How Millennials Are Changing the Grocery Store

Here's why fewer and fewer millennials are going grocery shopping.

Next time you run to the grocery store for bread and milk, you might find yourself staying for a champagne tasting. Or seduced by Comice Pears. Or perhaps you’ll just stay home and cook the elicoidali pasta and mascarpone cheese from your Blue Apron box.

The digital age has changed how we shop for everything, and now food is front and center on the disruption list.

It’s hard being an old-fashioned grocery store these days. Adults, for the first time since such data was recorded, are spending more money eating out than cooking in. But even when they do buy their food, the market is enduring what analysts coldly call “grocery channel fragmentation.”

Pam Danziger, a luxury goods expert, said simply that young eaters are on the hunt for something “distinctive and different.”

Small, boutique food shops that are part-restaurant, part-brew pub, part-exotic grocer are all the rage.

“I find more and more that millennials are looking for special experiences,” said Danziger, author of the book Shops That Pop. “They are not just looking for products. They want a better quality service experience from people who really know their stuff.”

They don’t just want a good pear. They want to know why that pear goes great with that salad. And they might even want to know who grew that pear.

“There’s nothing like going to specialty wine store where [workers] can really advise you on what you are getting,” she said. “This has happened with food now.”

It’s not just happening in hip urban areas on the coasts. Danziger points to small independent food retailers, like Dorothy Lane Market, in Dayton, Ohio, (with its Comice “Holiday Pear”) as examples of a national trend that seems to have staying power.

The do-everything grocery store is struggling to stay relevant in this environment — that’s why shopping carts have cupholders for craft microbrews sold by the growler now — but don’t make the mistake of thinking huge grocers have always ruled the food world. They are a relatively recent development, dating back to the 1930s, when food preparation time shrank as more women entered the work force. Specialty grocers echo a time before that, Danziger said, when everyone “bought local.”

“In the 30s, everyone went to the local butcher,” she said. “What is old is new again.”

Web-Surfing for Groceries?

Well, not everything. On the other end of the digital spectrum, consumers are increasingly skipping the shopping trip altogether and letting the specialty groceries come to them.

Home delivery isn’t new either: Firms have been trying to find the right formula to ship cereal and produce to homes since the beginning of internet time (Remember Webvan? Perhaps you’re not old enough). Blue Apron and competitors like Hello Fresh and Plated seem to have hit on a winning formula by combining the convenience of delivery with the quest for special experiences.

Unless you’re living under a rock or are over 38, meal-in-a-box firms neatly package ingredients and recipes with dry ice, and send it to your home with simple preparation instructions. For about $10, a fairly small meal and about 30 minutes of work, aspiring chefs can feel like culinary experts.

The rise of the meal-in-a-box business has been meteoric. Blue Apron said it delivered 500,000 boxed meals in 2013, and now it delivers 8 million boxed meals a month. HelloFresh, a German competitor, is eyeing a possible public offering next year.

“I don’t think we’ve seen shopping change so dramatically ever,” Marty Siewert, senior vice president for consumer and shopper analytics at Nielsen, told the Wall Street Journal. “Those things in the past that have been real drivers for grocery in terms of freshness and quality aren’t the key drivers for millennials.”

All these changes are occurring against a dramatically different grocery landscape. The Food Marketing Institute’s annual report is full of data showing how grocery shopping is in the midst of a revolution. For example, the days of one member of a household buying the food at one nearby grocery store are essentially over, the FMI said.

“Shoppers increasingly rely on a broader number of less traditional channels, or claim no retailer as a primary store,” it noted in its report.

Meanwhile, the majority of households now employ “co-shopping” or “shared shopping.” That means both partners in a marriage buy groceries — often because one doesn’t agree with the other’s taste in food, the report said. That means more trips to more stores.

“Traditional grocery store as a primary channel has dipped to just below half of all shoppers,” the report said.

Online shopping is still small but growing. While only 5% of shoppers say they use online-only retailers “regularly,” another 15% say they have done so occasionally, up from 11% in 2015. When you ask only millennials, the market segment uptake is even more impressive: 28% of those 18 to 37 have bought groceries online.

Frugal Foodies

Digital is driving food shopping in other ways, too. Nearly 60% of millennials say they use digital coupons, and 66% say they look up recipes online while shopping. (If you’re looking for frugal meals, by the way, try this 16-cent breakfast.)

And lest you think they are only shopping for high-end arugula, one factor still trumps all others for food shoppers both young and old: price. That holds true for co-shoppers and specialty shoppers alike. All those groups say lower prices are the biggest factor in where they’ll shop, with nearly twice as many shoppers prioritizing savings over variety and quality.

Still, Danziger is sure that food consumers want more than iceberg lettuce and white bread, and the retailers who give them better experiences will survive the changes.

“People are looking for a higher quality of life, that’s what this is all about,” she said. “Retail success will be less about what you sell and more about how you sell it.”

No matter how you choose to grocery-shop, it’s important to stay on budget. High levels of debt, related to artisanal cheese or otherwise, can hurt your bank account and your credit. You can see where your credit stands by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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7 Ways to Save at Wegmans

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Several years ago, while driving through upstate New York, we stopped at a grocery store my friend from the area absolutely raved about. I had never heard of Wegmans and was a little surprised we were stopping there because it was lunchtime.

Little did I know what was in store for me!

In the years since, and after a Wegmans opened near my home in Maryland, I’ve come to appreciate how well they run and how it’s a pleasure to shop there.

If you’re a fan and looking to save money at Wegmans, here are my best tips.

1. Coupon Doubling Up to 99 Cents

Wegmans has some of the most competitive prices, but did you know they will also double coupons with a face value up to 99 cents? There are a few rules to keep in mind, such as the doubling or face value of the coupon cannot exceed retail price and you can only use four manufacturer’s coupons on four of the same product per day.

If the coupon’s face value is $1.00 or more, it will be redeemed at face value (no doubling).

2. Join the Shoppers Club!

Wegmans has a Shoppers Club, like many other stores, but not only do you get discounts in the store, you’ll be sent mailers that often include more coupons. You will also receive the Wegmans Menu Magazine which often has great recipes and other fun educational articles.

3. Use the Wegmans App

The Wegmans App is a rich-featured shopping-list app that integrates nicely with your local store. You can create your shopping list at home and it will give you your total, pulling prices from the store. This can be very helpful if you’re on a tight budget and help you plan your trip better.

In the store, there are signs throughout that, when scanned with the Wegmans app, reveal videos, recipes, and product information. The app also gives you access to the Wegmans Menu magazine and can pull recipe ingredients from the recipes.

If you have a favorite money saving app, you may want to stick with it. If you don’t and go to Wegmans often, consider using theirs.

4. Create a Shopping List Online

If you don’t have a smartphone, or don’t want another app, you can always create your shopping list on the Wegmans website. Afterwards, you can print it out and see exactly how much the trip will cost you.

The list will organize ingredients based on the store’s aisles, which can save you a ton of time in the store.

5. Consider Wegmans Brand

Most stores’ generic brands are mediocre but not Wegmans – some of their products rival the brand names in quality. Nearly every category of product, from frozen pizza to sauces and packaged baked goods, has a Wegmans brand and they’re usually good and well-priced. At my local Wegmans in Maryland, a 29 oz. can of tomato sauce will cost you just $0.79 versus big brand name tomato sauce priced at $1.69.

6. Don’t Miss the Hot Food

Most grocery store hot food bars can be depressing affairs of overcooked food that’s overpriced. Wegmans has an impressive food bar with nearly every kind of food imaginable, but where they really shine is in two areas — sushi and the burger bar.

The sushi is delicious, fresh, and well-priced, especially if you compare it with a sushi restaurant. If you don’t see what you like, you can make special requests and they are happy to make a roll or package you want. The burger bar is a full-fledged restaurant and they offer a variety of great burgers and sandwiches that are also well-priced.

7. Personal Shopping

If you are short on time, Wegmans offer “personal shopping” where they will get everything on your shopping list and deliver it to your car. You need to place the order online the day before but you pay for it without ever having to leave your car. It costs just $5.95 with no minimum order. It’s not available at every store though, sadly. It is available only in three locations – the flagship store in Pittsford, New York, and the stores in Bridgewater and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Finally, if you live in a state where grocery stores can sell beer and wine, give their bargain wines a shot (just remember to drink responsibly). At just a few bucks a bottle, what do you have to lose?

[Editor’s Note: You can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

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8 Ways My Slow Cooker Saves Me Money

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When I was first married 20 years ago, I received two slow cookers as wedding gifts. I had only used a slow cooker a couple of times, so I didn’t know if I would use them. Little did I know just how much I would come to love them. Not only did they save me time, I discovered that they saved me plenty of money as well. Here’s how.

1. Planning Meals

Using a slow cooker makes me plan ahead. I can’t come home and just throw something into the slow cooker, and have it ready within an hour; I have to plan ahead! By doing this, I spend less at the grocery store, and I end up using up all of the items I buy each week, too.

2. Not Eating Out

You know how it goes: You have a busy day, and then come home only to realize you have no clue what to make for dinner. So, you swing through the drive-thru, and pretty soon you’ve spent a lot of extra money each month. On days like this, I like to use Crockpot Freezer Meals, where I do all of my prepping for a week of meals at once. That way, I come home to a healthy home-cooked meal, even when I don’t have the time.

3. Not Buying Convenience Foods

When I neglect my slow cooker, I usually end up stopping by the store on a daily basis. I come home with things like frozen burritos, frozen pizzas and other pre-packaged foods that end up costing me more. When I use my slow cooker, however, I eat healthier home-cooked meals that taste better than pre-packaged convenience foods.

4. Cooking in Bulk

If you have a large slow cooker that holds 6 to 7 quarts, you can make big batches of food to serve your family for more than one meal. If you prefer not to eat leftovers, freeze them for another meal later in the month. My favorite thing to cook in bulk is Slow Cooker Chili. It makes a huge pot that feeds our family of nine. We usually eat it as chili for the first meal, then chili dogs or served over baked potatoes for the second.

5. Eating More Beans

Eating beans on a regular basis saves money. You can use them in place of meat or stretch out your meat dollars by replacing a portion of the meat with beans. (This works best with ground beef.) Of course, just eating a big pot of beans works well, too. When I was growing up, we would eat pinto beans to stretch the grocery dollars. As an adult, I discovered my favorite pinto beans recipe was one where I slow cook the beans in spices and top them with cheese and sour cream.

6. Saving Time

When I use slow cooker recipes, I spend a lot less time in the kitchen. And since I like to do my cooking preparation a week at a time, I can prepare 6 to 7 dinners in an hour or two, eliminating the need to cook each evening. If you think of your time as an hourly wage, you could free up a few hours each week to spend on making money elsewhere. You could use that extra time to work on your home business or other money-making venture. If you don’t have another way to make money, consider using extra time to find a side income.

7. Saving on Electricity

Using your oven during the summer heats your house. Your air conditioner has to stay on longer to cool it back down, which costs more money. By using your slow cooker instead, you are saving money on cooling costs.

8. Saving Scraps

If you have leftovers of any vegetables or meats, place them in a baggie in your freezer. Eventually your bag will be full, and you can turn it into vegetable soup that you can make in the slow cooker. It’s like having a free meal!

[Editor’s Note: You can use this free tool to track your financial goals, like building good credit scores, each month on Credit.com.]

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7 Free Tools to Help Calm the Back-to-School Chaos

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Whether you’re working or a stay-at-home parent, back-to-school season can get rough. Between strict schedules, meal planning, homework, and maybe even extracurriculars, life just gets a bit chaotic.

Luckily, technology can make things a bit easier on parents. With all the apps available today, there are loads of great free tools that can help you handle everything from schedules to meal planning. Here are seven of the best free — and really cheap — tools to try this back-to-school season.

1. Google Calendar


While there are plenty of great calendar apps on the market, Google’s still takes the cake. Available for iOS and Android, the interface is great on just about any screen. It lets you choose different views, from one month to a daily agenda, or a custom view like two or three weeks. Plus, you can easily share Google Calendars with a spouse or your older kids, so that everyone syncs up seamlessly.

One of the best things about Google Calendars, though, is the ability to set up multiple calendars. Use one for work events, one for personal appointments and one for the kids’ school schedule. You could even keep a separate calendar for each member of the family. Each calendar will be color-coded, so you can get an at-a-glance idea of what’s coming in any given week.

Two other great Google Calendar features: reminders and repeating events. With reminders, you can set up alerts on your phone for repeating or one-off events. You can even make sure Google keeps reminding you until you check the reminder as complete, so you don’t accidentally blow off making that important appointment. And with repeating events, you can quickly add regular events to your calendar.

2. Google Keep

Again, there are multiple note-taking apps on the market, but Google Keep is definitely worth checking out. This simple app lets you take notes or create to-do lists that look like sticky notes. You can organize them by category, and you can even color-code the notes to match your calendar colors.

The best thing about Keep is that you can share notes with others. You can, for instance, keep a running grocery list in a Keep note that you share with your spouse. That way whoever has time to stop by the store on a given weeknight has the list ready to go.

3. Cozi


Cozi combines some of the functionality of Google Keep and Google Calendar. It comes in a free and paid version. The free version runs ads. The paid version comes with additional features, including a birthday calendar and contact list.

If you want to keep just a single shared family calendar, Cozi is a great option. Like Google Calendar, it lets you share your calendar with a spouse or multiple family members. The calendar app is slightly less user-friendly than Google’s — but only slightly. It does include the additional feature of a meal planner, which is great for busy parents. Plus, Cozi lets you keep categorized shopping and to-do lists, making it a good all-around organization app.

4. Pepperplate

This meal-planning app can take some time to set up because you’ll need to build or import your own recipes. But you can import recipes from a web link, making it an easy option for organizing all those Pinterest recipes you’ve been meaning to try. Once you get your recipes into your recipe box, you can tell the app which recipes you’re shopping for this week. Then, it’ll automatically generate a shopping list to use at the grocery store.

As far as meal-planning apps go, this one has great reviews. It doesn’t do the planning for you, but it’s a good option if you already have a go-to bank of recipes you use on busy weeknights.

5. Asana

This free to-do app is great for busy parents who want to track both work and home tasks. As with many of the apps featured here, you can share this one with a spouse or older kids. Asana lets you assign tasks by person and give tasks a due date. You can also organize tasks by category or project, making it easy to work on the most important projects first.

One of Asana’s biggest strengths is ease-of-use in a mobile format, though you can also access it by desktop. Plus, it allows you to sort your to-do list in a variety of ways, from tasks by due date to tasks by assignee to tasks by project.

6. Chore Monster


Want to get your kids doing more chores this school year? Try Chore Monster. This easy-to-use app lets you as the parent assign and create point values for various chores. You can have certain chores your kids must do, and certain chores they can choose to do. When the child completes the chore, you check it off, and they earn points.

What do they do with all those points? It’s up to you! Add rewards that kids can purchase with their points. Rewards could be physical or monetary, or you could just give kids extra screen time. The cool thing is that you can assign some rewards with a low-point value, so kids can pick them up often. But you can also help kids grasp the idea of saving by giving them a few high-point-value options, like a big weekend camping trip or an expensive new toy.

7. Evernote


This app has been around a while, and it’s a classic. Many moms swear by it, and it does have a bunch of functions to try. You might use it for keeping track of online articles you want to read while waiting in the school pickup line. Or you can use it to get rid of all that paper-based clutter kids bring home from school.

With Evernote, you can store scans or photos of paper items, so you can easily upload the school calendar and menu to an online format. You could also use Evernote to store scans of special projects or papers your kids bring home, so that you’ll hang on to them without having to find a place for thousands of pieces of paper every single school week.

Image: Erik Khalitov

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13 Things Grocery Stores Will Do for You for Free

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Your grocery store has a lot more to offer than just groceries and household necessities, and if you aren’t taking advantage of these offerings, you could be spending more money than you need to.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you find those cost savings so you can put that money to better use by adding it to your retirement fund, taking that vacation you so desperately need, paying off your credit card debts, or any one of dozens of other things you could better spend it on. (You can see how much your current debts will cost you over your lifetime with this calculator and how they may be affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)

Here are 13 things you might not know most grocery stores will give to you for free.

1. Sharpen Your Knives

Did you know the butcher at your local grocery store will very likely sharpen your knife for you? For free? It’s true. All you have to do is ask. It’s best to do this early in the morning right after the store opens and the meat counter isn’t terribly busy. You can just drop off your knives, do your shopping and pick the knives up on your way out.

Pro tip: Buy some inexpensive plastic knife sheaths to protect your blade edges and yourself during transport.

2. Provide Wi-Fi

A lot of grocery stores these days have free Wi-Fi available, particularly those with cafés, coffee bars or beer and wine service. So, if you’re going to be checking online recipes or comparing prices on your phone while shopping, reduce your data usage by asking for a password (if needed) and connecting to the Wi-Fi.

3. Trim Your Meat

Back to the meat counter we go. If you want that beautiful chuck roast cut into pieces for a stew, you’d like that rack of lamb Frenched, or you want that whole chicken quartered, the butchers are happy to do it for you, though it might take a bit of time (and be sure to check out these butcher secrets for saving money on meat).

4. Chill Your Wine

A lot of higher-end grocery store wine sections now have rapid chillers that can get your bottle of bubbly or rosé chilled to perfection in about 10 minutes. Just make your selection, drop it in the chiller, pick up any other items you’re in need of and bam. Your wine is cold and ready to take to your party, on a picnic or wherever your day takes you.

5. Provide Boxes

If you’re moving and you’ve priced boxes at your nearest packing and moving store, you know those cardboard cubes add up quickly. Check with your store for when they receive shipments of products like toilet paper, paper towels, baby diapers, cereal and other dry goods and ask them to hold some of the boxes for you.

6. Clean Your Fish

If you like buying whole fish but hate scales flying around your kitchen during the cleaning process, ask the grocery store fish monger to hook you up (Get it? Hook? OK, I’ll stop). They’ll even filet the fish for you if that’s your preference, and freshly cut filets are always better than those sitting in the cold case.

7. Provide Doggy Poop Bags

So, this isn’t really a free item or service provided by the store, but if you keep your produce bags after you’ve unloaded your fresh vegetables, you can use those to pick up your dog’s daily business instead of paying for fancy dog-branded bags. Of course, the produce bags don’t decompose the way most of the fancy poop bags do, but at least you’re giving them a second life before tossing them.

8. Arrange Flowers

If your favorite grocer has a flower counter, they also likely have a florist on staff who can prepare arrangements for you. So instead of just grabbing a bunch of flowers, next time you can have the florist arrange a lovely bouquet for you.

9. Provide Free Samples

Ah, weekends at the grocery store. In some places, it’s a veritable buffet as you comb the aisles for provisions. It’s a great opportunity to try new products and also save money, because there’s no way you’re needing lunch after this.

10. Ice Your Cold Items

If you’re buying a lot of cold and refrigerated items, your store might provide ice to keep your purchases from getting too warm, particularly in the summer months. More stores are making this service available, so it could be worth your while to check.

11. Provide Entertainment

In their ongoing effort to improve profit margins, grocery stores, especially higher-end chains, are doing everything everything they can to keep customers in stores longer so they can spend more money. Whole Foods, for example, serves beer, wine and even food in some select stores (not for free) and even offer free live music performances in some locations.

12. Deliver Groceries

Competition has grown fierce in the grocery sector, with more and more people ordering grocery items online or having them delivered through companies like Burpee and Fresh Direct. It’s no wonder more grocery stores are offering delivery, sometimes even for free. Check with your local grocer to see what options they might offer.

13. Special Order Products

Not seeing the item you want? A lot of grocery stores will special order a product for you if their vendors carry it. And if it’s something you plan to buy on a regular basis, they might even consider stocking it as a standard item. It never hurts to ask.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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The Do’s & Don’ts of Shopping at a Wholesale Price Club

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You’d think because I write about smart shopping, I wouldn’t have a price club “problem.” Yet as a new member, it took several visits to get my bulk shopping under control. Enough olive oil to bathe in? A lifetime supply of cheese puffs? C’mon, how can you stop yourself? But you should, in fact, stop yourself. Buying in bulk can be a cost-effective way to stock up on essentials, but there are pitfalls.

High levels of debt, for instance, can hurt your wallet and your credit scores. (You can how credit card balances are currently affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.)

Here are some rules of thumb when shopping at price clubs.

1. Consider Your Spending Habits

Wholesale price clubs aren’t for everyone. Before joining, compare the membership fee with how often you might shop there, how much you might save and your personal circumstances. Shoppers who are able to plan menus in advance or who are buying for a large family can get a lot out of a price club membership, whereas single people who eat out a lot probably won’t.

2. Pay Attention to Price

To avoid overspending or buying things that spoil before you get through the box, make sure you are a, only buying what you need, b, buying things you will genuinely use and c, buying something that’s a great deal. Also, while most items purchased in bulk are well-priced, be mindful of unit prices so you can make informed decisions when shopping at your price club rather than other retailers.

3. Remember the ‘House’ Brand

Don’t turn your nose up at the “house” brand. In some cases, the products really measure up.

4. Shop During Off-Peak Hours

To dodge crowds and lines at the register, try to avoid going on weekends (unless you show up right when they open the doors) and in the afternoon and evening hours before a holiday weekend or a storm.

Deciding What to Buy — & What to Skip

Cleaning Products

Liquid detergents and soaps tend to become less effective over time, so buy them in smaller containers at the grocery or big box store instead of in bulk. Powdered cleaning products typically have an unlimited shelf life, however, so if you like powder, go for it.

Vitamins

Before investing in 400 soft gels of fish oil, take a moment to calculate how long it will take you to get through them all before the expiration date on the bottle.

Baby Products

New parents: try to avoid going overboard at the price club. Forty dollars for 180 diapers seems like a great deal until your baby grows out of them halfway through the lot. Wipes will eventually dry out, so you may also want to refrain from buying a box of 1,100 when potty training is right around the corner. With baby formula, remember that your baby will start eating solid foods soon enough, so all that formula could end up expiring before your baby drinks it all.

Beauty Products

If more than one person in the family uses a particular item or you go through the item quickly, like body lotion, shower gel or hair conditioner, a bulk purchase can be a smart purchase. However, if the night cream that only you use is available in a 32 o.z. vat … maybe not. Face creams are really at their best when used within a three to six month period, and that’s a lot of cream to slather on in such a short period. For sun products, SPF is most effective if used in a year so. If the whole family is using that oversized pump bottle all summer, great. Just you? Maybe wait to get it at the drugstore.

Fresh Produce

The beauty product rule also applies to fresh produce. If the whole family loves red seedless grapes, by all means, get the 7-pound bag. But if they’re just for you? It’s a good idea to skip it.

Perishable Snacks

They might be cheaper in bulk, but unless you’re having a party tonight or tomorrow, these pretzels, chips or cheese puffs can go stale before you get through the bag.

Condiments

Unless you have a large family or a kid who puts ketchup on everything, that humungous squeeze bottle of ketchup could possibly last at least a year. Best to go for the smaller bottle at the grocery store so what you’re spreading on your burger is fresh.

Cereal, Bread, Soda, Canned Goods, Eggs & Milk

These items are generally similar to those at your local grocery store, so compare prices, factoring in any coupons, and think hard about how quickly you might go through the item.

Sundry Food Items

Brown rice has a shelf life of about six months. Are you going to get through that gazillion-pound bag in time? Spices last six to 12 months, so consider that before you throw a 32 o.z. jar of cumin in your cart. Same goes for olive oil, whose shelf life is about six months.

Office Supplies

This category is hit or miss. While the prices on basic office supplies are usually better at your price club, you can find deep seasonal discounts at office supply and big box stores. Also, do you need 36 pens?

More Money-Saving Reads:

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Somebody Just Bought a Watermelon for $4,700

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Some people can’t resist the temptation to splurge on a fancy dinner. Then there are others who can’t resist the temptation to splurge ¥500,000, or about $4,700, on a rare black watermelon.

According to Mental Floss, that’s exactly what happened Tuesday, when a lucky bidder took home a rare melon after an auction in Asahikawa, Japan, at a fresh produce market.

Densuke watermelons are known for their “black and shiny skin as well as their crunchy texture,” according to The Japan Times. They’re also considered a primo gift in Japan, notorious for fetching high prices, especially when they’re part of the country’s first harvest of the season. Peak season is usually in July, so this Densuke was prime for the picking.

Many consumers couldn’t afford such an extravagance. For instance, the average American, at least, doesn’t have thousands gathering dust in their savings account and can hardly afford to cover an unexpected expense or emergency. In fact, a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve in 2014 found 47% of Americans said they wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency expense. (You can learn how to retrain your brain to cut debt and build savings here.)

And even people with some savings can benefit from carefully considering any splurges they’re inclined to make — particularly if they plan to charge the purchase to a credit card. High levels of debt, related to pricey watermelons or otherwise, could wind up hurting your wallet and your credit score.

Before you consider running up any big bills, make sure you know where your credit stands, as it’s a huge indicator of your financial standing that can affect your ability to secure a home loan, rental agreement and so much more. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com. And, if your credit is in lackluster shape, you may be able to improve your score by paying down high credit card balances, disputing any errors with the credit reporting agencies and limiting new credit inquiries.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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5 Tricks That Could Fool Your Kids Into Eating More Veggies

If you have young kids, you’ve probably been ’round and ’round with them multiple times about eating a balanced diet. The “good eater” is a rare thing, after all, with most kids preferring french fries to broccoli any day.

You’ve probably also read all of the tips on how to be a “good example” by eating your own vegetables, enforcing the “one-bite rule,” “making food fun” and getting kids to choose their own vegetables at the grocery store (is this something super moms have time to do?). Instead of tips on how to make vegetables more exciting, what you really need are some recipe ideas that will make your kids crave the cauliflower, beg for the beans and ask when you’re going to make that pasta with all the pretty colors again.

So, if you’re tired of the cajoling, the whining and wasting money on food your kids refuse to eat, here are five menu ideas that will have your kids coming back for seconds.

1. Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna

This smooth and cheesy recipe is perfect paired with a simple salad and also makes for great leftovers. Try doubling up on the spinach for a greener and more healthful meal. It’s so delicious, your kids won’t even notice the vegetables inside.

2. Cauliflower Bechamel

This recipe is great because you can get an entire head of cauliflower into a highly versatile sauce and no one is the wiser. Your kids like mac & cheese? Slowly melt cheese into this sauce, mix with macaroni, top with more cheese and bake. Want to add some extra veggies into the mix? Add some finely chopped broccoli, spinach or peas so your kids can pick out the green stuff if they want, without realizing they’re getting vegetables anyway. This sauce freezes well and can be used anywhere you’d use a cream sauce. (Pro tip: For a richer sauce, use milk instead of broth or water.)

3. Pot Pies

They’re easy, comforting and so, so yummy. Whether you use chicken, turkey, tofu or some other protein, be sure to throw in lots of healthy veggies. By chopping the vegetables very small, kids will be less likely to notice they’re eating something good for them.

4. Fruit & Veggie Popsicles

Here’s an easy way to get more vegetables in your kids’ diets. Combine kale, spinach, peas or even sweet potatoes with fruits and a bit of sweetener, and then run it all through a quick blend. Take that concoction and freeze it and you’ve got a wholesome summer snack your kids will love and you’ll feel good about.

5. Bacon!

As the saying goes, everything’s better with bacon, so if you and your kid eat it, try adding bacon to vegetable recipes to coax them into eating. One example are these zucchini boats with bacon gremolata.

If grocery costs are a concern for you, try these tips on how to eat for less than $6 a day. Saving money on food can help you stick to a budget plan, pay down billsconsolidate debt and reach your financial goals. A sound management plan can also efficiently subsidize your food budget plan for alleviating debt.

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How to ‘Stockpile’ Stuff & Save Money

stockpiling

Many of you have probably seen the television shows about hoarders. When they get done, they find that they have 87 tubes of toothpaste, 120 rolls of toilet paper and 24 toothbrushes. I will admit that in my house you will find 8 tubes of toothpaste, 30 rolls of toilet paper and 5 toothbrushes (other than those we are using). I have even more than that, but I won’t bore you with the full list.

Stockpiling isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It’s good to plan for the unexpected — a job loss, natural disasters, fluctuating gas and food prices. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to create your own stockpile.

1. What Is Considered a Good Deal?

If I can get my item for at least 75% off or more, then that qualifies as a stock-up deal for me.

For exampled, a while back, I found toothbrushes on clearance at a drug store chain for only $1.09. I happened to have several $1.00-off coupons. So, I picked up 9 toothbrushes for only $0.81 or $0.09 each! I didn’t sacrifice the brand I wanted to use — these were the toothbrushes we use regularly.

I actually stockpile when I can get household items and toiletries for $1.00 or less each. When I find toothpaste marked down, and through coupons and deals I can get it for free – or close to it – I’ll pick up several at a time.

2. Where Is the Best Place to Shop for a Stockpile?

Many times you can find toothpaste and other toiletries for free, or nearly free, when you shop at drug store chains like CVS or Walgreens. Yes – your local drug store can be less expensive than even big box stores when all is said and done. How? Through certain rewards programs they offer that provide coupons to save you money on your next purchase. You can, of course, find great deals at your local grocery store or retail chain stores; just always keep your eyes peeled.

3. How Much Is a Good Amount to Have on Hand?

Obviously you can’t stockpile items that will expire soon. However, you can stockpile canned and boxed goods, toiletries, laundry needs, paper supplies, cleaning supplies and anything else that won’t “go bad.” You can even stockpile meat products — as long as you have the freezer space. The quantity of items to keep on hand varies from person to person, but for me anything that is non-food related I like to have at least two years and food items anywhere from six months to one year.

4. Doesn’t This Take Up a Lot of Space?

It can — if you try to buy everything under the sun. You have to determine what space you have to give up to your stockpile. Obviously, if you live in an apartment, what you stockpile will probably be less than someone in a large home.

5. Does Stockpiling Include Travel-Size Items?

It sure does! Many times, you can get travel-size items free with a coupon (unless the coupon specifically excludes that size). So, you can pick up several and have paid absolutely nothing for them. They may be smaller sizes, but they are still free. And, in my book – free is free!

One of the most wonderful aspects of a stock pile (besides saving money, of course), is not having to run right to the store when you are out of something. For us, it seems that my kids eat toilet paper as I am forever changing the roll.  It is great to have it on hand when we need it. Otherwise, it means a trip to the store (where we may not get the best deal).

It also helps with meal planning. I almost always have something to throw together for a great meal as I have a completely stocked pantry. Then, when I plan my weekly shopping list (based upon menus created from my stash), I rarely need many items to actually cook my meals. My list is made up of incidentals and items to add to the pantry.

With a little planning ahead, you can start to create a little bit of a stock pile yourself – and ensure you are paying the price you want for the things you need.

You can find more tips on saving money in your day-to-day life here. You can also keep track of how your spending choices are affecting your credit score by looking at your free credit report card, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

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The Best Things to Buy at the Grocery Store in June

If you appreciate good food, you’ve probably heard the term “seasonal eating.” It’s a fairly recent food term for a lot of people, but it’s how humans ate for thousands of years before corporate agri-business practices and global shipping made it possible for us to buy corn in December, blueberries in January and Brussels sprouts in February.

You probably also know that eating seasonally, just like eating locally, can be beneficial to your health because it necessitates variety, and that it can also be good for the planet because it reduces shipping.

But have you ever considered that it can also be a boon to your wallet?

Seasonal items are cheaper because they’re more plentiful and frequently require shorter shipping distances (think of those January blueberries, typically coming to your local grocer from South America).

Buying seasonally is a tried-and-true trick among chefs. Not only does it allow them to offer variety on their menus, but it helps them to keep down costs so their rate of return on dishes is higher. It’s a trick you can use at home to help you keep your food budget in check.

Christine Nunn, executive chef at Picnic on the Square, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and author of The Preppy Cookbook, said seasonal items are very important at her restaurant and when cooking at home.

“Summer is a dream time to get great bargains, and better produce, at both the grocery store and at the numerous farmer’s markets that are sprouting up like weeds throughout the country,” Nunn said.

“At my restaurant … and as well as at home (and especially at my lake house), seasonal vegetables are the star of the plate. Spring onions, first-of-the-crop Swiss Chard, and of course, the gorgeous tomatoes that grow in my home state of New Jersey are always a hit, with minimal cooking.”

Squash, Squash, Squash

Chef Nunn’s favorite, though, is the summer squash and, of course, squash blossoms.

“The yellow squash turn a gorgeous bright yellow with streaks of orange and green that make a great presentation when cooked lightly, as it should be,” she said.

A great use for the green summer squash, or zucchini, is in a quick deconstructed ratatouille, Nunn suggested.

“Also, if you simply take a wide peeler, and lay the squash on a cutting board, you can easily create beautiful, colorful squash ribbons that can be sautéed in either butter or olive oil for about two minutes,” she said. “Add some fines herbs, a quick squirt of lemon juice and some salt, then top either chicken or fish with the squash.”

There are plenty of other great seasonal items you should be on the lookout for this June. These are Chef Nunn’s personal favorites:

  • Patty-pan squash
  • Jersey tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raniere cherries
  • Garlic scapes
  • Candy stripe beets
  • Peas
  • Cranberry beans
  • Snap beans
  • Ipswich clams
  • Summer fluke
  • Wild, striped bass
  • Soft-shell crabs
  • Scallops
  • Maine lobster

[Editor’s note: Keeping a budget, especially for groceries, will allow you to start saving money, pay down bills, consolidate debt and reach your financial goals. A sound management plan can also alleviate debt. If you’re trying to cut down your spending and want to see its affect on your credit, you can get two free credit scores every month on Credit.com.]

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