admin / November 6, 2008

Vote Yet Again!

Okay, you’ve probably already voted this week, but it’s time to do it again. This time it’s for the next Blogging Idol. One of the freelance writer newsletters I subscribe to is owned by Suzanne Franco. The reason I tell you this is because she’s also one of the contestants in this year’s Blogging Idol contest and also runs a Web site for people who want to start their own businesses and make more money…something we all want to do these days. So by stopping by her site, you can not only help her win this contest, but you can pick up some great tips and sign up for her newsletter. Here’s the link http://www.suzannefranco.com/suzanne-franco-the-newest-blogging-idol.

admin / November 6, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Making the Most of Your Health Care Coverage

It was one of the issues during the recent election season and for good reason. Health care prices are skyrocketing. Many employers are cutting back on the insurance coverage or making employees pay a bigger chunk of the bill. And even more common these days, lots of people are suddenly finding themselves unemployment and without affordable health insurance.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for Arthritis Today called Big Bills, Big Worries. I found lots of tips and hints about reducing some of the cost of things like doctor’s visits and prescriptions. As many of them didn’t find their way into that article, I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Read, Read, Read
When you’re thinking about signing up for a health care policy and even after you sign up, read through everything that’s given to you. I know some policies are the size of a novella, but the key to keeping your insurance on budget…and not having a nasty surprise when the bill arrive is to check what’s covered on your policy. Maybe they don’t pay for prescriptions. Maybe they don’t cover a problem connected to a previous injury. Read everything.

What’s Your Liability?
Another thing to definitely check out is the amount you’re actually going to be liable for. Is it the first $100, $1,000? Does the insurance company make you pay 20% of the bill even after you’ve met your deductable?

Go Generic
When doctors write a prescription, very few of them will tell you about the generic versions of that drug. If your doctor is one of them, then speak up and ask. There are some medications that don’t have a generic counterpart, but you can save yourself a ton of money by asking first. And don’t be afraid to ask for samples. If this particular medication isn’t going to be ongoing, a sample maybe all you need.

That’s How Much?
The price of some drugs can give you a bad case of sticker shock. If you can’t pay, many pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs to help patients get the medication for free or at least at a reduced rate. See who manufactures the drug, go online and check their Web site, or make a phone call to see if they offer such a program.

Speak Up
If you can’t afford to pay your bill, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. If you find yourself unable to pay for any service, be honest with the doctor’s office or hospital billing department. Never be embarrassed if you can’t pay your bill. More people are finding themselves in this dilemma and most of the time a payment plan can be worked out for you.

Check the Network
When I was interviewing people for my article, many told me they’d fallen into the trap of going outside the network that’s covered by their policy. Seeing a specialist that’s not on the approved provider list basically voids the insurance company’s responsibility to pay your bill. It’s almost like you break the rules, you pay. So don’t get caught out. Check your approved provider list before you make your appointment.

admin / November 6, 2008

How Long Is it Good For?

Yes, our goal as budget savvy cooks is to save money on the food we serve our families, but eating food that might be questionable won’t help your budget if you get sick and end up with a doctor’s bill. I’ve always wondered about those ‘expiration and best by’ dates you see on packages? Can they be trusted and should you toss away anything with an expired ‘best by date’? Are you risking getting salmonella poisoning if you eat something that’s a couple of days past that date? I was surprised to learn that all the dates are simply guidelines. In fact, the worst case scenario is that the food doesn’t taste or isn’t’ as fresh as it should be. And eating something past its ‘best by’ or ‘expiration’ date doesn’t mean it’s turned bad and will make you sick. Of course, if something doesn’t taste right to you, don’t eat it.

Here is a site I found with a comprehensive list of food storage guidelines and tips.
www.gourmetsleuth.com/food_storage_guidelines.asp

Food Safety Concerns
And speaking of food safety, with the holidays just around the corner, lots of us are going to be spending more time in the kitchen, making food to give as gifts, cooking turkey, and then dealing with leftovers. So as not to waste any food or get sick, I went in search of some sites offering advice on everything from cooking temperatures to general food safety.

What’s the Temperature?
I always use a thermometer when I cook meat and poultry. If you’re not sure what temperature to aim for, here’s a Web site offering easy to follow guidelines-
www.culinarycafe.com/Meat_Dishes/Roasting.html

Rotate, Rotate
Make sure you give the fridge and freezer a ‘spring cleaning about once a month’. And prior to the holidays is a great time to clean and purge the leftovers. If something’s been in there for awhile, use it up by putting it on the week’s menu. And make sure when you put something in the freezer to make a note on what’s inside and what date it was frozen. Here’s a site offering more tips on frozen foods.
http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/hgic3522.htm

Keep Them Separate
When you’re cooking in large quantities and in a cooking frenzy, it’s all too easy to let your good habits slide. One thing I always do is use two separate cutting boards. One for chopping things like chicken, the other exclusively for chopping things like fruits, nuts, chocolate, etc.

Wash The Hands, Wash the Produce
And one thing I always insist on is washing hands before you touch the food or help in the kitchen. If you having children helping you make cookies then make sure they wash their hands before they touch any of the ingredients. It’s a good habit to get them into and if they associate it with getting treats…i.e. the cookies, it becomes second nature to them too.
And the same goes for produce. I’ve been to dinner parties where I’ve seen the host open up a bag of salad and just tip it into the bowl. While it might say ‘triple washed’ on the bag, I always wash it again. And the same goes for things like melons and oranges. If there’s any bacteria lurking on the skin, when you cut through it, it can easily contaminate the rest of the food. When it comes to food safety, my saying is better safe than sorry.

More Web Sites To Check Out-
Here are a couple more sites I found and they’re full of good information.
www.homefoodsafety.org
http://ohioline.osu.edu/lines/food.html#foods

admin / November 3, 2008

The Blog-Less is Sometimes Better

I’ve been using a toner/astringent on my skin for as long as I can remember. I always thought it was an essential part of keeping my skin looking great. About a year ago I learned that the brand I’ve been using was going out of business. As I’ve got really sensitive skin, this sort of news sends me into a panic. I usually have to buy three or four new brands to find one that won’t break me out in a big red blotch. And it usually means I waste of ton of money because a bunch of almost full bottles of whatever just sit on the bathroom shelf.

This time around, I decided to buy up enough bottles of my old brand…and yes, they were half price, that I’d have time to research and get samples of other brands that might be suitable. Well, I don’t know what happened to this great idea of planning ahead, I suppose I just got too busy or something. I was down to the last bottle and starting to panic. And then by chance, I was reading an article by a leading skincare expert about myths and misconceptions, and she said we don’t need to use a toner/astringent at all. In fact, they can be damaging to your skin, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin.

For the last month, I’ve just been using a facial soap for sensitive skin and a moisturizer, both from the local drugstore. And I have to say my skin looks so much better since I skipped the toner. Which just goes to prove sometimes less is more. Just think how much money I could have saved by not buying toner in the first place, and think how much money I’m going to save in the future.

So this week, think about something that you might be using that you don’t need to. I’m guessing everyone can find at least one item.

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