Simple Red Beans and Rice

This is one of my favorites to prepare for frozen lunches (see meal prepping post). It’s simple to prepare, can be done relatively quickly with the right kitchen tools, and is very inexpensive to pull together.  Beans and rice are a staple meal in most cultures for a reason, they’re nutritious, affordable, and usually tasty!

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Meal Prepping for Efficiency and Cost

Intro:

I used to eat lunch out most days. I was right out of school and didn’t cook all that much and didn’t have leftovers. I went to work too early and didn’t have the time to make lunch in the mornings. It was just easier to go grab something.  I was building better relationships with my coworkers.

Those things were all excuses. At around $8 for a fast food meal or a Subway sandwich combo, you’re looking at close to $40 a week. Someone in the office will want some variety, so mix in something a little nicer on Friday and you’ll be closing in on $200 a month. There are more efficient and cost effective ways to have a satisfying and delicious meal at work.

With a little forethought and a couple of hours one weekend, you can prepare a month’s worth of lunches. Make that same commitment a few more times and you’ll have options that will let you pack a different lunch every morning of the week in about 60 seconds.  The best part is you’ll spend closer to $50 a month than $200 on those work lunches.  Even going with higher quality options won’t drive the cost up beyond $100.  The image at the top is a smoked leg of lamb that’s around 5 lbs. It freezes well and only costs about $30.  At a third of a pound per meal, you’re looking at 15 servings for the low cost of $2 per meal.  Add a $1 worth of extras like a sweet potato and some buttered toast you’ll have a very nice lunch that only costs $3.  That low cost option isn’t even the frugal route; when I post some of the rice and beans heavy options later you’ll be able to make lunches that come in close to or under $1.

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Building a Toolkit Post #3 Pliers

Intro

This is post three in our series on the well put together homeowner’s toolkit. In the previous two installments, we covered how to make good choices when looking for a hammer and an assortment of screwdrivers.  There’s also a directory of all our posts on tools in the Subject Matter Organizer.  Links below may be affiliate links; see Disclosure on Affiliations .

Pliers

Usefulness Group: Essential

Pliers have a couple of different functions depending on the type you are looking at.  The common parts will be that they’ll have handles and jaws joined by a pin. The jaws will nearly always be shorter than the handles (some extra long needle nose types are an exception). What this arrangement allows for is a lever action where the force you put on the handles is increased, giving the jaws more gripping power.   At the core, that’s what pliers are for, to grip something you’re working on stronger than you could with just your hands. That same action can also be used to cut materials if you have a cutting edge instead of a wider jaw.  See figure 1 below for a visual on how pliers work.

Plier Fig 1
Figure 1. The mechanical advantage pliers give you
To gain the most functionality, I recommend five sets of pliers be in every toolkit (although my own pliers drawer is a bit overfilled).  Here’s the list:

  • Slip Joint – Standard pliers like the ones in figure 1 above
  • Linemans – Heavy duty and great with heavy wire
  • Needle Nose – Gets you into tighter spots and finer wire work
  • Wire Cutters – Good for snipping all kinds of materials
  • Groove Joint – Bigger jaw opening and lots of clamping force

img_5644
The pliers (and some adjustable wrenches) drawer of my tool cabinet.
The good news is bundled sets usually include all five of these. I’ll cover each individually first with a link to a high quality option and then link to some sets of varying quality at the end.

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Building a Toolkit Post #2 Screwdrivers

Intro

Light fixtures, electronics, kitchen appliances, the battery door on kids toys, cabinet doors, curtain rods, furniture, and just about anything else you can think of is probably held together by screws.  This is likely to be the most frequently used tool in your arsenal,  and there are plenty to choose from beyond the basic Flathead (which also goes by slotted or standard) and Phillips versions. This post will make sure you’re equipped with enough knowledge to build a screwdriver set that will tackle a wide range of projects with as little frustration as possible.

This is the second post in the series. See the first post here: Building a Toolkit Post #1 The Hammer and a directory of all our posts on tools in the Subject Matter Organizer.  Links below may be affiliate links, see Disclosure on Affiliations .

The Screwdriver

Usefulness Group: Essential

A Simple 4 Piece Set

There are really only three parts to a screwdriver, the handle, the tip, and the tip.  You grip the handle to apply torque to a screw.  The tip is just a shape that matches a recess on the screw-head (like a lock and a key).  And the shaft connects the two.  Starting out, we should cover some basic dos and don’ts plus some features that you’ll be looking to consider when choosing which screwdriver is right for your kit.

  1. A screwdriver is not a pry bar, a can opener, a hole punch for drywall, etc. I’ve tried most of these examples through the years and have several broken tips, skinned knuckles, ruined projects, and other reminders to not misuse tools.
  2. Having a variety of lengths matters. The standard length works great on most things, but having a long or stubby option available when you can’t reach something any other way makes a job go much smoother.
  3. Handles aren’t just about comfort (see figure 1 below). While it should fit well in you hand, look for some shape that will be easy to grip tightly. That handle is what decides how much of your force can be applied to the screw. You need a good surface that won’t slip around in your hand (for instance, a smooth handle with no ridges is awful). Triangles, pentagons, and hexagons with various amounts of raised features are all popular and work well. Big thick handles are great for generating that extra bit of torque but take up quite a bit of room in the toolbox if you have a full set.
  4. You need to select the right sized bit/head to avoid damaging the screw head. If there’s a lot of wiggle (often referred to as play) when you put the screwdriver tip into the screw head there’s a bigger chance it will damage the metal (called stripping the head). The connection should be as tight as possible while still allowing the tip to be fully inserted for good contact between the two. This allows all the force you put on the screwdriver to transfer evenly to the screw. Too big is often just as bad as too small, as both sizing mistakes cause damage.
  5. Since this is such a frequently used tool, I want to stress a consideration for higher quality. Manufacturing methods (like cold or drop forged) and higher quality alloys help the tools hold up well over time. When using these tools, they don’t flex and deform nearly as much and last a very long time. I’ll include some higher quality examples below in the buy it once selections.
Screwdiver Fig 1
Figure 1. Screwdriver Handle Torque

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