What’s Your Favorite Hobby?

I always get super stressed during this time of year. Thanksgiving is coming soon, and not long after, will be the gift-giving holidays, whichever one you celebrate.

One thing that helps me is having a few hobbies, which keep me centered and functioning! My favorite things to do are yoga, hiking, and baking.

Hobbies are great for relieving stress, helping us develop new skills, and also they often create a bond with others. Having a hobby or two can enrich your life and give you a different perspective on things.

What are your favorite hobbies? Let me know!

According to notsoboringlife.com, here are just a few of the most popular hobbies:

  • Reading
  • Watching TV
  • Watching movies
  • Hunting/Fishing
  • Gardening
  • Exercising (Walking, running, biking, golfing, swimming, skiing, dancing, etc.)
  • Cooking
  • Listening to music/Playing a musical instrument
  • Entertaining/Socializing
  • Shopping
  • Traveling
  • Crafts
  • Writing
  • Volunteering

There are obviously dozens, if not hundreds, of other hobbies that people enjoy!

Veterans Day
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Let’s make sure to honor the vets for their service. If you are a veteran, or if you know a vet, please make sure to take advantage of the many free or discounted meals and services for vets. Just go here and see all the offers that are available:

militarybenefits.info/veterans-day-discounts-sales-deals-free-meals/

Have a great weekend!

If You Bought Something Online, Let Us Know!

I can’t believe it’s already November! Where did this year go???

And what’s making time seem like it’s really flying is that I’ve already seen commercials for holiday sales!

Before you know it, Cyber Monday will be here. I usually buy a lot of presents online (there’s nothing better than shopping in your jammies!), and I know many others feel the same.

So I just wanted to remind all of our panel members how important it is to record your online purchases – whether it’s for the holidays or anytime of the year.

NCP wants you to know that the items you purchase online are just as important as the ones you bring home from a store. One of the vital parts of the data you send to us is where the purchases were made.

For example, if you purchased an item from a retailer’s website, such as WalMart, you would select walmart.com as the store name to record the shopping trip. Be extra careful to choose the “.com” store name when recording online purchases and not the physical store name. It’s very important that the store information is accurate. If the store name is not in your store list, choose the “online shopping” store type to record the purchase.

When you place an order online, save the email confirmation receipt and/or check for an invoice in the box when the item arrives. If you use a scanner, as soon as you receive the shipment scan the barcode on the product (if there is one) and choose the specific online store name.

If you use the NCPMobile App, please indicate how you received your online purchase when entering the purchase information (see graphic below):


And lastly, as promised, some of the many cute dog photos submitted by our readers! (I want to again thank those who took the time to submit a photo.)


I hope you have a great weekend!

Nothing But Treats

Halloween is coming! I hope you’ve stocked up on goodies for the trick or treaters. I picked up several big bags of candy a few weeks ago, and made sure to hide it from my family members.

Unfortunately, after buying all that candy and then having it in the house these past weeks I’ve been really tempted to raid the bags. I keep saying to myself no one’s going to notice a few pieces missing … But thankfully I’ve been able to stop myself. It isn’t easy, though!

Now a lot of people will be celebrating this year. According to the National Retail Federation, more than 179 million Americans are planning to participate in Halloween festivities this year, up from 171 million last year. Total Halloween-related spending is expected to reach $9.1 billion, compared with $8.4 billion in 2016. Spending on candy is expected to reach $2.7 billion this year.

According to the NRF, among Halloween celebrants,

  • 71% plan to hand out candy
  • 49% will decorate their home or yard
  • 48% will wear costumes
  • 46% will carve a pumpkin
  • 35% will throw or attend a party
  • 31% will take their children trick-or-treating
  • 23% will visit a haunted house
  • 16% will dress pets in costumes

Note: If you bought candy or a costume or anything else for Halloween, please make sure to record those purchases!

And speaking of candy, we were talking about candy, right? (See, I can’t get it out of my mind!) Anyway, I wanted to share this cool graphic from CandyStore.com, a bulk candy wholesaler and retailer. The company used 10 years of sales data from between 2007 and 2016, and paying special attention to the months before Halloween, determined its best-selling Halloween candy in each state.

Check out your state:

Source: CandyStore.com.

What’s your favorite candy? Let me know!

Finally, a few weeks ago, I asked you guys to send in your pet photos. Well, we received a ton of them! (I want to thank those who took the time to submit a photo.)

Anyway, here’s a few cute cats. (Dogs to follow next week.)


Have a great weekend, and enjoy Halloween!

Going Leaf Peeping!

One of my favorite fall activities is to pack up the family and take a ride to the Hudson Valley section of New York to check out the fall foliage. For us “leaf peepers” there is nothing better than seeing all the bright colors of autumn. It is spectacular!

So this weekend we’ll make a day of it and experience all the beautiful colors of fall.

Where do you go to see the turning leaves? Tell us about where you go to see your local fall foliage. (You can even send us a photo to news@ncppanel.com.)

Here is some great information from Rosie Purdy of the patch.com about the peak foliage time in the 48 contiguous United States. Just scroll down and find your state:

Alabama: starting early October in the North Alabama mountain region and continuing throughout the state through early November.

Arizona: early to mid-October for Northern Arizona; late September to late October in the Sonoran Desert

Arkansas: the last few days of October and the first few days of November

California: mid-to late October starting from the state’s higher elevations and spreading downward to its foothills and coast

Colorado: September is the best month, with prime foliage times shifting from region to region, lasting only about a week in each place

Connecticut: from mid-to-late September through mid-to-late October

Delaware: from mid-October to early November for best color intensity

Florida: later in the season beginning early November

Georgia: early to mid-October

Idaho: early October in northern, central and eastern Idaho; mid-October in Southern Idaho

Illinois: mid-October in northern and central Illinois; late October to early November for Southern Illinois

Indiana: early to mid-October in Northern Indiana; mid-to late October in the southern part of the state

Iowa: the weekend closest to Oct. 10 in northeast Iowa and later in southern Iowa

Kansas: early to mid-October in northern Kansas; mid-to-late October in southern Kansas

Kentucky: late October to early November

Louisiana: early November

Maine: early October in the western mountain areas; mid-October in southern Maine and the state’s coastal areas

Maryland: late October and early November in southern and central Maryland; parks around Garrett County are also great during early October

Massachusetts: the first week of October in western and southeastern regions; mid-October for the central area of the state; end of October in eastern Massachusetts

Michigan: mid-September to early October in the far western quarter of the Michigan upper peninsula; late September to mid-October in all other upper peninsula regions; late September to late October in the lower peninsula

Minnesota: mid-September to early October in the northern third of the state, late September and early October in the central third and late September to mid-October in southern Minnesota; the North Shore of Lake Superior peaks about one week later than inland areas

Mississippi: late October to early November

Missouri: late September through mid-October, starting in northern Missouri and traveling south to the Ozark Mountains

Montana: late September to early October in central Montana; early to mid-October in western Montana

Nebraska: early to mid-October

Nevada: mid-to-late October

New Hampshire: end of September in the far north, early October in the White Mountain region and the mid-October in the south


New Jersey: mid-to-late October inland; late October to early November along the coast

New Mexico: early to mid-October at higher elevations; mid-October to early November at lower elevations

New York: the last few days of September through the end of October; for the best foliage viewing, visit the Adirondacks and Catskills

North Carolina: mid-to-late October for inland regions; late October to early November along coastal regions

North Dakota: early to mid-October

Ohio: the second and third weeks in October for most of the state, and later in October for Ohio’s most southern regions

Oklahoma: late October through early November

Oregon: mid-to-late October

Pennsylvania: early October for the northern region of the state; mid-October in central Pennsylvania; last two weeks of October in the southeast

Rhode Island: mid-to-late October

South Carolina: late October to early November

South Dakota: early to mid-October

Tennessee: the northeastern mountain regions peak in the last two weeks of October; the rest of the state peaks from mid-October to late November

Texas: the month of October, particularly mid-to-late October

Utah: early September at higher, northern mountain areas and through November in southern regions

Vermont: the last week of September and early October in northern Vermont; early to mid-October in southern Vermont

Virginia: inland Virginia reaches peak foliage from mid-to-late October inland; late October to early November along the coast

Washington: mid-September through mid-October

West Virginia: late September through late October

Wisconsin: early to mid-October

Wyoming: early to mid-October

 

Have a great weekend everybody!


All Things Pumpkin!

Now that fall is here, it seems like all things are turning to pumpkin. Or at least pumpkin flavoring!

When I went food shopping last week, as I went down the aisles of my local grocery store I noticed a wide variety of products that featured pumpkin flavoring.


In fact, according to The Nielsen Company, these are the top 10 pumpkin-flavored product categories:

  • Pie filling
  • Cream
  • Dog food (yes, dog food!)
  • Coffee
  • Baked bread
  • Ready-to-eat cereal
  • Baking mixes
  • Liquid coffee
  • Yogurt
  • Fresh desserts

According to Nielsen, sales of pumpkin-flavored products are expected to hit $414 million this year, which is 6% higher than last year’s fall season, but less than the 10% from previous years.


In addition, fresh pumpkin sales hit $121 million for the year ended July 31, 2017, up 5.1% from the previous year, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile, there’s another fall-inspired flavor that’s gaining in the marketplace. Sales of many maple-flavored products are growing. Some of the top maple product categories include:

  • Processed meat
  • Pancake and waffle toppings
  • Fully cooked meats
  • Sweet snacks
  • Facial skin care
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Beverages
  • Baking mixes
  • Desserts

Do you have any good pumpkin- or maple-flavored recipes you’d like to share? Send them to me at news@ncppanel.com and we’ll post as many as we can!

Also, I want to thank everyone who recently sent in a picture of their pet. (It sure seems like we love our pets!)

Honestly, I’m a little overwhelmed by all the submissions. I’ll go through them and try to post as many as possible over the next few weeks.

Thank you, and have a great weekend!

We All Get Sick + Pet Pictures!

My apologies. I was out sick for a while and wasn’t able to post a new blog until now. I am feeling much better.

But it got me thinking how we – or members of our households – get sick every now and then. And often we’re put on a prescription to help us get over our illness or injury. (Of course, many people are on meds for chronic ailments, too.)

If you do get a prescription medication, please make sure and tell us about it. Simply use the Rx Prescriptions listing – if you use one of our handheld scanners you should use the Barcode Reference Booklet (www.ncponline.com/wbcnt/Barcodes/Booklet.pdf).

If you are an NCPMobile App user, you have access to the list of items right at your fingertips in the Non-Barcoded Items list in the app.

Use the Rx Prescription listing for all your prescriptions and refills purchased in a store, online, or through mail order that do not have a UPC barcode. And of course, if you purchase any over-the-counter meds, be sure to record the barcodes with your scanner or the NCPMobile App, too!

Note: You don’t have to give us details about the prescription medicine; just tell us that you picked it up.

Important information for NCPMobile App users: Donald Lewis recently commented, noting that “It should have been mentioned that entering Rx purchases using a mobile device, you have to enter a price at least $0.01 even if like me, you have no co-pays. The old barcode scanner could accept a zero price.” Thank you, Donald!

Also, a few weeks ago we asked for readers to send in photos of their pets. Here are a few. Enjoy!

“This is our baby boy… POCKET. He will turn 7 years old in November. I named him Pocket because when he was just 6 weeks and a tiny pup he always had to be in the pocket of my fluffy robe…. Here he is eating an ice cream cone, made for dogs.”



“This is our dog, Kitty. We found her in our car one day 4 years ago, and never found the owners. She seems to be part chi and part pom.”



“I had to run downstairs and grab my kindle for this rare shot. The black and white tuxedo kitty, Soxi, is extremely shy and tends to run away from everyone. I was glad she stayed put long enough for this picture.”



“Lily is a puppy mill survivor. She’s nine years old and still has issues but I love her just the way she is!”



Jennie’s dogs



If anyone else has a picture of their cat or dog that they’d to share, send the photo to news@ncppanel.com.

Thanks, and have a great day!

It’s Time To Update Your Panelist Information

As I’m sure you know, every 10 years the Federal government updates its records through a comprehensive Census.

Well, NCP does something similar, but we do it every year to make sure we have the most up-to-date information about our panel members.

And, yes, it’s time for the annual Demographic Update Survey! If you haven’t responded yet, please check your Surveys page at ncponline.com and answer the survey as soon as possible.

You’ll earn 500 gift points for just a few minutes of your time.

And this is important: Even if there have been no changes in your household, we still need you to respond to the survey. (If you joined the panel within the last 3 months, you will most likely not receive the survey this year.)

One of the reasons we collect all of this (updated) information is that we use it to help develop reports for manufacturers and retailers. It’s important for them to know what households like yours with similar demographics or in a similar geographic region are purchasing. For instance, if a client wanted to know how much dog food someone with three or more dogs purchases, we’d be able to provide that information.

Speaking of dogs (and cats), have you ever wondered how many NCP panelists own either a dog or cat – and how many they have? Here are the stats, based on last year’s Demographic Update Survey (see all the cool info we collect!):


Do you have a cute picture of your cat or dog that you’d like to share? If so, send the photo to news@ncppanel.com and we’ll try to post it here on the blog in the coming weeks.

So remember to take the Demographic Update Survey. Thanks, and have a great weekend!

Recording Your Drugstore Purchases

I had to pick up a prescription yesterday after work at the CVS pharmacy located inside my local Target. On my way home, I wondered if panelists knew exactly how to record their own purchases in this situation.

Here’s what you should know: Even though it is branded as CVS, any purchase made at these counters should still be reported as a Target shopping trip. Please make sure you choose the correct Target store option in your scanner or the NCPMobile App.

Any trip to a CVS pharmacy that is NOT located within a Target should continue to be reported as CVS.

Check out our YouTube video on this very subject!

While we’re on the subject of drugstore purchases, the next time you make a purchase at a (stand-alone) CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens or any other drugstore retailer, please remember to report that shopping trip to us.

As I’m sure you know, drugstores sell a wide range of products, not just prescriptions. For instance, you can pick up greeting cards, over-the-counter medications, skin care, baby needs, snacks, candy, magazines, and a whole lot more. Whenever I pick up a prescription at a drugstore, I NEVER leave without buying something else – most often, I have to be honest, a candy bar or two!

It’s important to record your drugstore trips because:

  • Retailers and manufacturers need your complete shopping information to help them make important marketing decisions.
  • While these may be quick trips and may include items that potentially do not make it home (such as a pack of gum or a candy bar), they are just as important as your large grocery and discount store trips.

Are there any things related to scanning that you find confusing? If so, let me know and I’ll be happy to address them.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

School’s In Session!

Note: As of this writing, Hurricane Irma was making its way toward Florida. We hope all who may be impacted will be safe.

No matter where you live, I’m sure school is back in session. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty happy about it! I’ve been so busy getting my kids ready to go to school that I hadn’t had time to write about it here.

If you purchased a lot of school supplies and food/snacks, as well as apparel and items for your child’s dorm room, I hope you were able to scan what you bought. If you forgot, it’s not too late to do so!

Back-to-school shopping is big business. According to wallethub.com:

    • $688 is the average child’s back-to-school expenses
    • $970 is the average college student’s back-to-school expenses

How much do you typically spend? Let me know!

Right now, my big concern is making sure the kids have healthy lunches and snacks. According to The Nielsen Company, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, in the five weeks (in 2016) around back-to-school time apples were the top-selling produce item with $243.5 million in sales. Strawberries and fresh cut fruit weren’t far behind, with sales of $202.8 million and $204.9 million, respectively.

But it’s mangoes that drove the most sales growth in the back-to-school season. From 2015 to 2016, mango sales in the five weeks around back-to-school grew more than 73%, topping sales of $22.5 million.



In case you’re wondering, sales of other snack items, which may not be so healthy – but who’s judging! – also increase during the five-week back-to-school period.

In particular, these items sell more right before school starts compared with an average week, according to Nielsen:

  • Brownies
  • Cookie snacks & variety packs
  • Cracker snacks & variety packs
  • Pop up toaster pastries
  • Sports drinks

So, if you have kids, what do you give them for lunch or a snack? Tell me all about it!

I hope you all have a nice weekend. For those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, or potentially by Hurricane Irma, stay safe.

I’m Back From Vacation!

Before I tell you about my vacation, I just want to say that all of our thoughts are with everyone in Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey. Just watching the news every night it is horrifying to see all of the damage. [We’ll soon have an important message about our “NCP Cares” community outreach program and how we’re trying to do our (small) part to help.]

I recently got back from our vacation, and boy, did we all have a great time! We spent part of the trip visiting Acadia National Park in Maine. It was absolutely beautiful! We hiked and went on a bus tour of the park, and saw some incredible things. (See some photos below, which don’t do the place justice!) We also ate lots of “lobstah.”

Have you been able to get away this year? (Or plan to sometime soon.) If so, let me know what you did or are going to do.

Monday is Labor Day, which means our offices, including the Panel Support Center, will be closed. We’ll be back at 9 a.m. ET on Tuesday, September 5.

Before we go off on our long holiday weekend, I wanted to share some fun facts from wallethub.com:

Labor Day Weekend Travel:

  • 25% of Americans plan to get out of town for Labor Day weekend
  • 86% of Americans plan to travel by car
  • 16.1 million Americans will fly to their destination

Most popular Labor Day Weekend destinations are the following:

  • New York
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Orlando, FL
  • Chicago

In addition, 40.6% of Americans plan to BBQ over Labor Day Weekend.

Speaking of labor, many people have long commutes to work (I know I do!). Check out these stats, also from wallethub.com:

  • 51.8 minutes: The average time Americans spend commuting each day
  • 76.4% of Americans drive to work
  • 0.6% of Americans bike to work
  • 4.4% of Americans work from home

We hope you have a great Labor Day Weekend. And again, our thoughts are with those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Here are some photos I took from Acadia National Park. They’re views from some of the hikes we went on.