Stuck Indoors for Months, Now What?

Belt tightening is an old expression that alludes to reducing your spending. It dates back to the Great Depression of 1929 when it meant you didn’t have enough money for food. With the COVID-19 pandemic we have two opposing forces to deal with.  Many of you are working from home & probably snacking more than ever. Others are furloughed and need to save money. Here are two takes on this from a science standpoint.

Science Belt Tightening = Wardrobe Malfunction

Belt tightening when money is tight. Maybe you’re eating less or better still, spending…time on the treadmill. Either way, that T-shirt & shorts combo now fits a lot more loosely. You head out the door for your daily walk  & oops, the shorts are now around your knees.  All is not lost, science tools to the rescue.

The solution is obvious-add another notch to your belt. You could use your electric drill or some scissors but it’s a job that takes a steady hand. One slip of a sharp bit or blade & that beautiful leather belt is ruined. The perfect tool for this is a simple cork borer, once found in every chemistry lab.

Cork Borer-Science Tool Belt Hole Maker

Simply mark the spot of the next hole, 25mm/1 inch away, (1/2 inch for women?). If you a complete set choose the borer closest in hole size & ream out a hole in the belt. A perfect round hole in seconds.

Cork borers, if you can find them, need to be sharp to be effective. Sharpen with a tapered abrasive drill bit or do it by hand with a small, round file.  Cinch that belt & start walking!

Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot Belt Tightening

Thousands of Instant Pots are gathering dust in kitchens throughout North America. Depending on the meal, you can save both time and money & maybe a little bit of weight.  If you own a regular pressure cooker & an induction cooktop, some of these items are even faster than with an Instant Pot. Here are some examples.

  1. Hard boiled eggs. Allow 2-3 minutes to come to pressure & another 5 for cooking. Normal cooldown adds another 3-5 minutes but you can release the pressure if you’re in a hurry. Cook what you need for a week or two & refrigerate the eggs in their shell once they’ve cooled. Pressure cooked eggs will keep in the fridge for weeks to a month.  This method only uses 100mL (4oz) of water compared to 500mL (2 cups) to do it in a pot. Time & money saved.
  2. Great corn on the cob. Depending on the size of your cooker, you can fit 2-6 ears of shucked corn. Allow 2-4 minutes to heat up & then cook at pressure for 3 minutes & then a rapid release. Total time is under 10 minutes. Again, only 100mL (4oz) of water compared to a 1L (1 quart). Time & money savings.
  3. Oatmeal.  Roughly 35 minutes from warm up to cool down compared to over an hour on the stove. Cook enough for the week. Bulk hulled oats are cheap (~$25CAD/10kg). A bag makes 400 x 100g (4oz) servings which works out to about 7.5 cents a serving. Add brown sugar, nuts, fresh or dried fruit as well as milk to suit your tastes. Cheap & filling.
  4. Legume based soups. Navy beans, split peas, lentils. Take your pick. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, whatever your recipe calls for. Ingredients are cheap & available year round. Total time for preparation & cooking is maybe an 30-40 minutes for the first meal, minutes for reheated leftovers.
  5. Mashed potatoes. Chop up the potatoes, heat, cook & mash in 10 minutes.


Things You Can Do With Cork

Cork stoppers for test tubes. Make your own spice rack.

Cork stoppers for flasks. Make your own juice or wine decanters

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