5 August, 2016

Making the most of our Census

If you have been looking for something surrounded by more entertaining controversy than the senate ticket in the last election, then on Tuesday evening you can participate in the 2016 census. It’s five year fact finding mission will attempt to capture a wealth of information by asking you to log on with your own special 12 digit number. The length of the census questionnaire is possibly only a whisker longer than the senate ballot sheet but the heated debate around it is just as fierce. On one hand it is good that the country is finally talking about such issues as privacy and public trust (something not many people consider when they use a loyalty card) but there is also great concern that if people express their viewpoint by boycotting or not providing their true details we may be in danger of losing the ability to capture accurate information to help meet the needs of many groups such as the 6000 homeless in South Australia.

The information gathered about people experiencing homelessness is key to forming policy and the associated funding decisions that provide the services and assistance for this community. Many people slip in and out of the homeless category as their circumstances change but without help from community groups many will experience even greater hardship or possibly suffer tragic outcomes.

You might ask how does the Government plan to match such groups with a 12-digit barcode and separate them from the people just wondering around the streets looking for Pokemon. This is where the controversy and plethora of Pokemon humour ends, as there has been a lot of work done over the years by many organisations and welfare groups to identify and measure these groups so that an accurate picture can be made of the homeless. In fact just classifying these groups can be problematic. The ABS definition of homelessness includes rough sleepers, couch surfers, persons in supported accommodation and persons in severely overcrowded dwellings - different procedures are in place to capture the information for each category.

This year the ABS has enlisted special field officers predominantly made up of the ranks of the homeless service provider networks, their staff and volunteers as well people who are or have experienced homelessness in the past. Now that’s more progressive thinking. These activities, which may involve a short interview, could take up to a week to complete and already training for these groups and reference material has been provided or well underway. The community organisations know how important this task is and are keen to give the homeless a proper voice and attention.

It follows that with this much controversy the public debate will continue long after Tuesday. Perhaps well into the next five years when the ABS will need to address public concerns fully or once again be the target of some very funny sarcastic anti-ads and online videos. Still, on Tuesday evening Pokemon hunters may not stay at home to fill out the census but at least some provision has been made to count the many homeless and perhaps not leave them totally out in the cold.

24 May, 2016

Tips for cost effective grocery shopping

The cost of food and feeding your family is one of the most expensive aspects to your budget.

For those looking for tips to save money at the grocery store and stretch your food budget further, you can save lots of money grocery shopping if you follow any or all of these tips…

Make a grocery shopping list.

Buy only what’s on the list. If you go grocery shopping without a list, you’ll buy things you don’t need and forget some of the items that you do need. This will result in paying more money at the register. Keep the list handy at home, and add to it throughout the week.

Plan your meals.

Planning your week of meals ahead of time will help you focus on the items that you will need when you make up your grocery list. This will help eliminate buying extra food as a result of not being sure of what you’ll be eating through the week.

Check sales flyers and look for coupons.

Take advantage of sales (and coupons) and plan some of your meals around them. Sales flyers are often found in the newspaper, and online.

Don’t stop and look at other things.

Only shop for the things on your list. This can be tough to do, but sticking to your list will save you money.

Don’t go when you’re hungry.

It is definitely true that when you’re hungry, you will end up spending a lot more. Eat a meal first, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your list.

Buy in bulk when it makes sense.

Although more up front cost, if you are truly going to use it before it spoils, it will be cheaper to buy in bulk. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you will use it up though. Be realistic.

Avoid name brands.

Store brands or brands other than well-known names are often less expensive and tastes nearly as good. Be willing to experiment. You may have a favorite brand of diced tomatoes, for example, but does it really matter?

Cut back on your “one-item” trips.

The cost of gasoline is a factor, and each trip may cost you lots more than you realize when you factor it it.

Avoid watery items.

Things like broth, pre-mixed drinks, and all other items that are laden with mostly water are relatively expensive. Much of this you can make yourself from scratch for less money.

Buy produce in season.

Fresh produce is always cheaper in-season. This gives you the opportunity to buy lots, and to preserve (dehydrate, jams, canning, etc.)

Rain check.

If an item is on sale but the store has run out of stock, ask for a rain check.

Drink water.

Not bottled water, but water from home. Buy a filter if your water tastes bad. If you regularly drink iced tea, sodas or other types of drinks, cut those out completely and just drink water. It’s much better for you, and much cheaper.

Stick to basic spices.

When you buy pre-mixed spices, they are simply blends of basic ingredients which you are paying a premium for. Learn to combine your own spices from the basics. Check online for spice recipes.

Avoid “pre”.

While pre-cubed, pre-diced, pre-sliced, pre-pounded, pre-seasoned, (pre-anything), processed, packaged foods, etc., may be more convenient, it costs LOTS less to make these things yourself, and is often healthier. Learn how. Make it from scratch.

Don’t give in to the kids.

If you allow them, kids will eat the most expensive and worst least-healthy foods possible. Be disciplined. Don’t let them steer you to buy sugary sweets, and all those marketed foods that they see on TV. Be strong. Just because they really like this one thing or another, does not mean that they will starve to death if you buy healthy balanced meals for them. If they’re hungry, they’ll eat it. Who’s running the family… you or them?

Shop on the edge.

Health-conscious shoppers know that the perimeter of the store is where the good stuff is. The baked goods, dairy products, fresh meats, and fruits and vegetables are generally placed along the outside edge of the supermarket, while the processed stuff can be found up and down the aisles. But shopping the edges isn’t just healthier — it’s cheaper too.

Check your receipt.

Make sure your prices are scanned correctly. Make sure your coupons are scanned correctly. Sale items, especially, have a tendency to be in the computer wrong.

9 May, 2016

8 tips to keep you warm without breaking the bank

1. Dress in layers.

Bundle up. Wear long underwear, sweaters, and even hats indoors. Remember the days of “sleeping caps”? They make sense when so much heat escapes from the head - about 70% actually.

2. Keep Your Feet Warm

Australia is known for it's UGG Boots for a good reason. Keeping your feet warm will help keep the rest of you warm - especially at home. Although the UGG brand can be rather expensive, you can pick up a bargain by shopping around and looking through trift shops.

3. Heat Up Your Bed

Don't turn up the heat for the entire house. Use an electric blanket. An even cheaper and safer option may be a hot water bottle with a wool or fleece cover.

4. Harness the Sun

During the day, open the blinds and curtains on the south-facing windows—and let the Sun warm you. At night, close the blinds and curtains to better insulate your home.

5. Keep the Kitchen Cozy - here are some suggestions:

“I put a cast iron pot of water with liquid potpourri on the top of our cast iron stove. This increases the humidity in the room and puts a lovely smell in the air.”

“Drink lots of yummy hot chocolate!!!!”

“Bake something in the oven, either dinner or a dessert (doesn't have to be fattening but even better if it is).”

“A hot cup of tea is great….if you are sick, a hot toddy works wonders. Also, I always have a crock pot of soup going during the cold months.”

6. Block Drafts

Beyond weather-stripping, which is difficult with old houses, consider these tips:

“I hang blankets to close off the open stair well going to the second floor, since heat raises it keeps the warm air down stairs when we spend most of our time. I noticed it saves a lot of heating dollars.”

“Don't forget to put something at the bottom of outside doors–you can just feel the cold air pour in. You can buy a fancy roll or just use a blanket or towel.”

7. Stay Active

Get your body moving.

“Keep active, this is a good time to clean out closets, garages, etc. Anything to keep active.”

“If I get a chill just sitting I get up and stir around, the movement not only warms me up but also stirs the heat in the house. Children are great when playing, they stir the air around.”

“Don't just sit around. Stay active to keep your blood from 'thickinin.' Exercise is good for ya.”

8. Humidify Your Home

Not only does a humidifier keep your house warmer but also it eliminates drying indoor air. As our readers say:

If you don't have a humidifier, here's another idea: When you take a bath in winter, leave the water in the tub after you get out. If you let it sit until it reaches room temperature, it will add a little warmth to the house and help humidify it!