Fabulous Solution to the Breakfast Dilemma

Mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Recent medical research says we cannot afford to miss it for many reasons:

  1. People who lose weight and keep it off are breakfast eaters.
  2. People who eat breakfast are better equipped to fight off colds and flu.
  3. Breakfast boosts metabolism all day and fires up your brain cells for faster, clearer thinking.

SIMPLE BREAKFAST GUIDELINES

  • Eat when you can but within two hours of waking.
  • Eat what you enjoy. You are more likely to create a lifelong habit if it’s something you enjoy.
  • Have “grab and go” breakfast items available that are healthy, tasty and affordable.

I have a great solution for your breakfast dilemma that meets all of the criteria above: Baked-from-scratch muffins! What? You don’t have time to bake every morning?

Not to worry! I’ve got a great method that will leave you excuse-less and make you your household’s Breakfast Hero.

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6 Ways to Outsmart Picky Eaters

Got picky eaters? Don’t get mad, get clever! Use these simple techniques to get your kids to eat a greater variety of healthy foods without resorting to mealtime confrontations or worse, force-feeding.

BE PREPARED. Keep a cooler in the car that you stock with carrots, pretzels, yogurt, and water when you’re out with the kids. This trick will head off the “I’m starving to death!” syndrome that can cause an otherwise reliable automobile to veer off into a fast food drive-thru lane.

PLAN DINNERS. If planning menus for a full week is too daunting, start with only two or three days. Keep it simple but balanced. Whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta; a fruit or a vegetable; and a protein source like lean meat, cheese, or beans.

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How to Maintain a Reasonable Toy Inventory and Other Great Reader Tips

If you have kids, you might be dreading how many new toys you’re going to have to find room for come next month. Reader Beth has a great toy inventory balancing system that’s sure to please everyone, even the kids.

Photo credit: Too Many Toys, by David Shannon

Family friends of ours have a great system that solves the problem of an ever-growing inventory of way too many toys—most of which the kids no longer play with. Their children know that each year after Christmas each child is required to count and create a list of new toys they received as gifts. Then the kids go to their rooms and find the same number of toys that are still in good condition that they no longer play with, which they need to give away to create space for the new ones. Of the toys they designate to be purged, they are allowed to select one to be put away and kept in a memory box.

As a family, they load up the car and drive the toys to a local charity that accepts donations (many churches, preschools, and shelters are grateful to receive toys). Doing this each year helps to keep their house less cluttered but more than that, the kids learn a valuable lesson about making choices and allowing other children to benefit from things they once enjoyed but have outgrown. Beth

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Spooky Tales of Extreme Debt

Scary stories and fiendish tales are all part of Halloween fun. But the last thing you expect is for those spooky stories and tricks to be played out in real life.

Debt has become the American way. So has denial. Super-high debt levels paired with serious denial can be downright terrifying. While not all debt situations reach critical levels, when they do, the response must be equally severe.

Kevin, 24, has $19,000 credit-card debt, drives a heavily-financed $45,000 fancy high-performance car ($580 monthly payments) and still lives at home because he cannot afford to move out. He can barely afford to eat because, in addition to his debt, he pays $2,400 a year for car insurance and $3,000 on gasoline—all on less than $32,000 annual income. Extreme debt.

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Ask Me Anything: Programmable Thermostats, Column Archives, Retirement Plans, Cottage Businesses

As I write, it is very early in the morning. I just peeked out to see that it’s snowing! As you may recall, we are new to Colorado, having moved from Southern California. I must be still in that wide-eyed, child-like phase of transition because I am all giddy with excitement and wonder. Snow!

How fitting it is that our first reader question is right on-point with wanting to keep warm and cozy without breaking the bank.

Dear Mary: A coworker had a programmable thermostat installed in her home. She says the temperature is always perfect and her utility bills are lower. Hers cost over $200, plus installation. Is it really worth it? Martha in Vermont

Dear Martha: Programmable thermostats that control a home’s central heat and air conditioning can return many times their original cost in lower electricity bills. You can set your timer to turn off the AC about the time you leave for the day, and to turn back on a half hour before you get home.  Contrary to popular belief, this does not use more electricity than having the heat constantly maintain a warm temperature; it uses less. In the summer you can program your air conditioning similarly.

Programmable thermostats like the Lux Products TX500E-010 Smart Temp Programmable Thermostat are available online or at local home improvement stores and start at about $35. All programmables come with installation instructions, which I’m confident you could follow easily. Or it’s a quick job for an electrician if you’re not comfortable doing the installation yourself.

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Holiday Baking on the CHEAP!

Look up the word ‘impulsive’ in the dictionary and prepare to see my face. In my basement pantry, I have at least six bags of chocolate chips to prove it. They are the ghosts of a Christmas past—left over from one of my Gift-in-a-Jar marathon projects.

And those two containers of candied fruit that must be ten years old by now, which I keep because they’ve become such a novelty? They appear to be the same as the day I bought them.

Baking supplies are notoriously on sale at rock-bottom prices starting now in anticipation of Thanksgiving and continuing through the end of the year. I still have four five-pound bags of all-purpose flour from last holiday season, which I bought for $.99 each. Sugar is cheap during the holidays, too. Ditto for other holiday baking ingredients from marshmallows to sweetened condensed milk, dates to nuts.

One of my basic rules of grocery shopping is this: When it’s on sale, buy enough to last until it’s on sale again. Baking supplies become so cheap this time of year, now is the time to stock up.

Which begs the question you might be asking: How long will baking supplies last in the event you decide to buy enough to last the year? It all depends on the item and if you have the storage space to keep them at their optimum. Here is a handy guide:

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A $25,000-Per-Person Dinner That’s Hard to Swallow

I don’t consider myself a complete stranger to high-priced gourmet fare. After all, I did enjoy a lovely $100-per-person meal once.

But even that experience in my semi-impressive culinary repertoire did not prepare me to handle gracefully the idea of a 10-course dinner with a price tag of $25,000 per person. And it wasn’t a political fundraiser. Just a fancy meal in an exotic location—Bangkok, Thailand.

Sure, this gastronomic extravaganza included the very best in Cristal champagne, foie gras, truffles, Kobe beef, Beluga caviar and Belon oysters, but come on! Twenty-five grand per person—a price that does not include tax or gratuity or airfare?

I don’t think I could do that even if I were so rich $25,000 would be mere pennies when compared to my vast net worth. There are some things I simply would not be able to get out of my mind like …

I could keep going with this, pointing out that $25,000 would cover the full cost to finish the basement at our house. Or paint the entire interior at least five times, but I’ll refrain.

And I’ll try not to get all worked up that the tax and tip alone for a party of two at the extravagant event in Bangkok would boost the tab by at least another $15,000.

Instead, I’m going to be grateful that I live in a country where we are free to do with our money as we please even if that means dropping a load on something as fleeting as a 10-course meal.

If you had $25,000 spare what would you do with it?

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5 Key Motivators That Influence Teens

They want independence and freedom; you want them to take responsibility for their actions. They want decision-making power; you want them to make the right choices. They are struggling to break away; you can’t bear the thought of letting go. Welcome to adolescence.

Teenagers long to feel significant. They want to demonstrate to themselves and the world that they matter and are capable of making a difference. Many of the problems teens encounter today is because their desire to be significant is ignored or diminished.

 

Having raised two sons, my husband and I now understand a thing or two about teens and money. And if there is one thing we have learned, it is this: If you trust your teens with some amount of money and then allow them to make their own independent financial decisions on a level commensurate with their ages and abilities—and allow them to suffer the consequences of their financial decisions—you will address the five key motivators that influence kids:

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