How to Save

Walmart is Closing Stores

Posted on Monday, February 1st, 2016 at 6:34 pm
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Walmart Logo (matchups)The main reason why many people shop at Walmart is because their prices are low. It is always nice to save some money, especially when your budget is tight. Be aware that Walmart is planning to close some of its stores. Will the Walmart you shop at remain open?

Bloomberg Business reports that Walmart plans to shutter 269 of its stores, the most in at least two decades. This will affect about 10,000 jobs in the United States at 154 locations around the country. Outside of the United States, closed Walmart stores will eliminate 6,000 jobs. A total of 60 Walmart stores will close in Brazil.

Walmart has decided to end its pilot program of Walmart Express stores. Those stores were smaller than typical Walmart stores, and were intended to compete with dollar stores and drugstores.

In addition, Walmart is going to close 23 of its medium sized Neighborhood Market stores (more specifically, it will close the 23 poorest-performing stores in that chain). Overall, the company is dropping its Walmart Express stores in favor of putting more effort into (most of ) its Neighborhood Market stores.

It isn’t just the smaller versions of Walmart that will be closing. Walmart has already started closing 12 of its Supercenter stores (the biggest version in the Walmart chain of stores). This doesn’t necessarily mean that Walmart is on its way out. Instead, it means the company is doing some restructuring in order to cope with less sales than they anticipated.

There is a complete list of the Walmart stores that will be closing (or that have already closed). The list was posted on the Walmart official website, so there is good reason to believe that it is a reliable list.

The list of stores that are now closed (or that soon will be closing) include many Walmart Express stores, and about 6 “regular” Walmart stores. The list also includes Supercenter stores and Neighborhood Market stores that are closing (or have already closed). Some Amigo stores and Sam’s Club stores are on the list of closures as well.

According to The Motley Fool, the closing of the Walmart Express stores was due to a failed effort to increase sales by competing with a slightly different market than usual. Things didn’t work out as the company had hoped.

The Motley Fool suggests that Walmart is having difficultly competing with Amazon, and that this is a big reason why sales are slowing at Walmart. It also appears that Walmart’s international expansion of stores are underperforming.

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Is it Safe to Eat at Chipotle?

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 at 1:11 pm
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chipotleOne of the things that originally attracted people to Chipotle was its efforts to use the best ingredients that they could find. Those who needed to quickly grab food during their lunch break, and who wanted a healthy choice, went to Chipotle. Then, the news hit about people getting sick after eating at some of Chipotle’s restaurants. Is it safe to eat at Chipotle?

Chipotle was known for using real ingredients, and for cooking its food on-site. The Chipotle website states that it uses “vegetables grown in healthy soil and pork from pigs allowed to freely root and roam outdoors or in deeply bedded barns.”

Chipotle posted a Food Safety Update and FAQ on its website to discuss what happened that caused people who ate food from Chipotle to become sick. In October of 2015, Chipotle closed 43 restaurants in the Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, markets after being notified by health department officials in Seattle that they were investigating a number of E coli cases, including some affecting people who ate at 11 Chipotle restaurants.

Additional cases were reported in late November and early December of 2015 in California, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Illinois, and Maryland. On December 21, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified Chipotle that they were investigating 5 cases of E coli in Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. The people affected ate at 2 Chipotle locations in November of 2015.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has more information. It notes that Chipotle has taken the following actions, among others:

* Confirming that all microbial testing performed by the company did not yield E. coli (more than 2,500 tests of Chipotle’s food, restaurant surfaces, and equipment all showed no E. coli)

* Confirming that no employees in these restaurants were sickened from this incident

* Expanded testing of fresh produce, raw meat, and dairy items prior to restocking restaurants

* Implementing additional safety procedures, and audits, in all of its 2,000 restaurants to ensure that robust food safety standards are in place

* Working closely with federal, state, and local government agencies to ensure that robust food safety standards are in place

* Replacing all ingredients in the closed restaurants

* Conducted additional deep cleaning and sanitation in all of its closed restaurants (will conduct deep cleaning and sanitation additionally in all restaurants nationwide)

Chipotle is going to close all of its stores on February 8, 2016, for a national employee meeting to address food safety concerns and company changes. They have also instituted paid-sick leave for employees, so they can stay home when they are ill. Does this mean it is now safe to eat at Chipotle? Ultimately, everyone is going to have to decide that for themselves.

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Things You Cannot Recycle – But Thought You Could

Posted on Monday, January 18th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Things You Cannot Recycle - But Thought You CouldRecycling is good for the planet because it allows materials to be reused, and prevents them from sitting in landfills. Recycling can also be good for your budget because you can get some money from taking things to a recycling facility. There are some things that you cannot recycle (but thought you could).

Bottles From the Wrong State
Some, but not all, states have enacted a bottle bill. People who live in that state are charged a small amount extra when they purchase beverages that come in cans or bottles. All a person has to do in order to get the amount back is to take the cans and bottles to a recycling center.

Typically, those bottles and cans will have a marking on them that indicate what state the product was purchased in. Recycling centers will not accept bottles and cans that are marked for a different state. In other words, you cannot take the bottles you bought in Michigan and recycle them for money in California.

Cereal Box Liners
Cereal boxes are made from cardboard. You can break down the box and include it in the recyclables that you take to the curb. Keep in mind that the liner inside the cereal box (the plastic bag that holds the cereal) cannot be recycled. Make sure to remove the liner before trying to recycle the cereal box.

Keurig Coffee Cartridges
K-Cups are incredibly convenient, especially for people who live alone or who are the only coffee drinker in their family. Unfortunately, the used k-cups cannot be recycled. In short, it is not clear exactly what kind of plastic those little cups are made out of. Recycling plants need to know what it is in order to recycle it.

Unattached Plastic Bottle Caps
You may not realize it, but the small, plastic, bottle cap on your empty beverage makes things difficult for recycling plants. Everything is fine if the cap is still securely placed on the bottle. The problems start when the caps are removed.

A plastic bottle without a cap can still be recycled. A plastic cap without a bottle cannot. The reason is because those small, round, caps are hard to bale. They also can make it harder for machines to process. Again, it is best to keep the cap on the bottle. Don’t try and recycle a cap by itself.

When In Doubt
Not sure what your local recycling center will take? It is best to find out before you go. Check the recycling center’s website for details. Ask the attendant questions about your recyclables before you unload them.

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FDA Begins Considering What Foods are “Natural”

Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 at 8:01 am
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What Foods Are Really NaturalWe have all seen packages of food that have the word “natural” on them. Have you ever wondered what that really means? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started questioning it. They are now considering what foods can be labeled as “natural”, and are seeking public input about it.

People who seek out natural foods to feed their families are doing so because they want to help keep their families healthy. This could mean they seek out products that have been labeled as organic. The FDA has regulations about the use of the word organic. This helps families to know that what are buying truly is organic.

Food is not allowed to be called organic unless the producers (or, in some cases, manufacturers) provide certification that agricultural ingredients have been produced under conditions that would meet the definition of organic. The FDA includes labeling standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients in food.

The word “natural”, however, had no such regulations. When you see the word “natural” on a food label, you might assume that the ingredients include a lot of healthy foods and very little (or no) questionable ingredients. That simply is not the case. The FDA does not restrict the use of the word “natural” on a food label except on foods that have added color, synthetic substances, and flavors.

It is understandable that people are not thrilled that food manufacturers can toss the word “natural” onto any product label they want. Doing so gives consumers the mistaken impression that the are food they are buying is better, or healthier, for them than it really is. The word “natural” is being used in a way that is intentionally misleading.

In December of 2015, the Food and Drug Administration was inundated with comments about the use of the word “natural” on a food label. The comment period will close on May 10, 2016. Many consumers are calling for the FDA to regulate the use of the word “natural” on a food label (like they regulate the use of the word “organic”).

The information on the FDA website about the use of the term “natural” in the labeling food products (that are intended for humans to eat) has a short summary. The key part says that the FDA is seeking comment on the use of the term “natural” on food labels, including foods that are genetically engineered or contain ingredients produced through the use of genetic engineering.

It will be quite some time before consumers learn what the FDA decides about the use of the word “natural”. All we know for certain is that a decision will not be made before the comment period is over.

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How to Cope After Your Favorite Grocery Store Closes

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Buy Organic Store Brands to Save BigMany people have a favorite grocery store. It’s the one that they shop at the most often because that store offers things that they like. It can be annoying, or even upsetting, when that favorite grocery store closes. What are you going to do now?

Make a List
Why did you like your favorite grocery store so much? Make a list of the things that it had that were important to you. Maybe it had specialty foods that you didn’t see at other grocery stores. It might have had an excellent loyalty card program that offered lots of discounts. Or, the best thing about it was that it was located close to where you live.

Take that list with you the next time you go grocery shopping. It is possible that another grocery store will have most of the qualities that your favorite grocery store had. It is easier to find what you are looking for when you have a clear idea of what it is that you want.

Consider Online Shopping might not have all of the groceries that you typically buy, but it probably has many of them. Online shopping for groceries is a reasonable solution for the problem of not being able to find the things you like after your favorite grocery store closed. Do a price check and compare the cost from Amazon with the cost if you bought it directly from the manufacturer.

Compare Coupon Policies
When it comes to coupon policies, no two grocery stores are the same. You might have loved your favorite grocery store because it had an awesome coupon policy. Check to see what other grocery stores coupon policies are like. There could be another one that is just as good – if not better!

Find out if another grocery store will take the coupons that were issued by the grocery store that closed. It’s worth a try! You can find out more about a grocery store’s coupon policy by visiting their website or by asking a manager. While you are at it, find out what their loyalty program offers.

Pick the Closest Store
Not sure which grocery store to switch to? One simple solution is to pick the one that is located closest to where you live. Convenience offers a certain kind of comfort that few other things can match.

Your local grocery store will cost less travel time than a grocery store located farther away. There is potential that you could save a little bit on gas money simply by selecting the closest grocery store.

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Kroger Launches Main & Vine

Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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fresh foodBig chain grocery stores are beginning to realize that the needs and desires of customers have changed. In the past, people may have selected products because they happen to favor a certain brand.

Today, families want to be able to access food that is healthy for their families. Kroger, perhaps influenced by this change, is launching a fresh foods concept.

Kroger is launching a new, smaller, banner store called Main & Vine. It is described as a place “where eating is healthy, affordable, and fun!” The Main & Vine website shows lovely photos of fresh produce, and has a limited amount of information about the store.

Main & Vine promises that customers will enjoy the following things:
* Fresh, affordable local produce and meat
* A wide selection of local beer and wine
* Unique culinary experiences and taste adventures, with tasty meals made fresh in our kitchen
* “And so much more”

The very first Main & Vine store will be in Gig Harbor, Washington, in the Seattle area. The store will be 27,000 square feet. It will include the big brand “staples” that many consumers are still buying. In addition, Main & Vine will have fresh, organic, and local foods. Produce and bulk sections will be located in the center of the store. That’s a big change from where most grocery stores put that section – off to the side.

It appears to be more than a just another grocery store. Main & Vine will offer prepared foods. It will have a coffee, wine and beer bar, and a dual level cafe area. This makes Main & Vine sound like a good place to hang out and meet people, either before or after you shop for healthy groceries.

The one and only location of Main & Vine that Kroger is starting with is obviously being done as a test. If it is successful, there is the possibility that Kroger might choose to roll out more Main & Vine stores in other states.

So far, there is no information at all about where those additional locations may appear. Some speculate that Kroger, who acquired Roundy’s Inc. (a chain of supermarket stores in Wisconsin and the greater Chicago area) might be considering turning those stores into brand new Main & Vine locations. Again, this is speculation – not fact.

The Main & Vine stores are not the only thing Kroger has done to improve the quality of foods that are available to its customers. Kroger’s Simple Truth is the largest organic brand in the United States. Kroger’s popular organic brand was less expensive than similar products from Whole Foods.

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How to Organize Your Closet

Posted on Monday, January 4th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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organize closet

Have you reached the point where you have more clothing than will easily fit in your closet? Now is a good time to clean and organize it.

Take everything out
The first thing to do is to take everything out of the closet. This includes clothing, hangers, shoes, and whatever else you have stored in there. Put all the clothes on your bed. You are going to need to sleep in that bed tonight, and this gives you an intrinsic motivation to finish organizing your closet as quickly as possible.

Clean it up
Before you put anything back into your closet, it is time to clean. Sweep or vacuum the floor. Wipe the dust off the shelves and walls. Cleaning does two things for you. It gives you a fresh place to start with, and it forces you to realize how much (or how little) space is in your closet.

Get some trash bags
Some of the clothing you pulled out of your closet is not going back into it. Use the trash bags as a collection area for the clothes you are going to donate. Promise yourself not to second-guess your decisions. If you put something into the trash bags – it stays there! You are going to have to make decisions that can be difficult if you let nostalgia get in the way.

When did you last wear it?
The answer to that important question can determine whether or not you should keep a particular item of clothing. If you honestly cannot remember how long it has been since you wore something – that’s a sign that you don’t really need it. Donate it so someone else can use it.

The clothes that you wore this week, or last week, can go back into the closet. These items may include your favorite pair of jeans, your best work outfits, and the comfiest pairs of pajamas you own. Keep the things you are still getting a lot of use out of.

Does it still fit?
You know that the clothes that you most frequently wear fit you. What about the ones that you haven’t worn in a really long time? Don’t put them back into your closet until after you try them on. If it is too tight to be comfortable – get rid of it. If it is obviously too big for you – get rid of it.

You might have a situation where the clothing fits – but isn’t something you would want to wear in public. Dresses that you loved as a high schooler or college student might feel too outdated to wear to work today. Don’t keep clothing that you will not actually wear. It just takes up closet space!

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Ways to Save on Heating Your Home

Posted on Monday, December 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Winter Piggy BankWinter weather is cold and icy. The inside of your home should be warm and toasty. Heating your home can get expensive. Fortunately, there are ways to save on heating your home. Try some of these tips!

Upgrade Your Thermostat
Popular Mechanics suggests that you upgrade your thermostat to a newer, smarter, model. A company called Nest makes a learning thermostat. (There are other companies that make similar products.)

A smart, or learning, thermostat learns your lifestyle. It will automatically turn down the heat when you are away from home or asleep. Popular Mechanics says that smart thermostats can cut your heating bill by 10% or more. It also clarifies that your furnace does not have to work harder to warm up your house after the temperature has been set low. That’s a myth!

Uncover the Heat Registers
You can heat your home more efficiently if you take the time to uncover the heat registers (or vents). Did you put a throw rug over one during the summer? Remove it! Now might be the perfect time to rearrange the furniture so that you can be sure that none of it is blocking a heat register.

The air that blows out of the heating registers needs to have a clear path in order to properly heat your home. Blocking those registers limits the flow of heat. When that happens, people get cold and turn the heat on again – or turn it up. You can save money on heating if you unblock the heat registers.

Replace the Filters
When was the last time you replaced the filters on your furnace? If you can’t remember, it probably means you need new ones. Take a minute to check what size filters your furnace requires before heading out to the store.

Filters trap dust. Leave the filter in the furnace for too long, and it will clog up. When that happens, it makes the furnace less efficient. Fresh, clean, filters can help the hot air circulate through your home.

Wear a Sweater
There are times when the old fashioned advice you got from your mother (or grandmother) turn out to be really good ideas. Before you turn up the heat, try putting on a sweater. You already own the sweater, so it won’t cost you anything to wear it. Turning the heat up, however, can make your heating bill more expensive.

Getting too cold at night? An electric blanket might be useful. It won’t significantly raise the cost of your electric bill and may provide enough warmth to make it unnecessary to turn on the furnace.

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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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