Cheap stuff

Here are some things that are grossly overpriced in America:  lattes from places like Starbucks, breakfast cereal, toothpaste, soap, and women’s haircuts.  I don’t have a solution to the sexual-inequality-of-haircut-prices problem, but I can deal with the others.

First, make your own lattes and espressos.  If you invest in a decent espresso machine, one with a pump that provides an appreciable amount of pressure, and a burr grinder to grind the beans properly, you’ll recoup your investment in a matter of weeks.  A latte made at home costs about 40 cents, about 10% of what you’ll pay at a ripoff joint like Starbucks.  Here’s my well-used and well-loved Breville Cafe Roma machine ($125-$300, depending on whether you buy it new or refurbished).  In the background you see my ancient but functional Capresso burr grinder.

Within minutes after having arrived at work, and with the expenditure of only a few minutes and about 40 cents worth of espresso beans and milk, I am ensconced behind this:

(I like a little cinnamon on top.)  If I save, say, $3.00 per day, then I’ve recouped the cost of a new machine and a burr grinder in just a few months.  My last machine lasted over five years, and my grinder is going strong at seven.

The toothpaste problem is easily solved. Unless you require something with whitener or other fancy emollients, buy Pepsodent, at $1.00 per six-ounce tube.  According to my dentist, it’s just as good as any other fluoride toopaste out there.  It’s not that easy to find these days, though, since it’s by far the cheapest toothpaste on the shelf, and there’s not much profit in selling it.

Cereal: only buy it on sale.  I don’t eat a lot, but I’m partial to Raisin Bran, and can get it at $2.00 or less per box.  It’s unconscionable to pay $4.00 for a box of cereal!

Soap really shouldn’t cost more than 50 cents per bar, yet when I go to the store I find that most brands are much more expensive.  Here’s one item where I splurge a bit, but not that much:

You can find other sandalwood soaps (or other exotic soaps, like turmeric, herbal, etc.) for as little as 50 cents per bar at Indian or Asian markets—but the Mysore brand is the best, with the most distinctive smell. This bar was just a buck at Patel Brothers grocery store on Devon Avenue in Chicago, a paradise for Indian food lovers, (it’s $1.19 on Amazon).  I do love the smell of sandalwood in the morning.  And I also love the colorful package and the embossed “Government Soap Factory, Bangalore” on the bar, as well as the bizarre beast in the middle, described by Wikipedia:

Sharabha, a mythological creature having a body of a lion and the head of an elephant, was chosen as the logo of the company. This was because the creature represents the combined virtues of wisdom, courage and strength and symbolizes the company’s philosophy.

105 thoughts on “Cheap stuff

      1. I have free wi-fi in my office. As for recreating the ambiance, well, I could play crappy New Age music and sell overpriced pastries!

  1. Another thing that’s massively expensive in the US: electric kettles. Here in England they’re ubiquitous, to the point that when you say “kettle” most people will think of an electric one. But not a single one of my American friends has one. Whenever they want a cup of tea they either boil it on the hob, or, god forbid, put a cup of water in the microwave (sometimes with the teabag already inside!).

    Oh, and as an aside, I know this is meant to be an evolution blog and all that, but I do enjoy all these more personal things. My recent favourites have probably been the Colombian and Lower East Side photo series, probably because they combined my twin loves of food and other cultures. Keep up the good work!

      1. I don’t know where in the U.S. I got my electric kettle, but I’ve had it for years, and when I got it, it must have been only about $20-30. And it was bought sometime around 2003. Anyway, it is a lifesaver. I use it for everything from tea to halving the time to get water to a rolling boil in a pot. I also have a Bialetti stovetop “espresso” maker, and starting with hot water actually improves if I remember correctly. (I forget where, but somebody actually did an AiR-ish project on how to brew espresso with these machines and found that greater than room-temperature water was better if I recall properly. I think it was 70C.)

    1. Walrus – did you ever try to boil water on a 110V system. The cord gets hot but the water doesn’t – or at least it does, but very slowly. We bought an electric one here about 20 years ago and ended up not really using it – it took forever. Even my Geordie mother-in-law has now worked out that sometimes you just have to go with the native practice and put the pot on the stove.

      1. The new ones are better. Maybe they used a 240v heating element in the 120v kettles. the 120v is slower, but the water is very hot.

        1. Thanks, that’s worth knowing. Perhaps we should try again. However it is always going to be inherently less efficient at lower voltage since the current will obviously be higher for a given output (hence the hot cable). I guess I’m a coffee drinker at heart so I can live without a kettle.

          1. We (my wife) bought the kettle on our return from Australia where the instant coffee in our rooms rivaled brewed coffee. The only problem was that the hotel cups were too small.

            The only problem with the one she bought is its size, but that’s where the wattage is. Smaller ones may not be as hot.

            As an electrical engineer, the Devil makes me write this, “Kettles using 120v (117 actually) are not less efficient, but may be less effective.” The limitation is the current limit in outlet wiring. Please excuse my precise technical nature. It’s an engineer’s obsession.

    2. I have an electric kettle that I bought years ago at Target for cheap. I use it every day.

      I have read, however, that because of differences between US and UK electrical current, electric kettles are less efficient than their overseas counterparts, and that may account for why they haven’t caught on here.

      1. I think the real reason electric teakettles haven’t caught on in the States has less to do with voltage than with the fact that Americans drink a lot more coffee than tea. With the exception of the Chemex/Melitta-style drip setups popular in the ’70s and ’80s, coffeemakers generally heat their own water and don’t require a separate kettle.

      2. Mah husband (electrical engineer by training) informs me that US kettles would need thicker cords but should otherwise function just as well as 240V kettles. You’d need more current but the power draw would be the same. The cord getting hot and the water not so much is what he’d expect if you used a 240V kettle in the USA system of 110V. Followed by the cord melting and the whole thing catching on fire. Not recommended.

        1. Canadians, with a 110 V. system identical to that in the US have electric kettles galore. Everyone has one, they work fine and are safe, and anyone putting a non-electric kettle on the stove to heat water would be akin to someone using a Commodore 64 and a daisy-wheel printer.

        2. US kettles are limited to 1650 Watts (110 Volts x 15 Amps).
          UK kettles work at 2990 Watts (230V x 13A). This is why the US kettles boil the water more slowly.

    3. Do “Hot Shots” count as electric kettles? They’re only one cuppers, I think. But you could get one of those for like $15 stateside, if you were so inclined.

  2. On the subject of cereal, I have two suggestions.

    First, steel-cut oats — the Irish kind, the really good stuff — are quick and super-easy to cook if you have a pressure cooker.

    For a single serving, put 1/4 – 1/3 cup of oats in the bowl you’ll be eating out of. Add at least as much water as oats, up to twice as much (depending on how soupy you like your oats). Put the rack in the pressure cooker, cover the rack with water, and put your bowl on top. Close the cooker and set the heat as high as it’ll go. When it reaches pressure (should just take a few minutes), reduce heat to medium-low (enough to maintain pressure) and set the timer for 4 – 8 minutes (from al dente to mushy). When the timer sounds, remove the cooker from the heat and let it cool on its own (about as long as it took to reach pressure in the first place). Open the cooker, remove the bowl, and set it on the table. Serve with cream, milk, berries, sugar, whatever you like.

    For bonus points, add fruit or coca powder or the like to the oats before you cook them (and be prepared to adjust the water accordingly).

    Second, the original cold breakfast cereal was actually just popcorn. Pop up a bowl and serve immediately with milk and whatever.

    Even at Whole Paycheck, bulk oats and bulk popcorn is ludicrously cheap. You can buy a month’s supply for an entire family for what you’ll spend on a single box of pre-packaged cereal.

    In a similar vein, a 25# bag of wheat will cost you about as much as a single sandwich. Get a flower mill (I can attest to the WonderMill) and a bread machine and you’ve got a ludicrous amount of fresh bread for little money and not much effort.

    Cheers,

    b&

    1. A £2 bag of oatmeal (porridge) lasts me about a month. That’s my usual breakfast.

      I do doctor it up a bit with honey, dried fruits, nuts, etc.

    2. A slow cooker is also a good method for steel cut oats. About 1 cup of oats, 4 cups of liquid (water, milk, cream or any combo thereof), and two cups of whatever dried fruit you like. Turn on the cooker right before you go to bed, on low, and when you wake up you will have a wonderful porridge. Dates and cherries are a great combo.

  3. You can also vastly increase the quality of your coffee while simultaneously decreasing the cost by roasting your own. Fresh roasted coffee is like nothing else, and if you buy from a place like Sweet Maria’s you can get uncommon, high quality, single origin coffees that you could never hope to find elsewhere for about half the price of a bag of pre-roasted coffee. Plus it’s just a wonderfully nerdy DIY hobby that costs next to nothing to get into. My roasting rig cost me a grand total of seven dollars, and consists entirely of a hot air popcorn popper, a sieve, and a spray bottle.

    1. Could you refer us to a website about how to do this, or give us a few hints? And is it really that much better than buying vacuum-packed, pre-roasted beans?

      1. I’ll let Dan (or somebody else) fill you in on the specifics, since I’ve never roasted my own beans. (I like coffee, but I don’t like what caffeine does to me, so I rarely drink more than a cup every month or so.)

        First, yes, it’s much better.

        Second, getting started is supposed to be about as hard as popping popcorn.

        Third…chances are excellent you will get sucked into a black hole of coffee obsession if you open this drawer of Pandora’s box. Making better-than-commercial coffee by roasting your own beans is (from what I understand) easy, but perfecting the art of coffee roasting will drive you insane. (Or, perhaps, it’s only the lunatics with OCD who’re drawn to it…your mileage may vary.)

        Warren Cohen, the music director of MusicaNova, roasts his own coffee. We were chatting backstage during intermission some time ago and he said that it’s much more important to pay attention to the sound of the beans than to smell, and that even color is less important than sound. The beans continue to roast from internal heat, but the smell only reflects the doneness at that very instant; wait until the beans smell done and you’ll burn them. Color can vary with variety, freshness, and other factors. But sound is, according to him, a very reliable indicator independent of the other variables.

        Then again, he is a musician, so you might want to take that with a lump of sugar….

        For what it’s worth, I think I remember him saying that he just uses a cast-iron skillet on the stove, and that he had some reason I’ve forgotten for preferring that to a hot air popper. I don’t think he disapproves of poppers, but just prefers the skillet.

        Cheers,

        b&

        1. Interesting… I’m a musician, and I use sound to tell, too. Though the sound differs by the particular coffee I’m roasting. They each shed differing amounts of outside skins, too. But generally the frequency of pops and crackles is what tips me off as to how far things are coming along. I also use the visual cue of how much smoke is coming off.

        2. To learn the basics (and it really is simple) you can either look around at Sweet Maria’s website or you can get the book “Home Coffee Roasting”, by Kenneth Davids. I’d actually recommend doing both.

          I use a combination of sight, sound, and smell. Coffee beans go through two noisy stages, creatively called “first crack” and “second crack”. Each of these stages is basically the coffee’s way of telling you that it’s passed a certain milestone in its roasting process. I wait until I hear second crack starting up (characterized by relatively quiet, frequent pops almost like sizzling bacon) and then I wait approximately forty five more seconds before pulling out my beans. The exact timing can change based on what I see and smell. I like my coffee roasted fairly dark, and the line between “dark” and “burnt” is a fairly thin one when you’re using imprecise equipment such as my $3 thrift store popcorn popper.

          You can buy nice automatic home roasters, but I like the popcorn popper method because it’s dirt cheap and it’s more interactive than setting a timer or temperature cutoff. You do have to make sure to buy the right kind of popper, though, because the wrong kind can catch on fire!

          I usually buy my coffee from Sweet Maria’s in the 8lb. grab bags – basically they just grab 8 random single pound bags of coffee from different farms and regions and ship it out to you. It costs a little over $40 including shipping, which means that the coffee comes out to a little over $5/lb. Compare that to Starbucks whole bean coffee, and you’ll see that doing it yourself can get you better coffee at half the price or less.

      2. Yes, it is better. My popcorn pumper ran me about $4.00 at Goodwill. I get my green beans online. Makes a lot of smoke, so I do it out in the garage (or back porch, in good weather).

        What makes it really, really good is that you get to roast it the way you want. The way I like it is “rainbowed”… that is, I roast it pouring it out of the pumper bit by bit as the roasting progresses. The end result is a wide range of different degrees of roastosity.
        …or roastiferousness, I forget which.

        I think this makes for a wider variety of different compounds – more robust flavors. A while back when I was really pinching pennies, I was making pretty decent coffees and lattes from a simple “poor-boy” blend. (maybe about $2 per pound, if I remember).

        a couple sites talking about popcorn-roasted…
        http://coffeegeek.com/guides/popperroasting
        http://www.ineedcoffee.com/05/poppery/

        I haven’t read these for quality – have to get back to work, y’know… Good luck, if you want to try it.

        1. I just skimmed the articles… the second one is really by an anal compulsive. Even the first one is a bit more complicated than how I’m able to do it. I just roast the stuff and let it cool enough so it doesn’t get the grinder too hot. No labeling or dating either… each batch gets sucked up within a few days anyway.

  4. The first thing to realize about toothpaste is that you don’t need to lay an inch-long bead of it along the top of your brush like they do in TV commercials. A tiny dab smaller than a peppercorn is more than enough. At that rate of consumption, cost per tube scarcely matters.

    But in fact I can’t remember the last time I actually bought toothpaste; I get free sample-sized tubes from my dentist, and each one easily lasts until the next visit.

    1. Yes, my dentist told me the same thing. “You don’t need more than an amount about the size of a pea,” he said. “The rest is wasted.”

      I tell other people that, but they just think I’m some sort of cheapskate. They like to have a mouthful of foam, like a rabid dog!

      1. Not to mention the dreaded OJ effect, in which everything (but especially fruit juice) tastes weird for a couple of hours following toothpaste overdose.

    2. As I was brushing my teeth this morning I remembered something that happened to me as a child.

      I’d gone on a Royal Ambassadors camp out with boys from my church (RA’s are basically the Baptist version of Boy Scouts). On the first morning I was brushing my teeth at an outdoor faucet and another boy, with whom I believe I’m now facebook friends, started *making fun of me* for using so little toothpaste. And I was using much more than a peppercorn’s worth. I covered all the bristles in a thin layer of paste.

  5. Not being remotely addicted to starbucks, it would take me fifty years or more to offset the cost of one of those espresso contraptions. Why does this entry remind me of both my father and my mother-in-law? Yet they have 20 & 30 years on you, respectively.

  6. Ohhhh Coffee!! And come on … the Starbucks coffee is not THAT good. At least not here in Europe.
    We’re in the process of buying a coffee maker. We live in a Copenhagen apartment, and kitchentable room is scarce. So we’re looking at decent pressure PLUS small size. Not easy. Right now were making decent coffee on these octogonal, (sp?) small, Italian coffee-makers that you put on the stove.
    And then there’s the cereal. Why not make your own müsli? We do that sometimes (Everytime I write “we”, I mean “he”, every time I write “I”, I mean … well, me, obviously) and it’s easy: roast some oats in a little butter, add almonds, raisins, breadcrumbs, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds … anything you like … even seaweed, and then add some honey until it tastes perfect. Yummy.

        1. Rats, I just crumbled up some nori into my wife’s müsli container, but I covered it up with some oats.

          I’ll blame it on Kink.

          1. Oh noes, don’t blame it on a poor innocent cat!!! Blame it on the crazy Dane at prof. Coyne’s non-blog

    1. You are right Trine, Starbucks is not that good – it is, however, consistent in its averageness. My use depends where in the US I am. I would never bother in a West Coast city since I know there are always better places easily available. In a small town in the south or mid-West however Starbucks may well be the best, or only, option.

      I’m more of an espresso addict – which is a cheaper habit than Jerry’s rich and more overpriced latte’s – and I use my afternoon coffee trip to get out of the office or lab and look at a different set of walls for a while. So I guess I pay the price for wanting an afternoon stroll.

      As a more American alternative to muesli, granola is also relatively straightforward to make – in the sense that the ingredients are easily available and the recipe is short. However given the amount of pure maple syrup that seems to go into each batch that gets made here I’m not convinced that it’s economically viable to make ourselves (does taste good though).

    2. “Right now were making decent coffee on these octogonal, (sp?) small, Italian coffee-makers that you put on the stove.”

      That’s the “mocha maker” (aka “moka maker”) I mentioned above. It makes excellent coffee, very much like espresso.

      Of course you need a stove as well as a heat source.

      1. Yes – it is excellent coffee, and I think that’s why we are picky about which sniny new coffee-machine we’re going to buy. The in-house coffee-quality is already quite high.

  7. Breakfast used to be generic raisin bran with honey over it. But then, thanks to a predator cat and an injured rabbit (much longer story) I got onto rolled oats, but I don’t go the raisin route. Half a cup of oats to 1.5 cups of water boiled with a (usually chicken) bouillon cube in it. Then season to suit. My traditional blend is poultry seasoning with celery seed and hot pepper flakes or powder. Or curry with onions. In the summer, dill and chives seem to be better. Mustard seed & some black peppercorns seem to go better with beef bouillon. Seaweed would probably do just fine in any of those combos. That’s eaten with Red Rose tea, currently made with hot water from the teakettle atop my woodburning stove.

    Toothpaste: far more important to floss, and for that a periodontist friend insists that unwaxed stuff from POH is the only kind to use. Forget drugstores – look for it online and save S/H by ordering multiple rolls at a time. Then, to use the stuff, pull off a length long enough that you can tie the two ends together and use it with both hands. Infinitely superior to those holders.

    Meanwhile, the biggest insidious ripoff across the country is TicketMaster. This is the kind of thing that Extortion Racket refers to.

  8. Cinnamon on top is HERESY!

    Burn the witch! BURNNNNN!

    Small grating of dark chocolate, only.

    This comes from Doc Helen whose hobby it is to torment waiters in fancy restaurant by subjecting them to the Cinnamon Inquisition. Right answer gets a delightful smile. Wrong answer and you get Why Cinnamon is Wrong Lecture #92.

    We’ll be watching.

    1. I think I would like to be acquainted with the WCIWL series. Cinnamon and stevia extract is all I’ve put on it for 2 years.

    2. Bah. Sometimes I mix cinnamon with the ground coffee. I have no idea why people sprinkle it on foamed milk. Come to think of it, I’ve never put milk in cinnamon coffee.

  9. Okay, here I go…
    The commercial espresso machine I use to make quality espresso for my customers- $8000.00 each
    The commercial burr grinder that allows me to grind as ordered, allowing me to serve the freshest espresso possible- $1150.00 each, two per store
    The commercial coolers that I have to have to stock my dairy 5 of them ranging $1300.00 – $2300.00 each
    The point of sale system that allows me to track usage in addition various reports and straight sales-$5400.00 + $900.00 annually for liscencing and support per location
    That’s just the equipment directly involved in lattes. There’s much, much more.
    Labor after fees and taxes- $10.00 -$15.00 per hour per person
    Long term lease $1100.00/month at my cheapest location $2200.00 at the other
    Average ticket price per customer- $2.38
    Cost of a large latte at my shop- $3.60
    My profit on a large latte- roughly 34cents
    Now, my quality is certainly better than Starbucks and I’m sure their profit margin is larger than mine, but let’s be gentle when convincing everyone to make their own. I’ve almost survived this economy. The next few months will decide whether I go bankrupt.

    SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS!! lol

    1. Gabby, I’m about 100 times more likely to buy coffee at a locally owned, independent shop than at a Starbucks. I hope your business does well.

      1. You know, Starbucks is not exactly Satan. They’re one of the very rare businesses that offers health insurance to their employees.

        FWIW.

        1. That’s right! As much as I hate them as a competitor, there’s a lot to admire about the company. They take good care of their employees and I think it shows. I couldn’t compete with that.

    2. You know…you might be able to supplement your core business with a tidy profit selling equipment and beans for your customers, whom you already know love coffee. There’s a lot more profit to be had on a $300 piece of machinery than a $3 cup of coffee.

      If I had to hazard a guess, your customers patronize your business at least as much for the people and the environment as they do for the liquid they’re ostensibly there to drink. They’ll still come even if they also make coffee at home.

      With a bit of creativity, you could (perhaps) make a big deal out of it. Have roasting seminars, offer exotic green bean subscriptions, bring in coffee experts as special guest lecturers, that sort of thing. Have no-holds barred debates on the relative merits of cinnamon v chocolate as a topping for a latte. Have competitions to see who can create the best swirl designs in their lattes.

      In the mean time…hang in there, and keep your head above water!

      Cheers,

      b&

      P.S. I’m assuming you’re already doing all the other obvious coffee shop things, like hanging for-sale works from local artists on the walls, poetry slams, that sort of thing. b&

    3. If you don’t mind saying what and where your shop is, I don’t mind your drumming up a little business on this site. Maybe some readers want some good coffee!

      1. Yes, please!

        Gabby, as I mentioned above, I rarely drink coffee, but, if you’re in the metro Phoenix area, I’ll make it a point to buy a cup from you sometime this month.

        Cheers,

        b&

        1. Thanks guys. There are actually several things I’d like to be doing but the financial situation has been a nightmare the entire time I’ve been in business. It’s pretty much hand to mouth. As long as we survive, we’ll have the loans paid off in a few months and the amassed credit card debt down to a managable level within a year. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
          If you’re ever in Cincinnati, come to Kitty’s Coffee(named after my beautiful wife).

  10. Gabby beat me to it. In a chain coffee house you are not just paying for the contents of the cup, you are paying a proportion of the costs of having someone else make the coffee for you, the costs of renting a cup and saucer (or the cost of a disposable cup), the costs of clean up, the cost of renting furniture in rented property, business taxes and so on. Not just ‘profit’. Not really a fair comparison.

    I guess you could make coffee even more cheaply if you grew your own beans and kept your own cow…

    I still dislike Starbucks coffee though!

  11. My Starbucks gives me the Tall price with a ten cent discount for bringing my own (insulated) cup even though it holds a bit more than a Tall, but the store manager thinks I’m hotter than her coffee.

  12. There is I believe a book called “Gotcha Capitalism”.Any way,it was a story on local npr radio station.It was about how corporations are shaving a little bit here,a little bit there.One example would be cereal boxes how they make them slightly thinner on their edges,but not on their face.Examples abound.

    1. Thinner on the edges but not on the face? What do you mean? Narrower boxes or thinner cardboard? If it’s thinner cardboard you’re not saving anything; the paper mill simply has a different pattern on the roller to make the cardboard a bit thinner in places so that it’s easier to fold – it’s not less material, it’s just compressed. That way the folding machines make prettier boxes more consistently. It’s got nothing to do with ‘shaving off a little’.

      1. Mad-The cereal box was one example of hundreds.To apply occams razor(since you seem to be having a hard time “getting it”)the box is SMALLER,and you are paying more MONEY for LESS cereal.As I said,examples abound.Try reading the book.

        1. If they “shave a little”,as you put it on hundreds of products,from millions of people….well-you do the math.They certainly have.Theyre called ACTUARIES.

  13. ###
    Adding milk/cream to tea or coffee is an abomination

    A cafetiere (French press) is my ideal way of getting my coffee at home – no froth

    ###
    The pub used to be the social hub in the UK. It is being supplanted by the cafe which is much more culturally diverse & less intimidating to lone women.
    However I do miss the banter of the dying British pub

    A quality, independent cafe with an interesting & varied customer base is very hard to track down in the Midlands (UK) the chains have sucked up the custom

    ###
    Toothpaste, soap & shampoo are available for negligible prices in UK supermarkets under ‘own brand’ labels (eg Morrisons) – far cheaper than the OP’s prices

    ###
    Peace’N’Love
    Michael

    ###

    1. The problem with pubs as “social hubs” was all the people! Much better now with all the wine drinkers lifting their pinkies elsewhere.

      As for soap and toothpaste, who needs ’em!

      1. Heresy! The pub is a fine institution, though as you say, not everyone wants to live in an institution. My grandfather, great grandfather & great great grandfather were all publicans at one time or another. I love ale!

  14. You don’t need a foaming machine to make great foam and a great latte. A hand foamer, which is basically like a French press with different screens, does a great job if you use non-fat or very low fat milk. Then pour the foam into the cup first and pour your coffee through it. The glass on the foamers we’ve had breaks too easily but after it does you just use the one from a French press instead — they’re tougher.

    If you want to use fattier milk you will need some sort of steam foamer, in my experience. We’ve got an old Pavoni that works great.

  15. I bought a burr grinder long before I decided to buy an espresso machine. It’s the only small scale grinder you can get which will consistently mill the beans to the desired size. Some espresso machines these days cost less than what I paid for my grinder, but I haven’t seen a cheap espresso machine which works to my satisfaction yet. I got a $500 machine by Sunbeam but it works beautifully.

    1. Yep, I have a huge bottle in my office. Four drops are enough to wash your hands and leave them with a great scent of peppermint. ALL-ONE-WORLD!

  16. Ah… Mysore Sandal Soap. That brings a whole lot of childhood memories to me. Our family used two soaps. Mysore Sandal and Pears.

    I completely agree with you. The smell of sandalwood in the morning is so refreshing. Back home, we also used to put a bit of freshly made sandal paste on the forehead, usually done as a religious ritual, but, gives a very nice feel! It is also used as a soothing agent for headaches.

    Thanks for bringing back those memories.

  17. I grew up in Bangalore, and lived just a few km from the factory that makes Mysore Sandal. At least in those days, it was a matter of regional pride for most people (including my family) to use this soap, even though it was not the cheapest soap you could find in India. I still have an unopened three pack I bought on my last trip. I’d say its a worthy luxury to spend a few extra cents on.

  18. “I do love the smell of sandalwood in the morning”… that had me laughing over my crappy fake cappuccino!

  19. For those who are averse to coffee, I urge you to try Dilmah Tea.
    An un-blended, ethically farmed tea from Ceylon.
    It is akin to fine wine for tea lovers, rather than the usual Schlitz.

  20. It won’t steam your milk, but the best cup of coffee you can make for yourself comes from the 30 dollar Aeropress:

    http://aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm

    You’ll need a way to boil water. An electric kettle will set you back maybe ten bucks. After using this thing I can’t imagine going back to a coffee maker or press pot or (blech) Starbuck’s.

  21. “…the creature represents the combined virtues of wisdom, courage and strength and symbolizes the company’s philosophy”

    You wouldn’t be soft-soaping us now, would you?

  22. Hmm, this is a strange post. Why pay hundreds of dollars for cowboy boots if you can get a pair leather boots at Walmart for $50.00?

  23. Asian and Hispanic markets are also a great place to buy spices and fresh herbs. Much less expensive than supermarkets.

    A plumber friend has a saying for describing people who are foolishly wasteful: “Brushing teeth with warm water.” To use warm water on your toothbrush requires running the water long enough to get the warm stuff to the tap. You might use a teaspoon of warm water but the pipes now have a gallon or so of expensively heated water in them and the water heater will eventually kick on to heat up the replacement water.

    Thanks to all for the info on roasting coffee. Had no idea it was so simple.

    Query: If one roasts coffee in a popcorn popper, can one also pop popcorn in the same popper or does the popcorn come out coffee flavored?

  24. Slightly off-topic I know, but can someone who understands economics explain this. I live in Portland, OR and a few years back the local newspaper did a big article on Starbucks. It “credited” Starbucks with starting the coffee boom and persuading people to pay $3+ for a fancy coffee. But it also claimed that when Starbucks opens a shop, it increases business at nearby independent coffeeshops.
    Why?!?

    1. Pfft, Starbucks bankrupt my coffee shop by opening up down the street. Killed another coffee shop in town too. Could have been a coincidence that two established businesses closed within a year of our town getting its first Starbucks, but I doubt it.

    2. Nichole is correct. My first store was surounded by four Starbucks locations within two blocks. If it weren’t for my (and my wife’s) willingness to work hundred hour weeks and our lower prices, we’d be long gone. I’ve confronted their scouts as they tested our stores. I’m far too stubborn for them to fuck with.

      1. I am sorry to hear that. It certainly never made any sense to me and what you describe is – unfortunately – more what I might have expected.

  25. make your own lattes and espressos.  If you invest in a decent espresso machine

    I think it took about 2 years to recoup the amortized cost of my La Pavoni at 4 shots/day. But then there’s the gasket replacement budget.

    1. Now, that’s someone with good taste. La Pavoni is a quality pour. At least they were before the economy went south.

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