Ten Bottles of Wine Made for $10


Are you a drinker?  Do you like a nice bottle of wine with a good meal, or perhaps a glass of wine in the afternoon while you sit and contemplate your day?  Maybe you like to have a few drinks with friends after work.

The issue with alcohol is that it’s expensive – ridiculously expensive.  If you’re trying to find money to fund a retirement fund, pay off student loans, or build up an emergency fund, paying for drinks makes that difficult.  A half-decent glass of wine can run you $9 or more at a bar nowadays.  A beer will cost $5 or more at a bar.  Even if you buy a bottle of wine and drink at home, you’ll pay $7 for the cheaper stuff and $15 or more  (lots more) for the better stuff.  Go out for a couple of drinks on Friday and Saturday nights, plus maybe a few during the week, and you’ll be spending more than $2500 per year on alcohol.  That’s enough to halfway fund an IRA and make yourself a millionaire by the time you’re sixty if you were to invest it religiously.

The Home Winemaker’s Companion: Secrets, Recipes, and Know-How for Making 115 Great-Tasting Wines

The thing is, alcohol itself really doesn’t cost that much to make.  It is the fact that the people who make the alcohol first get paid, then the distributor gets paid, then the grocery store or the bar gets paid that causes drinks to cost so much.  And if you’re buying drinks at a bar, you’re also paying the server in the form of a tip, which further adds to the cost.  Everyone who touches that bottle of beer or wine adds to the cost.

You can therefore greatly reduce the amount of money you spend on alcohol, yet still enjoy a drink with friends, if you make it yourself.  Unfortunately, you’ll still need to go to the bar or the liquor store for distilled drinks.  Those are tightly regulated since the government depends on the tax revenues from those. But you can still make beer or wine yourself, only paying the sales tax on the ingredients.

From what I understand, you can make some really great beer at home – far better than the industrial stuff you’re paying $5.00 each for at the bars.  I’ve never made beer, but understand it really isn’t all that hard and a great way to make some friends since there are a lot of passionate home brewers out there.  I’ve also sampled some of their products and it was as good as any microbrewery output I’ve tasted.

North Mountain Supply 1 Gallon Wine From Fruit Complete 30pc Kit – Only Fruit & Bottles Required

I did get into making wine at home after we received a gift certificate for a wine class.  We thought we were going to make a wine at the shop which would then be stored/aged/ and fermented in a big barrel at the shop.  Instead, we were sent home with a couple of 1-gallon carboys, some brewers’ yeast, some yeast nutrient, and some pectin enzyme.   We were also given a recipe that used frozen grape juice as the base.

Can I make a cabernet rivaling those produced by Napa Valley?  No.  But I can produce a couple of gallons of wine better than your average $10 chardonnay or white table wine for about $1.00 per bottle. I also understand that you can buy wine kits in the $50 range that can since you can get grape juice from the same regions as the big winemakers, so you could probably make a good red wine, but you then would need large containers and also would need to have barrels to age the wine in.  I’m just not that into winemaking, but some people are.  If you were, I think you could probably make a bottle that would rival a $25 bottle you could find in the store for maybe $1.50 to $2.00 per bottle using one of the kits.

Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition 2 Gallon Homebrewing Craft Beer Making Kit with Two Beer Refills, Convenient 2 Gallon Fermenter, Bottles, Caps, Carbonation Drops, Sanitizer and Brewing Instructions

Using the same two one-gallon carboys, I can make about 10 bottles of wine every two to three months.  (The amount of time depends on how warm the house is, since ambient temperature affects the fermentation rate and the wine taste.)  Many people upgrade to five to ten-gallon containers after they get started.  A five-gallon container would produce 25 bottles of wine every two to three months for about the same amount of work.  (You can legally make up to 100 gallons, or 500 bottles of wine per year per adult in your household in most states, which seems like a whole lot.  We drink maybe a couple of bottles a month, so there is no reason for us to “go big.”)

So, there is no reason to trade your future retirement for a few drinks today.  People pay way too much for alcohol, and there is no reason to do so.  It might be worth the inflated price of a drink to enjoy the nightlife at a club or two, but you may find that it is nice to have an evening in with friends and a bottle of your own wine or homebrew some weekends too.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what’s on your mind by using the comment form below!

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

The Biscuit Weave – A Cooking Failure


BiscuitPastrySometimes you get inspired in cooking and decide to try something new.  I had two kids to feed on a Saturday morning, various jams in the refrigerator, and decided to try something new – the biscuit weave. 

I thought that maybe I was onto something.  I had made bread weaves before, which turn out spectacular, but take a couple of days to do.  You need to make a sweet bread dough with milk, butter, yeast, flour, and some other ingredients.  Then you need to put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning you then roll it out and form it as desired.  You can add butter, raisins, and cinnamon sugar and make some great cinnamon rolls this way.  You can make a jam braid where you put some preserves in the middle then criss-cross the dough over it in a weave.  When it bakes up, it is beautiful.

This morning I thought I had figured out a way to make a braid in just one morning – I would make the dough from biscuit dough, which does not need to rise or sit in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed the same way.  I pulled out my shortening and self-rising flour, and within about 10 minutes I had my biscuit dough ready.  I then pressed it out on a baking sheet, cut slits to criss-cross for the lattice, and spread a couple different kinds of jam into the middle.  I laced it up and it looked great.  I threw it into a 450 degree oven and set the timer for eight minutes – the time required to make biscuits.

When it came out it looked great.  The dough had puffed and risen and formed a great golden brown.  The jam leaked out a bit, but that was no big deal.  Just a bit of a mess to clean off of the cookie sheet.  But then I tried to cut it.


Cuisinart CBK-100 2 LB Bread Maker

The dough near the jam was raw.  It had cooked on the outside just fine, but the part touching the jam stayed too cool due to the jam, and due to being buried deep inside, and it didn’t cook.  With biscuits, you hit them with a lot of heat and they cook quickly.  But they can’t be too thick or the center will not cook before the outside burns. You also need to keep them fairly dry so that they get hot fast – water keeps the temperature to 212 degrees F until it evaporates.  I guess there is a reason you don’t see jelly-stuffed biscuits.

I put foil on the top and tried to bake it at 400 degrees a bit longer, but it really didn’t cook well.  After about 25 minutes, I pulled it out and tried to cut it.  It was truly a hot, sloppy mess.  You were able to eat most of it since much had cooked, but the part near the jam really wasn’t very pleasant.  The kids were troopers and ate my creation without complaint, but I could tell they would not want that meal again.  So, scratch that idea.

Sometimes things just don’t work out when you try something new.  But sometimes they work out great.  That’s part of the fun with cooking.  The other part is all of the money you save by not needing to pay $10 each for breakfast.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what’s on your mind by using the comment form below!

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

How to Make Your Own Croutons


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A great way to save money and avoid waste is to use your old hamburger or hot dog buns to make your own croutons.   Not only will you save yourself a couple of dollars for a box of croutons and avoid throwing out those last few buns that you never got around to eating. You’ll also find that homemade croutons are a lot tastier than the sad little bread bits you find in the stores.  They are really simple to make even if you don’t cook very often with just a few ingredients.

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The first step in making croutons is to cut up the buns into little squares.  I generally make them a bit bigger than you find in the stores.  Using a sharp knife, first cut equal strips in the bun in one direction while holding the bun slices together, then carefully cut in the other direction to make squares.  Press gently to avoid crushing the bread.  If you find things crumble, your knife is probably too dull.

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Cut even slices one direction

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Then cut the other way to make squares

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The finished result. My squares are about 3/4″ (2 cm) cubes.

After you have equal squares, now is the time to add the fat and the spices.  Salt is nearly a must to get a good flavor.  In my case, I used olive oil for the fat and salt, garlic powder, and rosemary as spices.  I used on the order of a teaspoon of each spice per pan of bread (each pan being three hamburger buns).  Other choices for fat would be butter or vegetable oil.  Other choices for spices would be pepper, parsley, thyme, oregano, chili powder, or seasoned salt.   You could use a bowl, but to save dishes, I just put the bread squares on a cookie sheet in a pile, drizzled with oil (maybe a tablespoon or two for a pan of bread), then sprinkled on the spices.   I then worked the bread around gently to spread out the oil and the spices and coat everything as evenly as I could.  After coating, spread the pieces out as much as you can.  You want to give them room to release water and get radiant heat from the walls of the oven to toast.

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Olive oil and spices

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Coat them on the pan and then spread them out

Next, place the bread in an oven and bake at 300 degrees F (150 deg C)  for about 15-20 minutes. You want to bake slowly to get the whole pieces firm rather than just get a toast on the top and a soft middle.  Avoid the urge to turn on the broiler and give them a little toast since they’ll burn really quickly.  They’ll darken naturally with time with the oven on bake.  Pull out your croutons when the pieces are relatively firm and starting to get a golden brown.  Don’t overcook or they’ll turn bitter.

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Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes until firm and golden.

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The final product. Golden and delicious.

At this point just let them cool on the cookie sheet and then bag them up and put them on the shelf.  Make sure you wait for them to be cool or they’ll turn soft again in the bag.  I usually just use the bag the buns came in.  The hardest part is getting them into the bag, since people will start snacking on them after smelling the delicious aroma filling the room.  If you end up with just a few after the hoards descend, just start again when you have another set of old buns and guard them more carefully next time.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what’s on your mind by using the comment form below!

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.