Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Cleaning: Make-at-Home Cleaning Solutions

Spring has finally arrived. The flowers are beginning to bloom and the warmer weather begs you to open the windows and let the fresh air in. You may also feel the need to do a thorough cleaning of your home. If the Spring cleaning bug has bitten, consider making your own cleaning solutions this year.

Why choose make-at-home solutions?

  • Cost: Generally, make-at-home cleaning products are less expensive than store bought products.
  • Healthier: Non-toxic products can be made simply and easily with products you already have at home.
  • Choice of fragrance(s): By adding (or omitting) essential oils or other ingredients, you can create one-of-a-kind products that are pleasing to you and your family. In addition, the ability to add or omit fragrances(s) is helpful for any type of allergy or sensitivity within your household.
Products you already have in your home often make great cleaning solutions. For example, baking soda alone can serve as a toothpaste, laundry freshener, and carpet deodorizer.

Want more great ideas? Here are some great make-at-home cleaning solutions from Mother Earth Living to get you started: 

All-Purpose Cleaner 

  • 1 gallon hot water
  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap (What is Castile soap? It’s a soap made from 100% plant oils, typically olive oil or coconut oil, with no animal fat or chemicals.)
  • 10 drops essential oil of your choice
Combine ingredients and mix well. Pour into a spray bottle and shake well before using. 
This all-purpose cleaner works great on a number of surfaces in both your kitchen and bathroom.  

Window and Glass Cleaner

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar

 Mix ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle.  Shake well before using.

Wood Furniture Polish 

  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a reusable spray bottle. Shake well. Spray onto wood furniture surfaces. Wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.

Stain Remover 

  • Equal parts coconut oil and baking soda 
Mix ingredients well. Apply directly to stains on upholstery or carpets. Let set for a few minutes. Thoroughly wipe off mixture and allow the area to dry.

All-Purpose Scrub 

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • ½ cup water
Mix ingredients well and use in hard-to-clean spots.

While the make-at-home solutions listed are a great start for all your cleaning needs, you can learn more by checking out books such as “Homemade Cleaners.” In addition, sources such as Rodale Organic Life and The Old Farmers’ Almanac offer many ideas for cleaning solutions you can make at home.

The possibilities are endless. Happy Spring cleaning!

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Five Budget-Friendly Tips for Spring Family Vacations

Financial pressures can take the wind out of your Spring vacation’s sails. But if you heed these tips, you’ll make wonderful and lasting memories for you and your family – without blowing your bank account.

Tip #1 – Take a Spring Staycation 

Staying local can not only save you a lot (because lodging and transportation costs drop to nearly zero!) but it can also introduce your family to local opportunities you might otherwise not even be aware of. Save even more when looking local by packing lunches to cut down on the expense of dining out.

To add a level of interest and another level of good memories, consider shared activities with another local family. This is especially useful when bigger numbers of participants open up options. For example, some friendly family vs. family (or adults vs. kids) volleyball or badminton tourneys will make for some special memories.

Spring is a time of transition for nature, so be prepared. When the weather is cooperative, scout out local trails to enjoy the warming weather, or watch the effect of the Spring on wildlife at your local zoo. More fair-weather activities to consider:
  • Concerts 
  • Picnic-in-the-park events
  • Biking, rollerblading or skateboarding of local paved trails
  • Family fishing trip
  • Backyard campouts
  • Historic monuments (maybe renting a movie about the event too)
  • Zoo visit
And if the weather turns afoul, consider:
  • Museum
  • Library
  • Art gallery
  • Farmer’s market
  • Movie theater
  • Sleepovers!

 Tip #2 – Visit friends or relatives

If you are determined to get away from the home turf, choose locations where friends or relatives have offered accommodations. This can reduce your out-of-pocket costs while enriching your Spring vacation with shared memories.

Tip #3 – Investigate lodging alternatives

If you wish to do your Spring vacation in a place where you know no one, you can still save on lodging by looking into alternatives to standard motel lodging. For example, thousands have listed their guest bedrooms, guest cabin, or summer cottage online, and the rates are often far less than you’ll pay for a standard bed & breakfast or motel. is the most well-known, but many other reliable alternatives include:

 Tip #4 – TAKE a Make-a-Difference Vacation

Use your vacation time to perform a public service as a family. Ideas include:
  • Visit nursing homes. Many residents get little or no visitation. Being a friendly stranger with hugs, hand-holding, or conversation can make their week special.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  • Go on a church mission trip. Missions trips are often the most affordable vacations because you can raise funds to cover costs, and many of out-of-pocket expenses may be tax deductible.

 Tip #5 – Go camping!

Camp sites are usually much more affordable than motel/hotel lodging, and are a great way to make family memories. If you don’t already have camping gear, you may be able to borrow supplies from camper friends to save costs.
Share your own tips!
Have you found creative ways to save money on family Spring break vacations? Please share them here, using the comments section below!

Contributing Writer

Monday, March 14, 2016

5 Simple Steps to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

The kidneys have a big job to do, but we often take them for granted. With March as National Kidney Month (and March 14 World Kidney Day), it’s time to consider giving your kidneys a checkup.
Kidneys are prone to disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), a third of Americans – more than 26 million people are in danger from kidney disease – the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S. Most of us don’t realize it, since there normally are no outward signs until the disease progresses.  

Since more than a half million Americans have kidney failure today and more than 95,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants, raising kidney health awareness is important. 

What your kidneys do

Every day your kidneys – two fist-sized organs located in the lower part of your back – filter about 200 liters of your body’s circulating blood. Your kidneys also work to maintain your blood pressure and manage red blood cell production, salt and potassium levels, and your body’s acid content. 
Your kidneys also expel drugs from your body, balance your body's fluids, and strengthen bones by producing vitamin D. 

5 simple steps to ensure kidney health

The NKF advises us to all do the following simple things to protect our kidneys:
  1. Get tested
    Your doctor can give you an ACR urine test or a GFR blood test once a year if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, are over age 60, or have a family history of kidney failure – all common risks for kidney disease. You can also get screened for free via the National Kidney Foundation’s KEEP Healthy program:
  2. Go easy on the NSAIDs
    If you take any of the common over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), be aware that they can harm your kidneys. For safety, especially if you’re already in a high risk group, reduce your use of NSAIDs.
  3. Cut the processed foods
    Processed foods may be easy on your food prep time, but they are hard on your kidneys. Many common processed foods are often a source of high levels of sodium, nitrates, and phosphates in your body.
  4. Get physical
    Your kidneys respond well to exercise. Exercising regularly keeps your blood vessels, bones, muscles, heart, and kidneys healthy. The NKF recommends being active at least 30 minutes daily.
  5. Drink plenty
    Your kidneys clear sodium, urea, and toxins from your body, but they need plenty of water to do this. Avoid getting hydrated via sugary beverages though, which will also help you avoid getting kidney stones. For most adults, aim to drink 3 to 4 pints of water/day.
During National Kidney Month the NKF offers other health activities to promote awareness of the risk factors for kidney disease:
  • Free Screenings: Throughout March, the NKF is giving free kidney screenings. Locations and information are on their website.
  • Take the “Are You at Risk” Kidney Quiz, which can help you with early detection – important in preventing kidney disease! Kidney Quiz.
  • Join the live NKF Twitter Chat: NKF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vassalotti will be online March 14, from 12-2 pm ET to answer questions live at using the hashtag #WorldKidneyDayNKF.
To learn more, check out this Six step kidney disease primer or read up on World chronic kidney disease statistics.

If you currently take a medication for your kidneys, visit where you can download a free Prescription Savings Card – and save an average of 43% on all medications – or use our Price Lookup Tool to compare prices at local pharmacies. 

Contributing Writer

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Top 7 Ways to Stay Safe with Medications

Medications. They can be life-savers, but they can also be dangerous. To stay safe, avoid these risks when choosing, taking, and storing medications.

1. Avoid rogue online pharmacies 

Don’t be tempted by the too-good-to-be-true cheap price of drugs at some online pharmacies. A 2013 report by The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy said that 97% of them were not in compliance with U.S. laws, and that many pretend to be Canadian or American – even though their drugs are of foreign origin or have not been approved by the FDA as safe or accurate in contents. That’s a big risk since, according to an FDA report, even a minor difference in your medicine can make a big difference in safety.

You can easily verify if an online pharmacy is licensed to do business in your state from the FDA’s state-by-state pharmacy licensing database.

2. Safely save money on your prescriptions with a discount card

Whether you seek to save by buying your prescription drugs online or at your neighborhood drug store, you can save up to 75% on prescription medication just by presenting your FREE prescription card from To learn more, see How the FamilyWize Card Works and look up participating pharmacies.

3. Comparison-shop local pharmacies by drug prices

Why risk paying more than you need to for medications? The price difference for the same drug may differ significantly from one pharmacy to the next in your own neighborhood. Finding the best price is easy; just compare drug prices with the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup tool.

4. Follow directions

Did you know that drug treatment admissions for prescription painkillers grew more than 300% between 1995 and 2005, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America? And even common over-the-counter drugs, like acetaminophen, can cause poisoning and liver damage when taken in the wrong quantities.

5. Get rid of the old drugs!

Drugs beyond their expiration date are no longer safe. Expired drugs can lose potency, no longer providing you their intended benefit. Even worse, expired prescription drugs can become unpredictable in how they affect you. Time can alter the chemical composition of the drug. Even ordinary, over-the-counter aspirin breaks down with humidity, leading to toxicity.

It's important to dispose of the old drugs safely. See No Drugs Down the Drain – a public outreach program about the risks of flushing unused, expired medications down the toilet or drain. It provides safe and proper disposal alternatives, as does the FDA’s How to Dispose of Unused Medicines.

6. Keep drugs away from kids

According to Safe Kids Worldwide research, every single minute, a poison control center gets a call about potential medicine poisoning for a child age five or younger. And every 8 minutes, a youngster is admitted to an ER for medicine poisoning. In 67% of these cases, the medicine was within reach of the child: in a purse, on a counter, on a couch.... Remember, children are curious and unaware of dangers. Keep drugs out of reach!

7. Beware of the effect of sun and heat on drugs

Sun and heat can cause pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs to lose potency or become unstable. Also, dangerous physical conditions can result from sun exposure to your skin when taking certain medications. Similarly, skin rashes may result from sun exposure with certain drugs. Read about these and other sun and heat risks with medications here.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer