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Keeping Food Costs Down With Picky Eaters at Home

Mary writes in:

Trying to follow your food strategies but I have a very picky 6 year old and a picky 2 year old at our dinner table. They refuse to eat most things that are put in front of them and insist usually on a certain kind of mac and cheese that’s not the cheapest. Thoughts?

When our children were younger, they were somewhat picky, though they grew out of that pickiness over time.

Our strategy for picky eating children was to simply prepare and serve the meal before bringing them to the table, which meant that they could decide for themselves whether to eat what was before them. This eliminated the sense that they could dictate what they were served at meal time. Since the food was already on their plate when they sat down, they lost that sense that they could dictate what was being prepared, which helped a lot.

Another strategy we adopted was to not worry too much about how much they ate at meal times. If they didn’t eat, it was okay; they would eat when they were hungry.

Of course, that often meant that they were snacking, so we intentionally kept healthy snacks within their reach and unhealthy snacks way out of their reach. The fruit bowl was easily accessible, as were the bananas. The cookies? Not so much.

We would sometimes have meals that they loved, but most of the time, we prepared typical meals bought with low-cost ingredients. We did not let their tastes dictate our meal plan. What dictated our meal plan was low cost and healthiness.

Another strategy we found that worked well was asking that they simply eat one “real bite” of anything that they were served. That way, they could decide for themselves if it was good or not. If they ate a real bite, chewed it up, and swallowed it, we wouldn’t ask them to eat any more if they didn’t like it.

In short, part of our success with having a variety of foods at home when the kids were little was to simply find subtle ways to nip their complaints in the bud before the complaining ever had a chance to begin. If supper is already on their plate before they even think about it or get to the table, there’s not much they can really do about it. If we only ask them to eat one bite, it’s not that big of a deal – it seems far less cataclysmic than having to eat a big pile of some weird food.

As our kids got older, we gradually realized that just because we were having dinner didn’t mean that the kids were hungry right then. Often, most of the disagreements about food came from the fact that they weren’t actually hungry at all when they were being plopped down at the table and told to eat, so they’d complain about any food that wasn’t something they loved. You can’t expect a kid to be hungry when you want them to be hungry, after all, and forcing them to stay at the table under the idea that they’ll eat someday creates unnecessary conflict. Staying at the dinner table when they’re older is another matter, as you’re teaching polite behavior in society, but that’s not a useful lesson to a two-year-old.

So, here’s what I’d recommend if I were you.

First of all, I’d follow The Simple Dollar’s usual recommended meal preparation strategy. It goes like this:

Step 1: Get a grocery store flyer.
Step 2: Find sales on fresh ingredients.
Step 3: Do some recipe research.
Step 4: Create a week-long meal plan.
Step 5: Make a shopping list from the meal plan.
Step 6: Go grocery shopping – and stick to your list.

Our meal planning starts with grabbing a grocery store flyer from which we identify items that are on sale. We then base our meal plan for the week on those on-sale items and then prepare a grocery list from that meal plan (which means the grocery list is automatically full of on-sale items), after which we just go to the store and stick to the list.

As you’re following that plan, you should, of course, keep what your family likes in mind, but that doesn’t mean it has to dictate all of your meals. Naturally, if you see some of the ingredients of a meal that your children love and they’re on sale, you should pick those up. However, that shouldn’t dictate your full meal plan, nor should it. You should choose other meals that involve on-sale elements and serve them as described above, putting them on the table and on their plate before they even sit down at the table.

Another good strategy is to stock up hard on a family favorite if you notice that it’s on sale. If you do see the kind of mac and cheese that your children like on sale, stock up. Buy several boxes of that macaroni and cheese at once and stow it away for future meals. Since it’s essentially nonperishable, you don’t have to eat it every day.

We do this with quite a few items at the store. Things like canned diced tomatoes, dry beans, dry rice, and flour are always bought in large quantities (as are virtually all household supplies).

When it actually comes time to prepare a meal, just prepare the whole meal and put some on their plate before bringing them to the table. Don’t discuss what you’re having beforehand – if they ask, just tell them briefly and matter-of-factly and leave it at that. Most of the time, they won’t pay any attention at all unless they’re really hungry.

If they don’t want to eat what you made, simply say, “If you eat one bite of each of those things, you can get down and play and Mommy will be happy.” This worked wonders for our kids. Often, as I noted earlier, they just weren’t hungry at meal time and directed that toward not liking the food.

Some kids are simply “grazers,” and the best way to handle that is to just have plenty of healthy snacks around. Keep apples and bananas on hand and make it clear that those are their snack time choices. Don’t make cookies and candy available with ease – not only are they unhealthy, they’re more expensive than apples and bananas.

These were the strategies we used when our kids were younger and it worked well. Our kids are pretty adventurous eaters these days now that one’s a teenager, one’s a pre-teen, and the other one is in upper elementary. They like things like sushi and lychee and kimchi and pickled garlic and curry, believe it or not, and they’re pretty happy with almost everything we make for dinner.

Good luck!

More by Trent Hamm:

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Who has the best savings account in 2019?

Well, my friends, I need your help. I had been planning to research online savings accounts for an upcoming series of articles, but not for several weeks yet. Things have changed.

I recently received a $35,000 lump sum — I hesitate to call it a windfall for reasons that will be clear in a moment — and now I’d like to put it somewhere that I can earn more than 0.01% on my money! I want to find a good high-interest savings account.

But where? In 2019, which online savings account is best? Am I asking the right question? Is an online savings account the best place to put a mound of money like this?

First, let me explain why I’m even interested in finding a new savings account.

Who has the best savings account in 2019?

A Brief Tale of Heartbreaking Loss

As I’ve hinted a few times during the past month, in 2017 and 2018 I made three $50,000 investments in start-up companies. I dabbled in “angel investing”.

One of those investments, as I revealed last week, was in the retirement planning tool called NewRetirement. I also invested in the Financial Gym, an NYC-based financial advice company that takes a “fitness-inspired” approach to offering money advice to real people. (This concept is very similar to a business idea I had: a store that sells financial advice to everyday people. My friend Shannon had a better concept and she’s created a killer business.)

Early last year, I made a third investment. I have a friend who is whip-smart and ultra-successful. She’s started a couple of profitable companies in the past. She and her husband thought they had a great idea for a third, and although this particular concept was outside my area of expertise, I agreed to invest $50,000 in their company.

Well, things didn’t go well. The company failed. I was afraid that with that failure, I’d lost all of my money. Fortunately, I hadn’t. Earlier this month, I received a wire transfer for $34,869.73. After transferring $5000 to my business account (to help pay bills for this site!), I’m left with about $30,000 that I’d like to sock away somewhere that pays more than pennies. But where?

Seeking the Best Savings Account

The last time I went looking for the best savings account was in March 2007. At that time, banks were offering rates over five percent! Look at this screencap from GRS 1.0:

The best banks of 2007

Based on reader feedback from that article — over 1000 responses! — I opened an online savings account with ING Direct. They didn’t have the best interest rates the time, but their rates were very good and GRS readers loved them.

As you probably know, things have changed in the past decade. Interest rates are lower. Banks have folded or merged or been bought out.

That ING Direct savings account long ago became a Capital One 360 savings account. I still have it, but it’s been a while since I used it actively:

My current Capital One 360 account

As you can see, I’m earning 0.99% on my money. That’s a lot compared to, say, a standard savings account at a brick-and-mortar bank. (I was mortified to learn recently that the family business has over $200,000 earning only 0.01% at a major national bank. Holy cats!) But 0.99% seems low for an online savings account. It’s certainly not the best interest rate that’s out there.

The company that used to own this website — with whom I still have a business relationship — has a handy tool that allows folks to look at a lot of today’s top online savings accounts. Naturally, this is going to be a starting point for my search.

Here are a few of their current top offers:

Those rates are much better than my current 0.99% interest rate at Capital One 360. But I don’t know anything about these banks (except HSBC). I haven’t heard personal reviews from friends, colleagues, or readers. Plus, I don’t know if these are the best interest rates available.

Seeking Your Help

I want to use this $30,000 to fund the next few months of my life. (I’d love to say that this money will last me a year, but it’ll be more like six to nine months.) And now that I’m working again, I’d like to explore various saving options.

Naturally, I’m going to conduct research of my own. Most of my colleagues maintain lists of current bank rates. I’ll do a deep Google dive to discover more obscure banks and credit unions. I’ll investigate those “fusion” accounts that pay high interest rates if you jump through hoops.

My girlfriend is a huge fan of Ally Bank, and she proselytizes for them whenever she can. (I am not joking.) I see they’re currently offering a 2.30% 11-month no-penalty certificate of deposit. (Their savings account interest rate is 2.20%.) I’ll certainly check them out, but in the meantime I’m polling the GRS community.

I have no doubt that many of you money bosses actively watch bank rates and features. I suspect you have favorite online savings accounts. Or money market accounts. Or certificates of deposit. Or whatever. I’m hoping you can help me!

Which online savings account is best right now? Which online savings account to you use? Which should I use — and why?

Based on your responses here (plus the responses I get on Twitter, in the GRS Facebook community, and from the GRS email list), I’ll look at a variety of different options. And have no fear. I’ll report back in a week or two to share my decision and I’ll collate a list of the best savings accounts according to you folks.

Author: J.D. Roth

In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he’s managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.

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2 Wireless Companies Introduce New Anti-Robocall Feature for Free

Photo by pathdoc /

If unsolicited phone calls are driving you batty, T-Mobile and Verizon are rolling out new technology that might be too good to resist.

The mobile phone service providers each are introducing their own technology designed to keep robocalls and scam solicitations at bay — for free.

T-Mobile’s Caller Verified feature subjects incoming calls to a verification process. If the technology determines that a call is authentic — not intercepted by scammers or spammers — customers will see the words “Caller Verified” on the incoming call screen.

According to T-Mobile:

“Caller Verified is T-Mobile’s implementation of the STIR and SHAKEN standards. These standards combat illegal caller ID spoofing, which occurs when scammers temporarily hijack a phone number to match the area code and 3-digit prefix of the person they are targeting, making the incoming call look familiar.”

Caller Verified is free, and is available now for all T-Mobile customers with the Galaxy Note9. It will be available for more smartphones as the year progresses.

Not to be outdone, Verizon has announced that in March, it will begin offering its spam alerting and call blocking features for free.

These features will be available to all customers with smartphones — including iPhone and Android devices — that support the features. Verizon says more information about how to sign up for the features will be released as their launch nears.

Other major wireless carriers that offer anti-robocall features

T-Mobile and Verizon aren’t the only wireless carriers that offer services designed to screen or block unwanted calls.

Sprint, for example, introduced Premium Caller ID back in 2016.

The feature identifies callers who are not already in your contacts, and on some devices it also provides enhanced spam identification features, Sprint says. Premium Caller ID is not free, though, and currently costs $2.99 per month.

Sprint customers can also block specific phone numbers through their My Sprint account.

AT&T offers AT&T Call Protect. The company says this service detects and blocks calls from likely fraudsters and identifies calls from telemarketers and suspected spam calls — among other features.

AT&T Call Protect is not free, either, though. It currently costs $3.99 per month.

Other ways to end robocalls

There are plenty of things you can do to block or reduce robocalls, no matter which wireless carrier you use.

One of the best ways to limit these calls is to take a few minutes out of your day to file a simple request, as we have reported previously:

“Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s free, your number is never taken off the list, and it will at least stop law-abiding solicitors. It’s for both cellphones and landlines. Just be aware that some organizations — including charities, political groups, debt collectors and surveys — still can call you.”

The federal government maintains the Do Not Call Registry, however, so you’ll have to wait until the partial government shutdown ends to sign up for it.

In the meantime, for more tips on ending unwanted calls, check out “7 Ways to Quickly Stop Robocalls in Their Tracks.”

How do you fend off robocalls? Share your tips in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Beat My Loan – Estimated Savings Disclosure | NerdWallet

Updated: Jan. 18, 2019

Your estimated savings amount (the amount of interest you’ll save over the life of a loan) is the difference between your student loan interest rate and interest rates from our loan partners. We estimate your interest rate by looking at your total monthly student loan balance and monthly payments as identified on your Trans Union credit report.

Your interest rate and total savings may vary. Your eligibility for any specific loan rates and terms depends on verification of information, your credit history, and other factors as determined by lenders. NerdWallet does not guarantee that you will be able to obtain the Estimated Savings or that any lender will extend you credit. Interest rates are subject to change daily without notice.

NerdWallet does not take student loan applications, originate, service, or make credit decisions in connection with loans, nor does it issue commitments or lock-in agreements. See your lender’s Terms for more information.

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My Favorite Decaf Teas to Drink

As most of you know, I stopped drinking coffee a few years ago… and it’s been the best thing ever! My anxiety is so much better, I sleep so much better, and I’m just all around healthier.

Instead of drinking coffee, I have fallen in love with decaf teas. Many of you have asked for me to share what my favorite teas to drink are, so I thought I’d list them here, for anyone who is interested.

In my Decaf Chai Latte post, I shared a few teas I like and I wanted to share a few more:

1. Tiesta Tea Relaxer: Cocoa Mint Chill (this is a loose tea)

2. Stash Decaf Vanilla Nut Cream

3. Stash Chai Spice Decaf

4. Rooibos Tea (I bought the one shown when we were in South Africa.)

5. Roastaroma (this is a really bold tea and a great coffee replacement)

6. Decaf India Spice Chai

7. Fireside Vanilla Spice

8. Mint Magic

9. Honey Vanilla Chamomile

A few tips to loving tea more — especially if you’re trying to drink instead of coffee:

  • Make the tea stronger. (I often use two bags instead of one.)
  • Use honey or maple syrup to sweeten it. (If you’re used to having a sweetener in your coffee or just to make it really delicious!)
  • Use half and half. (I loved half and half in coffee and have discovered that it makes tea that much better. Don’t have half and half? At least use a splash of milk!)
  • Drink it in a cute mug. (This just makes it so much more enjoyable!)

Want more details on this journey? You can watch my video on Why I Stopped Drinking Coffee and read about How I Drink a Gallon of Water Every Day.

What are YOUR favorite decaf teas? Any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear!

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This Site Will Give You Motivation to Hit Your Health Goals

What are your hopes and dreams this year?

Diet or eat healthier? Exercise more? Lose weight?

Wow, it’s almost like I’m reading your mind.

That’s because those were the top three goals for 2019, according to a survey of 2,000 people published by Inc. It found that 71% of us want to diet or eat healthier; 65% of us want to exercise more and 54% of us want to lose weight.

Unfortunately, Inc. also reports that only about 8% of us will stick to our resolutions… Fortunately? There are tools out there to help you reach success — like wellness company HealthyWage.

HealthyWage will pay you up to $10,000 when you hit your health and weight-loss goals.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
  2. Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
  3. Place a bet on yourself ranging from $20 to $500 a month.

It sounds too good to be true, right? We’ve chatted with a number people who shared their success stories, including these four women who won a collective $10,495.28 from HealthyWage.

Hey, you just might finally be able to achieve your resolutions this year!

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She always need motivation to get off the couch.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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