Shopping Frozen Food Month In Line With Your Health and Budget

There’s danger lurking in your grocer’s frozen aisle this month.  It’s masked behind big savings and an event called “National Frozen Food Month.”  It happens every March, and it could be detrimental to the health of your family.

 

Frozen foods can seem great:  they’re convenient, they’re simple, and they save us a lot of stress.  But most of the time they are not so good for your health.  Think about what lives in the frozen food aisle:  frozen pizzas, TV dinners, ice cream, and pre-made entrees.  None of them are good for you, and the ones that look like they could be would be healthier and cheaper to make yourself, even with the incentivizing sales this month.

 

There are two exceptions to the frozen aisle quandary. They are fruits and vegetables.  It’s true that fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables from the produce section contain a slightly higher amount of vitamins and minerals.  But during each product’s off-season, fresh items are usually picked before they can fully mature, making the frozen aisle a better place nutritionally.

 

What Produce to Buy

 

When you hit the store this month, the best deals for your family’s health and pocketbook will be off-season, frozen fruits and vegetables, combining nutrient-optimization with the sales of National Frozen Food Month.  That makes your best options:

 

  • Frozen Corn
  • Frozen Green Beans
  • Frozen Peas
  • Frozen Peppers
  • Frozen Berries (With the exception of strawberries!  These are in season starting this month in the prime strawberry-growing locales in the country.)
  • Frozen Peaches
  • Frozen Cherries

 

If you’re buying local, these seasons may alter slightly depending on your climate.  But a vast majority of produce sold at grocery stores is sadly not local, and March falls during off-season for the above produce in growing locales.

 

Other Tips to Maximize Nutrition

 

There can be a temptation to buy in bulk whenever you see a massive sale.  When you’re shopping for frozen fruits and vegetables, this is not the best method.  Buy only what you think your family will eat in the upcoming month or two; hold onto them too long, and the nutrients will start to deteriorate.

 

Another thing to consider is the product’s USDA grade.  Frozen produce must meet USDA standards, and will display the department’s signature shield along with a rating.  You’ll want to look  for “Fancy” or “Extra Fancy” if you’re trying to load up on those nutrients that make vegetables so good for you.  While eating the lower grades (which are all numbered) is probably still better than not eating vegetables at all, it’s not going to get you the most bang for your buck when it comes to preparing healthy meals.

The Yoga Pants Craze

A tame option from Victoria’s Secret ($39.50)

Is it cool to wear yoga pants even if you don’t do yoga? Can EVERYONE wear yoga pants? Are yoga pants acceptable to wear everywhere? There are no easy answers to these questions. Yoga pants have taken the world by storm. High school girls are petitioning for their right to wear yoga pants. Lululemon front man, Chip Wilson has resigned because of comments he made about yoga pants not being appropriate for every woman. American women were outraged, Wilson had no choice but to move on. Yoga pants have taken on a life of their own.

A few years ago, it was a leggings craze, led by Lindsay Lohan, if memory serves. But hey, at least you could dress leggings up or down. At least there were options. Yoga pants are decidedly casual, because, well, they are meant to wear to exercise, or at least look like you exercise. The term for this look is: “athleisure,” which frankly, sounds more like an illness than a fashion statement. They’re SO popular that the sales of jeans dropped by 6% last year! Women turn to yoga pants for comfort these days while those stiff old jeans collect dust.

Lululemon ($79-179)

BBC News recently did an article on whether yoga pants are a “threat to public decency.” BBC News is a British News Organization and it’s interesting to consider that the decency of yoga pants slash leggings may differ across cultures. Still, BBC New reports that law makers in Montana proposed a bill that would deem yoga pants “indecent.” As of now, the bill has been postponed, but the dialogue has been opened.

After all, Lululemon did have to recall a line of their yoga pants in 2013 because prolonged wear led to sheerness…and high school girls roaming the halls in skin tight, sheer pants presents a problem. Sheer or not, non-supporters argue that you can see such a clear outline of the buttocks (and sometimes the front-ocks) that there is nothing left to the imagination. When women are out running errands at the grocery store or thirteen year olds are flaunting the goods in front of vulnerable teenage boys, this might be a valid criticism. Have we nothing left to hide? Literally? And what about plus-sized women? Are there different rules? Some say yes. Other say, even plus sized women have a right wear what they’re comfortable in–and maybe that’s the point.

If you’re a yoga pants supporter, check out Lululemon for super duper priced apparel, or Atheleta (a Gap brand) for mid-level priced pants.

Ready to Trade Snow for Sunshine?

Shopping for Your Destination

Punta Cana

Need a little warmth in your life? We found some great deals on the hottest winter vacation spots. Check out these spots now for a great deal.

  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Check out Hotel Barcelo. This place is a five star, four diamond hotel that sits along the Pacific Ocean, with a sea of mountainous backdrop. Check out before booking your room.
  • Miami Beach is always a fun spot and it’s ALWAYS WARM! Some our reasonably priced hotel picks are: the Fountainbleu, Loewes, Courtyard Cadillac. Check out coupons for fun things to do.
  • Costa Rica is one of our favorite getaways because it’s cheap. The most you’ll pay is for airfare, but once your there, it’s definitely a budget vacation.
  • Costa Rica

    Punta Cana is another great pick for those of us on a budget. Lush white beaches and emerald seas give Punta Cana a heaven-on-earth feel. There are always great deals being offered for this Dominican Republic vacation spot.

What You Should Know Before Purchasing Your Airline Ticket

But first, follow these useful tips:

  • Browse the sites, but then delete your cookies. There is growing evidence that websites can be tracking your habits in order to drive up price.  Then, purchase on another computer. This might sound all conspiracy theorist-y, but you just never know.
  • Do not buy too early UNLESS you are planning to travel on a holiday or other high airline traffic day. Book about 45 days out for domestic flights and no more than 60 days for international flights, Greenberg suggests.
  • Whenever possible, travel on “off peak days.” Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days on which to book your flight. While it might be inconvenient, it’s the cheapest by hundreds.
  • Consider the time of month.  Many of us book right after being paid (the first and fifteenth, most popularly). Try to book on a day like the 7th, when traffic on the websites are slower, driving down prices.
  • If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person (no pun intended), wait until just before the departure date or even on it, and try to find a good deal on an empty seat. No guarantees on this though. Some airlines drive the prices up, in anticipation of emergencies. But on the day of? Empty seats are yours for next to nothing.

Tick…tick…tick…It’s Tax Time

By now your company should have given you all the necessary tax information to file your taxes. And we’re here to remind you that it’s TIME! There are so many options for filing your taxes. You can:

  • Hire an accountant. This can cost you $200 for relatively simple taxes and upwards to $800 if you have a more complicated return to file. For example, if you’re a business owner, it’ll be worth the cash.
  • H&R Block–these are tax specialists–NOT CPAs or accountants. They are read up on tax code and understand how taxes work. They know how to file and are cheaper than taxes.
  • E-filing using Turbo Tax and other product. If your taxes are uncomplicated, and fairly routine, go with this most least expensive option.

Here are a few helpful hints when filing:

  • Remember to deduct donations, including your church and Goodwill, the two most popular.
  • Deduct professional expenses, including union dues. Just be prepared to justify these deductions. You don’t want to red flag yourself.
  • Deduct childcare expenses, including daycare (the biggest expense).
  • Increase IRA contributions for 2015. These are tax deductible.
  • Take an opportunity to refinance your home. When begin a paying a mortgage, you pay out much of the interest up front, which is tax deductible. When you refinance, you go back to that stage of front loading interest, creating a bigger deduction.
  • Use current tax laws. Have there been any changes to energy efficient homes and cars?
  • You may need an accountant to be sure you’re totally up to date and reaping every possible advantage.
  • Withhold more in 2015 if you’re getting a large refund. The government shouldn’t be holding on to your money.

What to do with the refund?

So you made a little money this year. Remember, you shouldn’t be reaping thousands–that’s your money to begin with; not the government’s. What to do with the windfall?

According to cnn.money.com, the first thing you need to do is pay down credit card debt. This the most expensive money you borrow. You don’t need to pay off your entire balance, but you have the opportunity to make your debt more manageable. If you’re able to double or triple your payment because of a tax refund, you should do this first.

If credit card debt is not a problem for you, plan to pay off a big upcoming bill. are you taking a vacation this summer? Do you know that you have an expense coming up? If you get a windfall, you now have a chance to plan for it. Instead of putting your plane tickets on a high interest credit card, pay for it using your tax refund.