Week In Deals: 5 Valentine’s Day Deals for You and Your Lover

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 Now that Super Bowl 2014 has come and gone, let’s direct our focus on another special event that’s happening next week, Valentine’s Day 2014. If you’re a hopeless romantic, a lover, this day was made especially for you.

Traditionally, you would give a nice assortment of chocolates in a heart shaped box, a dozen of red roses and a white teddy bear with a red heart on it, but there is so much more you can get for that special person in your life and we’re here to help.

Here are this week’s sexiest five deals:

Deal #1: Your one stop shop, Macy’s is offering an additional 10-15% off most departments. You can choose from jewelry to their favorite undies. Expires 02/10/2014.

Qube2 Review: Big Sound Packed Into a Tiny Speaker

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Portable speakers come in all shapes and sizes, but rarely does the size merit an “awww, cute!”

That’s the Matrix Audio Qube2 in a tiny nutshell. Measuring just 3.1 inches long and 1.4 inches square, this little guy makes a Twinkie look big. And yet its size belies its power: the Qube2 pumps up the jams like you wouldn’t believe.

I’m listening to a review unit at this very moment. It’s paired via Bluetooth to my iPhone, which is streaming tunes from Pandora. And it sounds amazeballs–way, way better than a speaker of this size has any right to.

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