Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cleaning Up On Earth Day

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. One of my aunts has told stories about going out with her class to clean up a wooded area near her elementary school during that first Earth Day.

The idea for a day to focus on the environment came from U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, of Wisconsin, after he had witnessed the damage caused by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969.

Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media, and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date, according to earthday.org.

On April 22, 1970, an estimated 20 million Americans took to the streets and parks to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies, according to earthday.org.

Today, Earth Day is considered the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, “and a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes,” according to earthday.org.

So what can you do on Earth Day – and every day, for that matter – to help save the Earth?

Here are just a few suggestions. (If you have any things that you do to help the environment, let us know by adding a comment.)

  • Recycle!
  • Reuse!
  • Reduce!
  • Stop using plastic straws
  • Switch all of your bills to paperless
  • Start a compost heap in your garden
  • Walk or ride a bike
  • Plant something
  • Opt out of getting “junk mail”
  • Change your lightbulbs to compact florescent or LEDs
  • Use reusable water bottles/coffee cups/shopping bags
  • Wash laundry with cold water
  • Plant flowers and plants to help save bees

Remember: Even the smallest of things – like not littering or leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth – can help!

Have a great weekend and a great Earth Day.

Best Regards,
Taylor

It’s Tax Time

Monday is April 15th, the day our income taxes are due. I certainly understand this isn’t everyone’s favorite day of the year. But we do what we gotta do!

Anyway, tax day has an interesting history.

In 1894, Congress passed a national income tax, which was ruled unconstitutional the following year by the U.S. Supreme Court. Following that decision, Congress proposed, and the required number of states ratified (in 1913), the 16th amendment to the Constitution, which made income tax legal.

The first tax day was on March 1st. It was later moved to March 15th in 1918. Then, in 1955, the deadline was pushed back to April 15th, so the Internal Revenue Service could spread out the work involved with processing all the forms, according to constitutioncenter.org.

The very first tax form was four pages long, including instructions, according to constitutioncenter.org. At the time, the average annual income was $800.

Meanwhile, the highest ever tax rate was during World War II, when the highest tax bracket was taxed at 91% and the lowest tax bracket was 23%.

Here are some other taxing things to think about (from wallethub.com):

  • $1.76 trillion – Estimated revenue from individual income taxes in 2019 ($1.68 trillion in 2018)
  • 150M+  – Individual income tax returns are expected to be filed in 2019
  • 90% of returns this year are expected to be filed electronically
  • $2,957 – The average tax refund as of March 15, 2019
  • 91% of refunds are paid through direct deposit
  • 8.1 billion hours – Estimated total time that Americans spend preparing tax returns each year
  • 11 hours – Estimated time spent filing a tax return
  • 49% of taxpayers prepared and e-filed their own tax returns in 2019

Speaking of taxes, here’s a sales tax scanning tip …
When asked about the total amount spent when recording your shopping trip, please include the sales tax for all items purchased, even the ones that you might not have been able to scan.

If you have any questions about recording coupons and sales, please see our FAQ:

http://www.ncponline.com/wbcnt/Members/deals.pdf

Have a great weekend!

Best Regards,
Taylor

Meal Kit Mania

As I’m sure you know, it’s difficult trying to find the time to get something healthy on the dinner table. So that’s why the meal kit market has exploded recently. Meal kits, which are easy-to-prepare “kits” that are filled with fresh, pre-portioned ingredients, make it easy to create a healthy “home cooked” meal.

Originally a mostly web-based offering, meal kits are now often showing up in retail outlets.

According to the latest Nielsen data, 187 new meal kit items were introduced within in-store retail outlets alone during the 52 weeks ended Dec. 29, 2018.

Interest in meal kits through both online and retail outlets continues to be strong. According to NCP data, meal kit users have increased 36% over the past year. In fact, NCP data estimates that 14.3 million households purchased meal kits in the last six months of 2018, reflecting a marked increase of 3.8 million households from the end of 2017. And there is still a lot more interest beyond that, with 23% of American households saying they would consider purchasing a meal kit within the next six months.

So have you purchased any meal kits? If you’re an NCPMobile App user, you can use the Non-Barcoded Items listing to record these types of purchases! (See image below.)

Note: If you use the Barcode Reference Booklet to record non-UPC barcoded items, you cannot tell us about meal kit purchases at this time. The booklet might be updated in the near future.

Meal Kit options as displayed in NCPMobile's Non-barcoded items list

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

Best Regards,
Taylor

A Brief History Of April Fools’ Day

Can you believe that Monday is the first day of April? Where did January, February, and March go??

And the first of April also means it’s April Fools’ Day!

Are you into April Fools’ Day pranks or hijinks? If so, let us know what you do (or have done)!

April Fools’ Day has had a long and glorious history. (Well, maybe not so glorious …)

So here’s a brief history: While no one knows for sure when exactly April Fools’ Day began, one theory is that it dates back to the 16th century. Prior to 1582, the New Year began on April 1. When the “new” New Year was moved to January 1st in 1582, there were many people who hadn’t heard or didn’t believe the change in the date, so they continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1. These “April fools”: were often ridiculed by being sent on “fools errands” or were made the butt of other practical jokes, according to the patch.com.

According to history.com, April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

Bet you’re wondering how many people are involved in April Fools’ Day pranks. Well, according to a CareerBuilder.com survey, 32% of workers said they have either initiated or been on the receiving end of an April Fools’ Day prank at work.

If you want to know more about some well-known April Fools’ Day hoaxes, check out this link! http://hoaxes.org/aprilfool/

Have a great weekend!

Best Regards,
Taylor

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A Brief History Of Coupons

Just the other day I read that a customer recently came into a North Shore Farms supermarket in Mineola, NY, with a coupon to save 20 cents on Crisco oil from 1983. Believe it or not, that’s a 36-year-old coupon! The manager of the store even posted a photo on Twitter.

And so as I was going through a circular and cutting out coupons in anticipation of this weekend’s grocery shopping, I began to think about the history of coupons.

Asa Candler, co-owner of Coca-Cola, created the first coupon in 1887. According to couponsherpa.com, to name the new marketing concept, he turned to the French language; deriving the word coupon from the French word “couper,” meaning “to cut.”

According to couponsherpa.com, Candler’s invention “transformed Coca-Cola from an insignificant tonic into a market-dominating drink. His hand-written tickets offered consumers a free glass of Coca-Cola, then priced at five cents. Between 1894 and 1913, an estimated one-in-nine Americans had received a free Coca-Cola, for a total of 8,500,000 free drinks. By 1895, Coca-Cola was being served in every state.”

Then, in 1909, C.W. Post began offering coupons with a one-cent discount on Grape Nuts cereal.

Coupon usage really surged during the Great Depression, as struggling consumers used coupons to trim their grocery bills.

By 1940, chain supermarkets began offering coupons as a way of taking customers away from neighborhood stores.

According to couponsherpa.com, “Sunday newspapers began printing inserts with coupons promoting everything from fast food to bank checks. The innovation of direct mail co-ops provided local businesses with an inexpensive way of distributing coupons. Grocery stores began printing coupons on the back of receipts, based on a consumer’s purchases. Electronic shelf coupons also appeared to encourage point-of sale purchases.”

Then, in the 1990s, the first Internet-delivered, printable coupons were created.

Think of this long and interesting history the next time you use a coupon!

Since we’re discussing coupons, I just want to remind all panel members to please let us know if you use a special deal like a coupon, discount, or store sale. Also, while many coupons have barcodes on them, please do not scan the barcode on the coupon. Although the scanner or NCPMobile App may accept the barcode, the information is not readable to us.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Best Regards,
Taylor

St. Patrick’s Day Facts

Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day. As is our tradition, our family spends time with some friends and neighbors. We’ll all dress in green and enjoy some traditional foods, such as corned beef and cabbage, and Irish soda bread. What about you? Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? If so, let us know!

Anyway, there are loads of interesting information about St. Patrick’s Day. Here are a few, from mentalfloss.com:

  • Blue, not green: St. Patrick’s color was “Saint Patrick’s blue,” a light shade. The color green only became associated with the day after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.
  • Patrick was British: Although he made his mark by introducing Christianity to Ireland in the year 432, Patrick wasn’t Irish himself. He was born to Roman parents in Scotland or Wales in the late fourth century.
  • It might have been St. Maewyn’s Day: According to Irish legend, St. Patrick wasn’t originally called Patrick. His birth name was Maewyn Succat, but he changed his name to Patricius after becoming a priest.
  • About those shamrocks: According to Irish legend, the saint used the three-leafed plant as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity when he was first introducing Christianity to Ireland.
  • About that phrase: So what does “Erin go Bragh” mean? It’s a corruption of the Irish Éirinn go Brách, which roughly means “Ireland Forever.”

Since we’re talking history here, let’s acknowledge today, March 15, which is the Ides of March. (You might have heard the expression, “beware the Ides of March.”) This marks the day in 44 B.C. that conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar to death before the Roman senate. This was a significant turning point in Roman history.

Well, let’s end this history lesson by wishing you all a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day!

Best Regards,
Taylor

The Pros And Cons Of Daylight Saving Time

Whether you like it or not, on Sunday at 2 a.m. we’ll be turning the clocks ahead an hour. After speaking about it with people in our office, I realized how divisive this event can be!

While some like the extra daylight when they leave the office, others complain about how tired they are for several weeks until their bodies adjust.

What do you think of Daylight Saving Time – good thing or not so good thing?

Let’s take a look at some of the not so good things about DST, according to msn.com:

  • Daylight savings can cause sleep deprivation: By springing ahead, we can alter our circadian rhythm and this can throw us off for several weeks.
  • DST can put people at greater risk for cardiovascular conditions: A 2014 study found that on the Monday after DST begins, 24% more people have heart attacks than on other Mondays throughout the year. On the flipside, the study noted a 21% decrease in heart attacks the Tuesday after DST ends.
  • It can lead to an increase in workplace injuries: The 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses reported a rise in injuries in the summer months – and a decrease in November and December, after a return to standard time.
  • And more car accidents: Austin C. Smith, an assistant professor of economics at Miami University, reports a 6.3% increase in fatal car accidents for six days following the spring time change.
  • You might be less productive at the office because of DST: DST might also be to blame for “cyberloafing” – the act of wasting time online at work. A series of studies conducted at Pennsylvania State University in 2012 found that on the Monday after the time change employees are more likely to browse websites unrelated to their job.

On the other hand, there are good things about Daylight Saving Time. Here are some interesting tidbits from popularmechanics.com:

  • In the Western world, we typically spend more awake time in the evenings than in the mornings. We also enjoy many benefits from being awake in the sunshine. This leads to an increase in vitamin D, increased exercise, increased socializing, and overall improvements to mental health that come with sunlight.
  • A paper from the Brookings Institute finds that there’s a 7% decrease in crime following the shift to DST. In 2007, when DST was extended through November 1, that drop resulted in an estimated $59 million in savings from robberies not committed. The reason is simple: crimes tend to happen much more often in darkness. Extend the daylight, and crimes, especially outdoor crimes like muggings, go down.
  • Opponents of DST note that, in the week following the spring clock change, traffic accidents spike. But, DST lasts eight months, not a week, and the net effect of DST on traffic accidents is overwhelmingly positive. In fact, studies actually estimate that we could save about 366 more lives per year if we extended DST all year round. It is, very simply, easier to drive in daylight.

So remember to move any clocks – at least those that are not connected to the Internet in some way – ahead one hour.

Have a great weekend, and I hope you’re not too groggy on Monday!

Best Regards,

Taylor

The Wonderful World Of Coupons

Like almost everybody else, I LOVE coupons! And I’m sure most of you do, too. In fact, according to CreditCards.com, 85% of Americans use coupons.

Do you use coupons? If so, where do you get your coupons? Oh, and another thing: A few times I’ve forgotten to bring my (paper) coupons with me to the store. Anyone have any suggestions for remembering to bring and use their coupons? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Anyway, a website called accessdevelopment.com pulled together a massive amount of information about coupons. Here are just a few of the very interesting stats cited:

  • 97% of consumers look for deals when they shop and 92% said they are always looking
  • 81% of consumers search for dining deals on a regular basis
  • 85% of consumers look for coupons prior to visiting a retailer
  • 74% of consumers review circulars and print ads before making a purchase
  • $3.1 billion was saved by consumers in 2017 thanks to coupons
  • 42% of consumers save over $30/week using coupons; 30% save over $50/week
  • Over half of consumers use a coupon in at least one of every four purchases
  • 87% of Millennials, 91% of Generation Xers and 96% of Baby Boomers used coupons in 2016
  • 53% of consumers indicated they invest over two hours a week looking for deals and savings across all sources
  • 55% of consumers said they use both digital and paper coupons
  • 52% of consumers print out digital coupons for use in stores

Finally, here are some useful scanning tips regarding coupons and deals:

  • If you purchase items using a special deal like a coupon, discount, or store sale, please let us know. Manufacturers and retailers really want to know what types of deals you’re using when you buy their products.
  • Many coupons have barcodes on them. Of course we want you to tell us about any coupons you use, but please do not scan the barcode on the coupon. Although the scanner or NCPMobile App may accept the barcode, the information is not readable to us.

Well, I have to get back to clipping my coupons! Have a great weekend, and happy shopping!

Best Regards,

Taylor

Do You Know Your Stores?

Every year NCP updates its Store List in the scanner and in the NCPMobile App. I love to review the store list and get to know the different stores.

I’ve gone to several NCP focus groups across the country and heard panel members talk about their local stores. This has helped me learn more about stores in other states that I wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. Now, when I travel, I recognize a lot of the store names!

Check out our Store Name List and Store Type Descriptions: www.ncponline.com/wbcnt/Members/StoreTypeDescriptions.pdf. This is a helpful reference list, so be sure to take some time to familiarize yourself with all the different store names and store types on it. (NOTE: Stores specific to your area are NOT included on this list.)

As you know, it is very important that you not only record your food store purchases, but also your purchases from all the other types of stores.

So when you record a shopping trip, be very careful to choose the correct store name; if you can’t find the store name, please select the appropriate store type. If you still can’t find the right Store Type, use “All Other Stores.” Even though you won’t be telling us the specific store, we can still use these information, plus you’ll be credited with having provided us with a shopping trip.

Here are some Store Types (and descriptions) that you might not have thought of and that we want you to be aware of:

  • Bagel Store – Sells fresh-baked bagels and rolls right and refrigerated items, such as milk, eggs, juice, butter and cream cheese.
  • Beverage Store – Sells a large selection of soda, beer, water, etc. (Some items may be sold in large quantities.)
  • Bodega – Small grocery store that sells primarily ethnic/international items, such as tortillas and plantains, as well as beverages, snacks, prepared foods and household products.
  • Butcher – Sells a wide variety of meats. A clerk-attended counter is usually where you’ll place your order.
  • Close-Out Store – Sells a little bit of everything at highly discounted prices.
  • Coop/Farm/Feed – Sells bulk packages of food for livestock (i.e., cattle, horses, sheep) and other animals, such as dogs and cats. Primarily located in rural farm areas across the U.S. Veterinary supplies may be on hand, too. They also carry seeds that farmers use to plant their crops.
  • Craft Store – Sells mostly craft/hobby items, such as art supplies, yarn, ribbon, dried flowers, baskets, sewing patterns, etc.
  • Dairy Delivery – Use this if you have milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and ice cream, delivered to your door.
  • Fish Market/Store – Sells all types of fresh caught or frozen fish, as well as condiments to accompany your “catch.” This type of store can also be used for “open-air” markets where you can select your fish from outside stands.
  • Flea Market/Swap Meet – You’ll find all sorts of products in this type of “store.” It could be clothing, housewares, furnishings, beauty products, crafts and food, just to name a few. They may be permanent or temporary structures (indoor/outdoor) with many booths/stalls and may meet once or twice a week.
  • Free Sample/Gift – Use this when you receive a free sample or a free gift. Enter 0 (zero) for the price. Note: If you receive a free sample in a store, use the store name to record it.
  • Fruit Stand/Store – Sells all types of fruits and vegetables. They may also sell some other food products and perhaps even sell fruit trays, baskets and platters.
  • Garden Store – Sells all types of gardening supply items, including potted plants, fresh flowers, gardening tools, seeds, etc.
  • Home Delivery – Use this store type if there’s a store in your town where the only means of ordering a product is by phone and then it’s delivered to your home.
  • Hospital Pharmacy – Use this store type if you pick up medication from a pharmacy located in a hospital.
  • Kennel/Vet – Use this store type to record purchases made at a kennel or veterinarian’s office.
  • Mail Order – Use this when ordering an item by mailing an order form or calling a customer service phone number after making your selection from a catalog or flyer.
  • Manufacturer Outlet – Manufacturers of all types of products have outlets where they sell their products at discounted prices. Sometimes these are in “outlet malls.”
  • Military Store – Use this store type if you make purchases from a store located on a military base.
  • Pro Shop – Specializes in selling everything you need for one specific sport. Some Pro Shops are even located in sporting facilities, such as tennis courts, golf courses, bowling alleys and skating rinks.
  • Tobacco Store – Primarily sells cigarettes, cigars and other smoking accessories.
  • TV/Home Shopping – Use this store type specifically for merchandise (clothes, jewelry, etc.) that you purchased because you saw the item on television.
  • Vending Machine – Use this store type if you buy items from a vending machine, such as candy, soda, snacks, sandwiches, etc.

Have a great weekend!

Best Regards,
Taylor

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Plans

Today is Valentine’s Day! Now don’t panic if you’re still working out some plans and/or gift ideas. I have some tips for you! (Just so you know, this week’s blog is not directed at my husband, who’s always very good at making plans. Love you, hun! Happy Valentine’s Day!)

If you haven’t thought much about what to do today, here are a few ideas, from hitchedmag.com:

  • Create Something Together: Make a scrapbook or time capsule with your partner or children, parents, or friends, and fill it one with meaningful mementos. (The “time capsule” could be just an old coffee or box can that you place in the closet and open on a significant anniversary/day.) So all that sentimental stuff – photos, old movie tickets, take out menus, etc. – that Marie Kondo is encouraging you to toss out you can instead put in the time capsule or scrapbook. Talk about sparking joy!
  • Make A Romantic Meal at Home: Cook something that’s simple and serve the meal on a candlelit table. Play some soft, relaxing music in the background. And make sure to help your loved one clean up after the meal.
  • Go On A Picnic: If you live in a warm climate, take your valentine outside and enjoy some sandwiches and snacks. If you live in a colder part of the country, take your picnic inside; place a few blankets on the floor, and enjoy your meal right there.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be dinner out at an exclusive restaurant or expensive jewelry or a big box of chocolate, although those things are pretty nice! Valentine’s Day just means spending time with a loved one (or loved ones).

We’re all crazy busy and so don’t always appreciate the people in our lives. So make this day special for the special people you know and love.

Oh, and don’t forget to record anything you buy your valentine, like flowers, candy, apparel, etc.

Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Best Regards,
Taylor