Sunday, December 28, 2008

Less waste = savings...

Storing produce correctly and keeping it fresh will help save money. After all, nothing is a bargain if it ends up in the trash. According to Sparkpeople, a recent study at the University of Arizona showed that the average family throws away 470 pounds of food a year! Yikes!

Your first good practice with fresh fruits and vegetables starts at the grocery store. Tossing them into your cart, allowing a store clerk to throw them in to a grocery bag, or dumping them in the trunk allowing them to roll around during the drive home will have them bruised before you even get them through the door. Fruits and veggies should be handled carefully and gently!

Once you manage to get them home in one piece, a good rule of thumb is to store fruits and vegetables in different drawers. While there are exceptions to every rule, generally, fruit produces higher levels of ethylene, (an odorless, harmless gas which can cause some produce items to ripen or spoil quicker), and vegetables are more likely to be damaged by that gas, so storing them in separate drawers goes a long way to preserving your produce!

Also, removing produce from bags can help it last longer, or at least poke some holes in the bags to let the air circulate better.

Other things you can do to extend the life of some of your fresh produce:

Fresh Herbs: Cut off the end of the stems and place upright in a cup of water in your refrigerator. Cover loosely with a perforated bag.

Bananas: Break the bunch apart to store. They spoil in bunches. Also, store away from other fruits and veggies.

Tomatoes: These last longer stored on the counter stem side down! In the refrigerator they loose texture AND flavor.

Apples: Store in a bowl on the counter away from heat and sunlight.

Lettuce and other leafy greens: Either remove from bags and place in the veggie drawer, or perforate bags to keep it fresher. (Tip: If your lettuce seems a little wilted, soak in iced water to revive it... however, this probably won't work if it is completely dead ;))

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Open Enrollment...

Once a year you get the opportunity to evaluate your benefit options offered through you or your spouses employment and make any changes. It is called open-enrollment and it usually occurs at the end of each calendar year.

Don't miss out on your opportunity to look over your benefits as well as your spouses and review the options. Perhaps they added new health insurance plans... perhaps his monthly premiums went down while yours went up and it is more cost effective to switch to his plan... perhaps deductibles have changed or out of pocket limits. This is your one chance during the year to make changes without losing any benefits!

Other things to review are your 401k, your flexible spending accounts, life insurance options, dental and vision benefits. Be sure to attend any meetings your company offers that explains your benefits in detail and read every brochure they hand out so you are armed with the latest information. Don't hesitate to talk with your human resource department if you have questions. Looking over all the benefit selections you have for the year and comparing pricing can lead to hundreds of dollars in savings in the long run. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cutting back...

Here are a few tips to cut your Christmas costs a little:
  • Don't buy expensive paper, bows or ribbons. Opt for the cheaper stuff... it all looks just as cute on a gift! Plus, it is just going to get ripped off quickly anyway
  • Scratch buying expensive gift tags and get creative by making your own
  • Don't spend a lot on new decorations for this year. Be patient and wait till after Christmas to get new things for 50-90% off for next year
  • Fill Christmas bowls with real pine cones or acorns that you gather yourself
  • Thread string with popcorn and cranberries for festive, inexpensive garland
  • Put all your Christmas lights on a timer and set it to go on just after dark and off before you go to bed

Look for free or very inexpensive things to do with the family. Ideas include:

  • Rent a movie from Redbox for just $1, (just be sure to return it the next day)
  • Go to a sing-a-long, (Copper Hills High School is doing the Messiah sing-a-long this Saturday, Dec 20th)
  • Get out board games you haven't played in forever
  • Drive around to see the lights in the neighborhood or at the temple, (there is a neighborhood that does "The Night Before Christmas" in Taylorsville, around 5400 South and 3200 West. If you haven't seen it, your kids will LOVE it... it is easy to find, it is COMPLETELY lit up!)
  • Bake inexpensive treats and take them to your neighbors to spread the joy
  • Camp out in the living room with sleeping bags together
  • Have dinner on a blanket by your lit Christmas tree