Stuck Indoors for Months, Now What?

Belt tightening is an old expression that alludes to reducing your spending. It probably 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, are now made as cheaply as possible with & can lose their edge after quickly. Sharpen them with what a tapered abrasive stone 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. Yes the cooking time is faster but preparation time is about the same. So, unless you’re in the habit of watching your food cook, you aren’t that far ahead, especially if you are WFH.  Simple things you can cook that to save a time and money & maybe lose weight. A regular pressure cooker on an induction cooktop is also fast and easy. For technically inclined, see Autoclave.

  1. Super fast hard boiled eggs. My machine takes 2 minutes to come to pressure & then 6-7 minutes before the heat switches off. Cooldown adds another 3 minutes or break the pressure seal if you’re really hungry. Cook as many as you might need for a week or two & refrigerate the eggs once cool; a pressure cooker sterilizes food inside an out so they will keep for a very long time.  This method only heats 100mL (4oz) of water compared to 500mL (2 cups). Time & money saved.
  2. Best corn on the cob. Shuck 2 -4 ears of corn (for 2 to 4 people). Cook 3 minutes at pressure & cool down. Ready in under 10 minutes. Second helpings can be readied while you’re eating the main meal. Again, only 100mL (4oz) of water compared to a 1L (1 quart). Lots of money saved.
  3. Oatmeal.  21 minutes at pressure plus time to warm up & cool, ~35 minutes start to finish compared to over an hour on the stove. I cook up enough for a week. I use the coarsest, unhulled oats I can buy in bulk because it is dirt cheap (~$30CAD/10kg). It makes 400 x 100g (4oz) servings which works out to about 10 cents each. Add sugar, nuts, fresh or dried fruit as well as milk to keep it interesting. Lots of time & money saved.
  4. Legumes. Navy beans or split peas, take your pick. Depending on the recipe you add carrots, celery, potatoes, onions. Most of the ingredients are cheap & available year round. Preparation & cooking start to finish is maybe an 30-40 minutes for enough that will last days. Again, time & money saved.
  5. Mashed potatoes. Chop up the potatoes, cook in 6-8 minutes.


2 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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