Feel Like You’re Always Eating Out? You’re Not Alone.

Here are some charts illustrating a couple of interesting food trends in the US.

Americans are spending a smaller percentage of their income on food than ever. From America’s Shrinking Grocery Bill:

In 1984, the average U.S. household spent 16.8 percent of its annual post-tax income on food. By 2011, Americans spent only 11.2 percent. The U.S. devotes less of its income to food than any other country—half as much as households in France and one-fourth of those in India.

shrinking700

But you see that big orange slice of the chart?

We are also spending a larger percentage of our food budget on food prepared away from home than ever. From Cheap Eats: How America Spends Money on Food:

foodathome

Looking at the chart, it seems like only a matter of time before we eat out more often than we eat in.

Our peak period of eating out was after the birth of our first child. It felt like we were whipping out the binder of take-out menus nearly every day. More recently, we completed the Dinner Boot Camp which contained a week-long plan for easy home dinners, and since then we’re on our 4th consecutive week of cooking dinner (and the following day’s lunch) at home at least 5 times a week. It’ll be hard to keep up, but doing a bit of planning before every week really does go a long way.

Baby Gear Reviews: Baby Bottles and Accessories (Part 3)

azbottlesHere is Part 3 of my series on baby gear, organized in the order of Amazon’s Baby Registry. The entire multi-part series can be found with the Baby Gear tag here. This time I’ll talk about our experiences with baby bottles.

Our first baby was colicky and not a great eater, and that is really where these bottle companies make their money. Design a bottle nipple that reduces the unstoppable crying of colic, and we’ll gladly pay upwards of $6 per bottle. Heck, if it really worked I’d pay $50 a bottle without blinking an eye. The basic idea is that air is being swallowed when air backflows into the nipple during drinking, which supposedly causes colic. So the fancier bottles all have some mechanism to alleviate that vacuum.

Our babies were breastfed, so we got a “free” Medela breast pump (it was covered by our health insurance). Thus, we started out with a few Medela brand bottles. Baby didn’t like it. Between purchasing and borrowing from friends, we ended up trying most of the brands: Medela, Born Free, Playtex, Tommee Tippee, AVENT, and Dr. Browns Natural Flow. We tried the last three because they were the most recommended by the Baby Bargains book.

The two that ended up working best for us were:

tippee

  • Tommee Tippee – The silicone nipple does look most like a human nipple with a wide base, the construction felt of high quality, and the wider bottle was easier to hold in my palm. Keep the air vent hole facing upwards so milk doesn’t block it. On the expensive side.
  • Playtex Drop-Ins with the Latex Nipple – I bought this when desperate in a drugstore after reading a recommendation from a parenting forum. Latex is softer than silicone and thus feel more natural, although silicone is more durable and some babies are allergic to latex. The collapsible liners are convenient and eliminate vacuum but are not eco-friendly. Really, it was all about the soft latex nipple.

All bottles sold today should be BPA-free, I would check if you are using hand-me-downs. I would also note that you can buy nipples with different-sized holes that change the flowrate, your baby may prefer one to another and that could make a big difference in itself.

Other things to buy. As for accessories, a simple dishwasher basket was a very good buy; we’ve used it daily for 2 years now for all kinds of small kiddie things, even after we stopped using bottles. A good bottle brush is also helpful for thorough cleaning.

Other things we didn’t buy. We did not buy any bottle sterilizers or bottle warmers. When we had our first child, I think the first two weeks we boiled water and manually sterilized the bottles every time. What a pain. After that, we only sterilize them before the first use. Now we just wash them with warm, soapy water or use the dishwasher and rinse them well. Hot tap water works fine for warming milk or formula. When eating out, we simply ask for some hot water like they would serve for tea. If you formula-feed, the advice is to start them at room temperature and your baby will be fine with it. Our pediatrician agreed these were unnecessary. Perhaps they are wonderful inventions, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.

  • Verdict: There are endless combinations of nipple shapes and bottle designs. I’m sure some babies will drink from anything. For us, there really wasn’t a huge difference between any of the bottles, but I listed our two favorites above. If possible, try to borrow different bottle brands from friends to try out.

Chase Ink Plus Business Card Review: $700 Cash, $875 Travel, or 70,000 Rewards Points Bonus

Chase Ink Plus Business Card Banner

Limited-time 70,000 point bonus offer now available online. Biggest offer I've ever seen for this card! Chase has a new small biz credit card, called the Ink Plus® Business Card. It turns out to be very similar to the Chase Ink Bold Business card ( … [Read the rest]

Pro Travel Tips: Never Ask If They Speak English

hello

I've been getting back into podcasts while driving, and have been catching up on the Alton Brown podcast. In the Samantha Brown episode, she shared a good tip about international travel and language barriers that I've never read in a guidebook: … [Read the rest]

Discover Card 5% Back At Lowe’s, Shell Gas, or Walgreens

discoverpick

Discover It and Discover More cardholders may be able to get 5% cashback at your choice of one of the following stores: Applebee's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe's, Olive Garden, Shell, or Walgreens from now until November 30th, 2014. Subject to a cap of … [Read the rest]

Math Skills + Social Skills = Higher Earnings $$$

mathsocial

Here's one for the tiger moms and overachiever parents. From a recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog: A recent paper from UCSB found that the return on being good at math has gone up over the last few decades, as has the return on … [Read the rest]

American Express Small Business Saturday 2014 – $30 Total Bonus Per Card

Shop Mall Logo

Small Business Saturday details out for 2014! American Express has confirmed that they will bring back Small Business Saturday (SBS) on Saturday, November 29th - two days after Thanksgiving. The significant change this year is that now it is up … [Read the rest]

5% Cash Back Credit Cards: Rotating Categories Update 2014

discoverit

4th quarter activation now open for all cards. Holiday shopping is the theme, but I'm buying Amazon gift cards at the end to use over the next few months. The cards below offer a hefty 5% cash back on certain categories that rotate each quarter. … [Read the rest]

Anthony Bourdain Quality of Life Quote

Good background and interview with writer/chef/professional traveler Anthony Bourdain in this Fast Company article. His TV show Parts Unknown is one of the few that I watch and the new season starts again soon. I especially enjoyed and am aligned … [Read the rest]

Charts: Average New Car Price vs. Average Student Loan Debt 1990-2014

newcarprice

When I was a senior in high school, I still remember my parents offering me a new luxury car instead of tuition assistance. Although I'm pretty sure it was only a test, it did serve to remind me of the cost of tuition and not to waste it. Seeing … [Read the rest]

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: Two Free Weekend Nights (Which I Redeemed for $1,109 Value)

citihiltoncert

Update: Got my two rewards certificates and redeemed for $1,000+ worth of rooms in Hawaii. Details following. I applied for this card on the same day as the US Airways 40,000 miles bonus, 7/14. Not sure about approval date but my first purchase … [Read the rest]

OBi200 Adapter + Google Voice Installation Review

obi200a

After the announcement that Obihai VoIP adapters were officially supported by Google Voice, I bought one of their discounted Obi200 adapters. I wanted to learn more about this cheap alternative to landline phone service, and also compare the … [Read the rest]