Chopsticks: The Best Utensil

To preface this, I didn’t grow up using chopsticks. I learned how to use them so that I could eat sushi and Korean BBQ. Also, I still don’t hold them properly. What I can say though, is they are the most versatile utensil out there.

With a pair of chopsticks, I can cook and eat a dish of just about anything. When I’m done cooking, a simple rinse and wipe of each stick results in clean chopsticks ready to eat the final product. Typically, one requires cooking tools (flipper, spoons, whatever) to prepare the dish, a fork to eat it, and perhaps a spoon too. Chopsticks seem to accomplish it all.

Imagine if instead of having a cutlery drawer, with an organizer, and 8 sets of 2 spoons, 2 forks, and a knife; you just had 8 pairs of chopsticks. As someone looking to reduce stuff in the junk drawer, this is a great way to eliminate about 40 pieces of silverware I seldom use.

If you’re fortunate enough to have not loaded up your kitchen yet, or haven’t purchased anything at all, get a good knife and a pair of chopsticks and see how you make out!

-Mike

Blogging Inspiration

Although my blog is very new, it’s something I’ve been planning on for a while. I read a lot of blogs and learn so much from bloggers that I wanted to pass on things I’ve learned. I’m big on self improvement and bettering myself, and have found techniques that anyone can use.

My biggest inspiration has to be Jacob at http://earlyretirementextreme.com/. Jacob’s no-nonsense, logical approach to cutting costs and life optimization is excellent. He’s a much better writer than myself, and has a better handle on solving complex problems. Hopefully, I can reach his level someday.

I read his blog daily, and finally ordered his book. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and absorb as much as I can. Everyone has a source of inspiration; what’s yours?

-Mike

Documentary: Without Bound

One way you could describe early retirement is that it is an alternate lifestyle. That is, a lifestyle different from what is normal. Vandwelling is another alternative lifestyle. It is a fascinating, unique, and beautiful lifestyle in my opinion and if you haven’t heard of it, I urge you to look it up.

Whether you’ve heard of van dwelling, vannin’, overlanding, van living or not, you should give this documentary a watch. I won’t go into much detail, other than what you’re about to see is an incredible example of human nature, living life, and freedom. Enjoy!

-Mike

Exercise – Weight Management

In my previous post, I told you I wasn’t going to tell you how you should exercise. This is more of a strategy to prepare yourself for success. The following are some tips I would recommend considering if you’re looking to keep things tighter in the weight department.

  • Find your weight. Consult your doctor to what your weight range is for your height and gender. If you’re over the amount, set your goal to the maximum weight as your primary goal. If you’re under, start with the minimum. Hit your first goal and reassess from there.
  • Stop gaining. I don’t have any experience in being under weight, so I won’t talk to that. If you’re increasing in weight above your recommended, get on a diet. Count your calories and reduce your daily intake a little week over week. Eventually, you’ll start losing weight. Great, you’re in a caloric deficit. I do this to shrink my stomach a little bit, it will hopefully stop you from getting intensely hungry once workouts enter the mix. This is my least favourite part by far.
  • Exercise. Whatever you choose to do, get active, burn some calories and work your muscles. Eventually, you’ll lose fat, gain muscle, and the metabolism boost will help keep you losing and gaining. When you get down to a comfortable weight, you should increase your food intake to start maintaining. This will require constant tweaking, but your body tells you what it wants.
  • Raw materials. Buy the raw materials that make up dishes you love, you’ll learn how to cook food better than store bought and ditch the junk. Better quality protein, fibre, and more can be found in the vegetable garden.

Do as much of the above as possible, and get yourself to the best level of you. If you want to get more muscular, go ahead, but it’ll take upkeep and more food. If you want to get leaner, throw in a cardio exercise. Most importantly; have fun with this adventure. It’s a life experience and does so much for your mental well being.

-Mike

Exercise – Cycling

Recently at work I was assigned to a new account that requires me to work on-site at the client’s headquarters. Unfortunately, this happens to be twice as far from my place as my home office. Frugal me was angry; now I’m going to have to pay for this? I’m not a fan of city transit, why pay for something you don’t like? Well, I could always ride a bike there.

Now I ride my bike to work daily. It’s only been a couple weeks now, but I can feel a difference in my legs and my energy levels. Biking to work isn’t so bad after all. I was fortunate enough to inherit my bike from my father’s friend, who recently left the country for retirement. I had a helmet from childhood; this will need replacing soon. I was also gifted a lock, a rear light, and a front light from my father. It never hurts to see what your family has kicking around before you go out and buy something. Thanks, Dad!

I did have to buy one thing to improve my bike’s security. I picked up a pair of Rockbros Antitheft Skewers to prevent my wheels from ‘walking away’. They were super easy to install with the provided tool and they feel very robust. Worst case scenario, I have to pack my seat when I park my bike at my home office, but otherwise, everything else detaches or is locked together.

The City of Toronto also offers some great resources to cyclists. You should check them out!

Be safe, secure, and pedal hard. These are the keys to a happy commute.

-Mike

Explore Your Local Grocery Stores

Okay, so as much I love being environmentally friendly and supporting local business, I also have to look out for myself once and a while. One of the ways I do this is via my grocery shopping. I generally shop at No Frills and Food Basics to meet my budgetary needs. No Frills is the spot when there is bonus PC points to be earned. Food Basics is closer and has a better selection of international food so I typically go there. Chinatown is of course my stop for produce.

It’s not all about the savings and points, however. I find my No Frills offers an excellent selection of asian cuisine, but lacks frozen whole foods (fish fillets, shrimp, more). No Frills, for whatever reason, carries carrots in 3 formats (individual, bagged chilled, bagged shelf..Why? Give me Canadian carrots I can bag myself). Food Basics has excellent food from the further edges of Europe, along with amazing bulkier sales. A lot of the domestic brands have much to be desired though, and I’m not a big fan of their house brands.

It’s worth while to investigate all of your local grocery stores, and see who offers what. I’m going to checkout the metro nearby my house next week as a potential butcher, should I have guests over and want to make something more unique. If you put in a little extra legwork and shop flyers, you’ll save a lot of money over your lifetime.

To me, saving money and preventing food waste is worth it.

-Mike

Staple Groceries

I’ve talked before about the benefits of shopping at discount grocers, making things from scratch, and buying more raw ingredients. Today, I’m going to talk about the food items I need on hand at all times (and why). There will be some overlap, but this is much deeper dive into keeping a cheap, delicious, and healthy source of food available at your fingertips.

I grew up in a household that ate a lot of pasta, so that’s huge for me. Other than that though, my mother and father would cook up all source of hearty Canadian meals. During my travels around the world, and travels around the various restaurants of Toronto, I’ve added all sorts of cuisines to my recipe book; this list reflects that as well.

Happy cooking!

-Mike

Dry Goods

  • Basmati Rice: Everyday, tasty rice
  • Short Grain White Rice: Useful for asian cooking, sushi, and more
  • Dried Penne: Great for red sauces, holds onto meat well
  • Dried Spaghetti: Excellent for red and white sauces
  • Unbleached Flour: Make pizza dough, bake stuff, whatever
  • White Cane Sugar: Baking, pizza dough, coffee, etc
  • Brown Sugar: Useful for baking and cooking, making sauces and richer dishes
  • Black Beans: Beans and Rice (Gallo Pinto) was a favourite from costa rica. Soups and cold salads also benefit.
  • Chickpeas: Great for cold salads, substitute for dried pasta, and more

Spices

  • Iodized Table Salt: Add to boiling water to prevent spillover
  • Sea Salt: Tastes better than standard salt, and comes in various sizes for unique flavours. Sprinkle by hand.
  • Black Peppercorns: Buy a pepper mill that will last you forever. You can get varying grinds, and can use different peppercorns for different dishes. 
  • Bay Leaves: For making pork and chicken stock
  • Chili Powder: I like spicy and it’s useful for making sauces for stir-fry and more

Liquids

  • White Vinegar: Useful for cleaning and so much more
  • Balsamic Vinegar: Oil and balsamic dressing is the healthiest dressing for salad available)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Use for mayo, and cooking
  • Red Wine Vinegar: Excellent for general cooking needs
  • Olive Oil: Healthy, Flexible cooking oil. Keep a small bottle of high quality, and a big bottle of standard extra-virgin olive oil(EVO) on hand.
  • Vegetable Oil: Milder oil for asian meals, frying, and more
  • Coconut Oil: Good for baking, asian food
  • Red Wine: Cooking and consumption. Drink responsibly 🙂
  • White Wine: Cooking and consumption. Drink responsibly 🙂
  • Lemon Juice: Cooking essential
  • Worcestershire sauce: Useful for cooking and essential for making caesars

  • Soy Sauce: Essential for asian cooking and rice dishes.

Sauces

  • Ketchup: French’s made from Leamington tomatoes in Canada.
  • Yellow Mustard: Make this from dry mustard powder
  • Mayonnaise: Make this from scratch, use apple cider vinegar for Japanese style mayo
  • BBQ Sauce: Make your own from scratch to taste. 

Canned Goods

  • Skipjack Tuna: Sustainable tuna, easy tuna with mayo meal

Produce

  • Tomatoes: Salad, Sandwich topping, etc
  • Lettuce: Salad is a super fast and healthy meal
  • Onions: Cooking staple
  • Garlic: Cooking staple. Also used to make aioli and garlic olive oil
  • Potatoes: Versatile food, keeps very well, calorie dense, cheap

Cold

  • Eggs: Simple breakfast, cooking staple