Archive for the ‘Financial’ Category

Feed a Family of 4 on $10 a Day

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Saturday, February 6, 2010

by Sarah Lorge Butler
Source: CBS

When I was growing up, my mother would serve something she called “economy dinner.” Pasta, sauce, maybe a quarter-pound of hamburger meat mixed in and a little cheese sprinkled on top, baked together in the oven. We didn’t understand the name, but we loved the dish.

I was thinking I need to find my own “economy dinner,” as I had yet another supermarket freak-out while watching my grocery receipt print out and curl down two feet behind the register. At home with the receipt in front of me, I decided to crunch some numbers to see if I could feed my family of four for less than $100 a week.

Would it be possible to do 84 meals for less than $100? With room to spare, it turns out. According to my calculations, we could do it on $72.38. We’d be crying of boredom after Day 2. But we wouldn’t be hungry.

If we ate cereal and milk for breakfast, a PB&J and an apple for lunch, and protein-enriched pasta with store-brand marinara and a couple of carrots sticks and broccoli or green beans for dinner, we could get by on $10.34 per day.

I won’t bore you with the math, but this meal plan cuts out all the extras. No snacks, no OJ, no organic milk at $5.99 per gallon, no Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of that pasta, no frozen yogurt at night in front of DWTS. The husband brown bags it to the office. I’ll admit I included my coffee, at $2.15 per week, because I consider it essential, along with milk for the kids at every meal.

This exercise has been an eye-opener for me. Now that I know our family’s bargain-basement dinner costs $3.40, I see the foods I thought were cheap (like a large pizza for $10) are pricey in comparison. And the foods I knew were expensive, such as a $10 steak, fish that’s $14 per pound, or deli meat at $8.99 per pound, now seem top dollar.

Some of the splurges, like the organic milk, I’d opt to add back in. But that package of Pepperidge Farm Nantuckets does more to the bottom line (both bottom lines, really) than I’ve cared, up until now, to realize.

To get out of our pasta rut, I consulted with Leslie Bonci, a dietician at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, about other nutrient-rich foods that pack a lot of bang for the buck. Here’s what she suggested:

• Eggs: 99 cents per dozen, can be breakfast, lunch, dinner or hard-boiled for snacks.

• Canned beans, like kidneys or chick peas: 79 cents for a 16-ounce can.

• A five-pound roasting chicken ($5) could yield two dinners. For the first meal, roast with potatoes and carrots and eat half of the chicken. For the second meal, make a stir-fry with the leftover chicken and a bag of frozen mixed veggies ($1.29 for a 16-ounce bag) and serve over brown rice (99 cents for a 16-ounce bag).

• Oatmeal costs $3.69 for a 42-ounce canister and has 30 servings. That could replace at least $7 worth of boxed cereal, and the oatmeal is more filling.

• Bananas, at 49 cents a pound, cost less than most fruits, especially those “select” peaches and nectarines at $1.99 per pound. Bananas are definitely cheaper and healthier than the sugary granola bars I send in my daughter’s lunch.

• Texturized Veggie Protein, a lean meat substitute that’s a lot like ground beef and can be added to pasta sauce or tacos, is $2.69 for 10 ounces.


15 Year-End Financial To-Do’s

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

by Kelly Campbell
Source: Yahoo

The year is coming to an end, and with any conclusion comes a last-minute checklist. This is your final financial to-do list of 2010. With only a few days to complete these items, do not waste time getting started.

1. Fund your IRA or Roth IRA. For 2010, investors can add up to $5,000. If you’re over age 50, add an additional $1,000.

2. Maximize 401(k) contributions. For 2010, savers can add up to $16,500 to their company’s 401(k) plan. If you’re over 50, add an additional $5,500.

3. Rebalance investments. Rebalancing is selling part of what has done well and buying what has not done so well, thus selling high and buying low.

4. Review portfolio quality. Look at the rankings of the investments in your portfolio and keep the quality high. Don’t hold onto any low-quality investments.

5. Review the tax impact of your portfolio for the year. Now is the time to make any changes to offset portfolio taxes. This needs to be done in 2010 to impact your tax bill in 2011.

6. Review your financial plan. Make sure you are hitting your goals by looking at your results compared with your financial plan. If you don’t have one, complete a financial plan prior to year end.

7. Contribute to your child’s or grandchild’s 529 plan. You may be able to get a 2010 deduction from state taxes.

8. Convert your IRA to a Roth IRA. You’ll be able to pay the taxes over two tax years, 2011 and 2012.

9. Take out your minimum required distribution. If you’re over 70 1/2, you must take your MRD in this tax year. If you don’t, the penalty is 50 percent.

10. Get married. If you are planning on getting married without the hoopla, do it now to receive tax benefits.

11. Review your credit record. Check to see if you have any blemishes on your credit record. You are eligible for one free credit report a year.

12. Make an extra mortgage payment. One extra payment a year can reduce your 30-year mortgage by seven years.

13. Pay your state taxes this year. If you do, you may be able to get a deduction.

14. Calculate your net worth. Each year it is a good idea to see the value of all your assets and review your annual progress.

15. Develop your 2011 budget. Building a budget can be the best way to meet your financial goals. Putting it down on paper is the first step.

None of these items are difficult and some may not even pertain to your situation, but these friendly reminders can prove to not only put you on the right track, but keep you there.