Get to Know Your Fruits and Vegetables
What’s better than being outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and choosing quality, fresh foods? You and your family can benefit from purchasing locally grown foods this season while supporting your community. This is something I look forward to as soon as the local farmers markets in my community open. Not only do I revel in the experience and fun of this Saturday morning trip to the market, but I always leave feeling accomplished because I’ve supported local farmers and look forward the menus I will experiment with using the goods I bought. As most of you know, I am very adamant about eating well and caring for our environment. Here are a few reasons why it is important for me to shop local. Besides, I enjoy talking to the vendors and building relationships with them. They and I look forward to seeing each other during the season. Being a small business owner myself, I appreciate the support of my community.
It’s better for the environment: Farmers who sell their food locally eliminate the need for long-distance travel and excess packaging. Reports show that produce purchased at supermarkets travels 1,300 miles, on average, and could be sitting in storage for up to 14 days. While many fruits and vegetables need to be imported because they cannot be grown locally and are not in season, when you shop at a farmers’ market, you support the small business efforts that do not require large-scale transportation and packaging.
The food is fresher: At most farmers’ markets, you’re more likely to receive the freshest produce that’s been picked within the last 48 hours, since it hasn’t traveled far. However, for many urban farmers’ markets, it’s possible that the food has been shipped from a different region if that vendor is distributing wholesale produce. Always check with your vendors to make sure.
They use more natural farming methods: Because farmers who operate independently and sell locally aren’t producing food on a national or global scale, their methods tend to be more grassroots without the need for GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, waxing, and gassing. However, just because you are buying from a farmers’ market doesn’t mean it’s 100% organic and free from pesticides. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a good resource to verify which methods are considered “organic” in production and processing.
It’s more personal: Concerned about where your food is coming from? Not sure what they use to grow your favorite apples? At farmers’ markets, you have the opportunity to speak directly to the people who know best – the farmers! You can carry on a conversation and learn insider knowledge to bolster your confidence in your purchases.
You help farmers stay in business: With large agribusiness dominating the global market, it can be hard for small farmers to keep up with the competition. Since 1935, there has been a loss of 5 million farms. Fortunately, when you shop locally, vendors have a much high profit margin than if they sold through a third-party vendor. The Economic Research Service, a publication group under the USDA, highlights important trends within the local farming business that explain how you directly impact your local economy by shopping local.
Tips for Clothes Shopping in July (and what I've learned)
Over the past 4 years, I have noticed how the shopping climate for upcoming seasonal fashions has changed drastically. The old rule was to wait until after Labor Day to look for summer sales and upcoming fall fashions. Nowadays, time flies by so fast (or at least it seems so for me), I can’t keep up with the holidays and fashions speeding into stores way before the season. So I have created a new method for shopping — I no longer wait for Labor Day to get summer sales. Instead, I seek them out in July. I’ve learned that most stores have already summer clearances in July, getting ready to stock fall fashion. I don’t like seeing sweaters in August (even though they are pretty). but I use the early display as an idea of what fall fashion will be and sometimes find some great prices. I’ve noticed if I wait for September, all the pretty colors, styles and sizes are no longer available. So there is a catch to all of this but here’s how I handle that scandal (that’s what I call it).
I now realize that the feeling of snagging a huge score while shopping doesn’t have to be completely random. In fact, you can track a store’s sale cycle so you always get the best price for whatever clothing and accessories you want. When I’m shopping, I ask the associates about their upcoming sales and new fashions. Then I’m prepared.
Stores want to keep their shelves and racks filled with clothes and accessories but they get new merchandise so frequently that eventually, items that aren’t selling must be put on clearance in order to move them out the door. This is when it’s your turn to score.
If you know exactly when an item will be on sale, you can decide whether you want to wait to buy it on the cheap, or if it’s worth the extra money to buy it beforehand. For me, if I find the size I need, I usually get it then instead of regretting it later.
Understand Sales Cycles: Stores want you to pay top dollar for the goods on the shelves. That’s why they put higher-priced items right at the front of the store, with sale and clearance items way in the back. But just because a jacket is 30% off doesn’t make it any less fashionable, does it? Between seasonal sales and the regular sale cycle, there’s really no reason you should have to pay full price for any article of clothing or accessory – unless, of course, it sells out and you don’t get a chance to make your move. Armed with the information below, you can save money, look fashionable, and dress the way you want at an affordable price.
Thursdays Are Best: If you want first dibs on a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, your best bet is to try shopping on a Thursday. Stores know that most people come to the mall or the shop on the weekend, so they begin preparations on Thursday to mark down old merchandise and rotate new merchandise into the store.
By shopping on Friday and Saturday, you might score a great deal, but you might also have a limited selection – that’s not good if you want something specific. By shopping on a Thursday, you can have the best selection and the best prices to snag the item that you desire.
Shop End of Season: One of the best times to get the most bang for your buck is to shop around the end of a season. Keep in mind that retail stores are a couple of months “ahead of the weather,” so you could still pick up a cheap sweater and get a month’s worth of wear before it’s time to bring out your spring wardrobe.
Know When Not to Buy: You’re going to pay a premium price if you shop too early or during the wrong month. For instance, it’s unwise to buy jewelry around Christmas, when you’ll probably pay top dollar for your baubles. And some items never go on sale – high-end designer shoes and accessories are usually pretty constant in price, especially if the item doesn’t technically have a “season.”
Final Word: As I always say, you don’t have to spend a ton to look great. Wishing you happy sales and fabulous finds during July!
Get in the conversation — When is your favorite time to shop? Do you have any other tips to get the best deals? Share your ideas in the comments!
Summer is Here (and so is possible "boredom" for kids)
Experts say boredom is essential for learning creativity — and I couldn’t agree more! Growing up in British Guyana, South America, I didn’t have all the technology and resources that are vastly available to kids now. There was a big plus to this though, because it made us become very creative, artistic and skillful. Looking back, I owe the 'boredom' of those long summer days for the engineered mindset I now possess and use in growing my business and managing challenges. I’ve researched and found what I feel to be true about why boredom can be a key to success.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, it’s likely that summertime gets tough. When kids are home all day, or at least out of the routine of school, they get bored easily. Boredom often leads to whining or other forms of mischief.
So what if you’re looking to keep your kids busy, but don’t want to spend loads of money on a trip to the local zoo twice a week? Here are some cheap options to maintain your sanity. (I mean, to keep your kids occupied for the summer.)
Let them be bored: As kids these days experience more scheduled lives, they’re left to their own devices less and less. So, of course, as soon as you let them be, they’re bored because they need to learn to play on their own and be creative. So number one on your list is also the easiest option: give your kids down time. Provide them with space and time to come up with things to do and don’t immediately fill up their schedules when boredom inevitably strikes. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!
Create a chore chart: You might as well keep your kids busy and get something out of it. If you don’t already, now is the time to teach them responsibility with a chore chart. This could include unpaid daily chores like making their beds, feeding the family pet, etc. Or you could step up your game a notch with commission-based paid chores. Just make a list or chart of chores kids can get paid for, including each chore's monetary value. When kids check a chore off the list to your satisfaction, they get paid.
Sure, you’ve got to invest some money in this one, but it doesn’t have to be a lot, and it’s a great way to teach kids responsibility and help them start managing their own money. When I was young, I learned a lot when I went to the market to help my aunt with her shopping; she’d let me keep the change after she paid. I saved those coins and when school re-opened in the fall, I deposited it into my school bank account. Yes, we learned the skill of managing money at the early stages of elementary school. By the time I was finished with primary and middle school, I had saved enough money to open a bank account with a commercial bank.
Visit the local library: You know how I love books! These days, most local libraries run summer reading programs. These can being incentive even for nonreaders to pick up a book this summer. Just make a habit of stopping by the library once a week or more often, and be sure to let kids pick appropriate books they find interesting (even if you don’t see the attraction). This is a two-birds-one-stone approach, since visiting the library makes for a fun outing, and reading all those books whiles away hours of the summer and keeps kids occupied in a worthwhile endeavor.
Check out your local parks & recreation department: Just need the kids out of the house for a day or several this summer? Summer camps can be prohibitively expensive if you’re on a tight budget. But, local parks and recreation departments often run day camps that are much cheaper and allow kids to get outdoors and burn off some energy. I’ve used those when my kids were little; that’s how they became great swimmers. Even if your local department doesn’t run camps where they’ll actually take your kids for the day, chances are they’re hosting some cheap or free summer events you can attend as a family.
Plant a garden: Get kids out of the house and into a healthy pastime with gardening. Even small kids can help plant. Talk to your local gardening center about fruits, vegetables, or flowers that are particularly easy to grow in your area. Be sure to give the kids some autonomy over this project to really let them get involved. They should be able to help choose the plants and the layout. But they should also be responsible for weeding, watering, and other garden maintenance. This is a great skill-building activity that can also keep kids busy all summer long and build creativity.
Get to know free activities in your area:The internet is filled with great blogs highlighting local activities, especially for families with kids. Run a quick Google search for your area and get familiar with what’s out there. Many blogs keep calendars of family-friendly activities, often free or cheap ones, throughout the summer.
Create an activity bucket: Frequently, there’s plenty to do around your house but the kids aren’t great at figuring out the next best idea. Write down potential activities on popsicle sticks and stick them in a jar or bucket. Let the kids choose one activity each day, and make it happen. This could include things like making homemade ice cream, building a bicycle ramp in the back yard, creating a sprinkler out of an old two liter bottle, or building a fort in the living room. Try to come up with ideas using only materials you’ve got on hand, especially if they’re things the kids can do largely unsupervised.
Create a summer memory board: Kids love to collect things, whether it’s movie ticket stubs or rocks from each park you visit. And if you’re like many parents, you like to take photos of your kids having fun. Combine all these memory-sparking items and photos onto a summer memory board. All you need is a large cork board, which you can get for a few bucks at a local craft store. Each time you try something new or create new memories, add to your board. Looking at the board may help spark new activity ideas for your kids, and it’ll be a great memento to have at the end of the summer.
Pick up some board games: Board games for kids have come a long way since CandyLand. While the old games are still great, many new games teach skills like resource management, teamwork, and basic strategy skills.
I hope you try some of these activities with your kids this summer and help them learn some new skills.