Saturday, April 26, 2008

Load Up the Pantry

I read this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal the other day. I've already been doing this for a long time even though friends (and sometimes family) make fun of me. That's OK. I don't mind being laughed at. I'm just doing my job -- stretching the dollars that my husband earns to support our family.

Load Up The Pantry
by Brett Arends
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn't going to happen here. But I don't know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)

Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to And those yields are before tax.

Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.

And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.

These are trends that have been in place for some time.

And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

The reason? The prices of many underlying raw materials have risen much more quickly still. Wheat prices, for example, have roughly tripled in the past three years.

Sooner or later, the food companies are going to have to pass those costs on. Kraft saw its raw material costs soar by about $1.25 billion last year, squeezing profit margins. The company recently warned that higher prices are here to stay. Last month the chief executive of General Mills, Kendall Powell, made a similar point.

The main reason for rising prices, of course, is the surge in demand from China and India. Hundreds of millions of people are joining the middle class each year, and that means they want to eat more and better food.

A secondary reason has been the growing demand for ethanol as a fuel additive. That's soaking up some of the corn supply.

You can't easily stock up on perishables like eggs or milk. But other products will keep. Among them: Dried pasta, rice, cereals, and cans of everything from tuna fish to fruit and vegetables. The kicker: You should also save money by buying them in bulk.

If this seems a stretch, ponder this: The emerging bull market in agricultural products is following in the footsteps of oil. A few years ago, many Americans hoped $2 gas was a temporary spike. Now it's the rosy memory of a bygone age.

The good news is that it's easier to store Cap'n Crunch or cans of Starkist in your home than it is to store lots of gasoline. Safer, too.

Write to Brett Arends at

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Albertson's and Yoplait Yogurt

I've already put everything in the fridge so no picture this time.

I got 3 packages (4 containers in each) of the Yo-Plus yogurt and 8 containers of regular Yoplait yogurt. My total before discounts was $10. I had $1 off coupons for each of the Yo-Plus packages and had accidentally let my regular yogurt coupons expire YESTERDAY. I hate it when I do that! Albertson's is running a deal where you get $3 off at the register for spending $10 on Yoplait products so I ended up spending only $4 out of pocket for that yogurt. Hopefully that will last at least a week. My 3 girls sure can go through a lot of yogurt!

I might go back Tuesday and get some more of the regular containers of yogurt even though I don't have any coupons. Even without coupons I can get 20 containers for 35 cents each after the discount at the register. That's cheaper than the generic store brand.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

CVS Deals for the week of 4-13 to 4-19

It was a pretty slow week for me and shopping. I'm just feeling exhausted lately -- probably because I'm slowly approaching the end of this pregnancy and I don't sleep well. I just can't get comfortable. I figure it's just preparation for the lack of sleep I'll be dealing with pretty soon when I've got a nursing baby up every 2 hours all night long.

ANYWAY...I did make it to CVS this evening but I haven't even brought the stuff in from the van yet so I don't have any pictures. Here's what I got --

2 packages CVS diapers (size 1, 44 count each) -- $8.99 (buy 1 get 1 free)
CVS dental floss -- $2.99
2 bottles VO5 shampoo -- $1.32
2 bottles VO5 conditioner -- $1.32

Coupons -- $3 off $10 CVS brand
$5 extra care bucks

Cash out of pocket -- $7.32
Earned $1 ECB (for dental floss)

Like I said -- it was a slow week for me at CVS but I figure spending less than $8 out of pocket and getting that many diapers was a pretty good deal for me this week.

I have plans tomorrow to head over to Albertson's and take advantage of the Yoplait yogurt deal. If you buy $10 worth of Yoplait you will get $3 off automatically at the register. I have a bunch of Yoplait coupons that I'll be using so I'll let you know what kind of deal I'm able to get late tomorrow evening.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A funny about the tax rebates

My dad forwarded this to me so any complaints can be directed to him.

What are you planning to do with your "tax rebate" check?? The government wants you to spend it to help stimulate the economy. OK...but what should you spend it on so that the AMERICAN economy will be stimulated?

Now, if we spend that money at Wal-Mart, all the money will go to China. If we spend it on computers, most of the money will go to Korea or India.

If we spend it on gasoline it will all go to the Arabs (or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela) .... and none of these scenarios will help the American economy.

We need to keep that money here in America the only way to keep that money here at home is to drink beer, gamble, or spend it on prostitution. Currently it seems that these are the only businesses still left in the U.S.

I'm embarrassed to post this, but it's funny!

As you probably know from reading my posts I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey. We have been on Dave's plan for years now and are living debt-free except for our mortgage. We pay cash (or use the debit card) for everything except gasoline. With the prices of gas we have decided that it works better FOR US to carry a gas card that we can only use at one brand of station. It's worked well for us because there are lots of those stations in our area and on my husband's regular route to work. This way we don't have to carry the cash for gas (it costs about $75 to fill the van and about $35 to fill his car) and we don't have to worry about overdoing it on the debit card in a given week at the gas station.

Here's the embarrassing/funny part. We also still have a card with Citibank that we use online only. I understand and agree with Dave Ramsey regarding the evils of credit cards in any form. I prefer them online because of the consumer protection they give me. I also use this one card for paying my utility bills automatically each month. Then on the date that the bill for the credit card is due I have them automatically debit my checking account for the full amount of the bill. This way we are never late and we never pay interest. The bonus is that we earn cash back on our purchases with that card -- and the utility payments garner a higher percentage than regular purchases. Since we don't have an annual fee or interest charges this actually is cash in our pocket. Well, I noticed the other day that when I opened the bookmark on my computer for the Citibank website that Dave's face was staring back at me! When I pull down my bookmarks many of them have little icons next to them. Like eBay has that little eBay symbol next to it and Yahoo has the big red "Y" next to it. Well, Dave's bookmark has his smiling face looking back at me and all of a sudden so does my Citibank link! I wonder what Citibank would think about that if they knew! I know Dave would get a good laugh out of it -- and he'd also chastise me for still having and using a credit card.

So there's my embarrassing/funny story for the day.

One more thought on the stimulus checks...

I just realized something......we are going to get our stimulus check via direct deposit so we wouldn't be able to convert it into a gift card even if we wanted to. I wonder what Sears and Kroger would say about that? Could I bring them a copy of my bank account statement showing the direct deposit and give them the cash for the amount of the check to get the gift card with the bonus? Now this is getting a little too complicated even for my taste.

Plus, if we were getting our check in the mail it wouldn't even be sent out from the IRS until July 11 (according to the IRS website). I don't know if Kroger has a deadline for their offer but Sears says theirs is good from May 14 until July 19. That's really pushing it for me -- trusting the IRS to mail on time and trusting the post office to deliver (to MY house, not my neighbor's house) promptly.'s getting a little too complicated.

Kroger wants your stimulus check

I got this from The Consumerist earlier today -- Kroger will add 10% to your stimulus check if you convert it into a Kroger gift card. So if you are expecting to receive $600 next month they will give you a gift card worth $660. Apparently Sears is offering the same thing. I'm always leery about gift cards, especially in such large amounts. Have you been reading lately about stores filing for bankruptcy and not honoring gift cards? How about gift cards with expiration dates? And what about the ones that charge you a "small monthly fee" each month you don't have any activity on them? Granted, if you were planning to use your stimulus check to buy a new refrigerator or washing machine at Sears anyway you probably don't have anything to lose by converting the check to a Sears gift card and then turning around and using it for your pre-planned purchase.

My family is expecting a check for $2100 next month. I don't think we are going to convert it to a Kroger gift card even though we could then eliminate that line from our budget for a very long time. I'd worry about what would happen if I LOST that card. That's just too much money to have tied up in one place, especially considering our usual spending habits. Even though it seems like we do most of our regular grocery shopping at Kroger, we only spent $1400 there in all of 2007. In the "grocery" category of our budget we spent a total of $2500 in all of 2007. That includes all grocery-type shopping (and coupons) at Target, WalMart, Kroger, Albertson's, Tom Thumb, and CVS.

So take these offers made by Sears and Kroger with a grain of salt. And remember...if you have credit card debt you are MUCH better off putting this check onto those debts than going out and spending more money.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Papa!!!

Happy 81st birthday to our beloved Pope Benedict XVI and prayers for many more happy and healthy years.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Frugality and Breastfeeding

When people talk about how expensive it is to have a baby I often wonder if part of that "expense" that they are talking about is Artificial Baby Milk, also known as formula. When I had my first child almost 7 years ago I was determined to breastfeed her for many reasons; the 2 main reasons were that breastmilk is better for the baby than formula and it's cheaper. My frugality played a large role in my determination to continue breastfeeding even when we had latch problems and my baby was slow to gain. After 3 children we have determined that my babies simply gain weight slowly, though...that's apparently normal for them. It's a slow gain but it is steady and that's all that matters. To look at them now (almost ages 7, 5, and 3) you would never be able to tell that they were on the small side for a long time.

In addition to breastmilk being free it's also convenient. You never have to fix bottles before leaving the house or make sure you've measured out the powder and brought enough water with you. If you get stuck in traffic or an airport or a natural disaster you don't have to worry about not being able to feed your baby. Those images on television after Hurricane Katrina of mothers and their starving babies still break my heart -- if they had been breastfeeding then those babies wouldn't have been so hungry.

What's sad is that so many people are opposed to breastfeeding. Why? It's the way that God intended babies to be fed. And if you don't have a belief in God, then it's the way that "mother nature" intended babies to be fed. Why do you think the human race has continued as long as it has? Breastfeeding. No dairy cows required to feed your baby. You could easily be a nomadic tribe and still feed the babies.

What's also sad is that so many people are opposed to breastfeeding in public. Here in Texas we are lucky that there is a state law backing up our right to nurse our children in any location in which we are welcome ourselves. And the way I understand the law, breastfeeding is not a reason to declare us "unwelcome". For example, if I am sitting on a bench at the mall and am welcome to do so as a customer, then the mall can't ask me to leave BECAUSE I started breastfeeding. If I was welcome in the first place then I am still welcome.

Why do so many people think that we shouldn't breastfeed in public? Trust me -- the vast majority of us do so as discreetly as possible. My babies didn't have a problem with a light blanket over them but some babies do. So don't always expect a woman to use a blanket. Most of the time the most you will see (if you are inclined to STARE) is the top of a breast. How is that different from the girls falling out of their tops at the mall or the beach? How is that different from the pictures on the covers of the magazines at the grocery store checkout? Or on the posters in the window of Victoria's Secret? And please don't get me started on the idea of asking a mother to go to the restroom to feed her baby in private. Do you want to eat your lunch in the restroom? I didn't think so.

I got this link to a blog on Craig's List from a friend of mine. Here's the text of it. It's an awesome thing to read. I wish more people felt this way.

Date: 2006-11-21, 10:07PM PST

I happened to be on an Airplane from Shrevesport two weeks ago. Those tend to be small and crowded.

I sat next to a young lady, perhaps 20 or so. She was carrying a small child, who was quite unhappy with the pressure changes and all.

She got up several times to go to the bathroom, each time I had to rise to let her out. I knew she was comforting the child, I even asked her if she wished the aisle seat.

She blushed and said she preferred the inside seat. The flight got a little rough, the seat belt light came on along with a warning from the Captain, and he wasn't kidding, it got very rough.

She looked quite miserable, the child was crying. The ears of the very young are quite sensitive, they have not learned to compensate so nursing is very beneficial at times like that.

When the flight began to calm I mentioned to her that it was all right to comfort her child at her seat, I did not mind.

She smiled and thanked me, I suppose the fact that I am obviously a bit grandfatherly relaxed her. So she did, I simply read my book. Several around noticed but none took offense.

One funny thing, the steward came by, a young man of perhaps 30 or so, bringing soft drinks. This was after things had settled down a bit.

She was asleep, as was the child. It had a solid locklip on her breast, both were quite content. He asked me if my daughter wanted anything, I got some Orange juice for her and set it on her tray.

She woke up soon after, drank it and thanked me. I even got to hold the child for awhile, a wonderful feeling bringing back some memories of my youth and my own children. I confess to a small tear in my eyes at touching a hand nearly as small as my index finger.

Perhaps my being much older makes a difference, but breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to see. Even as a male, a tiny child pressing to my chest feels just fine.

Look down on it all you wish, those who do are fools. Women should feed their children as nature intended, they will be stronger and healthier as a result.

I see nothing wrong with it, if bashful or in a highly public place, a simple blanket will suffice. If not, that does not matter, it did not for the young lady sharing a long trip with me.

My wife nursed ours until they turned to solid foods, often in public. Not one time did anyone say anything.

It might be time for some to rub a bit of the blue off their noses, this is a very silly thing to take any offense at. Courtesy would dictate that we simply go on our way and let the young mothers be. It is just nature at work.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Really Cheap Reading

Check out these great deals from Publication Station. This is where I asmost always get my magazine subscriptions. You can do a new subscription or a renewal. Just be sure to put the coupon code in at checkout. Happy Reading!!

***edited on 4-14-08
Looks like at least the Rachael Ray one isn't working. You have to be quick with this company or the codes expire.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Just some more reasons why we homeschool

Did you read about the 3rd graders in Georgia who were caught plotting to knock out, handcuff, and stab their teacher? Of course, psychiatrists have stated that it is unlikely that children that young seriously intended to hurt anyone. So why did they bring a crystal paperweight, a steak knife with a broken handle, steel handcuffs and other items as part of last week's plot if they didn't actually intend to use them? You can read more about the story here. To me, it doesn't matter whether they actually would have gone through with the attack or not. What matters is that they went beyond just talking about it as if it were an imaginary story to actually bringing weapons to school. What makes such a young child act that way??

The other day I read the report about the plummeting graduation rates in school districts across the country. In my local newspaper they listed the rates for some local districts as well as other districts across the state. While my district wasn't listed (it's very small) the district next door was on the list. It actually has over a 62% graduation rate and is higher than 5 major metropolitan areas in the state. (Of course, they still shouldn't be "proud" of the fact that 38% of students drop out.) The local newspaper online opened this article up for comments from readers and one person said that this was one reason why so many people homeschool now even though that's a farce, too, because of the lack of oversight. Excuse me? Why would I want the state or local school districts to have any oversight power when they can't even get their students graduating at a high rate? I am so thankful to live in Texas where homeschools are considered legally to be private schools and are not subject to state control. That freedom has allowed us to pursue homeschooling the way we want to, not necessarily the way the state would have us do it. So far, we have been successful and in the end that's what matters to us.

And speaking of graduation/drop out rates......could these abysmal numbers have something to do with the lack of options available to high school students? Whatever happened to vocational training in schools? Not all students are college-bound and there's nothing wrong with that. It would be really nice, though, if the schools could offer more options for training and apprenticeships in hands-on fields so as to prepare students for work after graduation if that's the route they wish to pursue. When my mom was in high school (mid to late 1960's) she went down the "work path" instead of the "college path" and took classes in typing and shorthand. Those helped prepare her for a job in the secretarial field right out of school. What are high school graduates qualified to do after graduation these days? Flip burgers? Check groceries? What about setting them up in apprenticeships during school to get them some training in a field they are interested in so that they can actually work and support themselves? If as a country we pursued this angle we might not be losing so many manufacturing jobs overseas. Maybe we could actually have the opportunity to buy products "Made in the USA".