Common Winter Expenses: Plan, Prepare and Save!

The winter months are officially upon us and with them comes an entirely different set of expenses. From the heating bills to the kids snow gear, winter is a great time to plan and prepare for those common things we all pay for year to year. To be at least somewhat ready, here is a list of common winter expenses to plan for ahead of time.

1. Heating cost – This is the most obvious and the one that can really drain your utility budget. But you can plan for this by checking the house for cracks that let the heat escape and seal them. Also, insulate the attic and replace window screens with storm windows. All of these measures will help ensure that the cold air stays out and the hot air stays in.

2. Winter clothes – This can really add up fast if you’re unprepared for all the winter coats, gloves, pants and hats you and your entire family will need. A great way to avoid paying retail is to buy these things in the off-season. Pick up coats and sweaters in the summer months and you’ll save tons of money.

3. Car repair – Depending on if you get snow or not, winter can be very hard on your car. To avoid getting stranded on the side of the highway in three feet of snow, winterize your car. You can do this by having a certified mechanic make sure everything is in good working condition. Keep your tires properly inflated and if there’s any doubt on the tread, replace them. Sliding on ice is horrifying enough without bald tires.

4. Wrap up that water heater – Did you know that a water heater blanket is an actual thing? It is and you can wrap it around your tank to preserve the hot water. It will stay hotter, longer, and be more efficient.

5. Clean out the gutters – This one may seem like an uncommon example but if you’re gutters are prone to freezing, leaving them clogged will only cause problems. If water is trapped in the gutter and freezes, the expanded ice has the potential to crack and ruin your gutters. Also, the weight of ice and snow on clogged gutters can cause them to detach from the house entirely. There’s no fixing that and no one wants to pay for replacing gutters.

The winter months don’t have to be all cold and dreary. If you really want to take advantage of your winter wonderland, cut your yearly expenses by going through this list. Just like anything else, the sting of the winter can be greatly diminished by preparing ahead of time.

About the Contributor

Northwest Georgia Bank is a Chattanooga bank that offers leading services such as business checking in Hixson, TN, and medical savings accounts in Ooltewah, TN. We are proud to serve the greater Chattanooga metro area with unbeatable customer service.

*Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net*

Yum . . . the goodness of oatmeal. This fruity, delicious oatmeal is healthy for baby with a unique combination you won’t find on the shelf — only in your kitchen.

Papaya-Pear Oatmeal

Ingredients

4 tablespoons prepared iron-fortified oatmeal cereal (with either breast milk or formula)
2 tablespoons Hiya Papaya (Chapter 4)
2 tablespoons Sparkling Pear Purée (Chapter 4)

Preparation

Combine all ingredients.

Makes 2 servings.

*Recipe and image courtesy of 201 Organic Baby Purees by Tamika L. Gardner.*

Green Business Ideas for the Eco-Entrepreneur

Even while struggling through the roughest economic seas, islands of entrepreneurial opportunity are always waiting to be discovered by the innovative businessperson. In the early 1990’s the realm of online startups and technology firms created a financial boom, and as 2012 begins the attention has shifted to eco-friendly business models. In order to take advantage of American’s collective shift towards a more environmentally conscious “green” lifestyle, venture capitalists and other financiers are actively funding eco-entrepreneurs and helping them launch their green business ideas. If you believe in the sustainability movement and wish to contribute your own invention, improvement, advancement, product or message to the cause, consider a few of the following great business ideas for the eco-entrepreneur.

Alternative fuels and power sources designed to alleviate the need fossil-fuel derived electricity are quickly becoming a lucrative market for shrewd businesspeople. A combination of societal shifts in attitude towards wind and solar power, generous government subsidies and tax cuts designed to spur development of this industry and advances in technology have created a thriving alternative power marketplace. Many of the major brands within the solar and wind power industries offer entrepreneurs participation in affiliate programs which enable individuals to build their own eco-friendly franchises. By affiliating yourself with a well-known solar or wind power generator in your area, you can easily begin working as a salesperson tasked with shifting local companies to alternative Positions such as these are great ways to learn the tricks of the trade and equip yourself with essential knowledge of the equipment, methodology and business practices of the solar and wind power industry. Eventually, if you have the ambition and the creativity, it may your own company which is offering an affiliate program to hungry young entrepreneurs in the near future.

The field of green landscaping and home design is constantly growing and offers the perfect platform to begin your own eco-friendly business. If you are interested in devising ever more efficient utility delivery, lawn care systems, heating and cooling methods and other environmentally sustainable elements of home design, there are countless openings through which to carve out a niche. Every trade involved in building construction and upkeep, from house painting to store signage to window installation, has been broadened by the advent of green design philosophy. By positioning yourself as an eco-consultant, you can advise each of these disparate contractors through your company’s unique role, assuring that the homeowner’s green concerns are adequately addressed.

The most important part of becoming an eco-entrepreneur is always remembering that green, and not greed, is the true priority. If your commitment to eco-friendly ideals is not legitimate the marketplace will soon catch on and reject your concept, so be sure that you truly believe in the green movement before trying to profit from it. Many great contributions to your local community can be made by channeling your entrepreneurial spirit into a green business, and if you are genuine in your interest than profitability will soon become a positive byproduct of activism.

Experts say to eat a handful of blueberries a day for good health. While you’re making this for baby, make a banana blueberry buckle smoothie with 100 percent grape juice for a powerful antioxidant boost for yourself!

Blueberries are packed with more powerful antioxidants than any other fruit, and bananas are an amazing source for potassium. Serve your baby this purée once per day for excellent health.

Banana Blueberry Buckle

Ingredients

2 tablespoons fresh blueberries
½ large ripe banana

Preparation

Purée blueberries and banana in a blender. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

*Recipe and image courtesy of 201 Organic Baby Purees by Tamika L. Gardner.*

Stock up on these heart-healthy Oatmeal Squares by Corazonas for your next road trip, or just keep a couple in your gym bag for an energizing post-workout snack! The bars are chewy and filling – combined with an apple or a handful of grapes, it is the perfect mid-afternoon snack!

Corazonas Oatmeal Squares contain 13-16 grams of whole grain, 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per bar! Available in 5 delicious flavors, there is something for everyone, including Peanut Butter, Cranberry Flax, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Brownie & Almonds, and Banana Walnut. “Mom” found the Peanut Butter and Banana Walnut varieties especially tasty, and her little one enjoyed the Chocolate Chip square.

To learn more about the health benefits of Corazonas Oatmeal Squares, to locate a retailer near you, or to order, visit Corazonas.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

New Year, New Green You with Eco-Me!

Eco-Me’s family line of natural cleaners speaks to their customers with honest labeling, the safest and most effective ingredients and exciting, engaging packaging. Cleaning should be effective, safe and fun. Their use of all-natural ingredients and their friend’s and family’s names reflect Eco-Me’s company values where natural/eco-friendly/environmental actions start in the home with family – from their family to yours.

Here are some tips from Robin Kay Levine, Founder and Jenn Mihajlov, Vice President of Eco-Me for a sparkling household in no time!

Take inventory of all your belongings at home and get rid of whatever you don’t use. The less stuff you have the less cleaning you have to do. Simple!

Go through and properly dispose of all toxic cleaning products and replace with non-toxic, green cleaners. There are three components to look for when purchasing products that are TRULY non-toxic and green. They are:

· Ingredients: Make sure ingredients are FULLY disclosed. They must be natural, meaning sourced from a natural ingredient (i.e. plant/food source) and should not be manufactured in any way with synthetic and/or petrochemicals (meaning from petroleum) – many ingredients are processed with this highly toxic ingredient.

· Fragrances/Colorants: Both should not be synthetic. There is no truly natural, non-synthetic colorant available currently for personal or cleaning products. Fragrances usually contain phthalates (which are dangerous chemicals that effective your endocrine systems and hormone levels). So, avoid products that have dyes and colorants and look for items with natural essential oils as the scent/fragrance.

· Packaging: look for plastics or glass that can be recycled. Best plastics to stick with are #1.

· Also, look for products that are top-tier green level Eco Tier at Whole Foods, have the Green Seal certification and NPA Seal (natural products association.org); and always good to choose products with leaping bunny seal (this means the company and product does not test on animals or use animal bi-products)

Floors

Carpets – Maintenance is key. Vacuum frequently to keep dirt from getting ground-in. Freshen up carpets for the New Year every time you vacuum with Matt Carpet Deodorizer by Eco-Me.

Wood Floors – Great for all household wood sealed surfaces. For use on wood furniture, cabinets and floors. Olive oil works to reduce bacteria build up and naturally polish surfaces without any sticky chemical build up. It is recommended to use a microfiber cloth after polishing to remove any excess.

Tiled Floors – Go easy on the product you use – Dave All-Purpose Floor Cleaner by Eco-Me is a great choice – a little goes a LONG way.

Windows

Use a newspaper or a clean old cotton rag to wipe down windows – this will help get you into the habit of using less paper towels too! Bill All-Purpose Cleaner by Eco-Me is great for all household cleaning including windows!

Laundry

Give up conventional laundry detergents!

Choose laundry products that are concentrated, plant-based, and biodegradable such as Emma Laundry Soap by Eco-Me. Emma gets linens super-clean, without the harsh ingredients other detergents use, PLUS no softener needed. Also great for anyone who is allergy-prone, has sensitive skin, washing baby clothes, and hand-washing delicate items.

Kitchen

Toxins permeate food and remain on surfaces, so think twice before overdoing it with harsh, toxic cleaning supplies.

Dishwashing: When shopping for an eco-friendly dish washing soap, try using a pure vegetable-based soap to wash dishes such as Suzy Dish Soap by Eco-Me; also gentle enough for hand-washing your fine china!

For tougher jobs and pots/pans, sprinkle a little bit of Kate Scrub Cleanser by Eco-Me on stainless steel, iron, or copper pots and scrub to clean. Kate is great for all kitchen cleaning needs – use on ovens, stove tops, cook and bakeware too!

Bathrooms

These spaces are typically more of an enclosed area with not-so-great ventilation and a ton of humidity, so green cleaners make a lot of sense, especially here.

Phil Toilet Bowl Cleaner by Eco-Me has an essential oil blend that reduces bacteria, germs and odors. Sodium Bicarbonate is an effective abrasive for toilet bowls. Remove odors and germs, safe for septic systems too.

Bill All-Purpose Cleaner by Eco-Me is safe and super-effective for all household cleaning including bathrooms. For use on windows, mirrors, tile, counters, vinyl, grout, stainless …proven to eliminate and reduce bacteria in 60 seconds. That’s fast cleaning!

PUMP up the CLEAN with Mia Hand Soap by Eco-Me. Mia is a foaming hand soap with invigorating scents such as Wild Jasmine, Citrus, Sage and Fresh Mint. With over 150 uses per bottle, one pump is all you need. Wash hands in hot water, suds up, and rinse. Germs be gone!

About the Author

Tips and article provided by Robin Kay Levine, Founder and Jenn Mihajlov, Vice President of Eco-Me.

These muffins contain flaxseed, which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of dietary fiber. Although flaxseed is available whole or ground, it is believed that ground flaxseed provides the better source of nutrition. In addition to incorporating this nutritional powerhouse into baked goods, ground flaxseed can also be sprinkled on cereal or yogurt.

Blueberry Mini Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups white whole-wheat flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder, divided
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup applesauce
½ cup flaxseed meal
¼ cup canola oil
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup apple juice concentrate
¼ cup plain yogurt (dairy or soy)
¼ cup organic milk (dairy or soy)
1½ cups fresh blueberries

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, combine applesauce with ½ teaspoon baking powder.
4. Add flaxseed meal, oil, vanilla, apple juice concentrate, yogurt, and organic milk. Combine well.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet. Add blueberries.
6. Spoon batter into lightly oiled mini muffin pan.
7. Bake 25–30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tip: You can also use frozen blueberries for this recipe. If you are using frozen, the batter will take on a purple hue unless you thaw them first.

Makes 42 muffins.

*Recipe and image courtesy of 201 Organic Baby Purees by Tamika L. Gardner.*

Household Hazards Expecting Moms Need to Avoid

Pregnant women are trying to be healthier. Many take all the right steps to promote the birth of a healthy baby, including eating right, taking vitamins and eliminating alcohol and nicotine from their lives.

Unfortunately, all those efforts may be for naught if they are still being exposed to unseen chemicals in their daily lives. Dr. Doris Rapp, an experienced physician and expert on all the hidden household and environmental hazards, wants women to know about the many insidious and dangerous threats to their unborn babies. The harmful exposures can cause serious harm and damaging birth defects to babies in the womb, and they are right under our noses.

“One of the most dangerous groups of chemicals to pregnant women is known as PCBs,” said Rapp, author of 32 Tips That Could Save Your Life (www.dorisrappmd.com). “PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyls, and they are commonly used in industrial pesticides. While they may not be in your house, they may exist in your office, your water or your food, especially if you live near the Great Lakes or consume seafood caught there. These chemicals pass through the placenta into the unborn, and some exposures have been known to cause devastating birth defects. These chemicals have also been found in the breast milk of women.”

According to Rapp, some of the dangers of these pesticides include, but are not limited to:

• Lower birth weight
• Smaller head size and developmental delays
• Movement, mental, and behavioral problems
• Increased or decreased activity levels
• Slowed thought processing and “less bright” appearance
• Lower reaction times
• Compromised nervous systems

“Moreover, a group of pesticides known as organophosphates also poses a high risk for pregnant women,” Rapp added.

“These include Bisphenol-A and phthalates,” she said. “They are derived from World War II nerve agents and are highly toxic. Even at low levels, organophosphates can be toxic to the developing brain, and studies show that they can affect brain and reproductive development in unborn animals. While most pesticides categorized as organophosphates have been banned for household use, they are still permitted for commercial use, including in fumigation for mosquitoes. Malathion, a common toxic organophosphate, is still allowed for use as an industrial and household insecticide. In the US, approximately 15 million pounds of Malathion are used each year by the government, as well as by businesses and homeowners.”

Her advice for women is to do all they can to avoid contact with these chemicals, starting before conception.

“Stay as far away as possible from pesticide-treated areas,” Rapp said. “Do not eat pesticide-laden food or any fish from the Great Lakes. Try to eat only organic foods. Further, if your job requires you to be in contact with any chemicals or pesticides, insist that other tasks be given to you for the duration of your pregnancy. Half the battle is knowing these dangers exist, but the other half is being informed and conscientious enough to be able to avoid contact with these dangerous and toxic agents.”

About the Author

Dr. Rapp is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric allergy and environmental medicine. She was a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the State University of New York at Buffalo until she moved in January 1996 to Phoenix. She practiced traditional allergy for 18 years and then, in 1975, began incorporating the principles of environmental medicine into her pediatric allergy practice. She is a certified specialist in environmental medicine. She has published numerous medical articles, authored chapters in medical texts and written many informative and “how-to” books and booklets about allergy for the public. She has also produced numerous educational videos and audiotapes for the public, educators and physicians.

*Image: duron123 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Multi-Bean Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients

½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups black beans, cooked
¼ cup chiles, green or jalapeno, diced (optional)
1 cup corn kernels
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed, uncooked
1 tsp. NutriFit Calypso Salt Free Spice Blend
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup red beans, cooked
5 medium tomatoes, chopped

Preparation

Heat a large pot sprayed with olive oil cooking spray over medium heat, add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, but not brown. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for not less than 30 minutes and up to 2 hours, covered. Longer cooking time yields more flavorful results. After 30 minutes, check for seasoning and add more Calypso or cayenne pepper to taste.

Great the next day and freezes well.

Serves 8.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Jackie Keller, of NutriFit.*

Heart-healthy snacking at its’ best! Whether you are creating a homemade Chicken Tortilla Soup, whipping up some fresh salsa or guacamole for dipping, or looking for more nutritious snack options on Super Bowl Sunday, Corazonas Whole Grain Tortilla Chips are an excellent choice! Available in 3 super tasty flavors, including Lightly Salted, Squeeze of Lime, and Black Bean and Cheese – these gluten-free tortilla chips will soon become your favorite! An added bonus? This line of heart healthy snacks are infused with plant sterols, which are proven to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Mom” really enjoyed the Squeeze of Lime flavor, as the chips have just the right amout of zip and zest – making these an ideal choice for snacking on their own! The Lightly Salted flavor chips go with anything, and the Black Bean and Cheese flavored chips are great to use when making nachos with soy cheese! Get ready to say YUM!

To learn more about the health benefits of Corazonas Whole Grain Tortilla Chips, to locate a store near you, or to order online visit Corazonas.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*