Cooking Archive

Neat read.  This is some food for thought if I ever get around to building an outdoor oven/cooking area, or if I’m able to some day come up with a few acres and a small cabin.  I would likely be using some type of rocket stove in that case (perhaps in either case), but the principal should be sufficiently similar to be equally useful.

Be the first to comment

Food, Grocery, and UPC Databases and Information

Posted December 2, 2012 By Landis V

I’ve maintained a spreadsheet on Google Drive with details of a variety of groceries and related goods that we purchase for a while, containing information on the brand, product description, size, price paid (and a few “regular price” entries if I know I got it on sale), SKU/EAN/UPC, store, city, date, and notes.  In some ways it’s an unfortunate and disappointing look back across how bad inflation has been under Obama (for anyone who makes the claim that it’s not worse according to government statistics… those stats are all “ex food and energy”… the two things that actually matter!).  Aside from being interesting, it’s useful to track not only the change in prices over time, but where and when I’ve made purchases at the best price, so I can quickly look up whether I’m getting a good deal on something.

Typically I will add entries to my spreadsheet when I’m going through my receipts and doing categorized expense tracking.  There are pros and cons to this approach, and while my method could probably be improved with discipline, it has worked fairly well for me thus far.  I’ll discuss these pros and cons briefly, and touch on a couple of online tools I’ve run across that are beneficial in my tracking process.  On occasion I will also add to the list based upon a price I’ve seen advertised or if I run across an item while shopping at a store I don’t frequent so I can compare it to prices at my regular venues.

I try to keep all my receipts until I have a chance to sit down and enter them into my accounting/expense tracking (I use KMyMoney for this).  For our regular grocery shopping, I usually break receipts down into subcategories such as food, personal care, household supplies, alcohol, gifts, etc.  It’s uncommon for most of our receipts to fall into a single category, especially if sales tax is a part of the purchase, as I maintain an expense categorization for it as well.

As I mentioned, I find several advantages to my particular method of tracking.  First, since it is sometimes months before I have or make the time to sit down and process receipts, I’m sometimes unable to remember what a particular purchase was from just the description on the receipt.  In some ways, this is also a con, but with some of the tools I will describe below, it ends up working out fairly well – if the receipt includes a UPC code.  While looking up the product to see what it is so I can categorize it, it’s easy to add it into my spreadsheet at the same time.

Since I often have a large quantity of receipts to go through at once, it becomes fairly efficient to load up the sites I typically work with and establish a flow or rhythm.  It’s still not a fast process, but as with most tasks, it becomes quicker with practice and repetition.  I go through the receipt, do my lookups as needed, categorize the items in my accounting application, and mark the receipt to be shredded or filed as needed.

This tracking isn’t without downsides, chief among which is the time consumed by the process.  It generally consumes the biggest share of a weekend to enter and allocate two months of receipts.  I’m not sure I can completely justify the time yet, largely because I haven’t really utilized the data in value determination yet (which is in turn due to the incompleteness of my dataset to this point, so a self-referencing problem).  Sometimes it can be difficult to find necessary or accurate information, especially when UPC codes are not present.  And there are times when it is challenging to determine how to best categorize or itemize the data, or to later find the correct product information if I did a poor job of categorizing initially.

I’ve recently started making an effort to “coupon” (which I place in quotes, because I can’t see myself at this point actually putting the effort into it that true couponers do), and I hope this will lead to a greater return on my time investment thus far and going forward.

For stores that include the UPC as part of the line item on the receipt, the Internet UPC Database has proven incredibly valuable in providing information about items with unclear descriptions.  Wal Mart is one of these stores, and the UPC Database proves especially helpful in this regard as it provides the ability to look up the UPC check digit (the last digit of the UPC, which is not included on the Wal Mart receipt) and then provides a link to the product description.  I also recently discovered Factual, specifically their consumer packaged goods dataset which contains not only information about what a product is, but also provides the added bonus of nutritional information and ingredients.

I should note that the UPC Database is built with user contributed data (much like Wikipedia), while Factual’s dataset appears to come from manufacturers, though I haven’t done research to fully vouch for this.  I do find the idea of an open source/community sourced database potentially very beneficial, and have considered doing something similar with the data I’ve collected.

While mobile, I have also used the Grocery Tracker application on my Android phone to great benefit in keeping track of both my grocery lists and prices in the stores where I shop.  This application is incredibly thorough, and I probably don’t use a tenth of what it can do.  The inventory system looks very cool, but would require a lot more discipline and consistency than I can typically muster.

Finally, I use both store sites that can be searched by SKU (such as Sam’s Club) and Google when the information is not available by other means.  If nothing works out, I will leave a product out of the spreadsheet and/or leave it uncategorized in my accounting.

Be the first to comment

West Bend 84386 Oblong 6 Qt Slow Cooker Lid

Posted November 21, 2012 By Landis V

We recently had the lid for our West Bend model 84386 6qt crockery cooker shatter, and I am amazed at how difficult it was to locate a replacement.  Apparently the original stock has been completely wiped out and there’s nothing directly being marketed as an aftermarket replacement.  The cooker is too nice to just throw out, so we ended up doing some hunting and measuring.  I ended up ordering a “HB083 Hamilton Beach 6 Quart Crock Pot And Slow Cooker Replacement Oval GlassLid” from here (, which measures 12 1/4″ by 9 3/4″ and claims to fit the Hamilton Beach models 33162, 33162R, 33162RZ, 33164, 33164TC, and 33165.

Turns out, it was a pretty good fit.  Not absolutely perfect, but the rubber gasket around the rim of the new lid is pretty forgiving and doesn’t leave much of an observable gap.  It breathed new life into a cooker we  hated to lose for want of a lousy lid.  If you find yourself searching for a lid, maybe this will help you out.

(Original posting 2012-Nov-21)


Update 2016-06-28

Someone expressed concern regarding the fitment of this lid to the cooker.  I’m assuming the seller is still providing the same (or a very similar) product, but I have no affiliation with them to be able to make a definitive statement.  However, I did realize that I never posted any pictures of my cooker with this replacement lid, and thought that might be useful to someone as well.

Here are a couple of images to illustrate general fitment on the cooker, as well as a close-up of the soft rubber gasket that does a nice job closing up any gaps between the lid and

20160628_180702  20160628_180806

20160628_180712  20160628_180750

18 Comments so far. Join the Conversation

Interesting.  The rhubarb relish certainly piques my interest.

Be the first to comment

Filipino barbecue recipe

Posted May 8, 2011 By Landis V

Ran across this and it looked good. Did a little looking for banana catsup, looks like it takes a little time, so it’s something I’ll have to plan for in the future, but I did learn a fair bit about ketchup, its properties, and its history as I was looking into making banana ketchup. The thin sliced pork makes me think of bacon.

Barbecue recipe:

I liked the looks of this recipe for banana catsup.

Be the first to comment


Posted October 22, 2010 By Landis V
IW Information Mandate article.

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Once-a-month cooking
This looks useful.  Also,, and
Google Command Line

“The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”
— Milton Friedman

Be the first to comment


Posted June 11, 2010 By Landis V with cinnamon vanilla bacon

sales guy vs web guy

Be the first to comment