Sunday, January 29, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: BINGO, The Final Weekend

The weekend started off with $49. I had only eight days lefts to go. Things were looking bleak for myself and I was hesitant that I'd be able to finish off strong and make it to Day 30 with money left to spare. I was going to have another "expensive" weekend in terms of Project Minimum Wage and was really going to have to stretch every single dollar to make it.

The weekend all started off with a night of Bingo at one of the local bingo halls in Wichita. It's a once a year thing my friends and I like to do. It's been a while and this was one of the only weekends that worked for everybody. Unfortunately it was in the middle of Project Minimum Wage. I had $20-25 budgeted for Friday. Yes, half of what I had left. Probably pretty stupid but I'm a guy and we do a lot of stupid things!

Right before we all went to bingo, I had to stop by and grab a quick dinner because I was rushing from work and didn't have dinner ready before it was time to dob some numbers. I stopped by Sonic to grab tots, burgers and a free drink thanks to a coupon. $4.

It's Time To Play The Game!
Then it was time to Bingo! The Bingo Halls in Wichita are much nicer now that they don't allow smoking. I love it. My friends and I all purchased our bingo sheets, some pulls tabs, and some extra bingo sheets in hopes of winning extra cash. All in all, I spent $22 at Bingo which was a dollar over what I had budgeted. My friend supplied me with a dobber so I didn't have to spend $1.50. It's time to bingo!

I had twelve sheets that held my future earnings at stake. Each game prizes ran from $50-75. There was one blackout game at intermission with a prize of $200 and another at the end of the night for $499. I really needed to win this. Figured the chances of winning at bingo were probably better than the lottery. Four games into the night and two of my friends already had won prizes of $50 and $25. (In Bingo if there are multiple winners, they split the prizes).

It was almost time for intermission so that mean a game of blackout for a cash prize of $200. I figured "black out" would be perfect because that's one of the things I learned in college! (just kidding!). So the MC of the night started calling out number by number. The place was extremely quiet outside of the MC. Everybody was so caught up in dobbing all of their numbers. About 55 numbers get called out and you could just feel the tension in the place. I'm kind of losing my attention and just hearing all of my friends tell me how many numbers they needed to win. We're now 60 numbers in and you can hear the "oohs" and the "aahs" in the crowd.

The 61st number is called. I19...........................  I dob my I19 and then a lady a few tables away yells: "BINGO!!!!" You hear the sadness hit the rest of the bingo players. All my friends look around at each other to show how close they were. After marking I19, I noticed I had one number left that wasn't marked, G52. People start throwing their bingo sheets away and I look up at the bingo board. WAIT.......Why is G52 lit up? WAIT....... Why isn't G52 marked on my bingo sheet? WAIT............Did I just hit a bingo?

My buddy to the left of me looks at the board and notices G52 was called earlier. So I dob it and throw my hand in the air and say...... BINGO?

Yes, I said it with a question mark. I was confused by it all. Did I really get a bingo? One of the employees walks over and grabs my bingo sheet, reads it off to the MC and she says: "That is a good bingo!"

I should become a professional bingo player
HOLY CRAP! I won! I won! I won! Minutes later the employee brings me over, Not One, Not Two, Not Three, Not Four, but Five twenty dollar bills! $100 cold hard cash in my pocket. As Randy Moss would say, "Straight Cash Homie!"

My investment paid off! We celebrated after with some bingo winning drinks, I only had a $5 tab. Figured I could splurge a little.

Saturday was followed by the Shocker game which I won't comment much in. I've already gained enough gray hairs over it so to sum the night up it was dinner and drinks and a Redbox movie (50/50 which is just a fantastic movie). Sunday was lunch, a free movie (Man On The Ledge, another fantastic movie), followed by an outing at a friend's house.

The weekend got a little expensive towards the end and I ended up with: $62

Don't really plan on spending much this weekend at all and ideally should have around the $50 mark by Friday when it all ends. I was saved by my bingo investment. Probably not something that would happen often if I was on minimum wage. But let's face it: making money on bingo was probably a better idea for me than making money donating plasma. I hate needles.

On to Monday!
Signed,
Professional Bingo Player

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Days 21 and 22

Wednesday and Thursday are officially in the books.

To start the days off, I had only $74 to spend until the following Friday. I managed to go Monday and Tuesday not spending a single dollar and just staying in.

My goal was to make it all the way until Friday without spending a single dollar but one necessity in life came up. Gasoline! I considered siphoning my parents gas out of their cars figuring they probably wouldn't turn me in but I realized one thing. I don't know how to do it. Then after reading how to do it, it sounded gross and like a waste of time. Due to my poor money management skills and lack of maintaining my budget, I was only able to get $25 worth of gas that should last me these next 10 days. A third of what I had left, gone, just like that.

Wednesday was Shocker game night. Instead of paying for parking, I had a friend meet me up earlier so we could get a close and free parking spot. On top of that, he purchased my dinner and drinks to make up for paying his tab. Yeah, the money would have been nice but I wasn't too caught up in it. Lesson: Never argue with friends about money. It never leads to a good thing. Just look at what happened with the whole Mike's Wine Dive scenario.

Wednesday's nights end amount: $49.

Thursday was a super chill night. Snacked on oatmeal, peanuts and minor odds and ends during the day and came home to chicken lasagna roll-ups. Even have enough leftover to take to lunch.

Final damage afters Days 21 and 22: Only $25 spend on gasoline. That's $25 for Monday-Thursday, probably some sort of record for me.

I had a couple reader comments asking what kind of foods I've been making during this whole project. Well one of my favorite meals which lasted me for three meals was "Gumbo Burgers". One of my friends gave me the recipe and it was/is/and always will be delicious. It is super simple. 
Gumbo Burgers
1.5 pounds ground beef
2 cans Campbell's Chicken Gumbo Soup
Mustard
Pepper jack cheese singles
Hamburger buns

Brown ground beef and drain the fat. Bring browned beef back to heat, and add both cans of soup. Stir. On top of mixture, make a swirl shape with mustard. Stir.

Stir occasionally over medium to medium-high heat. It will simmer which is fine, just stir it every so often. Want to make sure the sauce gets thick enough, which will take 15 minutes or so.

Put a slice of cheese on each bun, pack gumbo burger mixture on top.
 That's it! I didn't put any cheese on mine, but you may like it. If you really want to save money, go grab some mustard packets somewhere! (I didn't do that though). It ends up being like a Gumbo Sloppy Joe but doesn't have that distinct gumbo taste.

So moving on, I'm down to 8 days left of this project. I have my fourth weekend coming up and those have been known to really break the bank for me. I'd really love to have some money left over to see if I could have accumulated any "savings" but it's going to be a close call.

$49. 8 days. One Person.

Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Days 19 and 20

Monday and Tuesday.

If it's one thing I've been learning (outside of cutting cost by not going out for lunch all the time), it's that cooking is pretty damn simple. I'm pretty sure I could get a job at any major restaurant in Wichita based off of the wealth of knowledge I've gained these past twenty days. Ok, maybe I shouldn't go that far.

I've been learning lots of new recipes, how easy some things are to make, names for cooking tools, all sorts of cool stuff they never taught me in home economics class.

After Days 19 and 20, I didn't spend a single dollar so that leaves me with $74 to take me through ten days. I SEE THE LIGHT!

If this wasn't a blog about Wichita, I would turn this into a recipe sharing blog. Cooking is actually pretty cool. And to think I've spent the past few decades relying on someone else to do it for me......... ok one day if I get married, I still may.

Ten days and counting!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Weekend #3 - PAY YOUR TABS!

The third of four weekends during Project Minimum Wage has passed me by and it probably hurt the wallet more than any other of the previous weekends.

Eating out, Shocker game parking, Brad Paisley concert (which was a blast by the way), birthday parties, let's find out what the final damage was.

Friday night was the Brad Paisley concert. Decided to head up to Old Mill Tasty Shop for dinner beforehand. First time I've ever been there. The food was good, I enjoyed it. Only thing is I don't see why people rave like it's the best thing ever. Don't get me wrong, I liked my bbq brisket sandwich but love would be taking that a little too far. So purchased dinner for two. BURN!!!!

Follow that up with two beers at the concert. I wish I was making Brad Paisley money then I could have afforded more than that. And yes, let me repeat again that these tickets were purchased in December. I had planned going to this concert before. I definitely caught a lot of slack from friends for going to the concert while doing this project.......

Moving on to Saturday. Went to the Shocker game and split parking with friends. $5. Seriously, $5 for parking is almost an hour’s worth of work on minimum wage. I would have liked to do a free parking area but one of my friends was running late showing up to meet with us.......

After the game, it was a friend's birthday party. We had a group of probably 20 of us. Drinks being purchased, some shots, you know how birthday parties go..... I got by without having to buy as many drinks but at the end of the night the same friend who showed up late to save me $5 on parking walked out on a tab without knowing it. So I spotted the $20 to pay it for him at Larry Bud's so the server wouldn't be screwed. Because what's more important? Trying to salvage every dollar on Project Minimum Wage or making sure the servers at a bar you frequent often do not get stiffed? Not sure if I'll see that $20 back so we'll have to include it in the final count.

And Sunday, was pretty much burn free outside of getting lunch! I had dinner made for me so I got off scott free there. Plus I received two $2 bills to celebrate Asian New Year's. But it's lucky money so I can't spend it :(

Started Friday with $168 and woke up Monday with $74 to last me 12 days. Here's where I stand on upcoming expenses. I have gas I need which is $40. I'm going to have to get a half a tank of gas and not drive much these next 12 days. I have a haircut appointment at the end of next week. That will be pushed back a week later. I have an engagement with friends on Saturday that could possibly set me back $20. If I see my friend in time, I can get $20 back from him but I don't like haggling my friends for money.

I'm sitting on $74, possibly $94 for 12 days. Worst case scenario, I'm stuck with just $74. Then I need a half tank of gas, that's $54. Friday night puts me down to $34. It's going to be tight. I have food to probably last me the entire two weeks. It'll be sandwiches, pastas and oatmeal. I'm going to push Letter U to next week or a week later if I can't afford it.

Twelve days and counting. CAN I DO IT?!?!?!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Day 15

A quick little update folks!

Not a single dollar was spent on Thursday, hurray! That puts me still at $168 for the month and I'm halfway done. I'm a bit off pace and I expect that trend to continue as I head to Brad Paisley Friday night. Then I have plans for Saturday night. Not looking good.

I'd say, "Pray for me" but something like this isn't worth your prayers!

Might have to invest in a scratch and win ticket this weekend to get a quick but. Knowing my luck, I'd win just a dollar, have to go cash it in and feel like I have to buy another.

15 days left............... can it be done?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quik Hits: 1/19/12: Closings, Closings, Closings!

Quick Hits 1/19/12

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Everybody like the new look of the blog?

Seriously a lot has gone on since I last posted a Quick Hits. So let's get down to business.

·                     Sloppy Joe's has closed down. You'll remember I posted a quick review on them here. Wasn't sure their business model was suitable for long term success. Bye bye Sloppy Joe's, your Sloppy Joe's were pretty good but people just weren't willing to pay for the convenience of it.
·                     Chick-fil-A's new opening date is March 1st. I drive by the building all the time and it's really coming around. I've thought about sneaking in one night to look around but figured that's probably trespassing so I won't. :)
·                     Imbiss Grille closed down. I'm pretty sad about that. Imbiss was supposed to be my destination for Letter I a while back but plans fell through and would have liked to make it by but never did. Sucks.......I was going to do a play on words if my waiter sucked there and call him an "Imbiss-sil". Get it?? Ha ha.
·                     And the Wiener is.......gone as well. I stopped by there a few times after a long night of "hanging out" downtown. I regretted all three times too. Not because the food was horrible but just because long nights of "hanging out downtown" and stuffing yourself with hot dogs right before going to bed don't mix well sometimes. Gut bombs.
·                     Shout out to Louie's Bar and Grill. They hosted a little Shocker watch party for a group of friends and me and did a fantastic job. The service was excellent even though our server had problems with how he took orders and who got them. The numbering system is a little odd. But all in all, we enjoyed it.
·                     So Wink Hartman is opening a new club called "Lakeside Club". It's a members only type of club that cost $20 a month. Its non-smoking, will have a dress code, and is in the old Bella Donna/Garrazo's building on Webb Road. I'm sure they will get lots of members but personally I don't see the appeal to a member’s only club. When I go out and drink or eat, I want to go to a place I can invite whomever I'd like to. I'm probably not their target market either though.
·                     Really looking forward to the Ziggy's Pizza opening. That should be happening soon.
·                     A Kwik Shop to open at 13th and Woodlawn by the Dillons? FINALLY! A steady gas station that will last there!
·                     Pita Pit is returning to Rock Road in the Northrock Retail Center. This time next year, it won't be there. I just don't think it will last but what do I know, I've never had Pita Pit before........

And that's a wrap folks!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Days 13 and 14

Days 13 and 14 out the door. Started off those days with a $197 budget and once again took a huge hit after I was allotted roughly $10 per day.

Things were going fine on Day 13 with lunch and dinner all taken care of, no major expenses. Day 14 comes along, all is going well. Brought my lunch to work and planned to go see the Shocker game with a big group of friends (very nice win by the way, Toure was a beast for not just the closing minutes but the entire time).

$29 later, here I am writing this blog. And that's $29 with a $3 off coupon which I felt kind of cheap using. It's $3 but that three was a third of the day's budget almost. Paying for one other person is hard on a man's wallet making only $7.25 an hour. Pretty sure if I was making minimum wage, I wouldn't date, get married, have kids, adopt a pet, and possibly even drink. If I was making minimum wage, I probably wouldn't even be doing this blog or eating at Newport Grill, Bonefish, Chester's, etc.

So fourteen days in and I'm left with only $168. At sixteen days, that's $10.50 per day. Don't plan on spending a single dollar today because I have the Brad Paisley concert tomorrow along with a needed tank of gas within the week that'll set me back $40. I have an outing with friends within the week that will probably set me back. Things are getting tight. It sucks to know that I only have $168 for sixteen days or technically $128 because I know gas will be needed soon.

Ugh............

Stop SOPA

STOP SOPA

SOPA and PIPA, the bills in question, are in tactical retreat as this story goes live, but it is almost certain their backers are already planning the next round, in a process that will continue in one form or another ad infinitum.

Under the current wording of the measures, the Attorney General would have the power to order ISPs to block access to foreign-based sites suspected of trafficking in pirated and counterfeit goods; order search engines to delist the sites from their indexes; ban advertising on suspected sites; and block payment services from processing transactions for accused sites. If the same standards were applied to U.S.-based sites, Wikipedia, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Google and Wired could all find themselves blocked.

Read More: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/01/18/wikipedia-goes-dark-for-24-hours-to-protest-us-web-piracy-bills/



Monday, January 16, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Day 12

Another day gone.

It was tacos for dinner so that means it will be tacos for lunch on Tuesday. I didn't get to do any real shopping yesterday and found myself bored. Part of me wanted to spend money JUST to spend money. Does that mean I have an addiction? I found myself browsing through Amazon and eBay just to get my fix in but didn't purchase anything.

Then I found myself watching TV and caught a McDonald's commercial. You know, McDonald's and fast food places really hit the spot and target minimum wage people. With their low cost meals and fast food convenience, it's no wonder millions and billions of people go there for lunch. But one thing that bugs me, has anybody really ever fallen in love with a McDonald's girl? I've been to McDonald's my fair share of times while in high school and college in Wichita and never ran into this situation:



Ah well.............Day 12 is officially in the books and Tuesday will mark yet another day I have yet to spend a single dollar on lunch. It's quite comforting to know I'm saving almost $4-6 a day by bringing my lunch to work every day.

$197 still intact to last me 18 more days. I totally forgot I have the Brad Paisley concert this weekend and a beer there will run me an entire day’s daily budget. I know what everybody is saying right now, “A person on minimum wage can’t afford Brad Paisley tickets.” Well they aren’t mine and they were purchased back in Mid-December.

=====================

Any Letter U suggestions anyone?

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Weekend #2!

Days 9-11 (that felt weird typing that out) didn't go as exactly planned. I started it all off with $265 but then the weekend hit and it wasn't exactly ideal.

I knew I had a haircut this weekend which would set me back on my budget so I figured I should probably stay low key and save some money. Well it all started Friday. I was doing well and brought my lunch to work. There was a Shocker game that night I was going to (I know, I can't afford season tickets.....liberties!!!) I didn't eat before the game and I was running short on time. So I had to stop by Wendy's and spend a few bucks there. It all went down here from there.

Post-game drinks to celebrate a Shocker win. Haircut on Saturday then I splurged and purchased a videogame. $68 later, here I am today with $197 to last me three weeks (19 days). I don't think I have any big purchases ahead of me outside of gas in a week. That equals out to $10.97 for my budget. I don't plan on spending a single dollar on Monday or Tuesday.

Haven't purchased any new clothing since this whole project started. No medical bills have come up. Zero toiletries have been purchased yet. Any of those items could easily set me back. I can see why someone on minimum wage might be inclined to ring up a credit card bill.

I would end this blog with, here we are down to the final stretch but it's not even that close yet. I should have picked a month with 28 days in it for Project Minimum Wage but it’s my luck this year doesn't even have one of those months being a leap year!

===========================

Look for a Quick Hits blog update this week. It's been a while since we've had one and there have been a ton of new restaurant news I'm waiting to comment on. I think Letter U is on pace for next week at the latest. Any suggestions on that, throw them my way!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Day Eight. I'm Still Alive!

Day 8 is in the books and yes I'm still alive.

I left town for work for a few days so because of the extenuating circumstances; I had to take a three day hiatus from Project Minimum Wage. Because of this, I decided to extend my Project for the three days I was out. The end of the first week of February is now my new end date.

Getting back to where we left off: Monday.

The day did not start off to well. I had spaghetti and meat sauce I packed and ready to go to take with me to lunch on Friday. Please note I made this Thursday to take Friday. Well I left it at home Friday. Fast-forward to Monday, it's still sitting in the fridge. I'm thinking well since the weekend took a hit on the budget I might as well take the four day old spaghetti and meat sauce to work with me for lunch. Not a good idea. People say, spaghetti and meat sauce can still be good 3-4 days later. Try just three. The fourth day had a "freezer burn" type taste to it. You could tell it had been in the fridge for a while. Regardless, I finished it. A man's gotta eat, right?

Monday night was a BCS Championship Game watch party at a friend's house. The couple who was throwing the party was going to make the main entrees and everybody else was to bring sides. They told me not to worry about bringing anything due to my current salary restrictions. I am no charity case plus I don't like being "that guy" who doesn't bring anything to a party. So I went out and bought a veggie tray from Dillon's. Spent $10 on it which is a dollar under my per day budget.

Seriously if you wanted drama, you should have watched the Bachelor instead. LSU and Alabama was one of the most boring football games I have ever watched. I can understand watching great defenses but LSU (and not trying to take anything away from Alabama) displayed one of the most inept offenses I've ever seen. It was like a kid playing Madden on his PlayStation calling the same two or three plays over and over. Except unlike Madden, LSU wasn't scoring. It was definitely a BLEAUXOUT!

/rant

Back to Project Minimum Salary. My total after Monday is now $265 with 22 days left to go. I'm hoping Friday I don't spend a single dollar because I have a haircut on Saturday that will set me back.

Happy Minimum Waging!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dining by the Alphabet: Letter T: Ty's and TJ's!

We're back with the 20th letter of the alphabet: Letter T. It's been roughly 20 days since we last stopped by a restaurant for a Letter.

For Letter T, I wanted to try something a little different: a fresh little spin as I like to call it. The reason for this was because when I asked for suggestions for Letter T, there were two recommendations that came up quite often: Ty's Diner and TJ's Burger House. I couldn't choose between the two so I asked myself, why don't I just go to both? So that's what I did. For Dining By The Alphabet Letter T, we'll be reviewing not just one T but two T's! Exciting, I know!

I recruited the help of four guest diners to join me in reviewing the Ty's and TJ's. Two of them are first time guest diners in Dave and Eric. Another is Ricky who has joined me before but never as an official guest diner and then Tiffany who makes her return after letter's A through I. All four of them will assist me in reviewing each place and giving their score. We won't necessarily be deciding who's better but scoring each restaurant separately and giving them each their own review. There will still be comparisons made just because we're going to two similar places.

In a Wichita By E.B. first, the Super Scientific Scale will consist of not just one, not two, not three, not even four but five reviews! Take into account two T restaurants, my fingers will be quite exhausted by the end of all this.

Let's get to business.

Our first stop was Ty's Diner.
928 W 2nd St N
Wichita, KS 67203
(316) 263-1416


Ty's is located on 2nd street just east of the corner of Seneca and 2nd. They do not have a webpage. Something about a place not having a webpage that puts them behind the times irks me.  Their hours are a little odd with only being open from 11-3 pm which makes it hard at times to make it out there.

We all arrived not too long after they opened and were seated immediately. The restaurant wasn't that busy when we got there. Our plan for each place was to order the same thing. Nearly everybody split a cheeseburger and along with that, we'd all split a full order of fries. Tiffany and I ordered a cheeseburger with everything on it. Erica and Dave ordered a cheeseburger with all the additional toppings on the side and Ricky ordered a cheeseburger plain with ketchup. Everybody ordered their smallest size of fries but our server kindly suggested that if we ordered a whole order of fries, it'd be cheaper and be enough for everybody to split. Well done missy!
Better be using the gloves!
It didn't take long for our burgers to come out. Right when they arrived, our server gave us extra plates at no charge to split our burgers and fries up. We all liked that as well since some restaurants charge an extra plate charge. One of the first comments that came up was how the burger looked like Freddy's. It's a hamburger patty that is flattened and barely had any grease that we could recall. Everybody for the most part liked what they had but I wouldn't say LOVED it. Ricky was a fan but preferred a thicker burger and he didn't find it as filling for a whole burger. Probably the only person who loved it was Tiffany. As for the fries, they were your standard fries that were a bit greasy and needed a little more salt to it. Nobody thought it was a big draw but nobody thought they were horrible either. I was actually going to say, "They are nothing to write home about" but was told I'm using that line too much so if I used it in the context I just did, it doesn't count!




One quality about Ty's that Eric and Dave commented on was the ambience. It was a really good atmosphere inside. The building is a little smaller but still can seat a good number of people. Plus you can see the cooks make your food as the grill is open for all to see. Our food order came out quick. The service was also nice and friendly. Our server ribbed Ricky a little at the start of the lunch, all friendly....... or was it flirty?!?! Who knows!

My personal thoughts on the place? Service was excellent and friendly. Seriously folks, a smile and speedy refills can go A LONG ways! The burger was really good. It's not the thick and juicy type of burger you may be accustomed to at a hole in the wall but it's still delicious. I do agree with Ricky though, it wasn't quite as filling. The fries were your regular run of the mill type fries. The atmosphere as mentioned earlier was excellent. Seemed like a place where everybody knew your name. Would I go there again though? Definitely. It's just that the hours are not too convenient for me.

A whole basket of fries split three ways along with a whole cheeseburger ran everybody around $6-8 not including tip.

I asked around the table their rating for Ty's and this is what I got.
Erica - 3.5
Dave - 3.5
Tiffany - 4
Ricky - 3
Eddy - 4

The final Super Scientific Score Rating: 3.60

We all tabbed out, chatted for a minute and headed over to our next destination. Before that though let me mention if you park behind the Ty's building, there are a lot of trees and birds will poop on your car. Just like Chris Farley said in Billy Madison: "I know from experience.....dude!"

T J's Burger House
1003 W Douglas Ave
Wichita, KS 67213
(316) 269-3770

The back entrance

Does this place look like a Burger House
or a Diner to you?

T J's Burger House (make sure you put the space between the T and J when googling) is located on west Douglas in the Delano district, just east of Seneca as well. The building is much larger and can accommodate quite a few people inside. T J's is open for lunch and dinner. If I can find their hours, I'll modify this portion of the blog. They too don't have a webpage.......ugh!

We arrived and took the back entrance. You can find the entrance off of Douglas but there is also parking in the back. One thing we noticed as T J's had more of a diner type look inside. Not sure why they didn't just call themselves T J's Diner because that would have made sense. We were seated pretty quickly even though they were pretty busy at the time. Our server came up and took our drink orders; she seemed nice but you could tell she had that "I'm busy look" (not in a mean and smug way though).

Everybody ordered something similar. Erica and Dave went with the cheeseburger and a 1/2 order of onion rings. Ricky went with the cheeseburger plain with ketchup and a 1/2 order of fries and then Tiffany and I went with the cheeseburger with a 1/2 order of fries. It took a little longer for our order to come out but that could be attributed to how busy the place was. Drink refills were a little slower too. Once the food did arrive, first comment was on the size of the burger. It was definitely a thicker and juicier burger. Tiffany pointed out the grease on the burger while Ricky tried to play it off. I would later state, "If it can kill you, it's probably good food." Dave liked the size of the burger and his first comment was, "I like it to fit in my mouth." The table went quiet..........

Time to eat. Erica along with others thought the burger packed a lot of flavor. Everybody was given their own basket to eat out of, once again, at no additional charge. Ricky kept going on and on about the burger and how much he liked it. Tiffany wasn't quite a big fan, noting that she liked burgers with less grease and patties that were packed down. Her comparison for T J's was that it was an "upgraded Sonic burger". Dave....well he just kept eating away. The fries, once again, were nothing special. They lacked flavor and needed a little extra seasoning. Dave and Erica really liked their onion rings though.





For the service, as mentioned earlier was a bit slower. We didn't look at what the staffing looked like, just the number of customers that were coming in. Items like refills and the time it took to get our burgers took some time so I wonder what the service is like during lunch time during the weekdays. The atmosphere had a diner/restaurant feel. Erica was the first person to say that Ty's was more to her liking. I would add that Ty's is a bit more "cozy" for a restaurant and you felt more at "home" I suppose. T J's is more open and there's a lot more space. So it's a total matter of opinion.

The prices at TJ's are comparable to what you'd spend on anywhere for a burger or "should spend", I should say. Everybody's ticket for a burger and a 1/2 order of fries or onion rings rang up to between $6-8 not including tip.

My personal opinion, if you value that at all, was I really liked the burger. It should be said though that I like the juicy and large size burgers that really fill you up. I wasn't sold on the fries and the service was forgivable. We waited but it wasn't at time lengths where we would be looking at our watches or cell phones counting the minutes.

Before tabbing out, I should mention that Erica and Tiffany were looking at the malts and shakes being served. They both looked like they would give their left arm for one.

Everybody was then asked for their rating on TJ's and this is what I collected:
Erica - 4
Dave - 4
Ricky - 4
Tiffany - 3
Eddy - 4

That puts TJ's Burger House with a final Super Scientific Scale score of 3.8.

So if you're comparing TJ's or Ty's, TJ's Burger House just edged Ty's Diner by 2/10's of a point.

I don't think you can go wrong with either place. I loved both burgers; T J's a bit more but liked the ambience and service of Ty's more. Both places have qualities that anybody would love. It's all a matter of preference on the style of burger you'd prefer.

I would like to thank Erica, Tiffany, Dave and Ricky for joining me on Letter T. Only six letters away from completing the first entire installment of Dining by the Alphabet.

Up next is Letter U. Not sure there are even that many U restaurants out there! Otherwise happy dining all and don't forget to check us out daily for the continuing Project Minimum Wage Blog!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: The First Weekend

Made it through the first weekend. I think I may have gone a little over-budget. Let's rehash, shall we?

Started Friday off at $307...........

Friday: I went to a little watch party for the Cotton Bowl game and ate for free! I really need to go to some sort of watch party every night. That'd really save me money. Followed that up by meeting some friends for drinks. Unfortunately that wasn't free. A few drinks and tip ran me only $8. End of Friday night.

So I ended Friday below the $300 barrier. Total: $299. Just a little off pace.

Saturday started and I went to Letter T with a handful of friends. That blog will follow. I spent only $8 with the use of a little creativity. You'll read how later. Then afterwards, it was the Shocker game. We met up with a big group of friends at Jersey's to watch us pull out another road win, this time against Southern Illinois. Go Shox! One of our great friends, Bud, actually covered a group of friend's tabs. I got off easy. I know some of you would consider this "cheating" but hey, I could have watched this at home. Besides, I only had two drinks during the game. And with the company at Jersey's, I couldn't pass up. Couldn't really afford to go out after that so that was the end of that.

Saturday put me back on pace a little. Total: $291.

Sunday for breakfast it was the usual eggs, bacon and bread that was purchased earlier. Score! Groceries came in handy finally! For lunch it was leftover pizza from the Cotton Bowl watch party. Score! Free lunch. Then it was time to splurge a little. There was a coupon for $4 off two entrees at Red Lobster. It's literally been over a year since I last went. After dinner was over, my wallet was out $16. Decided to call it a night there.

Final weekend total: $275. I have 23 days left of this. That means I can only spend an average of $11.95 per day. Tomorrow, it's no eating out whatsoever or spending a single dime.

If it's one thing I learned over the weekend, it's that I love to spend randomly. Had I not been on a budget, I may have purchased a round of shots for friends, or gone out more over the weekend. I can't look at the Sunday ads because one, it's an urge to spend money on items I don't need and two, I'd have to buy a paper.

One week down for Project Minimum Wage and roughly three to go. After this weekend, I'm beginning to think I might not be able to do it. Guess I'll find out at the days continue.

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Be on the lookout for a Special Dining By The Alphabet Letter T. I tried something I have never done for any letter. Something new and something fresh. Stay tuned.

It's 11:37 pm and I should probably go to bed, I didn't proofread this blog and I'm sure there are errors. I can't afford a proofreader on my budget so deal with it!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Day Five: A Return To Aldi's

Day Four Gone. Let Day Five Begin

After my rookie experience at Aldi's, I decided to go back and give it another try. So right after work, I made the quick drive over. Parked in my exact same spot from the day before. Grabbed my Wal-Mart plastic sack and stuffed it in my pocket.

As I'm walking in, an older guy even offers me his cart he was going to put up! I politely say no, thank him and walk inside. I'm finally in the "in-crowd" at Aldi's! For dinner, it's spaghetti. I already have sauce, meat and noodles at home. My goal for Aldi's is to make it in and out with crescent rolls and garlic bread in hand.

In about ten minutes, I have my rolls and bread. I spent 9 of those minutes just walking up and down the aisles pricing everything in my head. Make my way to checkout, give the cashier my two items and get my total: $3 and change. (FYI if you use your debit/credit card, you have to type in your pin). During the whole checkout time, I was observing all the cashiers. They were all extremely nice to all the customers AND they are quick with the scanning. One cashier scanned an entire grocery cart of food in minutes. If only AVI servers were that quick with serving food..........

Day four also marked my brother's birthday. I texted him happy birthday and check to see if he was doing anything. My siblings and I all usually get each other birthday gifts and I'm going to have to figure something out. I am "balling on a budget" and will likely just give him cash once I see him next. Then I have my nephew's birthday this weekend. Fortunately I "cheated" and purchased his gift last month. I don't want a kid to have to be affected by my project minimum wage and get a crappy gift. Like I said at the beginning, I am taking certain liberties with this project.

But seriously, say you live in a family of four or six and not making much money. The kids would have to come first for gifts so I'm sure there are many couples who don't even get each other gifts because they put their kids first and secondly to save money.

On top of all this, I'm out of light bulbs at home. I try to stick to energy efficient light bulbs at home but they are pretty costly compared to the $1 package of four light bulbs you can buy. Being energy efficient isn't exactly cheap. It's kind of an oxymoron. You have to spend money to save money. I'm just going to stick it out through this month and if I have to live in darkness so be it.

So my current budget after dinner is $307 that needs to last through January. The first weekend is coming up in Project Minimum Wage. If I'm lucky my friends won't be doing anything so I can stay in and save money. For sure I won't be going out to the bars to watch the Cotton Bowl tonight.

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Schedule for this weekend is Letter T where I'll be trying something new. It'll still be in my Project Minimum Wage budget. I just have to be a little creative!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter where we have over 500 followers now and like us on Facebook where we're closing in on 200 likes.

Happy Dining All!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Day Four: The Aldi's Experience

Day Three is in the books!

Just to rehash I started the day at $323.

My plan was to go to Aldi's after work at the recommendation of many folks through Twitter and Facebook. I haven't been to Aldi's since high school, picking up food for a food drive.


I arrived there after work. I'm walking in to the store and as I'm about to walk in, I see an older lady pushing a cart to the front as she just unloaded her groceries. She looked like she was getting cold so I walked over to her to grab the cart for her and take it back. You know, be the Good Samaritan. As I get ready to grab the cart, she says to me, "You can't have it sir". I'm a bit flabbergasted. I tell her, "Its ok, I can take it back for you." She gives me this awkward look and says, "I need my quarter back."

At this point I'm confused at what is going on. She then points at this quarter attached to her cart. It then clicks in my head; you have to use a quarter to use a cart at Aldi's. I probably looked like the biggest cheapskate trying to grab her cart. I have no quarters on me, so I get no cart.

I go inside and start browsing the aisles. Don't think there was one brand name I've heard of outside of the ramen noodles. I grab a box of crackers along the way and keep browsing the aisles. Then I see people with all these boxes. I'm confused as to what's going on. Then it hits me again, everybody is bringing in their own plastic bags and boxes. Ahhhh people bring in their own items to bag their groceries with. Around this time, I think people are starting to look at me like a lost puppy. I put my box of crackers back and leave Aldi's. I was not prepared for the shopping experience that is Aldi's. Hop in my car and drive to Dillon's to pick up stuff for dinner.

Maybe next time on a trip to Aldi's, I'll be more prepared and not trying to steal an older lady's quarter from her.

Dinner for last night was grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato bisque soup along with lactose pills.

$323 is now down to $316 but that included a box of knock off grape nuts cereal to change up my daily oatmeal breakfast.

On to day four...........

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If you go to the "Features and Odds & Ends" link at the top of this page, that section will list every Project Minimum Wage Blog I will be writing in case you get behind or would like to go back and read old ones.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter where we have over 500 followers now and like us on Facebook where we're closing in on 200 likes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Project Minimum Wage: Day Three

Day Two Over.

One thing I've learned is that for cheap entertainment "Redbox is your best friend." With that said, I finally saw "The Help". Not sure I would have watched this otherwise but my god; this is the best movie I've seen in all of 2011 if not longer.

Yesterday's biggest purchase was gasoline. It was a hard pill to swallow to see $40 go out like that. That put me down to $331. I'm already into day three and have spent nearly $100 of my budget.

For dinner yesterday, it was rice, asparagus and tuna. That dropped me down to $324. Then take into account "The Help", I'm at $323.

Something I'm seriously considering for this month: dropping cable and my DVR. Its two things I haven't been able to live without but I don't need NFL Redzone anymore. All the NFL games I can watch on regular TV or at a friend's house because people who live on minimum wage....do have friends. Other TV shows I could always watch online. That would save me $60 which would be prorated to whatever. I'll have to make my decision after the Evansville game tonight.

Been trying to think of other ways to cut costs. I was called a clown sometimes in school so I wonder if anybody would hire me as a clown at their kid's birthday parties this month.

I still have to do some real grocery shopping instead of going to the store on a daily basis when I figure out what I want for lunch or dinner.

I can really feel the burn right now in my wallet. Ugh......

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If you go to the "Features and Odds & Ends" link at the top of this page, that section will list every Project Minimum Wage Blog I will be writing in case you get behind or would like to go back and read old ones.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

AVI Seafood and Chophouse: The Race to $100!

What’s one of the big new name restaurants to hit Wichita, KS? None other than AVI Seafood and Chophouse.

Website: http://www.360wichita.com/Restaurants/Steakhouses/AVI.html

They are located in Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview. I really wanted to check this place out so I enlisted the assistance of a longtime guest diner who has joined in on Letters A-I: Tiffany. We went to AVI on New Year’s Eve, a night where many restaurants “step their game up” so to speak.

Before all that, I purchased a gift voucher from Restaurants.com for around $6. It gave me $50 off my meal as long as I spend $100. How hard could it be for two people to ring up a $100 tab at a high end restaurant? Well on New Year's Eve, it was VERY hard.

We had reservations for 9 pm. Arrive just a few minutes before and they seat us right away. So far so good. We sit there and wait for our server to come take our drink orders. About five minutes go buy and a server comes up and asks "Have you been helped yet?". We answer no and he replies ok and says somebody will be right with us. Tick tock..... tick tock.... More time goes by. The same server comes by about five more minutes later and says, "You guys still haven't been helped yet? He'll be here in just a minute. If not, I'll help you." Ok, not off to a good start.

A couple minutes and finally our server comes out. We immediately order some crab cakes not sure if we’d ever see our server again. He comes back shortly to take our drink order and we each order a cocktail and a glass of wine along with an order of lobster rolls (which is a lettuce wrap but with lobster inside).

Our crab cakes come out. At this time, we decide to order two bowls of their lobster bisque soup. Regarding the crab cakes, I was told by a friend that the crab cakes at AVI were the best in Wichita. After a couple bites, Tiffany didn't think they were. She thought the ones from Bonefish were much better. Her quote: "They taste like cheeseburgers" as if they were cooked on the same grill next to one. I thought they were ok, nothing to write home about.

During this entire time, we're still waiting on our drinks, the soup, and the OTHER appetizer. Our server even mentions a couple times, your drinks are on the way. After a while, FINALLY our server comes out with our drinks. That was about 10-15 minutes from the order time. Immediately after that, our lobster bisque comes out which Tiffany thought was absolutely delicious. I thought it was ok. We thought bits of lobster would have been a nice touch.

During this time, we're still wondering where our lobster rolls are at. Our server even came by at one point and says, "Did you guys get your lobster rolls yet? Didn't think so." and walks off. So 25 minutes go by from the time we ordered them to the time we received them. Our server tells us, they are comped.

Dangit, we have to order more drinks! So Tiffany orders a couple more glasses of wine while I sit there complaining about how lousy our service was. Restaurant lesson to all the readers out there. Ways to cope with bad service: Drink Or Complain Or DO BOTH!

There was literally a point during all this, we contemplated just paying for the apps and drinks and leaving. We decided on staying.

We order our entrees. I go with the Spice Crusted Duck (came with parsnip whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus) and Tiffany goes with the Grilled Scottish Salmon (edamame succotash, griddle potatoes, and roasted tomato butter). This was the first time I've ever had duck before and it was DELICIOUS! Wasn't too big on the grilled asparagus which we were pretty sure were snap peas. The whipped potatoes which Tiffany thought was tasty were ok in my opinion. The first few bites into the salmon, Tiffany thought it was to die for. It was full of succulent flavor (I’ve seriously been waiting to use the word succulent in a blog for the past year and not even sure I used it appropriately). I even tried a bite, cooked to perfection. As she kept getting more towards the center, she noticed it wasn't cooked all the way through and wasn't in the mood to eat raw salmon on a night that would be followed up by New Year's Eve celebrating. So she didn't finish her salmon. The server never did ask how to cook the salmon so for some people it may have been ok but for Tiffany it wasn’t. I ate each portion of my duck, it had a dry look to it but didn't taste that way. Loved it. The sides, I could do without though.

So we did some quick math on our numbers. We figured we'd need to order another drink and two desserts to reach one hundred dollars.

We ask our server what the desserts were and he told us he could bring them all out on display. That worked for us. Not too much time goes by and the dessert tray is out (geez, if he worked just as hard in getting our apps out that would have been nice). He goes through each of the six desserts. We kind of gave each other the "meh" look as none of them really sounded good. We end up ordering just one dessert: the orange cheesecake. We did the math again and figured we'd need one more dessert to put us over $100. This was a rough estimate because we had no idea how much one of the cocktails and the desserts cost. When the server came back with our dessert, we asked for one more dessert to go and our ticket.

The orange cheesecake was very blah and didn't pack any flavor into it. Our server comes back and tells us he comped our second dessert to go because of the wait and hands us our ticket.

GREAT! We needed that dessert to get us over $100 and get us the hell out of there! The two comped items wasn’t enough to make up for the bad service. AVI on their site claims to be a four star restaurant. Does the fifth missing star stand for service cause that’s definitely where it lacked.

What was our final tab? $99.50 not including tax. Our gift voucher stated our tab must be $100 not including taxes or gratuity. We looked through our ticket. Two comped items and four glasses of wine which were supposed to be $8 according to the menu, we were charged $9. So even with a wrong price on four drinks, we still couldn't hit $100. We figured, we'd just give him the voucher and see if he said anything. He didn't say a word.

Received our ticket, paid it, grabbed our to go dessert and left.

To make matters worse, when we tried the dessert later (vanilla bean cake), it sucked.

Honestly overall it was just one of the worst services I've ever had in a restaurant. The constant waiting got so old. Not so sure we'll be going to AVI again. Tiffany called it one of the worst dining experiences she's ever had. I'm hoping she was talking about the service and not the company.

On the way out, we ran into some friends who were dining there. They had similar experiences as us with the lousy service. They said their night was slowly approaching three hours at a restaurant because of the waits. One of them even said, “Service was almost like it was an inconvenience for us to be here. Our waitress told my wife that the chef was angry people were ordering entrees with substitutions.”  Who says that, really?

AVI. What does that stand for. Annoying and Very Inconvenient.

AVI Seabar & Chophouse on Urbanspoon

Project Minimum Wage: Day Two

Entering into Day Two of Project Minimum Salary and I'm starting to wonder whether this is worth it. Just looking at my calendar for the month of January and I'm already starting to count how much each event may cost me and what that leaves me for the rest of the month.

Yesterday for lunch, it was breakfast: eggs, biscuits and bacon. For dinner, I broke down and had CiCi's. That will be the only time during the week I eat out. It just started getting late and I was so hungry from not gorging myself with food at lunch. At least I'll have breakfast food to cook another time and the comfort in knowing I may have helped CiCI's afford to live another day.

Currently down to $371 out of the $380 allotment I have. This morning it will be oatmeal for breakfast. Exciting. That's likely what it will be for most days; at least that's high in fiber, right?

The worst part of today is I'm going to likely need to put gas in my car. That's going to take a huge hit out of the money I have along with still needing to purchase groceries for the week (hopefully two weeks).

I've thought of some ways to try and get by: go to hotels after work, tell them I'm staying there and get free drinks at their bar downstairs. Stop by the Kansas Star Casino and put everything I have on black to double it up. Sit at the corner of 21st and Rock and beg for money. Get a fake ID for each day of the month with a different birthday listed so I can get a free meal each day.

I'm going to pass on those ideas in the meantime unless times call for desperate measures. Let's see how Day Two goes before all that........

If you go to the "Features and Odds & Ends" link at the top of this page, that section will list every Project Minimum Wage Blog I will be writing in case you get behind or would like to go back and read old ones.

This blog marks my 100th blog on WichitaByEB.com. I'd love to go celebrate over a bottle of wine or something. Box wine for dinner?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Project Minimum Wage Starts Today

Here we go, Project Minimum Wage starts today. Can I live for a month on a minimum wage salary?

For the basics, check out the original blog: Project Minimum Wage Blog

I'll have to be honest with everyone, I totally intended this to start on January 1st but the Mall and Target had some crazy New Year's sales going on and I just had to go buy, buy, buy. So here we are on January 2nd.

Let me preface this entire Project by saying, it's not going to be a true to life scenario. I'm taking some liberties due to certain scenarios in my life. For example, I'm leaving town for work for a few days so I may just take a break this project and extend Project Minimum Wage for the days I'm gone. In no way am I trying to make it sound like life is going to be very rough or act like I'm doing the real deal. I'm doing the best I can to imitate what life is going to be like while at the same time maintaining the life I'm living. And lastly, I know there are differences in my math for rent, insurance, taxes, etc. Many people have made suggestions on what would be best to do so like I said, just trying to do my best.

I've given myself a budget of $380 to live off of for this month (it was $420 but I took off $40 for cell phone). Expenses such as toiletries, food, entertainment, medical emergencies, clothes, etc will have to be within the $380 budget. I'm interested to see what I have left at the end and see what I'm able to save a month. Because think about it. At $380 a month, can one even have any sort of savings with that?

I'll try to keep a daily blog on this going. In between, I'll be doing some food blogs in between. I've been to a few restaurants during the Christmas and New Year's break to give me some stuff to write about to keep it fresh. Letter T will be mixed in as well. So be on the lookout for blogs on Ciao, AVI, Charlie's Pizza Taco and more.

Getting my shopping list ready for Wal-Mart. $380, can I do this? We'll see.