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Could you use a little more money? Perhaps, you spent too much over the holidays or your spouse has been impacted by the government shutdown..? Did your teen just wreck the family car? For a variety of reasons, many of us find budgets tight this time of year and we need to find ways to cut expenses.  Here are a few saving tips:

  • Save windfalls – don’t spend them on bonus things. Deposit them in the bank or put them towards a bill. (Did you get cash from a family member for your birthday? Get a bonus or work overtime? Win the 50/50 at the school ball game? Don’t spend it with nothing to show for it.)
  • Cut food-shopping costs – be sure to use regular or online coupons, purchase store-brands, get rain checks, and watch the prices at the checkout. (Also, try to shop alone since each additional person adds things to the cart.)
  • Save your loose change – put all change in a jar and save it towards vacation or deposit it every few weeks.
  • Use the 24 hour rule – think about a purchase for 24 hours (or over-night) before hitting submit on the shopping cart (for online) or buying unnecessary items. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wait to buy medication, but do you need that cute top or those boots that were marked down?
  • Unsubscribe to marketing emails – just hit unsubscribe at the bottom of the email and cut out temptation. You can always add yourself back when your budget is stronger.
  • Take credit cards out of your wallet – put them in the freezer or your desk, so it is inconvenient and you have to plan to use them.
  • Make a big deal out of a stay home family or friend night – cook at home (taco bar, homemade pizza, breakfast for supper), play games, eat popcorn, or watch a family/comedy together instead of everyone running off to their own rooms.
  • Sell things you don’t need – clothes you don’t wear anymore, sports equipment, tools, collectibles, toys, or baseball cards. Make sure the items you sell are your own of course. Resale shops or social media buy/sell sections both are options.
  • Drink water or iced tea – stop buying disposable water in bottles, use refillable ones and make your own iced tea or coffee. You can save hundreds each year.
  • Don’t buy snacks from machines – measure your own pretzels, nuts, or fruit in a small container rather than paying vending markup. Bonus: you control what’s in your snack.
  • Take leftovers for lunch – even doing this a couple times could save $15 or $20 a week.
  • Cut utility costs – make sure you are using a low-flow showerhead, turn off appliances and lights, unplug charged devices, and lower your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Eliminate plastic – don’t use disposable plates, plastic forks/spoons, or plastic storage bags. While you may have to do a few more dishes, you help the environment and cut an expense.

Almost everyone has a way that they have found to save money or something they can sell to add a little extra income – feel free to share your favorite in the comments. For additional information go the Personal Finance section of eXtension.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

Sources:

America Saves: https://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/54-ways-to-save-money

North Carolina State Extension, Take Control of Your Future, https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/ideas-to-help-you-save-money-at-home.

eXtension: https://articles.extension.org/pages/16136/stretching-your-food-dollar

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Meal prepping for your week ahead has become a very popular trend lately. This can help you to stay on track with your nutrition and budget, and save time. Before you can meal prep, however, you need to effectively make a meal plan. This includes your grocery list and deciding on what all your meals will be for the week.

In order to keep within your budget, begin by looking at your local grocery store’s weekly ad. This circular indicates which items in the store are on sale or have special discounts for that week. In addition to  weekly ads, many grocery stores also offer coupons, either in the store or online, that can help you to save even more! By looking at these resources, you can utilize many food items that are on sale, resulting in a diverse yet equally exciting meal plan. In addition, it’s a good idea to be aware of what produce items are in season throughout the year. Those items also tend to be cheaper when they are in season and more abundant.

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Once you have determined which food items match your taste and budget from grocery store ads and coupons, it’s time to put those food items together to create complete meals. In order to achieve a healthy, balanced diet, start with including at least three food groups in every meal. Here is an example of typical meal prep menu that my husband and I really like to eat in a day:

Breakfast: Overnight oats – old fashioned oats (grains), non-fat milk/Greek yogurt (dairy), topped with fruit (fruit)

Lunch: Turkey taco salad – mixed greens and pico de gallo (non-starchy vegetables), ground turkey seasoned with taco seasoning (protein), and low-fat shredded cheese (dairy), with lime juice

Dinner: Baked garlic lemon chicken (protein) over rice (grains) with asparagus (non-starchy vegetable)

An interactive plate tool is a great way to check how many food groups you are including at your meal: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/create-your-plate/?referrer=https://www.google.com/ You can be as creative as you want to be, and this tool will help to ensure that you are getting nutrient variety at every meal. Give meal planning a try, and share with us some of your favorite meal prep ideas!

Written By: Amy Meehan, MPH, Healthy People Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences

Reviewed By: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

References:

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/create-your-plate/?referrer=https://www.google.com/

http://www.choosemyplate.gov

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Did you decide to start out this year with the goal of building your savings? Or maybe a summer vacation to the beach, an amusement park, or camping are in your family’s future? Would you like your first or a new home, or maybe just a new (for you) car? Studies show that 54% of Ohio residents have less than $1,000 saved. While financial experts recommend a savings of up to six months’ salary (to cover the loss of salary for a job or medical crisis), but just having $2,000 to cover a small crisis would be a great goal. So what can you do to build your savings? putting money in bank

  • One of the best savings methods is to save automatically. With each pay check, or at least once a month, have money moved to a savings account. Another way to do this is signing up for a Christmas or Vacation Account at your lending institution.
  • To protect against “Impulse Buys” move to a 24 hour waiting period before purchasing anything except food and gas. If you have to think before buying the latest video game, clothing, shoes, purse, or home decorating item – you will likely decide you don’t really need it a large percentage of the time. Ask yourself “Do I want it or do I need it?” If you just want it, consider if you want the family vacation to Florida more.
  • Always think before you swipe your credit card. You may want to consider wrapping your card in a piece of paper that says “Think before using” or “Do I need this?”
  • Limit store trips, every additional time you shop you spend on impulse items. This is true of online shopping too, so try to avoid websites that you are tempted to purchase from frequently.
  • Collect loose change, but safely store it. An easily visible jar may be a temptation for some.
  • Unsubscribe from marketing emails for businesses that you don’t use any more or that may be very tempting. Think about the stores that sell items you like not items you need, and unsubscribe!
  • Have a “Do nothing week” or “cutting back week” where you avoid eating out, and going to movies or other entertainment that isn’t free. Look for free things that you can do at a local community center, your parks, or finally play the new games the kids got for Christmas or their last birthday. Put the money you would have spent eating out or at the movies in your savings account instead.
  • Teach your children to save by setting up a savings account at the bank. Strongly encourage them to deposit half of their allowance, gift money from family members, or the money they make from selling items at the family yard sale. You may choose to let them save for a larger item over several months or enforce that this savings is for the future – an education fund or for a car of their own.
  • Try one of those savings plans where you save $1 more each week, or even $10 or $20 per week. Every little bit helps.
  • Every time you get a lump sum payment like a bonus, tax refund, overtime at work, or even birthday money from your parents – save some of it. At least 50% would be great, but even saving $50 – $100 would help build your savings. Check out the “Save Your Refund” site to enter a contest to win one of 100 prizes for those who commit to save at least $50 of their 2018 tax refund (in 2018 this program starts on January 22 and ends April 17, 2018). Words - split and save

Let us know the tricks you have used to build your savings? By leaving a comment below this message.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County

Sources:

America Saves, Save Your Refund, saveyourrefund.com/.

University of Illinois Extension, More for Your Money, web.extension.illinois.edu/money/saving_easy.cfm.

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Impulse Buying on the Internet, digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=5168&context=gradschool_theses.

 

 

 

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grocery

Do you have a plan when you make a trip to the grocery store?  You can save time and money by planning ahead before you head off on your trip.

  • Plan your meals using a worksheet such as, Create a Grocery Game Plan. This will help you make decisions about what you need to buy.
  • Go through your cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer to see what items you already have that can be incorporated into your meals.
  • Consider your schedule for the week……choose meals that are easy to prepare on busier days and save recipes for days when you have more time
  • Make a list of recipes you would like to try. Need help finding new ideas?  Try What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl for healthy, low-cost recipes using items you already have on hand.

Now that you know what you will be cooking each week, use your list of weekly meals to create a list of foods and drinks you need to buy.  Be sure to include fruits, vegetables, and milk even though they may not be part of any of the recipes you have planned for the week.

Time to make your list:

  • You can use scrap paper or the back of an envelope.
  • Type your list on a computer
  • Type your list in the “notes” section of your smartphonegrocery 2
  • Download a free mobile app for grocery lists
  • Use this template to make your list

Once your meals are planned and your list made, here are a few tips to help you get the most for your dollar.

  • Read the sale flyer(s) for the stores you plan to visit to see what is on sale from your grocery list. You can find sale info at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, and on the store’s website.
  • Use coupons for as many items on your list as you can. They can be found as inserts in newspapers each week, you can download coupons from the internet, and your grocery store most likely has digital coupons on their website that can help you save even more.
  • Look for store brands that typically cost less than name brands.
  • Ask for a rain check if the store is out of a sale item. This is usually done at the customer service desk located in the front of the store. A rain check lets you pick up the item once they are back in stock.
  • Sign-up for your store’s customer loyalty program. This free program offers discounts and rewards to members.

Sources:

Pixabay.com

United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/budget/grocery_list_interactive.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/budget/grocery_gameplan_interactive.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/

Writer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

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Recipes that offer variety and flexibility are very appropriate for today’s society.  Making MyPlate choices as you make grocery selections helps this week’s meals come together more easily.

Brown rice is a nutrition powerhouse that provides whole grains and B vitamins and great energy.  Versatility is fun when it comes to rice bowls.  Breakfast lunch and dinner all have options that can begin with this inexpensive and nutritious grain.  On average a half cup serving of brown rice costs just 10 cents.

A good suggestion is to cook a large quantity of brown rice at one time and have it on hand for the week.  It freezes well and retains moisture.  It can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

MyPlate on a Budget is a helpful resource that offers many great tips and recipes that keep food expenses low and nutrient intake high.  One of the sections in this online resource is devoted to whole grains.  Take a look at the Brown Rice Bowl assortments below and choose some favorites.  You can also add your own preferred flavors and come up with unique concoctions.

brown rice

As you incorporate brown rice into your healthy eating pattern, please share some of your creations and most loved ideas with all of us.  Your go-to meal or snack may be someone else’s new pick.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and MyPlate encourage making half of our grains whole.  Adding brown rice to your rotation is one step towards meeting that goal.  Once a large batch is cooked, time is saved and by planning ahead you can have a plethora of options at your fingertips.  Enjoy!

Sources:
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fdd/101031_Rice_Brown_Long_Grain_Parboiled.pdf
http://food.unl.edu/now-youre-cooking-brown-rice
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/budget/MeetingYourMyPlateGoalsOnABudget.pdf
http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/a-closer-look-inside-healthy-eating-patterns/

Reviewer:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, EFNEP/FCS, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County, even.2@osu.edu

 

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genericFood Riddle: When is a generic food not a generic?
Answer: When it tastes as good as the real thing!

Generic food brands, introduced in 1977, have changed dramatically over the last 37 years. Initially sold in plain white packaging with black lettering, they were considered inferior to name brand products. The “generics” were even ostracized to their own aisle; a grocery store version of food segregation, if you will. But much like the ad campaign slogan that touted “you’ve come a long way, baby,” generic food has made leaps and bounds in quality, price, and reputation.

Generic food is produced and manufactured primarily through two venues; at name brand factories on the same production line as their more expensive counterparts, or by less well-known companies. Instead of the plain package designation of the past, most generics are now sold by supermarkets as their “store” brand. What’s even more amazing is that some of the national chains such as Kroger and Walmart actually sell high and low version of their own generics. For example, Kroger has a top quality line (Private Selection), as well as a budget line (Kroger Value).

Because of their inauspicious start, some people still perceive generic food products as lacking in taste and/or quality. But a trading standards investigation found little nutritional or taste difference between generic and name brand products. And in an October 2010 Consumer Reports food comparison, researchers recommended consumers at least try store brand products. Their rationale? There is little risk because most grocery stores offer a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the generic product. The 2010 Consumer Reports challenge compared 21 name brand vs. store brand products, and results may surprise you. Name brands won seven taste tests, store brands won three, and the other 11 products tied!

Name brand companies spend billions of dollars in advertising to entice you to purchase their products. That cost is ultimately passed on to you, the consumer. Generics don’t have the same mandate to market their products; they can essentially “piggy-back” off the marketing of the name brands. That is why the store brand or generic brand will usually cost less (an exception sometimes exists when the name brand product is on sale).

Generic food products offered to consumers have certain characteristics in common. The price differential runs 10%-35% below national brands, and 10%-20% below private brand. Most retailers have introduced generics in order to attract price conscious shoppers. However, other food retailers have added them to their stock as a defense mechanism to keep from losing patrons to low overhead “box stores” (e.g. Sam’s Club) or to merchants who specialize in generic products (e.g. Aldi’s).

The Bottom Line??

Food is traditionally considered the third largest line item in the family budget, after housing and transportation. However, I have found for many families it is their #1 expense, even more than their house or car payment. We tend not to be aware of how much we spend on food, because it is not a once-a-month bill. If you would like to free up more dollars in your family budget, consider choosing generic food products. You may find that you like them as well, if not more so, than name brand products.

Written by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Betsy DeMatteo, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, dematteo.15@osu.edu

Sources:http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/october/shopping/store-brands-vs-name-brands/overview/index.htm
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fcd/nutrition/ewfl/module3/shopping2.html
http://www.acrwebsite.org/search/view-conference-proceedings.aspx?Id=9804

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MP900439398[1]We’ve all see the back-to-school commercials with joyous parents clicking their heels and dancing around with the mere thought of the start of the new school year. The reality is that August can be a very stressful time for both children and those responsible for getting their children back to school. Parents already have a lot on their plate and as families get ready for a new school year, they can be overwhelmed with the additional financial stressors — paying for back-to-school supplies, clothes and possibly tuition. In a recent consumer survey, 65% of parents cited back to school shopping as their number one stressor related to the new school year.

While there is financial stress associated with heading back to school, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune every year. Here a few great ideas for saving money while getting them everything they need.

  • Prepare a budget with your child. He’ll learn a lesson in responsibility and be less likely to get upset if you can’t afford something he wants.
  • Make a list. Use the recommended or required supplies from your child’s school and stick to it. Extra supplies, while they may be cute, will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty.
  • Take inventory. Sort through last year’s supplies to see what is left over or can be reused.
  • Hold off buying trendier gear. Kids love the latest superhero or princess lunch box or pencil cases in July, but once they start school and see that their friends are all using another kind, they’ll want an upgrade. The result is wasted cash.
  • Shop end-of-summer sales.  Many children wear short sleeved shirts throughout the year as layers. You will get good use of the deep discounts on short sleeved shirts and shorts well into the fall.
  • Check your closets. Let the kids pick out something new to wear on the first day of school, so I just buy one outfit (or shirt). Their summer clothes will last them well into September most of the time, so I wait to buy clothes for cooler weather.
  • Shop the supermarket and discount stores for basic supplies. Check weekly circulars for great deals on pens and loose-leaf paper, and get your weekly grocery shopping done at the same time. Buying everything in one place saves time and money.

 

Finally, to reduce stress and save on back-to-school shopping, it’s important to set a budget and stick to it. Let your child help you,  With proper planning, you can prepare your children for another school year without breaking the bank and your family’s budget.

 

Resources:

Dealing With Back to School Blues., APA Help Center, American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/school-rush.aspx

Peterson, N.&  Shoup Olsen, C. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, Tips for Parents: Trim Back-To-School Stress, http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/Families/doc13642.ashx

 

 

Written by: Kathy Green, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County, Miami Valley EERA

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, Heart of Ohio EERA

 

 

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