Category: Columns

Personal Finance: Food Waste is Money Down the Drain

By Nathaniel Sillin How many times have you gone to pour milk in your coffee, only to see that the date on the carton was yesterday? Some people will instinctively throw it away, but chances are that’s not what the label is intended to convey. It’s likely a marker for when the food might taste its best, not if it’s safe to eat. By some estimates, as many as 91 percent of consumers may misinterpret food date labels. It’s no surprise as there are dozens of different lables in use, but the misunderstanding and lack of meal planning are contributing to a larger problem. Between 30 and 40 percent of the U.S.’s food supply winds up in the trash or a compost container. The benefits of reducing food waste are numerous. You’ll save money, which may be reason enough. You could also be lowering your carbon footprint by keeping spoiled food out of landfills and cutting down on the growing and transportation of food that doesn’t get eaten. Cutting back on this waste could start with understanding what food labels actually mean. Don’t misinterpret food dates as expiration dates. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), aside from on infant formula, food label dates aren’t an indication of whether or not the food is safe to eat. For example, “best by” may mean the food will taste,...

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Home Country

by Slim Randles Windy Wilson looked through the notions aisle at the store and finally picked out the package of needles he wanted. Big ones. The big ones are easier to thread and it’s harder to drop them and stick yourself. Mrs. Andrews walked past him with her shopping cart. “Going to do some sewing, Windy?” “Oh hi there, Miz Andrews. Well … you know how it is. Gotta have a modiclum of needles around in case a cow cuts herself up on a bobwire fence.” “Oh I see,” she said, wandering off. Annette George, owner of the Soup ‘R Market, stood by the cash register and smiled. Windy’s at it again. Windy went into the personal hygiene section of the store and picked up five packages of dental floss. The unflavored kind. Then he went up to pay for them. “Hi Annette.” “Hey Windy,” she said. “Starting another quilt?” He looked around. Okay, no one close. “Yep,” he said. “Thought I’d try a Grandma’s Flower Garden pattern this time. Looks like a booger to piece together, but I might could be ready for it.” “Who’s it for?” Annette asked. She knew Windy made these quilts for others, often anonymously, because there are some folks who wouldn’t understand an old cowboy and camp cook who sewed quilts for a hobby. She also knew he sewed them with dental floss...

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Pet Talk: Responsibilities of Pet Bird Ownership

by the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences If adding a dog or cat to the family is out of the question, pet birds are extremely intelligent and form strong bonds with their owners. However, because companion birds are so smart, they need plenty of mental stimulation and attention to be happy in their environment. Before you choose to adopt or purchase a pet bird, Dr. Sharman Hoppes, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, recommended doing your research on the responsibilities of pet bird ownership. “A pet parrot of any size is not a low-maintenance or inexpensive pet,” Hoppes said. “Depending on the species and age, the bird itself will vary in cost. Pet bird owners also need a large cage, play gyms, multiple toys, and perches in different textures and diameters to prevent foot problems.” The species and number of birds present will determine the amount of time pet owners should spend caring for their birds. However, Hoppes said this does not mean you have to hold your bird for hours a day. Being at home and having the bird out of its cage on a play gym or perch will keep the bird happy. Additionally, parrots require fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a formulated diet that can be purchased at pet stores. If...

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Home Country

by Slim Randles Irma has it figured out. She’s a bona fide, egg-laying member of the “Production Red” hen sorority and she knows her rights. This is really remarkable when you consider the braincase of your average barnyard chicken is wedged between some feathers and those big expressionless eyes and has about the same capacity for rational thought as that of an amoeba. But somehow this hen of mine has figured it out. The sunlight triggers it, I believe. Sequential logic. When the daylight comes enough to make out the outline of the house, Gunsil (the rooster) starts telling the world how wonderful he is. When the sun hits the house, The Guy Who Takes Away the Eggs (aka T.G.W.T.A.T.E.) comes out and puts food in the dish. When it gets dark, it’s time to go back in the henhouse, better known as “Home.” She doesn’t get fooled by artificiality the way Gunsil does. We’ve learned that a midnight visit to the bathroom is fine as long as you don’t turn on the light. If the light switch goes on, out comes Gunsil from his hen-pecked existence and he begins telling the world it’s time to get up and start laying. If a person were to have several cups of coffee before bedtime, the result the next morning is a bedraggled, exhausted, confused rooster who is mad enough to...

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Personal Finance: The Keys to Outfitting Your First Apartment on a Budget

by Nathaniel Sillin Moving into a place of your own for the first time is a huge step. I remember my first post-college apartment move. It was nothing special, but it was mine. It came with a few new challenges and responsibilities and all sorts of opportunities. For the first time, I was able to decide how to decorate an entire living area and turn a blank slate into a home. Here’s some advice for finding what you’ll need on a budget and a few inexpensive ideas to make otherwise unimaginative rooms come to life. Look for hand-me-down and used furniture. Furniture – tables, chairs, bookshelves etc. – often takes up the most space and can be the biggest drain on your budget. You could start by mapping out your home using online floor plan software and determining what might fit where. When it comes to finding furniture, friends, family members and friends of family members may have something they want to get rid of and simply haven’t had the time or energy to do so. Also consider marketplace websites’ free sections and the nonprofit Freecycle Network™, which hosts message boards where you can find local people giving away their unwanted belongings. To find used furniture that’s for sale, head to consignment stores, garage and buy-sell-trade social media groups. There are even startups creating online marketplaces specifically for furniture,...

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