How to Save

President Obama Signed a GMO Labeling Bill

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016 at 5:30 pm
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President Obama signed S. 764 which involves regulations about how food packages that contain GMOs are labeled.  What does this mean for consumers?President Obama has signed S. 764, a bill that (among other things) includes a national bioengineered food disclosure standard. What does this mean for consumers?

It’s still being worked out.
The law requires the Secretary of Agriculture to come up with a national labeling standard that would be placed on packages of food that contain GMOs. The time frame for that is within the next two years.

In other words, the bill has been signed into law, but the law isn’t ready to immediately be enforced. When everything is ready, the entire United States will have the exact same GMO labeling law in place.

It overturns States GMO labeling laws.
Vermont already had a GMO labeling law in place. It required foods that contained GMOs to be have a label on the package that said “produced with genetic engineering”. The law signed by President Obama overturns that law (and other state GMO labeling laws). Opponents of the bill prefer stricter GMO labeling laws than what is included in the new federal law.

There are three options for labeling.
The new law gives food manufacturers three options that they can use to label packages that contain GMOs. One option is to carry a text label (similar to the Vermont law). Another option is to put a symbol on the package that indicates that the food inside includes GMOs.

The third option is to put a QR code on the label. People who have smartphones can scan the electronic code that is on a package to find out whether the food contains GMOs. It would lead to a website that shows the information. Opponents of the law point out that not everyone has a smartphone, and this could leave many consumers unable to read the GMO label.

Foods can still be labeled organic.
The wording of the bill states that food that is certified under the national organic program (which was established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990) can still be labeled organic. The organic label will be considered sufficient to make the claim that the organic food does not contain GMOs.

This means that people who have concerns about GMOs have the potential to completely avoid them by purchasing organic foods. In order to meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with GMOs from farm to table.

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Tax Free Weekends Help You Save on School Supplies

Posted on Monday, August 1st, 2016 at 6:58 pm
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Sales tax free weekends can help you save money on school supplies, clothing, and more!  Here are the states that are having them in August.The start of a brand new school year is just a few weeks away. One way to save money on school supplies is to take advantage of tax free weekends.

August 5 and 6:

Iowa
Iowa’s tax free weekend is an annual holiday that is held the first Friday and Saturday of August. Sunday is not included, so you will need to plan accordingly. Iowa’s tax free weekend is for clothing. They define “clothing” as: “any article of wearing apparel and typical footwear intended to be worn on or about the human body.” It is for any clothing item priced at $100 or less.

Louisiana
Louisiana offers a sales tax discount on back-to-school supplies, electronics, furniture, an other retail items. Louisiana reminds shoppers to keep their receipts for back-to-school items, such as supplies, uniforms, and equipment required by schools. Those purchases might qualify for tax deductions on 2016 Louisiana Income Tax Returns.

August 5-7:

Alabama
* Books – any item priced at $30 or less
* School supplies – any item priced at $50 or less, including school art supplies and instructional manuals
* Clothing – any item priced at $100 or less
* Computers and software – Any item priced at $750 or less

Florida
* Clothing, footwear, and certain accessories at $60 or less per item
* Certain school supplies at $15 or less per item

Missouri
* Clothing – any article having a taxable value of $100 or less
* School Supplies – not to exceed $50 per purchase
* Computer software – taxable value of $350 or less
* Personal Computers – not to exceed $1,500
* Computer peripheral devices – not to exceed $1,500
* Graphing calculators – not to exceed $150

New Mexico
* Clothing or shoes – priced at less than $100 per unit
* Desktop, laptop, or notebook computers – at a price limit of $1,000
* Related computer hardware – at a price limit of $500
* School supplies – must be under $30 per unit

Ohio
* Clothing priced at $75 per item or less
* School supplies priced at $20 per item or less
* School instructional material priced at $20 per item or less

Oklahoma
Clothing or footwear that is $100 or less per item

Texas
* Clothing and footwear that is $100 or less per item
* Backpacks priced at less than $100
* School supplies priced at less than $100 purchased for use by a student in an elementary or secondary school

South Carolina
All clothing, clothing accessories, footwear, school supplies, computers, printers and printer supplies, computer software, bed linens, and bath accessories are all eligible – with no spending limit.

Virginia
* School supplies – $20 or less per item
* Clothing and footwear – $100 or less per item
* Products that meet Energy Star and WaterSense qualifications – priced at $2,500 or less
* Portable generators – priced at $1,000 or less
* Gas-powered chainsaws – priced at $350 or less
* Other hurricane preparedness supplies and chainsaw accessories – priced at $60 or less

August 6-7:

Maryland
All clothing and footwear – $100 or less per item

August 21-27:

Connecticut
All clothing and footwear that costs less than $100 per item

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You Might Be Recycling Wrong

Posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Recycling is good for the planet.  Make sure you aren't recycling wrong.  One mistake could mean your recyclables end up in a landfill.We have been taught that recycling is good for the planet. When everything works like it should, recyclables get sorted correctly and prepared for reuse. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to recycle correctly. You might be recycling wrong.

Not Everything Can Be Recycled
Most people understand that plastic bottles can be recycled. This doesn’t mean that all things made of plastic can go in the recycling bin. Some recycling facilities only take certain kinds of plastic. Take the time to learn what kinds of plastic can be accepted by your local recycling facility (or the recycling truck that comes to pick it up.) It matters!

Do not assume that because some types of plastic bottles can be recycled that it means that all items made of all types of plastics are recyclable. Things like plastic shower curtains, plastic toys, plastic plants, and plastic shopping bags are not recyclable. Don’t put them into the recycling bin.

Plastic bags can be recycled at your local grocery store. There is usually a designated plastic bag recycling container near the door of the store. It might be a repurposed trash can that has a sign on it letting people know that it is for plastic bags only.

Trash Cannot be Recycled
Many people put their soda cans into a plastic bag before recycling them. That’s fine if you are going to a sorting facility and intend to take all those cans out of the bag before turning them in. Don’t toss a plastic bag full of cans into the recycling bin. Your recycling facility might not be able to process the bag. The result could be that your bag of otherwise perfectly good recyclable cans will wind up in a landfill.

Do you live in a place that asks residents to put all types of recyclables: cans, plastic bottles, and paper, into one recycling container? That system can work well if everyone follows the rules. Sadly, all it takes is for one person to throw garbage into that recycling container to spoil things. Those recyclables are now contaminated and cannot be processed by a recycling facility.

Be Careful with Shredded Paper
Those that care deeply about the planet will make the effort to put even the smallest scraps of paper into the proper recycling bin. Unfortunately, doing so makes it harder for facilities to recycle that paper. The best way to recycle shredded or small bits of paper is to put it inside a paper bag, seal the bag shut, and write “shredded paper” on the front of the bag. Workers can easily grab the bag and sort it correctly.

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4 Simple Tips for Saving Food

Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2016 at 6:50 am
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Food that went bad before you could eat it is a waste of money!  Try these simple tips for saving food (that will also save you some money).The way to make sure you get the most value out of the money you spent on groceries is to consume all the food you bought before it goes bad. If you had to throw the food away, you wasted the money you spent on it. In addition, you have to pay more money to replace that food. Try some of these simple tips for saving food (and money).

Simple Ideas for Saving Food

Choose Frozen Food
Fresh produce is nice, but it doesn’t have much time before it goes bad. One simple way to prevent your fresh fruits and vegetables from going bad before you could eat them is to buy frozen ones instead.

The frozen produce will last longer than the fresh ones can. Frozen produce can be equal, or superior, in terms of nutrient value, quality, shelf-life, and cost.

You can save leftover fresh herbs and make them last a few weeks longer if you freeze them. Wash the herbs and cut them into small pieces. Put the pieces into the individual molds in an ice cube tray. Top off each mold with cooking oil. Use some frozen herb cubes when you cook.

Buy the Ugly Food
Some grocery stores are starting to sell ugly fruits and vegetables. A misshapen potato or a funny looking tomato are two examples of produce that are just as safe and nutritious as the prettier versions. Grocery stores that sell ugly food often sell it at a discount. When you buy ugly produce, it not only saves you money – it also saves healthy food from being thrown in the trash.

Eat the Leftovers
People are happy to eat the leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. However, they tend to throw leftovers in the trash the rest of the year. This is a waste of money!

You can safely keep leftovers in the refrigerator for three or four days. Make sure to reheat your leftovers until the internal temperature reaches 165 F (74C). Doing so can prevent food poisoning.

Get Creative
You bought way too many strawberries at the Farmers’ Market and can’t eat them all before they go bad. It’s time to figure out creative ways to use them up. You could make them into a homemade jam. Bananas that have turned brown are a key ingredient in banana bread. Take a bunch of veggies that are getting close to their expiration date and make a stew, or a stir fry, or a smoothie.

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Academies of Science Find GMOs Not Harmful to Humans

Posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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A new report found that genetically engineered crops (also called GMOs) are not harmful for humans to eat. A new report that was done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that genetically engineered crops (also called genetically modified organisms or GMOs) are safe for humans and animals to eat. The report is called “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects”.

The report notes that the most commonly grown genetically engineered crops in 2015 were soybeans (83% of land in soybean production), cotton (75% of land in cotton production), maize (29% of land in maize production), and canola (24% of land in canola production).

The 388-page report was begun two years ago. It was conducted by a committee of more than 50 scientists, researchers, and agricultural and industry experts that were convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. They reviewed more than 900 studies that involved data that covered the past 20 years since genetically modified crops were first introduced.

The committee who worked on the report heard from presenters, and from public comments, that voiced concern about the safety of GMO crops. The committee also reviewed several peer-reviewed reports that concluded that there was no evidence of health risks from GMO crops. There is a lot of information in the report about how the committee tested and evaluated the comments and reports.

One thing the committee did was compare the epidemiological data from the United States (which has been consuming GMO crops since the 1970s) and Canada (which has been consuming GMO crops since the mid-1990s). They also compared it to the epidemiological data from the UK and western Europe, where genetically engineered food is not widely available.

The data did not support the hypothesis that genetically engineered foods caused increases in cancer. In addition, the data did not support the conclusions that GMO foods cause an increase in obesity, or in gastrointestinal illnesses, or in kidney disease, or in autism. In short, GMO crops are safe for humans to eat.

There were some questions, however, about whether or not a genetically modified food could be an allergen. No animal model exists for predicting sensitization to food allergies. So, the scientists had to rely on multiple indirect methods for predicting whether an allergic response could be caused by a protein that is either intentionally added to a food by genetic engineering or if one appears in a food as an unintended effect of genetic engineering.

In short, they noted that testing for allergenicity before commercialization of a GMO crop could miss allergens that the general public had not been previously exposed to. Post commercial allergen testing would be useful in ensuring that customers are not exposed to allergens. However, the committee recognized that such testing would be difficult to conduct.

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Frugality is Hard to Afford

Posted on Monday, July 4th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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A working paper found that high-income families can afford to use saving techniques (such as buying in bulk) that low-income families cannot.One of the most common pieces of advice about how to save money is to buy things in bulk. That might work out well for individuals or families who are already doing ok financially. That being said, the ability to buy in bulk is not easily accessible for people who truly are in poverty.

Buying in Bulk is Expensive

The reason why people buy in bulk is because it can save them some money. Buy one product, all by itself, and it costs a certain price. When items are sold in bulk, it causes each individual item in the bulk purchase to cost less than it would if you were to buy those items individually off the shelf.

A working paper documented that households that are less likely to use cost-saving strategies (such as buying in bulk) are the low-income families who would have a greater incentive to save money than a well-to-do family would. That may seem counterintuitive, unless you understand what it is like to be extremely poor.

More specifically, the paper found that high-income households, (that make $100,000 or more a year), bought their toilet paper on sale 39% of the time. Low income households, (those making $20,000 or less a year), only did that about 28% of the time.

High-income households were more likely to buy more rolls of toilet paper at a time than were low-income households. That meant the high-income households not only saved money on the cost of toilet paper, but also did not have to make as many trips to the store. They were able to reduce the amount of gas they spent driving to and from the store because they bought in bulk.

Let’s say a roll of toilet paper costs $2.00. A bulk package of 12 rolls of the same brand of toilet paper is not going to cost $24.00. Instead, it might cost $10.00.

A person who has the up-front cost of the bulk product available will buy it knowing that he or she will save money. But, the person who only has $2.00 until their next paycheck can’t afford to buy the bulk sized product – even though doing so would result in greater savings over time. That person probably cannot wait for a sale to appear before they purchase another roll of toilet paper.

The key point to get from what the working paper revealed is that people who are poor aren’t able to use the same techniques to save money as are people who have a higher income. Saving money by purchasing items in bulk could mean you are a savvy shopper. It also means you are starting out with more money than the people who can’t afford to buy bulk packages of toilet paper.

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FDA Changes the Nutrition Facts Label

Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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The Food and Drug Administration has changed its requirements for how information is presented on Nutrition Facts labels.Over the years, it has become more and more common for people to read the nutrition label before they purchase packaged food. There are a variety of reasons for doing so: checking the calorie count, finding out how much sugar is in the product, or scanning the list for allergens. In May of 2016, the Food and Drug Administration modernized the Nutrition Facts label that will be on packaged foods.

The purpose of the Nutrition Facts label is to help people make informed decisions about what they are eating and what is in the foods they are feeding to their families. The updated Nutrition Facts label is a modernized improvement of the version that was introduced over 20 years ago.

Key Updates Include:

* An update design to highlight “calories” and “servings”.

* Requirements for serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat.

* Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars”. This is to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product.

* “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.

* Packages that are between one and two servings (like a 20 ounce soda) will be required to list the calories and other nutrients as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.

* Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

* Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount in addition to the %DM. The %DM for calcium and iron will continue to be required, along with the actual gram amount. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins are rare.

* The phrase “Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows that the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat”, “Saturated Fat”, and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.

* An abbreviated footnote to better explain the %DV.

Food manufacturers will be required to use the new Nutrition Facts label (as well as a new Supplement Facts label that will be used on dietary supplements) by July 26, 2018. Part of the reason for the changes is in response to new scientific information regarding nutrition. Some of that includes the links between diet and chronic diseases, obesity, and heart disease. The FDA is still in the process of determining what the word “natural” should mean when it appears on a food package.

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Pre-Cut Produce Reduces Food Waste

Posted on Monday, June 13th, 2016 at 6:44 pm
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A study found that serving pre-cut sliced apples encouraged students to eat apples at lunch. This could work for your family too!One way to stay healthy is to have a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. In order for that to work, you have to actually eat the fresh produce. Have you noticed that the fruit you bring home from the grocery store is ignored by your family? The way to entice them to eat is simpler than you might expect.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab conducted a study in eight schools. The researchers noticed that many of the apples that were being sold to children as part of the National School Lunch Program were ending up in the trash. The researchers wanted to find out why that was happening.

Was the problem that the kids didn’t want to eat apples? Or were the apples too difficult to eat? The researchers started having the schools serve sliced apples instead of whole apples. They found that fruit consumption jumped by more than 60 percent when apples were served sliced. A further study strengthened that finding.

Part of the reason why the sliced apples were more convenient to children than the whole apples was because of the size of the fruit. A whole apple can be difficult for small children to hold. Kids who have lost some teeth will have problems biting into the apple.

The other reason sliced apples were more popular than whole apples has to do with convenience. It’s a lot easier for small children to eat a few pre-cut apple slices than to attempt to eat an entire apple. The convenience isn’t limited to kids – adults like convenience, too.

You may have noticed that your local grocery store has started carrying packages of pre-cut fruit and vegetables. People buy them because they are easier to eat than whole pieces of fruit. One extreme example is the watermelon. They are heavy and difficult to carry from your car to your kitchen. You have to cut the watermelon open, and then cut it into smaller pieces before you can eat it. That’s a lot of work for busy families.

Compare that to the simplicity of a plastic carton of pre-cut watermelon. The smaller package is light and will fit into your refrigerator much easier than a whole watermelon will. The pre-cut pieces of watermelon make a quick and easy snack.

Does your family avoid the fresh fruit and vegetables that you bring home? One solution is to cut up the produce before offering it to your family as a snack. Or, you can start buying pre-cut produce from your grocery store. You will end up saving money because more of the food you bring home will be eaten (instead of thrown away).

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Ripple is a Non-Dairy Milk Made from Peas

Posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 at 6:00 pm
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Ripple is made from peas.  It is healthy and could be a safe option for people who are allergic to milk and other forms of non-dairy alternatives.There are plenty of alternatives to dairy milk out there. People who have an allergy to milk can substitute non-dairy milk, such as soy, almond, or coconut. What if you, or a family member, are allergic to all of those? There is a potential solution. Ripple is a non-dairy milk that is made from peas.

Ripple is a non-dairy milk that is high in protein, low in sugar, and loaded with nutrition. Ripple has 8 times the protein of almond milk and half the sugar of dairy milk. It is high in bioavailable calcium (and has 50% more of it than dairy milk does). It is also high in potassium and provides a good source of omega-3s. Ripple is lower in calories than dairy milk.

The consistency of Ripple is described as having a “creamy, delicious texture”. It is not thin, or chalky like some almond or soy or cashew milk can be. The bottle that Ripple comes in is 100% post-consumer recycled plastic that is 100% recyclable. That means Ripple is a healthy choice for people and also good for the planet.

Ripple is made from yellow peas. They are high in fiber, low in fat, cholesterol free, and a good source of protein. Making a non-dairy milk from peas has a substantially smaller carbon and water footprint than other kinds of non-dairy milk. Almonds are grown in the Central Valley of California – which is experiencing a drought. Peas are grown in the Midwest in an area that doesn’t need a lot of irrigation or fertilizer.

According to Ripple, its non-dairy milk takes 96% less water to make than almond milk, 99% less water than dairy milk, and 76% less water than soy milk. The carbon footprint of Ripple is 93% smaller than dairy. Despite what you might think, Ripple does not taste like peas. The creators of Ripple removed the things from the peas that “gives it that off-flavor and color”.

Ripple will retail at $4.99 for a 48 ounce bottle. Those of you who are interested in giving it a try should visit the Ripple website. Right now, you can get a coupon for Ripple if you put your name, email address, and zip code into the website. The coupon is redeemable at Whole Foods.

Like many other non-dairy milks, Ripple is lactose-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan. It is also nut free. It may be a safe alternative for families that include a family member that has celiac disease, is gluten-intolerant, is lactose-intolerant, or who is allergic to nuts, coconut, soy or dairy.

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Signs that Food is Unsafe to Eat

Posted on Monday, June 6th, 2016 at 3:11 pm
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Food that you have to throw away is a waste of money.  Pay attention to the signs that indicate that food has gone bad.Do you know how to tell when food is unsafe to eat? It’s important to recognize the signs. Ideally, you want to consume all of your groceries before they go bad. Doing so is a good way to avoid food poisoning, and to save money. Food that you had to throw away is a waste of money.

4 Signs that Food Should be Thrown Away

Throw Away the Green Potatoes
It is highly unlikely that a green potato will make it into the produce section of your local grocery store. That being said, it is possible to find a potato that has green colored skin, green sprouts, or greenish eyes. Or, a potato that looked good at the store may have become green after it sat in your home for a while.

Snopes points out that solanine develops in potatoes when they are subjected to light or very cold or very warm temperatures. Solanine, when consumed in large quantities, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and central nervous system paralysis. Long story short, don’t eat the green potatoes.

Don’t Eat Moldy Food
You paid good money for that food, but it sat too long and has grown mold. Some people believe that it is ok to cut off the moldy part and eat the rest. Don’t do that!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) points out that the mold you see on food is just the “tip of the iceberg”. The little bit of mold you see on the surface of a food means that “root” threads of mold have infested the entire food. Some molds are dangerous, and some can be poisonous.

Don’t buy the foods at the grocery store that have visible mold. Throw away the moldy food that you find in your refrigerator, pantry, or counter.

Be Careful About Food Temperature
The FDA points out that when food gets between 40°F and 140°F is in the “danger zone”. This is the temperature range in which bacteria in food can multiply rapidly and lead to food borne illness.

If the food from your picnic, backyard barbecue, or outdoor party has been sitting outside for more than 2 hours (or more than 1 hour when the weather is hot), it may be unsafe to eat. You should throw it away before anyone gets sick from it.

Bad Smells Mean Bad Food
Sometimes, your nose can tell you when food is unsafe to eat. If it smells bad – it means that the food has gone bad. ABC News points out the “rule of four”. Catherine Donnelly, professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont says leftovers must be kept “no more than four days at 40°F or 4°C”.

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