Breaking down barriers. But not in a good way.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to give a talk at the annual meeting of our south central PA chapter. The chapter always likes to get an update on what up at the General Assembly, so I oblige them.

Also, they meet at a bar. So there’s that.


I started by raising three issues and asked our members to note what these bills have in common:

  • The creation of a prescription drug monitoring program (House Bill 317), run by the state government, in which they would collect personal data about people who receive prescriptions for medications on Schedules II through V of the federal controlled substances act. The existing bills on this topic, including HB 317, are extremely weak on privacy protections. Among other problems, every bill allows law enforcement to snoop in the database without a search warrant and without a finding of probable cause. They never have to tell a court what they’re doing.
  • The collection of DNA samples from people who have not been convicted of a crime (Senate Bill 150). DNA would be collected from people who have been arrested but not convicted of felonies and some misdemeanors and then sent to the DNA databanks of the Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI. The government would not need a court order to collect the sample.
  • The use of an administrative subpoena to obtain personally identifying information about an individual from an internet service provider in child sex offense investigations (House Bill 90). An administrative subpoena is issued by a prosecutor’s office and is not reviewed by a court. Under current law, prosecutors need to obtain a search warrant from a court to get this information.

You can detect the pattern here. All three of these issues involve advances in technology and easing the government’s ability to obtain personal information about private citizens. Not surprisingly, all three bills are supported by the Pennsylvania  District Attorneys Association and the Office of the Attorney General, as they are currently written.

This is a disturbing trend. We are heading into territory where government officials will use technology to break down the walls between us and them. The revelations about the NSA’s metadata collection have made that obvious.

They have to be stopped. Two weeks ago, Rep. Matt Baker of Tioga County announced his intent to introduce a prescription drug monitoring bill, so last week we asked our supporters to drop a note to their state rep to ask him or her to not co-sponsor the Baker bill.

Their appetite for our personal information is insatiable, and they’ll only stop if they hear an outcry from the people.

Breastfeeding: The Wonder Milk

All around the BYU-Idaho campus you will find mother’s rooms attached to the women’s restrooms.  There are small stalls with just one plush chair and other larger areas with three or four…sometimes a whole couch!  The mothers of BYU-Idaho are aware of the great benefits breastfeeding can bring to their babies as well as their own health.  Besides being obviously cheaper than buying cases of formula ($1200- $1500 cheaper per year!), breastfeeding has some bonus effects.

·    Breastfed babies typically get sick less. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ear infections, diarrhea, and stomach problems.
·    Your baby can see you up close and personal. Babies are born extremely nearsighted, which means they can only see things about 8 to 15 inches away. That also happens to be the distance between your face and your baby’s face when breastfeeding. So when your baby locks eyes with you, it’s a true bonding moment.
·    Breastfeeding allows your body to recover from pregnancy and childbirth more quickly. The hormones released when you breastfeed make your uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy size.
·    Breastfeeding exposes your baby to many different tastes. Formula has one taste. But through your breast milk, your baby eventually gets a slight taste of whatever you eat, although not directly. This will later make introducing solid foods easier.
·    Breastfeeding may help you to lose weight. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed can burn as many as 600 calories a day, which may help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
·    Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in moms.
·    Your breast milk changes during a feeding session. When your baby first starts to nurse, your milk is a watery bluish color. Toward the end of the feeding session, your baby gets to thicker, fattier milk, which gives your baby the calories needed to grow healthy and strong.
·    Breast milk heals. Breast milk is filled with special components that are designed to help fight infection and cut down on swelling in the breast. So, if your breasts are sore those first few days, gently massaging some of your milk into your nipples and breasts can soothe the soreness and speed up recovery.

Even with all of these great effects, some women struggle to breastfeed their baby.  Whether it’s because they can’t produce enough milk, the baby won’t latch, or it’s painful for the mother, there are solutions!  The following are great websites with information on how to overcome breastfeeding challenges as well as more information on how to breastfeed and it’s benefits:
          It’s Only Natural:  http://www.womenshealth.gov/ItsOnlyNatural
          Your Guide to Breastfeeding: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/breastfeeding-9/nursing-basics
          La Leche League International: http://www.llli.org/
Sources:

http://www.womenshealth.gov/ItsOnlyNatural/

Cooking With Kids

Cooking is so much more then dumping ingredients into a bowl and hoping a delicious dish pops out of the oven.  For your kids it’s learning math and science, it’s having fun with their mom, it’s making a mess and it’s discovering something new.  While cooking with kids can be frustrating for a parent who just wants to get the meal made and in the oven, it can be a bonding time that your children will remember forever.  So slow down and take some time to plan your kids into the meal preparation time!  Here are a few tips on how to include your children while cooking and what you can teach them during the process.


·         Involve Them in the Planning!
Let little Timmy decide what sounds good for dinner that night (you may have to help him by giving him a few options).  Then let them help you make the ingredient list, shop for the produce or find the needed ingredients in your pantry.  Whenever possible, let them make choices about the meal.
·         Create a Safe Environment
Give them their own workspace at a height that’s convenient for them.  Let them have their own spoon, children’s knife, bowl etc.  Don’t worry if their space gets messy and unorganized…just let them have fun in it!
·         Use Dirty Produce
Think we’re joking?  We’re not!  Take your kids to the farmers market and have them pick out the produce.  Let them see their food with dirt on it and teach them about how food grows, what a farmer does, how rain affects the growing process, and why we need to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
·         Measure Up
Get them up close and personal with the fractions used in baking and cooking.  Teach them about using one cup or one half of a cup.  For kids that are in grade school and learning fractions, this is an excellent hands-on opportunity.  For kids who are too young for fractions, have them count how many times they stir the brownie batter or how many eggs go into the mix.
·         Follow Instructions
As children learn how to read, have them read the recipe and/ or ingredient list for you.  They will increase their vocabulary and learn the importance of following directions in a specific order.
·         Introduce New Foods
Kids are more likely to try a new food if they are involved in the preparation of it and are able to handle it before it’s prepared.  If you can get them to use the food in a creative way (mushrooms, olives and pepperoni to make a face on a pizza) they are also more likely to try it.
·         Other Little Tips
o   Let them press the buttons on the blender/ food processor
o   Give them a rolling pin and have them roll part of the cookie dough alongside you
o   Cut a sandwich with a cookie cutter to give it a fun shape
o   Have them help with clean-up
o   Cook when you aren’t starving…just enjoy the process!
Sources:
PBS Parents. (n.d.). Cooking with kids. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/food-and-fitness/eat-smart/cooking-with-kids/

Gastrokid. (2004, March 24). Top 10 tips for cooking with kids. Retrieved from http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/top-10-tips-for-cooking-with-kids
Pictures:

Tricked at the Grocery Store

The following is an example of an average trip to the grocery store.  Read through and identify ways the grocery store tries to get you to purchase more than you planned on.  Keep reading afterwards to see if you found them all.

You look in the refrigerator and there’s nothing there.  Look in your cupboards….nothing.  It’s time for a trip to the grocery store.  You just need the basics.  Bread, eggs, milk and cereal.


After perusing the parking lot for five minutes trying to find the closest spot possible, you finally settle for one ten spaces from the front.  You walk to the store front and grab a cart.  It’s one of those carts that could hold all six of your elementary age nieces and nephews.  Through the front doors you go and BAM! You’re hit with the smell of garden-fresh flowers and this morning’s freshly baked bread and bagels.  You think of all the sandwiches you could make with a loaf of bread and head that direction. 

Before getting to the bread on the side of the store you are distracted by the brightly colored fruits and vegetables.  Tomato, avocado, lettuce and onion are all good on sandwiches.  Into the cart they go.  It’s cheaper to buy a head of lettuce instead of a bag so you pick one up.  While setting it in your cart you realize how much lettuce that really is.  You’re going to need it for way more than just sandwiches.  Above the lettuce is a large assortment of salad dressing.  Perfect.  You grab some Ranch since it’s so versatile.  Then you reach a little to your right and grab a bag of garlic croutons to garnish your salad. 

Back to the bread.  As you near the bakery, your senses go crazy with that homemade smell.  You start to realize how hungry you really are.  There’s a “Store Special” for three loaves of bread for $6.00.  You get three.  Next on your list, milk.

Thankfully, the milk is on the other side of the store which gives you more time to walk around, procrastinating homework.  First you pass the deli meat you need for the sandwiches you’ll make.  Next to the deli meat is cheese.  For the sandwiches you grab some pre-sliced swiss, and then you decide to also get a block of cheddar so you can make grilled cheese sandwiches. 

You’re almost to the milk, but before you get there you see the yogurt.  There’s a special going on!  Ten cups of your favorite Greek yogurt for only $10.00.  Obviously you grab ten.  Finally you get your milk.  The eggs are right after the milk so you add a dozen to your cart…which still seems rather empty.

Before heading to the register there’s one more thing you need: cereal.  You’re just about to reach the aisle when you see a beautiful display of cake mixes on the end of an aisle.  It’s a good thing you walked past this because it’s your roommate’s birthday tomorrow and no one has volunteered to make a cake.  You grab a cake mix, can of frosting and a box of candles.

Cereal…there are so many choices!  Since you just remembered you are supposed to be on campus in five minutes you grab the name brand Frosted Flakes right in front of your face and rush over to the checkout.  The self-checkout lanes are all closed, so you hop in a regular one and anxiously await your turn.  While waiting, you grab a pack of razors (you were almost out) and a snickers bar (because you bought stuff for salads and deserve a little dessert).  The cashier rings you up and when the final price pops up you can’t believe how much you’re spending when all you needed was bread, eggs, milk and cereal. 
Answers:
Large Carts– Grocery carts are getting larger and larger.  Think WINCO.  To avoid making too many purchases, grab a basket or small cart.

Fresh Smells– Many stores put sections that give off a great smell at the front such as the bakery and floral section.  This 1) puts you in a good mood and 2) gets your salivary glands going, causing you to think you’re hungrier than you really are.  To avoid this trap, make sure not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

Staples at the Back– Basic foods such as bread, milk and eggs are always at the back of the store.  In order to get them, a customer must walk past thousands of other food items they convince themselves they need.  To resist the impulse buy, go shopping with a list and stick to it.

Grouping Foods- Store will group items of food together for easy access.  Salad dressing by the salad.  Everything for a cake in one spot.  Chips and salsa.  Hamburger buns by the hamburger meat.  Chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers.  The list goes on and on.

“Deals”- Look out for what actually is a deal and what is not.  Many stores will have signs that look very similar to the SALE signs but are actually just telling you the regular price of the item.  Also beware of buying too much of something (ie bread or yogurt) just because it’s on sale.  One person will probably not go through three loaves of bread before the last one gets moldy.  Spare your money and just buy what you’ll eat.

Shelf Placement- This is most easily seen in the cereal isle.  The bulk and off-brand cereals are placed on the bottom shelf, the healthy cereals on the top shelf and the expensive, sugary, name-brand cereals are placed at eye level.  Companies actually pay for shelf space, and it costs more to have your product sitting on the middle shelves.  Stores also place items they want sold on the ends of the isle so they are more visible.

The Checkout Line– This area includes handy items such as razors and batteries as well as magazines, candy, beef jerky and gift cards.  You’ll find them all in the checkout line and more than likely, you’ll grab at least one.  Try using the self-checkout so you won’t even be tempted.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, keep in mind all the methods being used to entice you to spend money.  Try to identify ways not mentioned in this post and leave a comment when you find one.  Happy shopping!

Sources:

Lubin, G. (2011, July 26). 15 ways supermarkets trick you into spending more money. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/supermarkets-make-you-spend-money-2011-7?op=1
MSN Money Partner. (2013, March 15). 9 sneaky supermarket tricks. Retrieved from http://finances.msn.com/saving-money-ideas/11db6d6b-6270-4b27-9a78-872f2984046f
Prevention Magazine. (2013). 8 ways to avoid sneaky supermarket tricks . Retrieved from http://www.fitbie.com/eat-right/tips/8-ways-avoid-sneaky-supermarket-tricks/tip/3 

Pictures: 
http://depositphotos.com/3252296/stock-photo-Jug-with-milk-bread-and-eggs.html
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajbrustein/5972457650/
http://www.yourownhomestore.com/grocery-sales-cycles/
http://247moms.com/2010/01/saving-money-at-grocery-store-without/

Couponing

Let’s face it, couponing is becoming the “cool” thing to do these days.  Many women are doing it and you’ve probably envied them for their money saving ways.  While it takes quite a lot of time to break into the “extreme couponing” sphere, there are a lot of ways you can start saving money, without spending enormous amounts of time hiding your face in the newspaper.  You don’t have to let couponing take over your life to see it make an impact on your family’s finances.

Here are a few tips for the first-time or new couponers.

1. Get Coupons!
Before you can start couponing you first need to find your coupons.  You can get these from the newspaper, in the store, online, or from family and friends.  Multiple newspapers equal multiple coupons.  Most online coupons allow you to print them twice for more savings.

2. Focus on One Store
When beginning, don’t try to shop at Walmart, Walgreens, Albertsons and Broulims every week.  Learn the coupon policies for one store and master that store first.  Find out if they have a loyalty program and if they double/ triple coupons.

3. Plan, Plan, Plan
There are lots of ways to plan your grocery trips.  Check the weekly ads for what is on sale and plan your menu that week based on what you can get cheap.  Make a list of what you are going to buy.  Use price match!  Stores like Walmart will match any price from another store.  Just bring in the ad from the competition and they will lower their price at the register.  

4. Make a price book
Keep track of the prices of your favorite items at different stores.  This will help you know when a deal is really a deal.  After a few months, you will be able to see how the sales cycle in a specific store.
Online, you can find plenty of more detailed tips for new couponers.  There are whole websites dedicated to helping people become successful couponers.  The main thing is to not be overwhelmed with the task at hand.  Remember that couponing takes time and there will be a learning curve but sticking to it will be a blessing to you and your family as you are able to take control of your food budget and do more with less!

Sources:
Krazy Coupon Lady. (2012). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://thekrazycouponlady.com/beginners/

A beginners guide to couponing. (2009, January 6). Retrieved from http://www.couponing101.com/a-beginners-guide-to-couponing/ 
Pictures:
http://www.babble.com/home/extreme-couponing-series-premiere-top-3-couponing-tips/
http://beautifulbrowngirls.com/2012/03/01/not-so-extreme-couponing/