Best Frugal Chef’s Knife – America’s Test Kitchen (For 20 Years In a Row!)

fibroxUpdate: ATK just sent me a new review that considered newer chef’s knives that have come onto the market, and the same knife won again! They say it has now been on top for 20 straight years. You can see the methodology and full rankings here, but it requires a free registered account. There’s also a good embedded video that doesn’t require registration.

Original post:

Some of you may be familiar with the PBS cooking show America’s Test Kitchen. The same company publishes the magazines Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, which you can think of as Consumer Reports for cooking in that they do not accept any advertising and are entirely subscriber-supported. I happened to find a bunch of back issues on sale at a community garage sale a few weeks ago for a dollar. Wow, I can only describe the content as heaven for cooking geeks! Lots of good tips inside.

Common frugal wisdom is that you don’t really need a 15-piece knife set with a fancy wooden block that costs hundreds of bucks, it’s mostly marketing. The 8-inch chef’s knife is often recommended as the most versatile and useful knife. (I’m partial to the Santoku-style knife or hefty Asian cleaver, myself.)

Cook’s Country tested the 8-inch chef’s knives from all the major brands that cost under $50 – Wusthof, Henckels (various), MAC, Calphalon, OXO, Chicago Cutlery, Victorinox and Farberware.

The bargain chef’s knife winner? The Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife outperformed many more expensive competitors including a $50+ knife from the Wusthof Gourmet line and everyone else. The knife was judged to be sturdy, stayed sharp, and had a well-designed, comfortable handle. Amazon has 700+ now 3,000+ reviews with a 4.8/5 star average.

Another frugal chopping tip is that you don’t really need expensive cutting boards, let alone multiple ones for food safety reasons. Simply buy a set of flexible cutting mats to place on top of one cutting board or durable surface. They are thin yet sturdy, and can be rolled up like a funnel for transferring ingredients easily. You can get a set of four CounterArt Flexible Cutting Mats for only $8.50, which are the current best-selling ones on Amazon. Comes with Microban antibacterial stuff and is dishwasher safe.

Big Data Knows If You’re Comparison Shopping… Or Not

cheapscore0One of the few benefits of getting older is that my car insurance premiums are much lower today than in my 20s. But is that low rate caused by insurance companies knowing that I recently switched high-speed internet and refinanced my mortgage twice? Via drawpoker of Bogleheads, here’s an NPR article called Being A Loyal Auto Insurance Customer Can Cost You about the practice of “price optimization”.

“Well, it’s really profit maximization,” says Bob Hunter, with the Consumer Federation of America. He says insurance companies can buy software that compiles an astonishing amount of data on everyone who buys almost anything, anywhere.

“They have all the information on what you buy at your grocery store. How many apples, how many beers, how many steaks,” he says. “They have all the information on your house. They have incredible amounts of information on are you staying with DirecTV when Verizon is cheaper.”

A sophisticated algorithm crunches that data and spits out an index showing how sensitive a customer is to price increases. Only the insurance company knows the index.

From a USA Today article on the same topic:

Many insurance companies now use a sophisticated data-mining technique called “price optimization” to set rates just high enough that inertia keeps customers from shopping around. Research found that the longer customers had been with their insurers on average, the greater their savings when they switched, due to all the rate increases they experienced during their loyal years. […]

A 2013 Earnix survey found that 45% of large insurance companies and 26% of all insurance companies in North America currently optimize prices, with an additional 36% of all companies reporting they plan to adopt this technique in the future. What this means is that given two customers with identical risk profiles, the one who’s judged less likely to switch carriers if his rate increases will pay more.

In other words, forget just FICO scores affecting your insurance rates. Your grocery club card, your mortgage quote requests, your switching from cable to DSL, your social media activity, it all could be funneling into some sort of “Frugal Cheapskate” Score. If you don’t shop around elsewhere, you probably won’t shop around for your insurance so they can hike it up without worrying about you jumping ship.

If you want some hints as to where you should start your comparison shopping, you may want to check with your state insurance department. For example, California provides some numbers for your rough situation without needing any personally-identifying information. Here are some numbers for a married couple living in Alameda Country, driving 9k to 16k a year, with no accidents or violations. The lowest average premiums are coming from USAA, Wawanesa, and Anchor General.

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All-Clad VIP Factory Sales: Limited-Time Discounts on Lifetime Cookware

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All-Clad cookware is known to be very high quality, but also quite expensive. If you cook often, then the prices aren’t so bad when you consider that the stainless steel pans will essentially last forever (skip the non-stick stuff). Frugal home cooks know that All-Clad has (semi-annual?) Factory Sales that offer the same pans with slight cosmetic blemishes for significant discounts. These still come with the same lifetime warranty as if you’d bought them at Williams-Sonoma. (Really, who cares about dents and scratches when it comes to cookware!)

The products which are for sale on this site are FACTORY SECONDS. They have minor cosmetic scratches and/or dents. There are no defects which will affect the cookware’s performance. For this event, all sales are final, no returns will be accepted.

Usually, first there is a huge in-person sale near their headquarters – last one was in Washington, Pennsylvania. After that, they have a semi-secret online sale, which is going on right now from June 15 to June 17th. Visit this link and use the pass code ACVIP15, thanks to mrdjman of FW. I was also given the access code via All-Clad e-mail so it should be open to all.

(The physical sale already happened last week, sorry! For future reminders, anyone can like their All-Clad Facebook page or send an e-mail to allcladvipfactorysale@groupeseb.com to get on their mailing list.)

I’ve been tracking these for a couple years after I was gifted a set of All-Clad fry pans. America’s Test Kitchen often finds All-Clad pans to be the “best” when price is no object, but in terms of quality/price ratio, that is debatable. However, I do love the hefty feel and balance of my All-Clad pans and have come to appreciate quality in cookware after using my Le Creuset and Staub dutch ovens. As a lazy shopper, I just like the idea of buying something once and never worrying about it again.

The current sale has a much better selection than the other recent ones I’ve seen, so if you’re ready to buy then now is a good time. Or just browse now and think about it while signing up to be notified of the next one. Even on sale, this stuff is spendy. 😉

Google Photos: Unlimited Free Photo and Video Backup

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Google may already see all your search queries, have access to all your e-mails with Gmail, and now it wants to store all your photos. Why would you let them? How about unlimited space. Free. From the Google Blog:

Google Photos gives you a single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device. They’re automatically backed up and synced, so you can have peace of mind that your photos are safe, available across all your devices.

Google Photos will store unlimited images for free, with a few conditions. You can choose from one of two options:

  • High quality – Unlimited free storage. Recommended for phones or point-and-shoot cameras that are 16 megapixels (MP) or less. Good for typical printing and sharing. Will be compressed using their special algorithm. Anything under 16 megapixels will have minimal degradation of quality, supposedly it is optimized so that visually you can’t tell the difference. Anything bigger than 16 megapixels will be downsized to 16 megapixels, which can be significant for DSLR users.
  • Original quality – Limited free storage: Uses your Google Account’s 15 GB of free storage. Recommended if you take photos with a DSLR camera and want to maintain the exact original quality. Recommended for printing large banners or to store your original files. Store your photos and videos exactly as you captured them.

Google Photos will store unlimited video for free at 1080p quality. This is pretty big for me, as my videos take up the most space and right now I don’t pay to back them up in the cloud – only on external hard drives. If you upload something 4K, it will downsize to 1080p.

As you might expect with Google, they have also tried their best to make searching through your huge image library as easy as possible:

VISUAL SEARCH: Your photos are now searchable by the places and things that appear in your photos. Looking for that fish taco you ate in Hawaii? Just search “Hawaii” or “food” to find it even if it doesn’t have a description.

There is even facial recognition that groups photos with the same face. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I probably will as I don’t know of any other service that offers free unlimited 1080p video storage. Amazon Prime members can get free unlimited photo storage, but only 5 GB of free video storage.

Here are the links for the Web interface, Android app, and Apple iOS app.

Ting GSM SIM Cards: Bring Your Own Phone + Referral Credit

tinglog(Update 6/9: Limited-time offer is now ended, back to $25 referral credit.) Ting provides mobile phone service with a “pay-only-for-what-you-use” structure. Think “a la carte” instead of Golden Corral buffet. :) For the last few months, I’ve been beta-testing the new Ting GSM program in my out-of-contract iPhone 5. Just popped in their SIM card and off I went. Their GSM SIM card service uses the T-Mobile GSM MVNO network, while their original service is a Sprint CDMA MVNO.

Until June 8th, Ting has upped their refer-a-friend bonus to $100 off a device or $100 in Ting credit if you buy used or bring your own phone to Ting. This applies to both GSM and CDMA service. I believe the standard referral offer is only $25 off. I’m actually on vacation right now and thus won’t have a full review ready in time, but here’s what you need to know:

  • Ting interactive rate calculator to see how much they would charge you. If you are not a power user or have a lot of variability in your usage, Ting can often save money over time. (Tip: You can set alerts or even hard usage caps, so you’ll never exceed a certain level.)
  • Ting phone compatibility checker tool. Bringing over a used GSM or Sprint phone is the best deal in my opinion. You can find a lot of good, cheap GSM phones on the secondary market now, like the Galaxy S series or iPhone 5 or 5S.

Here is my referral link. You get $100, I get $50. Thanks in advance if you use it!

Here’s a screenshot of their rate breakdown:

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Here’s the full referral e-mail text:

Dear friend,

From now until 11:59pm ET on June 8, the Ting Refer a Friend program is offering you $100 to try Ting mobile phone service. If you sign up and activate a phone, I’ll also receive a $50 credit and yes, once you join Ting, you’ll be able to refer your friends too.

z4jl1i37om9.ting.com. That’s my unique referral URL and the key to this offer. Click through and you’ll receive $100 off select phones in the Ting shop or a $100 credit if you bring your own phone to Ting.

Speaking of which, the phone you already own will probably work with Ting. Go to the Ting compatibility checker to find out for sure.

See Ting network coverage here.

How To Cook Everything Fast, Reviewed By a Slow Cook

cookfastAs part of my ongoing effort to Cook It Yourself in 2015, I’ve been trying out new cookbooks. (So far I’ve managed to lose over 20 pounds by cooking at home and eating less of what I cook at home. 😉 ) I bought How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food because Mark Bittman has been a long-time advocate of cooking at home and it received positive reviews including a 4.4/5 average rating on Amazon.

This cookbook is the size of a large phone book (for those of you young enough to remember phone books). At over 1,000 pages and 2,000 recipes (including suggested variations) crammed inside, you probably won’t be bringing this to the grocery store with you. It cost me $21 shipped from Amazon, so if you measured cookbook value by recipes per dollar or pounds per dollar, you’d be a happy frugal camper. But don’t expect nice pictures, as color pages are expensive.

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There are some good techniques to streamline your home cooking. Here are some general observations on how this cookbook tries to differentiate itself from the many other cookbooks out there.

  • Clearly indicate whether it will take 45, 30, or 15 minutes to make.
  • Every recipe is laid out so you can see the entire thing with the book open on a stand (see image below)
  • Streamline recipes down to critical ingredients, or substituting easier ingredients when possible.
  • Do things in the right order, like preheating oven, preheating pans, or boiling water first.
  • Use techniques like grating or slicing things so they cook faster, using the food processor, or mincing multiple ingredients all at once.
  • Assign specific prep work to be done during natural downtimes in cooking.

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For the most part, these techniques work and you start looking for ways to apply them to your other recipes. But sometimes doing the prepwork while something cooks doesn’t work out if you are slow with your knife skills. It took me closer to 10 minutes to do the slicing and mincing that I was given 5 minutes to do, and meanwhile the meat got overcooked. You can turn down the heat, but that doesn’t always work and you might not realize in time either. Many times I found myself wishing for a slower pace and less stress rather than save 5 or 10 minutes.

Sample recipes. Here are some YouTube videos which include recipes from this book. These are definitely some of the better recipes and makes the food come alive much more than the blue and black text in the cookbook.

Overall impressions. In the end, this book certainly delivers as a large reference book on “how to cook everything fast”. It covers everything. It is fast. Now, in many of his videos, Bittman somehow manages to come off as both slightly goofy and a bit condescending. (You may notice this in his videos above.) In the book, everything is much more subdued. There just wasn’t much personality in reading the recipes – I’d even prefer arrogance over blandness.

For me, having a bajillion recipes on hand was not a benefit. If I wanted access to 10,000 recipes, I could just run a search on AllRecipes. I now realize that what I want are the best recipes, dishes with a little flare that a home cook (not restaurant chef!) has made hundreds of times and ideally passed down through at least two generations. With any book with 1,000+ recipes, I would expect some great, some okay, and some disappointing. That’s exactly what I found with this book.

The best part of the book was learning a few techniques to optimize other recipes. If you are more of a visual learner like me, I would start by watching his YouTube videos as they are usually “The Best Of” his recipes before diving into the book.

Disclosures: I bought this book with my own money at Amazon.com for $21. If you buy this book using my Amazon link above, I will receive a small commission.

Sling TV Review + Free Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Stick Promo (Updated)

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Updated review after 3 months of using Sling TV. Promo still live for a couple more weeks. Sling TV allows you to stream a package of major cable networks live over the internet. That means you can watch it on your smartphone, your home TV, or your laptop. No cable subscription required. Here are the channels included in the base package that runs $20 a month:

  • ESPN (live sports!)
  • ESPN2
  • CNN
  • Food Network
  • Travel Channel
  • HGTV
  • Cartoon Network
  • TNT
  • TBS
  • Cartoon Network
  • Disney Channel
  • ABC Family

Right now, if you commit to prepaying 3 months of Sling TV ($60 total), you can get any of the following deals:

That’s a $39 to $50 savings, depending on the deal, if you were looking for a modern streaming device. You must redeem the promotional code by June 5, 2015.

Alternatively, if you sign up at Sling TV directly first, you can get a free 7-day trial to see how it works for you. If are then ready to commit, then I would sign up for this Amazon promo using a different e-mail address as it says “new customers only”.

My 3-month user review of Sling.

  • Quality isn’t bad; my internet is only 15 Mbps on a good day but we usually don’t have more than one thing streaming at any given time. It looks especially crisp on my iPhone.
  • I’ve had a couple of crashes while channel surfing. This is on the Mac OS X desktop app.
  • You can’t choose to record shows for later viewing. It doesn’t work like a DVR. However, on select channels you can get limited replay of past episodes. From their site:

    Sling TV includes a 3-day replay feature that allows you to watch shows that have aired in the past three days on the following channels: HGTV, DIY, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, Food Network, Galavision, El Rey, Univision Deportes, Universal Sports, and beIN Sports and we expect this list to grow. Sling International customers can enjoy exclusive 8-day replay on all international channels.

  • On the non-replay channels (including ESPN, ESPN2, ABC Family, TNT, TBS, Disney Channel), you can’t even pause a show for a few minutes and pass the commercials later, or have it blip back 10 seconds if you missed something. On the other channels listed above (Food Network, Travel Channel, etc), you can pause and blip backward. I was surprised how often I would try to click the pause button, with no response. Boo.
  • There is no contract and it is easy to cancel online under your account details. It just took a few clicks and 30 seconds. No calling in required at all, which means no Comcast cancellation nightmares. Note there are no refunds the 3-month prepay offer above. You can reinstate your account easily as well, similar to Netflix.

I did this free streaming stick promo, but after the 3-month comittment I cancelled my Sling subscription mostly due to the lack of DVR ability on all channels. I’ve had a TiVo since roughly 2005 and over the last 10 years, I have completely lifestyle-inflated myself such that I just can’t watch old-school TV anymore. It was too annoying not being able to pause a show, skip commercials, record a show, or blip backwards. I don’t watch that much TV, but when I do, I want it to be on my terms. (You may feel differently!) Now I primarily just stream kid stuff like Sesame Street via Amazon Prime Video.  

Employee or Student Discounts for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile

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Updated 2015. Every major cell phone provider offers discounts for large groups, even when it’s an existing personal line. You could qualify through your employer, educational institution, or even affiliation with certain organizations like AAA or credit unions. So grab your work or school e-mails, check out these links, and find out what discounts are available to you. You may be pleasantly surprised.

AT&T Wireless. BusinessDirect Premier Discounts

Submit your work or student email address to find out if you are eligible to receive exclusive AT&T offers and discounts on your wireless bill through your employer or school. Once we validate your email address, you will receive an email to start shopping in your own personal AT&T online store!

We need your work, school, or organization email address to determine if you are affiliated with an organization that qualifies for additional savings. AT&T has business agreements with thousands of corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions to offer wireless products to their employees at a significant discount.

If we match your work, school, or organization email address with our list of qualified companies, we’ll send you an email so you can start taking advantage of applicable discounts and benefits for which you qualify. (We are unable to match personal email addresses such as Yahoo!®, Windows Live™ Hotmail, or AOL®.)

Verizon Wireless. Employee Discount Program

Verizon Wireless offers you discounts on wireless products and services based on your employment or affiliation with an organization that has an agreement with us.

If you are new to Verizon Wireless and have an employer issued work email address, you can enter the address below to check your eligibility status.

T-Mobile. In 2014, T-Mobile changed their corporate discount program for consumer lines. Existing corporate discounts were mostly left grandfathered in. The T-Mobile Advantage Program now gives a $25 gift card per device instead. If you have a work phone directly paid for by your employer, you may qualify for Business Family Discounts.

Do you work for a company that is part of the T-Mobile Advantage Program? You could be eligible to receive a $25 T-Mobile Advantage™ Reward Card with every purchase of a new smartphone or tablet.

Does your company directly pay for your voice line on the T-Mobile network? Your family can save 50% off your first two lines on an eligible Simple Choice family plan—and pay just $10 per line after that. Is your family already on a T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan? Great! Because they’re eligible, too.

Sprint. Employee Value Program and Sprint Discount Program.

ENTER YOUR WORK OR ORGANIZATION ISSUED EMAIL ADDRESS BELOW FOR ACCESS TO YOUR PRIVATE PORTAL
If your company or organization has an account, you will gain instant access to your portal. (Please note that we cannot accept personal email addresses)

Just enter your work, school, or organization email address below to see if you’re eligible for the Sprint Discount Program. Don’t worry, we won’t sell or share your personal information with third parties. What are you waiting for? Find out now!

Here are specific links for the Sprint AAA 10% discount, and Sprint credit union 10% discount. LoveMyCreditUnion.org also offers credit union members Sprint monthly plan discounts and waived activation and upgrade fees.

Verizon Wireless 8% Customer Loyalty Discount

vzIf you have Verizon Wireless but don’t already have a good employee or education discount on your plan, you may want to try this Customer Loyalty Discount at vzw.com/appreciation. You may qualify for up to 8% off of your monthly access fee. Note the following fine print:

*Discounts apply to plan monthly access fees of $34.99+ and data features of $24.99+ when added to a plan of $34.99+. On Share Everything and More Everything plans, discounts apply only to the Account Access fees. Prepaid, already discounted and promotional plans are not eligible for discounts through this program.

In addition, after reading through the Fatwallet and Slickdeals forum threads, please note the following:

  • Already discounted plans are not eligible (as noted in highlighted text above).
  • Submitting the form will attempt to apply the discount. Even though the page suggests that you are only checking your eligibility (“complete the form below to see if you qualify”), it will in fact attempt to apply the discount to your line immediately.
  • Your employee discount may be removed. Basically, be careful before submitting the form. If you have for example a 15% employee discount and sign up for this plan, the new 8% discount will actually replace your existing 15% discount. You will have to re-validate your employee discount if it is removed, requiring additional time and effort. A previously grandfathered employee discount may also be lowered upon re-validation.

Despite these warnings, I bet there are plenty of Verizon customers out there without a corporate discount that wouldn’t mind shaving a few bucks off their monthly bill.

The Easiest, Fastest Homemade Pizza Dough Recipe Yet

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I’m still trying my best to cook at home at least 5 times a week, mostly avoiding the pitfalls in my cooking at home flowchart. We make pizza at least once every other week, as it tastes better than anything from the frozen aisle and is very flexible. We’ve recently topped one with leftover corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day.

Suzanne Lenzer of the New York Times recently shared her own pizza dough recipe in Homemade Pizza, Easier and Faster.

So let’s assume you already know that homemade pizza is better and quicker and cheaper than what you can buy at the neighborhood pizza place. You know the reasons to make your own, which are as obvious as they are appealing: You can top a pizza with virtually anything (from special ingredients to leftovers) or almost nothing (one of my favorites is little more than a smear of caramelized leeks dotted with taleggio). You can bake it in minutes — it takes longer to heat up the oven than to bake a pie.

The recipe is from her new book, and it differs from the 5,000 other recipes out there in these important ways:

  1. No kneading! Use a food processor instead. Pizza dough by hand isn’t hard, but this makes it stupid easy. Dump stuff in food processor and turn on for 2 minutes. Done.
  2. Takes 30 minutes all-in on the weekend. Yes, you’ll want to make it ahead for busy weeknights. 20 minutes includes the minimal prep, using the food processor, the rise, and cleaning everything up during the 20-minute rise. Clean counter to clean counter, 30 minutes.
  3. Make ahead, store in freezer. You keep it in the freezer until you need it. Throw it in the fridge to thaw in the morning. Take dough out and preheat oven when you get home. In under 20 minutes, food can be on the table!

Here’s a direct link to the dough recipe, and another NYT article with easy pizza topping ideas. I made the NYT dough last weekend, froze them, and ate them later in the week. We liked it! Here are our comments, which I actually think make it even easier:

  • We used all-purpose flour. The recipe says bread flour and we’ve used it in the past, but AP flour worked just fine and it’s less hassle.
  • We used a rolling pin to roll out the dough. The recipe says to stretch the dough by hand and specifically says “not flat on a work surface”, but we use a floured, flat surface and a rolling pin. It still works and takes nearly zero skill! Here’s a good, simple YouTube video that describes the stupid-proof method. I like stupid-proof.
  • Parchment paper for the win. We bought a baking stone. It got all nasty after a few months. Now we just use a half baking sheet that can preheat in the oven and parchment paper. Also stupid-proof, as it always results in no sticking! Although if you bake 550 degrees, the paper may turn black. We bake at slightly lower temps.
  • Double the recipe. Assuming your food processor isn’t one of those tiny ones, I like the article’s tip to double the dough recipe. Now you’ll get four balls of dough in 30 minutes.

Side tip: Don’t got half an hour on Sunday? You can also freeze pizza dough from the supermarket. You can buy a ball of pizza dough for $1 to $2 at places like Safeway or Trader Joe’s. If you look at the ingredients, many of them are quite simple with minimal questionable additives. Freeze it ’til you need it.

Best Cast Iron Skillet Pan – America’s Test Kitchen

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Back in 2007, I wrote about cast iron skillets as the ultimate frugal cookware? To this day, I still think they can play a regular role in the home kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) has recently released to free e-mail newsletter subscribers the results from their extensive test of various cast-iron skillets. They made everything from scrambled eggs to steaks to cornbread. (Must sign-up and log-in to view. Did I mention it’s informational and free?)

Over the past 30 years, nonstick skillets have taken the place of cast iron in most homes. But with disturbing reports about the effects of nonstick coatings on the environment and our health, we decided to take another look at cast iron to see if it’s worth bringing back into the kitchen.

Cast iron has always been known to have a few advantages over other types of cookware. Its material and weight give it excellent heat retention for high-heat cooking techniques such as frying and searing. You can use it on the stovetop or bake with it in the oven. Its durability is legendary—many people are still cooking with cast-iron pans handed down for generations. Unlike most consumer products, cast-iron pans actually improve with time and heavy use.

Cast iron also has disadvantages. It’s heavy and needs special care. […]

As to the special care, I suggest reading this link about the many myths about cast iron pans. A bit of soap is fine. You do want to keep them dry when not in use to avoid rust spots, though.

The winner? Why, the same model and size I bought myself back in 2007, the $34 Lodge L10SK3 Pre-Seasoned Skillet, 12-Inch with a 4.6/5 rating and over 5,000 reviews. (This 10-inch version is only $15.) Read the full article for the details and rankings of other brands. Here’s a screenshot of my Amazon page when logged-in as proof:

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These days, my workhorse cookware is my enameled cast iron dutch oven. Soups, stews, chilis, short ribs, pork shoulder, and so on. Eggs, searing, and cornbread can be done as well. Less maintenance but a little costlier. Well, Le Creuset and Staub are high quality and high price (we got one as a gift and love it), but this $70 Lodge dutch oven also gets good reviews. Tramontina dutch ovens are another well-reviewed and cost-conscious choice; you can find them sometimes at Wal-Mart and Costco physical stores.

Verizon Wireless Drops Most Data Plan Prices by $10, But Existing Customers Must Opt-In

vzwnewprice2Verizon Wireless positions itself as a premium service. They have the biggest 4G LTE footprint, but they also seem to cost more across the board. For people that depend on reliable phone and data service for their work, the extra price is often worth it. However, Verizon just announced a price drop for many of their data plans.

From their press release, Verizon puts it this way:

Beginning Thursday [2/5/15], Verizon’s MORE Everything plans with data allowances of 1GB to 3GB (or from $40 to $60 per month) will include 1GB of additional data for the same price. A new $70 plan with 6GB will be available. […] Verizon is also adding new 12GB, 14GB, and 16GB options to its MORE Everything plans for customers with greater appetites for data and all that it enables, like streaming video or sharing large files.

But really, this is a $10 price drop if you are happy with your current data limits. This graphic from Recode summarizes it best:

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However, the real reason I am mentioning all this is that existing Verizon customers must opt in to this “new” plan to get the savings. This a potential $120 a year savings without changing your behavior, but you won’t get it automatically!

To save $10 every month (or get an increased data allowance at your current price), either call customer service or log into your Verizon Wireless account online and pick the option to change your plan. You will be told that your existing plan is “no longer available” and that you must choose a new plan. Verify that your new monthly bill is $10 less than before (excluding taxes and fees).

Side note: If you just want to take advantage of Verizon’s good voice coverage, you can use the Page Plus Prepaid MVNO which uses Verizon towers but may not have the same roaming agreements in certain areas. You can get a Pay-as-you-go plan for as little as $10 every 120 days. They offer 4G LTE now as well, it ends up being big savings for single plans but less so for family plans with multiple lines. If you’re ending a Verizon contract and are still happy with your “old” phone, this may be something worth considering.

Side note 2: Oh, and don’t forget to check if you can get an employee or student discount with just your e-mail address.