Monday, April 29, 2013

How Safe Is Your Meat?

A March 17th report from the USDA showed our meat is teaming with superbugs. What this means is animals in overcrowded food lots and barns are having their food heavily laced with antibiotics because living in such conditions is unhealthy without this steady diet of drugs most would die. Along with the antibiotics the animals are given growth hormones to grow faster and bigger to get to market sooner. This impacts us by making our bodies immune to antibiotics when we get sick. The growth hormones also have girls as young as nine years old starting their period.

Another issue with meat is the preservatives and pink slime that is packed into pre-packaged meat. How do you know your meat has additives in it besides meat. Ingredients are posted on the package. Anything besides meat shouldn’t be there. These additives are added to make sure the meat had a long shelf life and make it pretty.

If it is in a tube, then  your meat has traveled far to reach you. It also has the opportunity to mingle with the thousands of animals in the feed lot. Major meat processor will ground hamburger in the tons. It only takes one diseased cow to contaminate all the meat ground that day, which explains recalls. This tainted meat is also made up into preformed patties too, which explains the recall on those too. The more obvious answer is not to butcher sick cows. It sounds good in theory.

  My son used to work at a meat processor. When he started his job, four years ago, a government inspector would show up every month causing the owner to always push for extra cleanliness as to not be fined. He didn’t get closed down, just fined. With government cutbacks, the inspectors came less and less. More like every eight months, and a few would just glance through the area because their work load was too heavy to do a thorough inspection.

An employee at a well known soup factory confessed that they used sick chickens because they were too skinny to be sold for frying or roasting.  Besides, he explained you couldn’t get the tuberculosis from eating chicken noodle soup or thousands of people would have it. Put me off eating chicken noodle soup.

Recently, my husband became sick on three consecutive occasions from eating ground turkey. I googled this and found out he wasn’t the only one. It goes back to an additive to give the turkey long shelf life that often does a number on people’s stomach. It isn’t in all turkey, that’s why you read labels.

My former brother-in-law, a licensed meat cutter, warned me off meat loaf mix, stuffed pepper, and meat skewers. He explained that the meat can only be in the case so long, but if you take it out and reprocess it with spices or veggies, you can re-date it and raise the price on it. If you feel the need to buy anything like that, cook it right of way. Now that I scared you, what can you do about your meat?

Do not buy tube meat or brand meat, this means it already has additives in it. Big grocery chains usually have butchers, you want what was cut up in the backroom as opposed to what was shipped five states or even five countries away. Even groceries stores use pink slime because it makes the meat look redder thus fresher. My butcher explained when meat touches meat it turns brown that is why the additive is added. You can find a butcher who doesn’t use slime. It is possible.

You can buy a part of a cow, pig, or lamb and have it butchered. You can buy your meat at farmer’s markets, direct from the farmer, or from organic groceries such as EarthFare and Whole Foods. I used to work at an organic dairy, which also sold grass fed pork and beef. If you were willing to drive to the farm you received much better prices than you would at the farmer’s market.

Often the plump meat we buy at the grocery cooks away to nothing. That is because it is injected with water. A grass-fed beef roast tends to stay the size you bought it. At first, it is more expensive, but you get more meat in the end. Hamburger is mixed with fat and additives. The pound of hamburger you purchased may only end up being  12 ounces of meat. It is better for your health to go with ground sirloin at a reputable butcher and get about 15.5 ounces from your pound.

Eating healthy takes more effort than just throwing whatever is cheapest into your cart. Sometimes it is more expensive. To get around this use less meat in your dishes, consider vegetarian meals occasionally, and going in with a friend to get a side or quarter of beef. Know where your food comes from. Talk to your butcher. Stay away from premade prepackaged foods.

It takes effort. It also makes you understand why your granny or great granny often shopped every day to have fresh food. Then again, she probably didn’t have a freezer to put her food in either. When you think about it, food is a major element as far as your health goes.  It’s surprising people pay so little attention what goes into their mouths. It will eventually show up in how they feel,  frequent illnesses and weight gain.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Truth About High Efficiency Washers

When we moved, we decided not to take our washer with us. My daughter had done a number on it by overloading it. Despite replacing the belt, it had a wine and wobble ever since. My brother-in-law warned me another moved would kill the already fragile machine. It was time to buy a new machine.

Truth told I am spoiled when it comes to appliances. My father retired from General Electric and supplied us with low cost appliances for years. This was probably our first real full price appliance. A friend gave me our stove, while the fridge was a scratch and dent model. We walked through various stores looking at the cost of a washer. The average washer was about $600 and it went on up after that. I couldn’t figure out the charm of the front loading models.

We finally ended up at H.H. Gregg and purchased a Whirlpool High Efficiency washer for under $500. We were able to get free shipping too. What a bargain, but my sister quickly burst my bubble telling me about the evils of HE washers. She doesn’t have one. She just heard about it.

High Efficiency Myths

1.       They smell.

Mine doesn’t and had it for a year now. I do leave the laundry room door open because the furnace man insisted it would prevent mildew from building up in the furnace.


2.       You can’t stop them once you start them.

You can’t stop a front loader, but I went for the cheaper top loader you can stop.


3.       They are rough on your clothes.

Having a bra, panties, or anything caught on the agitator and having it twisted the whole cycle isn’t hard on it? I bought a bra ball to save my lingerie, but I forget to use it half the time.


4.       It doesn’t save you money or water.

Tell that to my water bill, which is a fraction of what it used to be. I also use less detergent.


5.       You have to use expensive HE detergent

It is hard to find detergent that isn’t HE. Originally more sudsing components were added to detergent to make extravagant suds to reassure us that our clothes were getting clean. Of course, it took a great deal of water to rinse out all those suds. Suds that neither made the clothes clean or helped the environment.


According to Ted the Appliance guy a top loader HE uses half the water an agitator does. This matters because you’re paying for the water if you’re on city water. It also matters if you are on septic because it means less gray water in your system. Both are win-wins scenarios.


According to Ted, you want to avoid front loaders for second story laundries because of the vibrations. If you want to get the most for your money, there is no reason not to buy a top loading HE washer as opposed to an agitator.   

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The J.C.Penney's Lesson

Any J.C. Penney’s shoppers out there? I know I used to be a dedicated one, especially this time of year when hundreds of swimsuits showed up there. Penney’s had nice full coverage swimsuits that hid a multitude of sins, but usually cost anywhere from $68-$120 dollars. Oh, there were sales and coupons too. Not, last year though, and the suits were flimsy, cheap suits that would at best only look good on a perfect twenty-year old body. They were cheap, but not what I wanted.

Ousted Penney’s CEO Ron Johnson decided to shake up J. C. Penney’s stagnant sales. The stores offered everyday prices, no sales or coupons. He also made the veteran sales clerks run everything through a handheld device that often didn’t work. No catalog department, instead you told the clerk you had an order, she called anyone available to go get your order. There was usually no one available, so you waited, and waited. The redesigned store was a store within a store. Read: you have no clue where anything is.

I hadn’t been in J.C. Penney’s since last year’s disastrous swimsuit expedition. This time I only ventured in to use their restrooms.  I saw the five-dollar t-shirt and the bright color-coded signs. I decided to buy one exceedingly cheaply constructed shirt to wear to the gym. It lasted one wearing. I put it into my new high efficiency washer, and it unraveled. All my other non-J.C. Penney’s clothes came out fine. In fact, none of them ever did me the discourtesy of falling apart.

Luckily, I wasn’t too attached to the shirt. It brings up the issue of price versus quality. People want good quality and a cheaper price. That’s why people will flock to sales and use coupons. This is a time-honored lesson. Ron Johnson used to work for Apple. If Apple put out a cheap computer that locked up after one use, then they would go out of business no matter how cheap the computers were. A store can only stay in business if it has repeat customers.

The J.C.Penney’s experiment is now over. Mike Ullman, new CEO, promises coupons and sales will be back. Coupons and sales allow the person to think they are getting something special, a reward of sorts. Shopping is often as close as some women will get to big game hunting. I remember getting a $300 wool coat for $29 in the summer. That was my twelve-point buck. Kohls understands this concept, which explains endless sales, Kohls cash, early bird and night owl bargains that has kept their profits consistent while Penney’s is in the basement and digging a sub-basement.

Carsons is another failed experiment. They are always offering coupons that can’t be used on anything. We all know mall rent is high, so prices are marked up on mall merchandise. Carsons sends me coupons all the time. Most recently on my birthday, but no matter what I picked out my coupons were not usable. My intention was to use my $10 birthday card on one top and buy the rest. What I ended up doing was leaving the card and shirts on the counter. The birthday card did not say I couldn’t use the card on sales item. Apparently, this was information that only the sales clerks knew. Carsons advertising executives must have figured once they had me in the store I would buy no matter what, they figured wrong.

In the world of retail merchandise, people have too much to distract them from retails stores who don’t give them what they want. Many retail stores have an online presence to compete with online retailers, and even offer free shipping. Other brick and mortar stores are having child-related activities, community sales that benefit the local charities, or even celebrity appearances. Other stores are trying to win customers by having a generous return policy such as Kohls. Walgreens even lets you return makeup you tried on, but doesn’t work. Lowes is keeping track of your furnace filter sizes and the color of paint you bought via the My Lowes card. Why would you patronize a store that doesn’t give you what you want?

I am still on the swimsuit search. Last time, I ended up at Marshalls buying suits that Penney’s used to carry. I am open to all suggestions.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Saving Money by Buying Glasses Online


Do you wear glasses? Is the expense wrecking your budget? Even when your insurance states vision coverage. It seldom covers the real expense of getting new glasses. My insurance does pay for the exam. Most insurance does, but it doesn’t pay for the other tests your doctor might want. My doctor took snapshots of my eye with his brand new machine to check for diabetes-related degeneration. I never had diabetes, nor does anyone in my family.  By the end of my appointment, I had a bill of $480. No bifocals either, I picked out the cheapest frames and refused the special UV coating.
My daughter took advantage of her paid vision exam, and ordered her stylish new glasses from Coastal Eyewear. The first pair were free; she paid about $20 for postage, which beat my $480 dollars. Have you been thinking about buying glasses online?  Glasses USA will ship your first pair of glasses at 70% off, but you have to apply for the newsletter to get the coupon. The starting price for frames is $38.50.
The reason we buy glasses in expensive stores is to try them on to see how we might look in them. will let you order up to five frames to test. Return the unused ones in a postage paid box. Glasses cost $95 with free shipping.
Do you only need reading glasses? Instead of picking them up at the local drugstore, pick from over 500 frames at PEEPERSPECS.COM. A pair usually runs $21, and if you buy two pairs, you get free shipping.
Good Housekeeping recommends for the best bargain. An average single vision pair with anti-scratch and UV protection runs about $46.88 receives high ranks from Top Ten Reviews of online eyeglass companies for service and styles, but tends to be more expensive.
Most online companies don’t offer bifocals or progressives. Be careful, which one you go with because not all can correct astigmatism. According to Good Housekeeping test, Warbyparker and Glassesshop can.
The ones I listed offer the lenses and frames. Some sites offer frames only. Accidentally, broke your glasses, Glassesshop will replace broken frames within 90 days of purchase.
Do your research. Do get a current eye exam; don’t order off an old prescription. Remember online sites mainly deal with single vision and reader glasses only. Your insurance might limit you to specific optometrists, but your flexible medical spending account might cover it. Often when I tried to take advantage of specials the optometrist had, I was told my insurance wouldn’t cover it because it was too cheap. So remember my $480 glasses, insurance paid $120 on them. I paid the other $36O, less than six months later, I lost them.
This time I’ll order my glasses online.