Avoid These 10 Common Couponing Mistakes

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Couponing can save you big bucks on your grocery shopping, but making common couponing mistakes can be costly. Avoid couponing mistakes and save the most money with these tips.

  1. Know the fine print and store policies. Avoid a time-consuming conflict at the register by reading the fine print on your coupons and knowing the store policies on how coupons can be used. Every coupon comes with fine print that spells out the expiration date, guidelines and restrictions for use; and store policies often vary from one store to the next, so print out a copy of your store’s coupon policies and carry it with you for quick reference.
  2. Don’t forget to stack your coupons. Do you have a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon for a particular item? Stack them to maximize your savings! Be sure you’re also using store loyalty cards to get the most bang for your buck at the register.
  3. Use coupons on sale items, too. Just because an item is on sale at your store doesn’t mean that the sale price is the lowest price. You will save the most using coupons when you combine those coupons with store sales. Most grocery stores follow a “sale cycle,” so get familiar with when particular items will go on sale (pay attention to those store ads that come in the mail!) and plan to use your coupons during the sale.
  4. Compare generic to name-brand prices. Oftentimes, the price of buying generic is still less than using a coupon on a brand name item. If the brand doesn’t matter, then be sure to skip the coupon and buy generic if it’s cheaper.
  5. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Just because something is on sale or you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need to buy it. If you won’t use it, don’t waste your money on it, no matter how good the bargain.
  6. Don’t invest more time than you can spare couponing. Couponing can easily become a job, so you need to determine how much time you have to spend couponing and find what works best for you within that time frame. This may just mean clipping coupons from Sunday’s paper. If you have more time to dedicate to couponing, then you might also try searching for coupons online. Remember, your time is valuable. If you are spending too much time couponing and end up neglecting other responsibilities, is the couponing really worth it?
  7. Compare prices between stores. When you have a manufacturer’s coupon for a particular item, you will save the most when you use that coupon at the store with the lowest price. Keep in mind also that most stores will price match, so don’t forget to carry competitor ads with you when shopping. Always remember to factor in the cost of gas if you will be driving to different stores to get everything on your shopping list. Just because you have a coupon, that doesn’t mean you’ll save money if it costs you more in time and gas to use that coupon.
  8. Watch your budget. If couponing requires you to buy in bulk to save money, but you don’t have the budget to buy in bulk, then it isn’t worth it. Couponing should help you save money and stretch your budget, not cause you to exceed your budget.
  9. Be organized. Keep your coupons organized using an accordion-style binder to keep your shopping trip as stress-free as possible. Organize coupons by type of product or store aisle, then organize each small group of coupons by expiration date. Be sure to toss any coupons that have expired.
  10. Don’t leave your coupons at home! This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is one of the most common couponing mistakes people make. Always carry your full binder of coupons with you—you never know when you’ll need to buy something that wasn’t on your original shopping list.

Couponing requires organization and careful planning, but it should not be an overwhelming experience or cause you undue stress. Find a system that works best for you and stick to that system. Remember: what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. Your couponing system should save you time and money, not cost you.

Simple Tips to Organize Your Photos

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Photos hold precious memories of times past. Weddings, births, growing children, family reunions, school activities, sporting events—these snapshots remind us of people and places we love, and they allow us to pass those memories on to the next generation.

As you work your way through your spring cleaning projects, take some time to organize your photos. Most of us have boxes of unorganized photo prints lying around our homes. Many of us also have folders of digital images just waiting to be categorized. Organizing photos can be an overwhelming task, which is probably why you haven’t tackled that project quite yet.

Here are some tips to help you simply organize your photos—digital or print:

Start by gathering all of your photos in one place. Whether you are working with prints or digital images, move all your photos to one physical location or to one folder on your computer so you can easily see what you have.

Next, start paring down your photo collection by tossing/deleting photos that:

  • Are blurry.
  • Do not bring back happy memories, or that make you feel bad.
  • Are of people or places you cannot remember (if you’re worried you’ll toss important photos, this is the time to ask your spouse, son/daughter, sibling or friend for help).
  • Are duplicate shots (keep only the best shot).

• Sort remaining photos by category in a way that makes sense to you. You might choose to sort by who’s in the photo, date, event or location.

• Next it’s time to decide how and where you want to store your photos. This may be a photo box or album. If you are working with digital photos, you may choose to print your photos and put them in a box or album, or to store them on your computer in albums. It’s wise to keep duplicate copies of your digital photos in separate places so you will not lose them. If you are storing photos on your computer, purchase a USB storage device or use a cloud storage service for a backup.

• Label photos with date, name, event, location or other details. For digital images, choose a labeling system that makes sense to you and works best with your operating system.

If your goal was simply to organize your photos, you’re done here! Just be sure to keep up with your system in the future so you won’t have to tackle a major photo organization project again.

If you are planning to put your photos into albums or scrapbooks, the fun starts now! When working with digital images, there are numerous resources available to design and print photo books to hold your memories. Some of the most popular services are: smilebox.com, blurb.com and shutterfly.com. You can also print photos and create albums online at walmart.com and walgreens.com. Depending on the service you choose, printed photos and albums can be delivered to your home or picked up in-store.

Once your photos are organized into boxes, folders, albums or scrapbooks, they will be much easier for you to enjoy. So pull them out and take a walk down memory lane the next time your children or grandchildren stop by for a visit.

A Simple Guide to Spring Cleaning

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Springtime is all about new beginnings and a fresh, clean slate. That translates to all areas of our lives, even our homes, which is why spring cleaning can be so beneficial. A clean and organized home promotes a calm, stress-free environment and will leave you feeling fresh and renewed.

Spring cleaning can be a huge undertaking—especially if you plan on tackling it on your own. Use these tips to make this year’s spring cleaning project simple and efficient.

Make a cleaning plan. Spring cleaning is going to take some time, so be sure to set aside time in your weekend or even during the week to tackle your spring cleaning project. It doesn’t have to be done all at once, but it is important that you are able to dedicate as much time as necessary to do a thorough job.

Start with a quick cleanup. Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of spring cleaning, start with a quick cleanup. Go through each room in your home and put away as much as you can. Wash dishes, do the laundry and put away clean clothes. Once your home is tidy, you can start deep cleaning and organizing.

Clean from the top down. This is especially important when dusting. Begin at the top and work your way down to the floors. Use a duster with an extendable arm to dust out-of-reach corners, light fixtures and ceiling fans. Next, dust and clean furniture, and finish by cleaning the floors.

Organize. Spend some time organizing closets, drawers and cabinets. Toss items you no longer use into a box or basket to sell or donate. Organize and file those papers stacked on your desk, empty out your junk drawer and sort items into trays or small baskets. When your home is organized, it is easier to keep clean and to find things when you need them.

Transition your wardrobe. Clean all your winter clothes and store them away for next winter. Move your warm-weather clothes to the front of your closet and organize them in a way that makes the most sense to you—by color or type (T-shirts, blouses, pants, etc).

Detail counters, cabinets, and drawers. Empty out cabinets and drawers and wipe them out. Then sort through items and return them to the cabinet or drawer in an organized fashion.

Ask for help. Spring cleaning is a big task, so be sure to ask for help if you need it. Don’t try to move large items like furniture on your own, and avoid climbing on ladders to get to out-of-reach places. Call on your children, grandchildren or a friend to lend a helping hand.

A clean home will allow you to focus on the things that really matter—the people in your life and activities you enjoy—without being distracted by mess. Plan out your spring cleaning project and get to it!

 

Top 10 Springtime Activities for Seniors

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Spring has arrived in North Texas and winter is finally behind us. Are you ready to come out of winter hibernation and enjoy the springtime weather?

There’s no shortage of activities in the D-FW area this spring. Here are the 10 top springtime activities for senior citizens.

1. Dallas Arboretum: Whether you enjoy a stroll through the gardens, sitting down for tea with the ladies, an evening concert under the stars or participating in gardening and photography classes, the Dallas Arboretum has it all. Adult education classes at the Arboretum include topics on horticulture, photography, art, floral design and much more. At the Historic DeGolyer House, you can sit down for a three-course Spring Tea with your family or friends. The Cool Thursdays Spring Concert Series on the lawn of the Arboretum launches April 9 with Rocket Man: The Elton John Tribute Experience. And of course, the gardens themselves display a full array of colors this spring with Dallas Blooms, the largest floral festival in the Southwest featuring more than 500,000 spring blooming bulbs.

2. Volunteer programs: Volunteering is a great way to stay active both physically and mentally. It also provides an opportunity to socialize with others. The Senior Source is a tool you can use to find the right volunteer opportunity for you based on your likes and dislikes. Through the volunteer opportunities at The Senior Source, active older adults can become mentors, coaches or companions to people in need, or contribute their skills and expertise to community organizations and projects. You can also find opportunities to volunteer on your own through your local church and other organizations such as United Way and The Red Cross.

3. Exercise programs: Staying physically active is especially important as we age. There are a variety of senior citizen exercise and fitness programs available in the metroplex—including group yoga, aerobics, walking, balance, Zumba—at area recreation centers, municipal senior centers and local gyms. Dallas Parks also offers a number of fitness classes at local parks and rec centers. For details on Dallas Parks fitness options, click here.

4. Senior Center Events: Senior centers around the metroplex host events and activities each month, ranging from movie showings to exercise classes and more. Find senior center events in your area here.

5. White Rock Lake: The White Rock Lake Trail is one of the most scenic spots in Dallas. Grab a friend and go for a stroll around the lake on the 9.3 mile trail that circles the lake. Take in the fresh air and enjoy the scenery of boats on the water with the Dallas skyline overlooking the lake from a distance.

6. Dallas Museum of Art: The DMA is another hot spot for local events year-round. Take a day to visit the museum and stroll through the various art collections and exhibitions. On the third Friday of each month, the DMA hosts Late Night at the museum, which includes performances, concerts, readings, film screenings, tours and more. The DMA also holds regular musical performances, creative workshops and many other activities for art lovers of all ages.

7. Dallas Summer Musicals: The 2015 season of Dallas Summer Musicals is in full swing, and the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, The King and I, the dramatic tale of an English widow who falls in love with the King of Bangkok, hits the stage March 20 through April 5.

8. Historical spots: Explore Dallas’ history for free at one of the many sites around town, including the grassy knoll outside the former School Book Depository; Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial, a pre-Civil War burial ground; Heritage Village, which highlights the history of Texas in the late 1800s and early 20th century; and the Hall of the State, home to more than three million historic documents and objects on display.

9. Culinary and food tours: Dallas is home to a broad variety of cuisine from award-winning, nationally known chefs and restaurants. Culinary and food tours are a fun and unique opportunity to explore new foods, drinks and restaurants around town with friends.

10. Be a tourist: No matter how long you’ve lived in the Dallas area, there are surely local sites and attractions you have not experienced before. Take a day to explore Dallas as a tourist with a city tour. Bus tours and walking tours are available at one of the many Dallas tour companies. With a tour of the city, you will be able to experience the history of Dallas, learn interesting facts and see a side of Dallas-Ft. Worth you’ve never seen before.

The History of St. Patrick’s Day

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The first thing that comes to mind when we think about St. Patrick’s Day? Green. And lots of it.

People around the world—especially in places where there are large Irish communities—celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, the day set aside to honor the Irish patron saint. The Charitable Irish Society of Boston first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 1737, the first St. Patty’s Day celebration in America. The celebration included a feast and a religious service. Many of the people living in the colonies had been separated from their Irish culture, and St. Patrick’s Day was a way to honor and celebrate their heritage.

Today, traditions such as drinking green beer, wearing green and eating corned beef and cabbage are enthusiastically celebrated each year on St. Patrick’s Day. People around America line the streets for their city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the first of which was in New York in 1762. In Chicago, the river is dyed green each year, and in D.C., the White House fountain flows green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Who was St. Patrick?

Born around 460, St. Patrick became known as the patron saint or apostle of Ireland. Little is known about his early life, and much was lost to folklore. Letters from St. Patrick detail his capture near Ireland and slavery in Ireland, before his escape and return to his Roman family living in Britain. St. Patrick later returned to Ireland as a missionary and served first as a cleric and later a Bishop in the Catholic church.

The symbol of the shamrock now associated with the St. Patrick’s Day holiday stems from legend from St. Patrick’s time on mission in Ireland. St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity when was first introducing Christianity to the people of Ireland.

Interesting facts about St. Patrick’s Day

Some other things you may not know about St. Patrick’s Day:

• St. Patrick’s color was a light shade of blue, not green. The color green was first associated with the holiday after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.

• St. Patrick’s Day was once a dry holiday, as it was considered strictly a religious holiday and pubs were closed. It wasn’t until 1970 that the day was declared a national holiday in Ireland and the beer drinking began.

• Corned beef isn’t made with corn. The traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage gets its name from the large salt grains, known as “corns,” that were used to cure meats.

• The estimated annual bar tab on St. Patrick’s Day tops $245 million. That’s a lot of beer!

You don’t have to be Irish or Catholic to enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Enjoy a taste of the Irish culture with some corned beef and cabbage this St. Patrick’s Da—and don’t forget to wear your green!

 

The best ways to kill germs around the house

Colds, stomach flu and food-borne illness are all spread by exposure to germs. No matter how clean you keep your home, the surfaces in your home can still harbor the germs that can make you sick.

Believe it or not, the germiest place in your home isn’t the bathroom—it’s your kitchen.

Your kitchen drain and faucet, refrigerator door handle, microwave buttons and even the sponge you use to clean your kitchen all harbor bacteria more than any other surface in your house. TV remote controls and bathrooms surfaces are also often contaminated.

Bacteria and viruses can survive on household surfaces longer than you may think. Some viruses, such as the norovirus, can last several weeks.

Tips to Get Rid of Germs in Your Home

  • Clean with bleach water. The simplest (and cheapest) way to kill germs in your home is to clean surfaces with diluted bleach water. Bacteria are not resistant to bleach. Mix three tablespoons in a half-quart of water and use it to wipe down doorknobs, light switches, handles, countertops and other surfaces frequently touched in your home.
  • Wash your hands. We all touch contaminated surfaces every day. Scrub your hands for 15 to 20 seconds with warm soap and water frequently throughout the day to prevent the spread of germs, whether you’re in your home or elsewhere. Keep hand sanitizer easily accessible in your home to encourage clean hands.
  • Disinfect your kitchen sponge. Chances are, you’re spreading more germs than you’re cleaning up when you wipe your kitchen counters with a sponge. To help keep your kitchen sponge from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria, put it in about an inch of water in a microwave safe container and microwave it for about one minute daily.
  • Keep sheets, blankets and pillows clean. It’s not just hard surfaces where germs may be lurking. Your bedding and living room pillows and throws can also be covered in germs. Wash them regularly in hot water and dry on the highest temperature setting to help kill off germs. It’s also not a bad idea to disinfect your washing machine every now and then. Empty your washing machine and run a normal cycle with bleach and hot water.

Your home will never be 100 percent germ-free, but with these simple tips, you can dramatically reduce the number of germs lurking in your home and reduce your risk of getting sick.

5 Easy Ways to Promote Heart Health

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Did you know that heart disease (including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases) is the number one cause of death in the United States? For women, heart disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. The good news is that in most cases, heart disease is entirely preventable. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise can cause problems with your heart.

February is American Heart Month, and there’s no better time to start showing your heart some love with these five easy heart health tips.

  1. Watch what you eat. Eat more healthy fats, such as fish oils and raw nuts, and skip the trans fats found in deep fried and processed foods. Stick to natural, whole foods (lean meats and produce) and avoid packaged foods of any kind. Eat more fiber, which can be found in whole grains and legumes. Get your protein in the form of lean meats (like chicken), fish and shellfish.
  2. Don’t stress. No matter what difficult issues you may be facing in life, managing your stress level is essential for your heart health. Find healthy ways to manage your stress, such as exercise, positive thinking, deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. Spend at least a little time each day doing something you enjoy, too.
  3. Get up and move. You don’t have to exercise for hours a day to have a healthy heart. Just 20 or 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise will keep your heart strong and healthy. Set aside time each day to go on a walk (pick up the pace as much as you can!), or make a point to take the stairs instead of the elevator, if you’re able. Swimming, tennis or a day on the golf course—find something active that you enjoy doing and carve out room in your schedule for that activity.
  4. Quit smoking. Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. If you need some help or encouragement to stop smoking, check out these resources from the American Heart Association.
  5. Manage your health. Stay on top of your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Allowing any of these to get out of control increases your risk of heart disease or a cardiac event, such as a heart attack. Follow doctor’s orders to manage any health issues that may contribute to poor heart health.

By making even these small daily changes, you can dramatically reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Does Your Kitchen Need a Makeover? 5 Tips for Organizing Your Cabinets, Pantry and Fridge

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When was the last time you organized your kitchen cabinets, pantry or fridge? Is it time to tackle the project again? Here are five tips to get you on your way to an organized kitchen:

1. Start clean. The best way to get organized is to start with a clean slate, so empty out your cabinets or refrigerator before you get started. Trash broken utensils, mismatched food storage containers and any food products that have spoiled. Next, pull out any duplicates or items you do not frequently use and place them in a donate pile.

2. Sort your stuff. Group the items from your cabinet into piles that make the most sense to you. For example, you may want to place all baking items in one central location. Dishes can be grouped by type or style (everyday, formal, holiday, entertaining, etc). If you are working on organizing your fridge or pantry, group foods with other similar items. (Canned goods and non-perishables; salad dressings and condiments; spices; coffee, tea, and other drink mixes.)

3. Use clear storage containers. If you easily forget what’s what in your fridge, then only use clear storage containers to store leftovers. When you can see what’s in a particular container, it’s less likely you’ll forget about it. And don’t forget to keep your storage containers and lids together. Purchase stackable storage sets to maximize space.

4. Look up. Take advantage of vertical space to help clear out your cabinets. Cooking tools like measuring cups can easily be placed on hooks inside the cabinet door, and a hanging rack for pots and pans will preserve valuable real estate in your kitchen cabinets. Making use of vertical space is especially important if you are working with a relatively small space.

5. Organize your fridge. Keep foods like meat, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and milk on the back of the bottom shelf, where they will stay the coldest. Eggs should be stored in the original container on the middle shelf. Place veggies in a high-humidity vegetable drawer, while fruit should go in the crisper. (Do not wash produce until you are ready to eat it! This will prolong the shelf life of your food, as water promotes mold and bacteria growth.) Deli meats belong in the shallow drawer toward the middle of the fridge. Butter and soft cheese can be stored in the dairy compartment.

Once you get your kitchen organized, now you’ve got to keep it organized. Choose tasks in the kitchen that need to be completed on a regular basis, and then make a note of (or assign tasks to another family member) which tasks should be completed with daily, weekly, monthly or even annually. Keeping your kitchen clean and organized will reduce stress and make baking, cooking and eating in your kitchen more enjoyable.

Using Your Personal Photos to Decorate Your Home

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Photos are often the final touch in making home really feel like home. Store-bought decorations can certainly reflect your personal style and taste, but using your own one-of-a-kind photos of family, friends and your favorite places makes your home uniquely yours.

The difficulty in decorating with photos is that too many photos can quickly create what looks more like clutter than a decorative display, especially in a small room. Use these tips to decorate your home with your treasured photos.

1. Go big. Small photos add clutter and are difficult to see, but you can create a stunning gallery-style display in your home by using photos of varying sizes larger than 8”x10”.

2. Designate a single location. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to cover every inch of wall space in your home with photos. Instead, select one central, eye-catching location for your photo display.

3. Keep it clean. Give your photo arrangement a clean look by using matching frames in a variety of sizes rather than a hodgepodge of mismatched frames. Again, this will help cut down on the clutter.

4. Make an impact. Print an even number (four or six is ideal, depending on the space you have to work with) of your favorite photos on large canvasses. You can have this done at a place like Walgreens or Walmart. Hang the photos together in one organized group to create a focal point and leave a big impact.

5. Get cozy. If your wall space is minimal, create a photo collage and have it printed on a large blanket that can be displayed on your bed or the back of your sofa instead. Again, this can be done at a place like Walmart.

6. Start reading. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a photo book has a lot to say. Photos are memories to be treasured, but when a room is overwhelmed with photos in small frames placed in every nook and cranny, those memories can often go overlooked. Create a photo book to store these memories in one easily accessible location that both you and your guests can enjoy.

By using large photos, clean lines and reducing clutter, you can create your own in-home art gallery filled with happy memories.

Energy-Boosting Foods for Senior Citizens

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If you’re like most of us, you’re often in awe of the “young folks” and their seemingly boundless energy. Where does all that energy come from? Do you ever wish you could get your own dose of extra energy?

The secret to boosting your energy may be in the foods you eat. Different foods affect the body in different ways, and some foods contain just the right nutrients to give you a little jolt of energy when you’re feeling sluggish.

Top 5 Energy Boosting Foods

1. Water: It’s not a “food,” but it is essential for sustaining life—and energy! Water helps clear your body of toxins that may be dragging you down. It is also responsible for hydration, which in turn can prevent fatigue and depression. Add a bit of lemon to your water, and you’ve got a natural energy drink!

2. Fresh Fruit: The natural sugar found in fruit helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Vitamin C, found in many fruits (including citrus), helps the body convert fat to energy. Iodine, found in other fruits like pineapple, controls how quickly the body uses that energy.

3. Nuts: Nuts are the perfect healthy snack to give you the gusto to get through your day. Magnesium, fiber and protein are all found in nuts such as cashews, almonds and hazelnuts. The magnesium helps the body convert sugar to energy, fiber stabilizes blood sugar and protein generates more energy while fighting off hunger.

4. Dark Chocolate: Not a coffee drinker? Get your daily dose of dark chocolate instead! Dark chocolate contains theobromine, a natural stimulant that boosts energy and mood, much like caffeine. Just don’t overdo it—it is chocolate, after all.

5. Whole Grains: The body needs carbohydrates to function, so find a source of whole grains, whether it’s pasta, bread or whole grain cereal. The complex carbs found in whole grains contain vitamins and minerals that can keep the blood sugar stable. These carbs also help prevent an energy crash during the day, because the body breaks them down differently than it does refined carbs or processed foods.

This is only the beginning when it comes to energy-boosting foods. Others include eggs, edamame, quinoa and many more. Next time you need a pick-me-up, reach for one of these energy-boosting foods and see if it doesn’t give you just what you need to get through the day.