How to Save

General Mills Pledges to be All-Natural

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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General MillsSeveral decades ago, people decided what food to buy for their families based on little more than the brand. Today, parents read the ingredient labels on food, in search of the healthiest choice. They might choose products from General Mills, who has made an all-natural pledge.

In the summer of 2015, General Mills announced that it would begin removing all artificial flavors and colors from its cereal products. The company used an ad campaign called Parent Promises to get the word out. In their artistic and amusing ad, General Mills states: “We are committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from our cereals.”

Why would a big company like General Mills be making that kind of promise to consumers? It could be due to a growing concern on the part of many consumers about the ingredients that are in the foods they purchase and feed to their families. Over the years, many families have started selecting foods that they perceived to be natural over ones that had a lot of artificial ingredients.

In September of 2015, General Mills created a gluten-free version of its popular Cheerios cereal. Their ad featured Phil Zietlow, who is a 50-year veteran of the research and development team at General Mills. He discovered that his daughter-in-law, Joyce, cannot eat gluten. (She has celiac disease). So, he set out to create a Cheerios that she (and others like her) could safely eat.

General Mills is also keeping consumer’s preferences regarding natural foods in mind when it acquires other brands. General Mills acquired Annie’s, which is a brand that makes organic snack products. A few of their products (including two types of macaroni and cheese and two flavors of cookies) are gluten-free.

When can you expect to see the new, healthier, General Mills cereal products on the shelves at your local grocery store? The changeover will not be instantaneous. General Mills has indicated that it would eliminate the questionable ingredients from all of its cereal products by 2017.

That being said, it is possible that some of the new versions of their famous cereals will appear in 2016. It is a good idea to read the ingredient labels before you make your purchase. Another option for health conscious consumers is to buy cereal from other brands that already have removed the artificial ingredients. This is an area that is likely to have a lot of competition in coming years.

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Ways to Save on Wrapping Paper

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Gift boxYou’ve finished your Christmas shopping and managed to find something wonderful for everyone on your list. Do you have enough of a budget to buy wrapping paper? If not, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to save on wrapping paper.

Use What You Already Have
Before you purchase new rolls of wrapping paper, it would be good to check and see what you actually have at home. Many people put the rolls of wrapping paper, and gift bags, that they didn’t use into storage. You might have everything you need to wrap this year’s gifts stored in a closet, attic, or shed.

Want to plan head for next year? Wait until everyone has opened their gifts. Collect the gift boxes and bags to use next year. You might be able to salvage some of the wrapping paper, too. A large box, carefully opened, could give you some undamaged decorative paper to wrap a medium sized or small gift in next Christmas.

Have the Store Wrap it For You
Pay attention while you are shopping for gifts. Some stores will wrap items for you. In general, a store may be willing to wrap items that you purchased that day from their store. Ask the cashier to have someone wrap the gifts for you. It won’t cost you any extra money, but you may have to wait your turn if there are a lot of other people who had the same plan.

Look for tables that are set up by non-profit groups. These groups will wrap gifts for you – no matter where you purchased the item from. All they ask in return is a donation. It is expected that you will donate some money. You get to choose how much.

Will you be shopping online? Some retailers are willing to wrap gifts for customers -for a fee. There should be a box to check indicating that you want the gift wrapped. If you only have one more gift to wrap, the fee may be more economical than buying an entire new roll of wrapping paper.

Get Creative
You don’t necessarily have to go the traditional route when it comes to gift wrapping. It is ok to be a bit more creative with how you wrap gifts. The key to pulling this off is to tailor it to the taste and interests of the gift recipient.

The “green” person in your family might appreciate a gift wrapped in newspaper or is placed inside a paper bag. They are biodegradable and recyclable. A quilter might appreciate a gift that is wrapped in a lovely fabric. It’s two gifts in one!

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Tricks to Help You Avoid Emotional Eating

Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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In Season Natural Foods for the Autumn MonthsHow do you cope when you are feeling stressed out? Many people resort to emotional eating. They aren’t actually hungry, but the act of eating, and the taste of the food, brings some comfort. Emotional eating might lighten your mood but it can reach a point where it is unhealthy. Here are some tips to help you avoid emotional eating.

Try the Apple Test
Are you looking for something to eat because you are stressed out or because you are actually hungry? One way to figure that out is with the apple test. If you truly are hungry, an apple is going to sound just as good as any other snack option. If you don’t want the apple it means you aren’t actually hungry and are about to engage in emotional eating.

The apple test works because it forces you to consciously think about the motivations behind your sudden interest in snacking. Being aware of the reason why you are wanting food can help prevent you from engaging in emotional eating.

Don’t Bring It Home
Is there a specific food that is your go-to when you are experiencing emotional struggles? Don’t bring home that particular food. It can be super easy to grab something out of your kitchen when you are feeling stressed out.

The accessibility of the food brings instant gratification. If you don’t have your go-to food at home, you cannot possibly use it for emotional eating. It might not feel worth it to leave your home in order to obtain that food.

Healthier Versions of Comfort Foods
Another way to avoid emotional eating is to substitute your favorite comfort foods with healthier versions. This might help you to get the taste or consistency of what you are craving in a smaller amount (and possibly less calories).

Dark chocolate is a good substitute for milk chocolate. Choose a dark chocolate that is at least 85% cocoa. The rich taste of dark chocolate will satisfy your craving quicker than milk chocolate would – so you end up eating less. This is just one example of how to substitute a comfort food with a heather version.

Swap Food for An Activity
Have you figured out that you aren’t actually hungry – but still feel like your comfort foods are calling out to you? Swap that food with an activity. Play a quick match-three game online. Go for a short walk. Take five minutes to write in a journal. These easy to do distractions engage your mind in something unrelated to food.

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Tips for Saving Money on Shipping

Posted on Monday, December 7th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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presentsAre you planning on shipping presents out to family members who live far away? Make sure you take the time to figure out which shipping option is the best one for you. There are things you can do that will help you save money on shipping.

Ship It Now!
The easiest way to save money on shipping is to send those gifts out as quickly as possible. Ship a gift early in December, and you will probably be given a choice of shipping rates (based on how much time it would take to ship the item). Wait too long, and your only options will be “next day” or “overnight”. Those are usually the most expensive options.

Online Shopping
Another easy way to save money on the cost of shipping is to shop online. Sometimes, websites offer free shipping if you spend a certain amount of money (or more). This works out well if you were planning on spending that much anyway.

Check to see if the website will wrap the gift for you before they ship it. If so, then all you have to do is put the recipient’s shipping address as the location you want the gift sent to – and you are all done!

Comparison Shop
You’ve already purchased and wrapped all the gifts you need to send out. The next thing to do is figure out how much each box weighs. Then, it’s time to “do the math”. Check the shipping cost from USPS, FedEx, and UPS. Make sure to consider whether or not they can offer insurance on the item you want to ship, and how much that will cost. One of them will probably end up costing less than the other two.

Get Boxes for Free
The United States Postal Service offers free holiday priority mail flat rate boxes. They come in different sizes. Pick up the size you need from your local post office. Package up the gift you want to send to a family member who lives far away (and include some paper or bubblewrap for safety). Bring the box back to the Post Office.

This saves you some money because you can get the boxes for free. These boxes can be shipped by USPS for a low flat rate. Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes feature predetermined rates regardless of how much the box weighs. The cost is even lower when you ship online!

Ship it to the Store
Instead of having your online purchase shipped to your home, see if you can have that item shipped to the store instead. This will only work if there is a “brick and mortar” store near where you live. The store will pay for the shipping. All you have to do is go to the store and pick it up.

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Simple Swaps for Healthier Eating

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Christmas cookiesOne of the ways people celebrate the holiday season is with food. Suddenly, there are seasonal pastries, beverages, and goodies that aren’t sold at any other time of year. The plethora of tasty treats can make it difficult for people to refrain from overindulging. Fortunately, there are some simple swaps that could help you eat a bit healthier anyway.

Christmas cookies are tempting because they taste good and also because they bring up nostalgic, warm and fuzzy, feelings about one’s childhood. While some can eat one cookie and be satisfied, others have difficulty stopping themselves after having just one.

The most obvious way to stick with healthy eating in this situation would be to avoid bringing home Christmas cookies, (or other holiday pastries). Swap the sugar filled holiday cookies with a package of organic whole grain fig bars. You can still eat something sweet and cookie-like with this healthier swap.

Craving a salty, crunchy, snack? Many people open a bag of potato chips and eat more than they expected to. Instead, swap out the potato chips and choose a somewhat salty snack that is healthier (and just as crunchy). Some healthier choices include: popcorn that has been air popped, packaged low-salt, low fat popcorn, or seasoned rice crackers. Nuts and seeds are a good swap too, because the protein in them can help make you feel less hungry.

Does your family eat a lot of rice? While there isn’t anything inherently unhealthy about white rice, there is a healthier rice to swap it for. Brown rice has three times as much fiber as white rice does. Brown rice is also high in other good things for your body, such as selenium and manganese.

Rice might not be something everyone considers to be a holiday treat. However, swapping white rice for brown rice could give you “room” to indulge in a small cookie or holiday candy without completely ruining your diet or calorie count.

What about all those lovely holiday beverages that are only sold at this time of year? When you order your holiday coffee swap out the dairy milk with 2% or low-fat milk. Or, consider having it with soy – or without anything extra added to it.

It might be possible to get the flavor you crave from a holiday tea instead of a sugar laden latte. For example, Starbucks has a lovely gingerbread tea that makes a nice swap for the sugary gingerbread latte coffee beverage. If all else fails, choose a smaller sized drink than you typically would ask for. Less beverage means at least a little bit less calories.

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How to Find the Best Black Friday Coupon Codes

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 at 9:23 am
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Black Friday 1

Will you be shopping online this Black Friday? I avoid all stores and do all of my shopping online. It’s so much easier and I love being able to take advantage of the hot coupon codes available!

To find the latest and best codes, simply search for the store of your choice below and then click on the orange button to SHOP NOW or get the COUPON CODE!

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Aldi Removes Foods With Undesirable Ingredients

Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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aldiOver the years, there has been a growing number of people who take the time to read the ingredients on food labels. We all want to feed our families the best, healthiest, foods. Aldi understands this. The grocery store has removed foods that contain undesirable ingredients.

Aldi has its own private label of products. More than 90 percent of the products sold at Aldi are the ones they sell under their exclusive brands. The private label has been good for consumers because it enables Aldi to keep prices low.

The private label also allows Aldi to have significant control over what is sold on its store shelves. Aldi has the ability to control the ingredients in its private label brands. The grocery store chose to remove ingredients that many of its customers identified as undesirable. Aldi made the announcement after they actually started making those changes.

Aldi took out certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils, and MSG. The change has already begun, and by the end of the year, none of the undesirable ingredients will be in any of the foods in Aldi’s private label line of products.

In addition, Aldi’s SimplyNature line of products was already free of more than 125 ingredients that consumers have spoken out against. Aldi has also expanded its organic produce options. This gives consumers that are trying to bring home healthy food for their families more options to choose from, and at lower prices than they might find in other grocery stores.

MSG is an abbreviation for monosodium glutamate. It is one of the undesirable ingredients that Aldi has removed from their private line of products. MSG is a flavor enhancer that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines as “generally recognized as safe”.

Some people have no ill effects after eating food that contains MSG. Others can experience side effects that are known as “MSG symptom complex”. Those symptoms can include headache, flushing, sweating, facial pressure or tightness, numbness, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, or weakness. Researchers have not found a definite link between MSG and those symptoms.

Some parents of children who have ADHD, FASD, or autism, like to avoid foods that contain fake dyes and artificial colors. Many believe that the fake coloring in food dyes has an impact on children’s behavior. There are those who feel that certain artificial food dyes set off symptoms in children who are prone to hyperactivity.

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Sears Offers Layaway

Posted on Monday, November 16th, 2015 at 5:05 pm
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Sears LogoSears is among the stores that are offering the convenience of layaway to their customers. Use it wisely, and it can help you to be able to purchase holiday gifts. The trick to using layaway without having it become too expensive is to pay attention to the rules.

Sears layaway program can be used either in their stores or online. No downpayment is required if you choose to use layaway in a Sears store. If you want to use their layaway program online, it cost one penny as a down payment.

That being said, there are service fees to be aware of. The only exception is in states where service fees are prohibited by law. The Sears website does not specifically mention which states prohibit service fees for layaway. You will have to do some homework to figure if your state is among them.

In addition, you will be required to pay a downpayment at the time you start to use layaway. The exact amount of your downpayment is going to depend on the overall cost of the items you want to put on layaway.

There are two different spans of layaway to choose from at Sears. One is an 8-week layaway contract. If you choose this option, be aware it comes with a $5 service fee. Those who select an 8-week layaway must make four payments on the items they put on layaway (during the 8 weeks). The amount of the payments is equal to the total cost of the products you put on layaway

There is a 12-week layaway for people who choose to put $400 (or more) of product into the Sears layaway program. The 12-week layaway requires a $10 service fee. Those who are using the 12-week layaway must make 6 payments during the 12-week layaway period. The amount of the payments is equal to the total cost of the products you put on layaway.

Not all products are eligible for layaway. If you shop online, look for the items identified as “Available for Layaway”. Those items are the only ones that can be placed into your online layaway. It appears that all items in the Sears store are eligible for layaway. The Sears website does not list any limitations on products or on a minimal cost for individual products.

Make sure that you pay off your layaway when the payment is required. If you miss a payment, you get a 7 day grace period after your payment due date before your contract is cancelled and items are returned to stock. A non-refundable cancellation fee will apply. You can make payments either at the Sears store where you have the layaway, or online through the Sears website.

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Food Industry Undergoing “Tectonic Shift”

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 at 2:36 pm
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EarthYou may have noticed a trend that is happening in grocery stores. Many stores have created their own brands of organic products. In addition, they are including more products that are allergy-friendly. It has been said that the food industry is undergoing a “tectonic shift”.

What is a tectonic shift? It is the name of a process that occurs when the plates that make up the Earth’s crust move. Land masses move closer to, or farther from, each other. Over time, this changes how the world looks.

People also use the phrase “tectonic shift” to refer to a change that has a strong and widespread impact. For example, the phrase has been used to explain a change in voting patterns. Right now, the way the food industry functions is going through a big enough change for people to apply the phrase “tectonic shift” to it.

What does that change consist of? Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb said that the “tectonic shift” in the food industry is one that is resulting in a push toward greater transparency and sustainability. It appears that this push is largely coming from the millennial generation.

For Whole Foods, the shift is going to cause many changes. It has influenced the creation of a new customer loyalty program. It also pushed Whole Foods to become more transparent about what’s on the shelves. People want to know what is in the food they are choosing for their families.

Transparency is important for people who strive to feed their families the very best foods. This is why consumers select organic products over non-organic ones. It is why people who have a family member with a food allergy take the time to read all of the ingredients on a food label. The more transparency, the less chance of an accidental ingestion of an allergen.

The other way the “tectonic shift” is affecting Whole Foods has to do with the environment. The company has created a rating system that takes into account holistic and “progressive practices” on the farm. This includes things like recycling and water. Overall, this gives the consumer greater transparency about where their food comes from (and how it was grown).

Whole foods also cut the amount of energy it uses in its freezers by 40% in the past five years. One way it did this was by adding doors to the freezers. You may have noticed other stores have the lights off in their freezers (until a customer walks by or opens a door).

The “tectonic shift” is affecting all grocery stores, not just Whole Foods. Overall, this will result in consumers being able to access healthier food that was grown in situations that are good for the environment.

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Things to Know About Layaway at Walmart

Posted on Monday, November 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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cr_mega_376_walmart1Layaway can be extremely convenient for people who are shopping for holiday gifts. It gives you the opportunity to put something on hold until your next paycheck arrives. It is important to understand the “fine print” involved with a particular store’s layaway program. Here are some key things to know about Walmart’s layaway.

Walmart’s layaway program is rather simple, as compared to the layaway program of some other stores. The Walmart layaway program is offered starting on August 28 and ending on December 14. That means that you must make sure you pay off everything that you have sitting in layaway before December 14.

There is no opening fee associated with Walmart’s layaway. You can place items on hold in their layaway program without having to spend extra money on an initial layaway fee. You will, however, be required to make a downpayment at the time you use the layaway program. That down payment will either be $10, or it will be 10% of the total cost of the items you put on hold (whichever is greater).

There is a limitation on the types of items that you can put on layaway at Walmart. It is for products that come from the following sections of the store: electronics, auto electronics, furniture, toys, small appliances, and jewelry. Some select sporting goods are also able to be placed into layaway.

Walmart’s layaway is offered “in stores only”. This means that you cannot shop on the Walmart website and expect to be able to put the items you are interested in on layaway. Typically, layaway is only offered in stores, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There are some rules to be aware of. The individual items that you put on layaway must be $10 or greater. That means you cannot put something on layaway that costs less than $10 on its own. Keep that in mind if you have selected items that are on sale. They might cost $10 regularly, but less than that during the sale.

Your total purchase must be $50 or greater. That means you can’t use Walmart’s layaway program unless the total amount of the products you want to put on hold equals at least $50. It is acceptable for that total to be more than $50, but it cannot be less than that.

You must pick up, and pay for, everything you have on layaway by December 14. Write down that date so you don’t forget it in the chaos that happens right before Christmas. Miss that date, and you will lose all of the items you were holding. That can be problematic if those items were intended to be gifts for your family.

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