Friday, April 28, 2006

Field Guide to the Grocery Aisles

Some great tips for navigating the grocery aisles and maximizing time, money, and nutrition in the NYTimes Dining section. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, shares aisle-by-aisle advice in her book "What to Eat."

According to the article "The new book is for anyone who has read a food label; been annoyed at how often their children nag them for certain cereals; wondered about the difference between natural and organic; or questioned who is minding the store when it comes to nutrition and food safety."

Some tips and tidbits:
  • eat locally and, if possible, organically; keep it simple; concentrate on vegetables and fruits and make meat a condiment; and forget about processed foods.
  • No matter what their labels say, margarines are basically the same — mixtures of soybean oil and food additives. Everything else is theater and greasepaint."
  • She also advises parents who want their children to eat healthfully to stick to the periphery of the store. That's where the fresh, unprocessed foods are. "Don't set foot in the center aisles," she cautions. The chapters are divided by aisles: produce section, dairy section and so on. Safety and nutrition are addressed in detail.

$65 Paid on my Sharebuilder Account

Free Money
I made $65 on the Sharebuilder-Costco account promotion today when the promotion amount was credited to my Sharebuilder account. I signed up for the promotion as a Costco Business member and Sharebuilder promised to credit me with $65 once I executed my first trade.

I transferred $100 into my Sharebuilder account and purchased four shares of PBW, the alternative energy Powershares ETF that tracks the WilderHill Clean Energy Index. That trade cost me $15.95 and have since earned back the commission amount since the late March trade.

Sharebuilder was good to their promise, and promptly credited the amount in 4-6 weeks. Now I can either:

1. Let it ride
2. Use the free money to execute more trades; add more funds
3. Set up an ACH transfer @$4 per investment the first Tuesday of the month...

I'm considering the options.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stock Forecasts: May 5, 2006 and Beyond

Trying to make sense of the market is like trying to predict the weather--although there are not necessary corresponding seasons. There are cycles and patterns and moving averages. I've been following with pleasure the Market Week forecasts of Raymond Merriman. He provides both short-term and long-term analysis, and is more frequently than not, right on the money.

“But our focus for stock indices is on...May 5th. If this corrective decline ends sometime this week, we could see another leg up as the indices resume their “blow-off” pattern.
Right now it is grandeur and a littler hysteria, and it is not “common sense.” We do not live in a time when “common sense” rules the day. And in my opinion, we may very likely experience the opposite end of this dynamic—panic—in 2011.

Outstanding investment opportunities for the long-term: These will result from the social discontent that is already starting, and will inspire young people to find alternative ways to construct their collective life style in the next two decades. As mentioned before, watch the young people. Watch what they do, and what they rebel against. Watch the Establishment too, for what they will try to suppress in regards to “youth movements” will likely fail, as the “New World” and new ideas emerge.

Credit Limit Increase - They Just Keep Coming

I received a letter from the company that carries one of bank cards today. They're raised my credit limit to $20K and practically begged me to use the card. It's ironic that by not using the card, my credit limit is steadily increased and the advantage offers, dividends and perks just keep increasing.

With two bank cards that I pay off each month, I almost feel sorry for them. Should I use it? I make a purchase or two each year to keep the card active and avoid any other fees that might be lurking in the fine print. Are banks getting more desperate for our finance fees?

Bare Skin Beauty - Big Savings

I'm always amazed that women will spend hundreds of dollars for expensive skin care creams. The truth is only water will add moisture to your skin and only oil of some type will seal the water in.

If you're spending money on expensive creams, lotions or moisturizers---stop now. Even if you're buying generic at the grocery store you can still save money and get absolutely wonderful skin care. Buy sweet almond oil in bulk---take in your own plastic bottle and fill it up. Price per pound is usually about $5.

Scent it with some vanilla or almond extract or essential oils. Use it in the shower, just before rinsing, to keep skin soft and supple. Add it to wet hair, wrap and read a magazine, and then shampoo out for your own hot oil treatment (if you need product!) Slather it on your heels and put some socks on for a pre-pedicure treat. You won't need Estee Lauder anymore!

We're Honeymooning in Europe with our Tax Refund

Priceless When we married last year (second marriages for both of us) I was too involved in launching a project to take more than a few days off. We never had a honeymoon and now we're going to take one---several weeks in the Mediterranean.

After buying a house together and joining households, we stayed with our current "S" withholding allowances. Although we could have changed our W-4's and greatly reduced our withholding, we didn't. We let the government save the money for us last year. Based on our experience with our tax returns for 2005 (we also bought points on our mortgage last year that were deductible) and the IRS worksheets, we adjusted our withholdings for 2006. Now the government isn't saving for us, but the thousands we got back this year are funding our belated honeymoon.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pantry Meal #2 - Hearty Sunday Breakfast- $.88 cents per serving

Blueberries are high in antioxidants

What to do when a dozen eggs doesn't last until Sunday morning because Bo ate half-a-dozen in his omelet after coming home Saturday night? What's for breakfast when there's no bread, no eggs and low on milk? Go to the pantry and find a wholesome breakfast of hot cereal made delicious by adding a few other pantry touches. Vanilla and almond extracts are great items to have on hand to add aroma and flavor to much more than cookie dough. We also keep a supply of soy or almond milk on hand in the pantry; it's shelf-life is long and flavors are an interesting and healthy break from dairy.

This meal is high in fiber, iron, A, B & C vitamins, and antioxidants (blueberries!)

Whole Grains and Fruit Breakfast

1 cup 10-grain cereal (.33)
3 cups almond milk, or soy or evaporated milk diluted (.90)
1 cup dried mixed berries or other dried fruit diced into small pieces (.75)
2 cups applesauce (.60)
1 tsp. butter (.05)
1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract (.03)
1/4 tsp. salt (.001)
sprinkle of brown sugar, if desired

Bring almond milk, butter, salt, mixed dried berries and vanilla extract to boil. Add cereal, lower heat and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with brown sugar, if desired, and 1/2-3/4 cup of applesauce. Makes three servings.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Spring Time Saving$ - $250 Each Year

Retractable Clothes Line We have a nifty gadget that cost $19.99 and allows us to save $250 each year: ever seen one of these?

Our home is heated by electricity, as are all our appliances. One our biggest volt-suckers is the clothes dryer - coming in second after the electric oven.

Now that spring is here, clothes can be dried on an outdoor clothes line. Our yard didn't have an appropriate space for a conventional clothes line---either too shady, hard to access on a slope, or exposed to dust and chaff. So we bought and installed a retractable clothes line. These are very popular in Europe, but this one happens to be USA-made. The casing is attached to the support post of our upper deck; the other post has a hook. The clothes line spools out of the reel and is attached to the hook. The line is pulled taunt by a twist around the anchor at the lower left. In all, we have about 20 feet of line that can accommodate two loads of clothes.

When you do need to use the dryer, put a dry towel in the clothes dryer with each load of wet clothes. The dry towel adsorbs dampness and reduces drying time. Try to dry several loads of laundry in a row to take advantage of the heat that's built up in the dryer drum.