Do you check the “sell by” date on the things you buy at the grocery store? Soon, you may be checking the “best if used by” date instead. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that foods should be labeled with “best if used by”. The change could reduce food waste.

The FDA found that consumers have some confusion over the labels on products such as “best if used by”, “use by” and “sell by”. A 2007 survey of U.S. consumers found that less than half of the people who participated in it were able to distinguish the meanings between the three different product labels.

This confusion can lead to food waste. You’ve probably thrown out food that might be past the date on the label just in case it had gone bad. The FDA found that food waste by consumers may often be caused by fears about food safety due to misunderstanding the labels on the product. The confusing labeling accounts for approximately 20 percent of consumer food waste.

Both the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute have instituted a voluntary initiative to streamline the date labels on packaged foods. Get ready to see the “best if used by” label on more food packages!

The “best if used by” label means exactly what it says. The food inside that package is best if you use it by the date on the label. It does not mean that the food goes bad after that date. In some cases, the food might become a bit stale – but will still be safe to eat.

One way to save money on groceries is to make sure that you use them up before they spoil. You might have used a coupon or loyalty card discount to lower your grocery bill. If you had to throw the food away, then you wasted your money.

Dressbarn is owned by Ascena Retail Group (which also owns Ann Taylor and Loft). Ascena has decided to close all 650 Dressbarn stores in order to focus on its more profitable brands.

Dressbarn has been around for five decades. It has struggled to grow as women steer toward fast-fashion retailers like H&M and Zara, and discount chains like TJ Maxx, Ross Stores, Target, and Amazon.

CNBC reported that Dressbarn customers will be able to continue to shop from the Dressbarn store and the store’s online website as the closures are taking place.

No specific timeframe for the store closures has been revealed. It appears that Ascena Retail Group is going to slowly wind-down Dressbarn rather than close all the stores at once. It is unclear whether or not the Dressbarn website will close when the stores do, or if it will continue to be available.

Fans of Dressbarn can visit the website to see what deals are current. Those who sign up for the Dressbarn email can get a discount on any single regular priced item. The front page of the website is filled with special offers that will only be around for a limited time. At the time the Dressbarn closures were announced, the website was offering deals on summer clothing.

Dressbarn offers sizes from 2 -24. Not every store sells plus-size clothing sizes, so it would be a good idea to seek out another store that also offers plus-size clothing. There’s no way to be certain when your local Dressbarn will close.

Until the closures happen, fans of Dressbarn should make an effort to take advantage of the sales and discounts the store offers. Plan ahead and purchase clothing now for events, meetings, conferences, and vacations that you will be taking in the next few months. Save yourself some money now, before Dressbarn is gone, forever.

Summer vacation can be fun, especially if you are planning on doing something special. Travel can be costly, especially for families. Fortunately, there are ways to make summer vacation less expensive.

Plan Ahead

The best way to cut down on the costs is to plan ahead. Set aside money all year long for the vacation you want to take during the summer. Doing so can prevent you from putting everything on a credit card. You can also get a discount if you book flights and hotels in advance.

Kids Stay Free

Families who are traveling with children can take advantage of special offers that will help them save money. When planning your vacation, look for hotels and resorts that have a “kids stay free” deal.

Ask local restaurants if they have a “kids eat free” deal. Some may restrict that offer to certain hours. Typically, these types of freebies are only offered to children 12 and under.

Skip the Big Summer Holidays

Many people plan their vacation around summer holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July. One reason those dates are attractive is that many workers get a three-day weekend. That means they won’t have to spend as much of their vacation time to go somewhere.

The extra expense comes from hotels and airlines who raise their rates during busy times. Avoid those holidays to lower the cost of your vacation.

Find the Free Events

Do some research before you travel. There may be some interesting events happening that you can attend for free. Find out when the local museums have a free day. There may be a festival going on that is free to attend.

Farmers’ Markets are almost always free, and often include live music. Parks and beaches may also be available for everyone to enjoy.

Amazon now allows customers in New York to use their SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online for home delivery. It is being done as part of a pilot program. More states will be added later.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries in New York state are now able to use their nutrition assistance benefits to order groceries online from Amazon and other retailers and have them delivered directly to their door thanks to a new pilot program launched with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This is the first time that millions of SNAP recipients in New York can redeem their grocery benefits online.

Amazon is committed to increasing access for customers by offering low prices on a wide selection of items. With online acceptance of SNAP, Amazon is also offering New York SNAP customers the ability to shop the grocery and household selection on Amazon Fresh and Prime Pantry without requiring a membership fee.

This new initiative helps Amazon increase access for millions of low-income New Yorkers by adding a SNAP redemption option, with broad selection, low prices, and the convenience of home delivery. As Amazon expands the program will dramatically increase access to food for more remote customers and help to mitigate the public health crisis of food deserts.

While customers only in select areas of New York can currently use their SNAP benefits to purchase food on Amazon, the company is working with the USDA to expand service area coverage within New York state in the near future.

Additionally, the ultimate goal of this pilot is to pave the way for a national rollout once the USDA identifies the best path to large-scale implementation.

If you live in New York, and receive SNAP benefits, you can visit the Amazon website about SNAP EBT to get started.

May is an in-between month when it comes to shopping. It is too early for graduation parties, summer vacations, and most weddings. It is too late for sales on gardening tools and gym memberships. Here are some of the best things to buy in May.

Mattresses

It is recommended that you replace your mattress after 5 to 10 years. Consider replacing it every 5 to 7 years if you don’t sleep well.

May is an excellent month to throw out your old mattress and get a new one. Manufacturers are clearing out their existing stock of mattresses to make room for the new models. You can get a great deal if you buy a mattress in May.

Linens and Bedding

Sales on sheets, pillowcases, and duvets start in May. It is a great time to replace the worn out ones you are currently using with brand new ones. Look for coupons from stores that have a bedding section. You may find those coupons in your mailbox, in your newspaper, or on the store’s website.

Memorial Day Sales

Memorial Day is often a three-day weekend. This inspires stores to have sales on things that they need to clear out. Memorial Day sales often include discounts on vacuums, TVs, and mattresses.

You can also find Memorial Day sales on raincoats and boots, umbrellas, and spring jackets. These items are often on clearance in May because the weather changes and there may be less need for rain gear.

Seasonal Produce

The U.S Department of Agriculture has a list of produce that is in-season in Spring. Use some of these in your meal planning in May!

The list includes: apples, apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, collard greens, garlic, kale, kiwifruit, lemons, lettuce, limes, mushrooms, onions, peas, pineapples, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard, and turnips.

We all need to go grocery shopping eventually. You might already be using coupons, and store loyalty apps, to lower the cost of your grocery bill. What else can you do? Here are some ways to save on groceries that you haven’t tried yet.

Shop the Loss Leader

A loss leader is an item that is temporarily being offered at a discount. These deals are designed to entice customers to come into the store. Once inside, the grocery store hopes you will buy plenty of other – higher priced – items.

You can spot the loss leader by carefully scanning the store’s sales paper. Somewhere in there will be an item that is heavily discounted. It will be surrounded by discounts on other items (that are not nearly as good as the loss leader deal). Most people won’t take the time to figure this out!

Buy the loss leader. Don’t buy the items that might be on sale – but not by very much.

Check Your Receipt 

Don’t pay more on groceries than you have to! Make sure to check your receipt for price mistakes. Look to see if the coupons you used gave you the right discount. Pay attention to quantity of items. If you only bought one can of beans, and the receipt charged you for two – that’s a problem!

If you find that you were overcharged, take the receipt to the customer service desk. The store will refund you for the amount you were incorrectly charged for.

Check Your Bags

Sometimes, the items you purchased don’t end up in your bags. Before you leave the store, compare your receipt to the things that are in your bags. If something is missing, go back to where you checked out and ask for it. Bring your receipt with you for proof.

Amazon Go was launched as a store with no checkout required. Those who wished to shop there needed to put the Amazon Go app on their smartphone. Pick up the items you want to buy, and pay for it with your phone. 

What if you don’t have a smartphone, or don’t want to put any more apps on your phone? You wouldn’t be able to shop for groceries and quick-to-eat items at Amazon Go stores. This limitation is about to change.

CNBC reported that Amazon Go stores will start accepting cash. In addition, there is a pilot program that will allow Amazon Go stores to accept government subsidized SNAP benefits. Another program, called Amazon Cash, will let users add cash to their digital accounts by bringing money to a local store like 7-Eleven or CVS.

Why did Amazon change their payment policy at Amazon Go stores? The reason appears to have something to do with cities and states that felt the limitation on what kind of payment the stores would accept was discriminatory. Cashless stores exclude people from the lowest income brackets.

Philadelphia and New Jersey have banned cashless stores. Cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago are considering similar laws. Massachusetts had a law in place for decades that requires stores to accept cash.

Not all of the details about this change have been revealed. It appears that Amazon Go stores will be accepting a variety of payment options soon. That’s great for people who do not have a bank account, and those who need to use the SNAP program in order to afford groceries.

There are a total of 10 Amazon Go stores that have opened. Amazon is considering opening up to 3,000 cashierless Amazon Go stores by 2021. There could be an Amazon Go store opening up near where you live!

Are you an avid reader? Do you go through books faster than your budget can keep up with? Now is a good time to find ways that you can legally read books for free.

Your Local Library

Public libraries will allow people who live locally to get a library card for free. You might have to show the librarian some identification (such as a driver’s license). Once you obtain a library card, you can check-out as many books as you like. Make sure to return all the books on time if you want to avoid late fees.

Some public libraries have apps that are available for Android or iOS devices. If your public library has an app like that, you will be able to check-out ebooks and audiobooks and read them from your smartphone or tablet.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg offers 58,000 free eBooks. Chose from epub and Kindle eBooks, downloading a free eBook, or reading it online. The focus of Project Gutenberg is on older books for which the U.S. copyright has expired. 

You do not need to register in order to use Project Gutenberg. There is no fee. No special apps are required for you to access Project Gutenberg. It is an excellent resource for people who like to read “classics” and books that were published long ago.

Your School’s Library

New textbooks can be very expensive. Older versions of the same textbook might not have the same information as the new one. One way to read the textbook you need for your classes for free is to make use your your school’s library.

School libraries typically have at least a few copies of textbooks that are required for classes. They may be held in reserves, so don’t hesitate to ask the librarian if you can borrow a copy of the textbook you need. If not, ask if you can check out an ebook version of the textbook.

Did you know that McDonald’s has a Late Nite menu? Maybe you have made purchases during the hours the Late Nite menu is available. Be aware that McDonald’s is changing it’s Late Nite menu. The change will take place on April 30, 2019.

McDonald’s has a Late Nite menu that is available from midnight to 5 a.m. It’s great for people who work overnights and need to grab something quick to eat after work. The Late Menu is also convenient for people who must start work in the wee hours of the morning.

Starting April 30, 2019, McDonald’s will be “simplifying” what’s served after midnight. The company claims the reason for the changes is so customers can get the most popular favorites as fast as possible.

Here is what McDonald’s New Late Night menu will include:

  • Big Mac
  • 100% fresh beef Quarter Pounder burgers
  • Chicken McNuggets
  • All Day Breakfast
  • World Famous Fries and all other sides
  • Sweets & Treats
  • Happy Meal
  • McCafe and beverages

Don’t see your favorite Late Night menu option in that list? McDonald’s says not to worry – the missing item will still be available to be ordered before midnight. Obviously, that doesn’t help much if it was the only menu item you like, or the one you regularly get from the Late Nite menu.

According to Business Insider, McDonald’s will instruct its Late Night service crew to be prepared to respond to customer questions about why an item is no longer available during late night. Customers who ask for a Filet-O-Fish, which is not on the new Late Nite menu, will be prompted to order a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder instead.

Business Insider says that the change to the Late Nite menu is a way for McDonald’s to cut costs through simplification, decrease food waste, and speed up service.  It is not yet known if the new Late Nite menu will have prices that are less expensive than before.

April 15th is Tax Day. Nobody enjoys filling out forms and paying taxes. There is something to look forward to, however. Many restaurants and businesses will be offering Tax Day freebies and deals. USA Today has put together a list of several offers.

Boston Market: Offers a $10.40 Tax Day meal special. It includes a half chicken individual meal with two sides, cornbread, and a regular fountain beverage drink. This offer is “while supplies last”. No coupon is needed. The offer runs from April 10 through April 15 at restaurants and online.

Breugger’s Bagels: Get 13 bagels and two tubs of cream cheeses for $10.40, a $3.50 price reduction. This offer runs from April 10 through April 15 at participating bakeries.

BurgerFi: Get a BurgerFi Cheeseburger on Tax Day for $4.15 through the BurgerFi app.

California Tortilla: With any Tax Day purchase, get free chips and queso when you say “1040”.

Corner Bakery Cafe: Get two entrees for $10.40. This offer runs from April 15-17, in cafe only.

Great American Cookies: Get one free Original Chocolate Chip Cookie at participating locations for stopping by.

Hardee’s: Get a free sausage biscuit from 7 am to 10 am on Tax Day. To get this freebie, you need to say “Made from scratch”. One per customer, while supplies last.

Noodles & Company: Members of NoodlesREWARDS will get $4 off online and mobile orders of $10 or more for Tax Day. The offer is valid from April 10 through April 15. To get the offer, you need to be signed up for the program by April 9.

Schlotzkey’s: Get a free small original sandwich with purchase of chips and a medium drink on Tax Day. This deal is available at all Schlotzkey’s locations and no coupon is required.

White Castle: On Tax Day, White Castle will offer 15 percent off any order in-Castle with a coupon that will be posted on social media pages and sent to email subscribers.