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Archive for July, 2008

Tracking Long Distance Gas Mileage

July 20th, 2008 at 06:29 pm

I visited with family for an enjoyable three days on the Jersey shore.

We fit in some blueberry picking and a trip to Island Beach State Park.

In my last post, i talked about how I got 39.4 miles to the gallon with my 99 Honda Civic HX. I clocked the mileage driving down to the Jersey shore. It's a three-hour trip one way. It was all highway driving but I took pains to maintain an average 60 mph and was curious to see how I'd do on this trip compared to the 39.4 miles per gallon I got driving my daily commute.

I'm happy to report I got 42.6 miles to the gallon. I chalk it up to hardly any any braking.

39.4 Miles Per Gallon

July 13th, 2008 at 11:34 am

Have you ever checked your car's fuel efficiency? Up until recently, I hadn't checked mine, but the EPA rates my 1999 Honda Civic as getting 29 City/35 Highway. (You can check your car's efficiency on

I suspected it might get quite a bit less than the EPA estimates because when I bought my kayak a few years back, I had a kayak rack mounted on the roof of the car, causing considerable wind drag. And are my car tires properly inflated? I don't really know; it's not something I check regularly.

My Honda isn't an EX, DX or LX. It's an HX. What makes it unique is the CVT, or "Continuously Variable Transmission." As explained in the sales literature, this transmission works a little differently and is supposed to eke out a little more fuel efficiency. That's the extent of my knowledge on CVTs!

The car has an automatic transmission.

So I made note of the odometer reading when I filled up 13 days prior, and then again this weekend. I drove a total of 390 miles during this interval. Most of that is my RT 47.5 mile commute. I divided 390 by the number of gallons on the second refill.

I was astonished to see that I'm getting 39.4 miles to the gallon! To what do I attribute beating the EPA estimate by 4 miles to the gallon?

I am a master of fuel-efficient driving techniques. I've driven this way for years. Here's what I do:

First, my entire commute is on back roads. The county I live in is largely residential and there just aren't any major north/south highways; the only alternative to the back roads, if you're traveling north/south, is a single two-lane highway that is heavily commercial and greatly congested. Most commuters I know avoid this highway like the plague because it's a notoriously stressful and slow route to take, and in fact mile-wise, it adds eight miles to my drive. In any case, the back roads are very scenic and you pass by some lovely reservoirs.

On these back roads, the fastest you can drive is 50 or 55 mph.

I'm guessing my average commute speed is 45 mph, which is close to the "sweet spot" of maximum fuel economy.

I try to drive at a consistent speed and, importantly, leave enough room between me and the car ahead of me so that if the other driver brakes for any reason, it may be possible for me to simply take my foot off the gas; if I do brake, it's gentle and gradual. So no tailgating and no hard braking!

When starting off from a stop sign or traffic light, I accelerate gradually.

Basically, I treat my car as if it were a slow-moving senior who needs extra time to get where they're going, and I don't push it to do spectacular feats. (Actually, its 4 cylinders never really made it a speed demon, so that's just as well.)

The Grocery Game

July 6th, 2008 at 11:45 am

Like many food shoppers, I'm not loyal to a single grocery store. Depending on what's on sale, I may frequent Stop & Shop, Trader Joe's, Costco, Shop Rite and Expect Discounts, a discount supermarket with a large Latino customer base.

But with grocery prices ever rising, I'm forced to reexamine the price of everything. About a month ago, I started another price book, which is really just a list, organized by both store and food category (dairy, canned veggies, fresh produce, frozen, grains, beverages, etc.) recording the prices of those items I most regularly purchase.

Recently, I shifted my allegiance to Expect Discounts and spent less time at Stop & Shop. Fresh produce, for instance, was always cheaper at Xpect as long as you didn't mind picking through over-ripe fruit in their unrefrigerated bins.

I pored through the Shop Rite circular. I was quite surprised to see that in some cases, Shop Rite prices beat Expect's. Take ketchup. I happened to have just bought ketchup at Xpect, a 1 lb, 8 oz. bottle for $1.18. I thought it was higher than before but assumed that since everything was going up, it wasn't out of keeping with anything else. Shop Rite's price was .99 for a larger 2 lb, 4 oz bottle. Imagine that!

I thought i was getting a "deal" at Xpect when I found two pound boxes of pasta at .80 a pound, but Shop Rite had one pound boxes on sale at .74 a pound.

Not everything at Shop Rite was cheaper. I bought a two pound bag of pre-cooked frozen shrimp at Stop & Shop for $6.99, while the same item cost $9.99 at Shop Rite.

Until food prices stabilize (and that won't happen until oil prices do), keeping an accurate price book will continue to be a challenge.

Until then, I won't buy many food items until they go on sale. Pepperidge Farm Dark German Wheat Bread is just great, but once I learned it goes on sale at regular intervals, I'll wait until it's offered at one-third off. Then I'll stock up and buy four loaves, freezing those I'm not using.

I do the same thing with Lean Cuisine entrees. They're handy and easy to bring to the office for lunches, but their regular price of $3.50-plus is too high, so I'll wait until they go on sale at $2.50 each. If they don't go on sale, I don't buy 'em.