My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guest Blogger Post--Funeral Planning 101


Whether it is due to a superstition that if you discuss death it will happen,  a general feeling of discomfort when the subject of end of life comes up, or simply living in La-La Land we all put off having the discussion of what happens after our lives are over.  How will my family handle my final arrangements?  Will they be able to cover the expense? What are the governing laws on the handling of my remains?

Despite being an active participant in planning many a loved one’s funeral I have to admit I know no more about the subject than anyone else. Like so many of you my memories of the events are a haze of grief and despair over the loss. 

Yet it is an event we must all plan for, sooner or later, whether we want to or not.  Dave Ramsey gives pointers on leaving a Legacy Drawer for your loved ones to ease the loss, but he does not cover the protocols or costs of the final event of your life.

My father taught me if you have a question about something, research it, go to those who know it, listen and learn.  I’ve been blessed to become acquainted with Sharon Hudson, Georgia Mortician through the Dave Ramsey list on 

Over the years I have asked her a few vague questions off list and she has always been kind enough to respond quickly. With the recent passing of my Aunt Faye, new questions surfaced, because she was cremated and I had not a clue what that entailed.
 So I have asked Sharon to write the following post for my blog that perhaps will help us all with these delicate questions on funerals and cremation.  Thank you Sharon for your time

Funeral Planning 101

Let’s face it, planning our final arrangements isn’t something we rush to do, but it is a necessary part of life.  Better to be in control of the situation and make plans, than to be faced with critical decisions at a time when one might be emotionally unable to make rational decisions.  The greatest gift one can leave family and friends, is to have thought out and planned your own final journey.  The following few items are commonly asked questions I receive when people are comfortable enough around me to realize  although I’ve been in the funeral industry all my life, I’m approachable and very willing to share the ins and outs of my craft.

The number one question I am asked is: “Do I have to be embalmed?”  The answer to that is “no”, but that comes with a few caveats which, depending on the state you reside and might vary a little, state to state.   Generally, if anyone besides immediate family – spouse, children, parents, view your body embalming is required.  If you want to be shipped to another state for burial, embalming is required.    If you want a public funeral, embalming will be required.  Other than these three major issues, embalming is not necessary.    It is also a good idea to make this wish known as soon as possible to everybody involved.  Sometimes funeral homes just assume one wants to be embalmed and perform the procedure as a matter of routine.

Another big question is surrounding costs.  The biggest red flag in the funerary service is burial insurance.  In my 42 years of being in the industry, I’ve never seen a burial policy from any company actually pay for the burial of an individual.  There is always some obscure clause which renders the policy null and void so I would advise against investing in a burial policy.  I also don’t recommend pre-need payments to your local funeral home.   The economy the way it is, there is no guarantee that the funeral home you start making plans with will be in business by the time you need services.  Other funeral homes aren’t obligated to honor the price structure quoted or the payments already rendered.    I highly recommend life insurance and/or a dedicated savings account for this purpose.  Money you retain control over and have at your disposal, but earmarked for such a time. 

How much money you need is determined by the services utilized, so I highly recommend a pre-planning meeting with your local funeral director.   This is an opportunity to go in and have a conversation where you can express your wishes and understand the process from beginning to end.   Every price quoted by a funeral director must be on a contract, all prices should be posted for general viewing so that there is no appearance of impropriety or bait/switch tactics.  You will have access to a printed Funeral General Price List, which is free for the asking, and is completely yours.  You can use this list to compare and contrast several businesses in your community.  While visiting local establishments, you are able to compare and contrast the materials in the construction of various types of caskets (Minimum metal, steel, wood –no pine boxes aren’t actually used), You will get a quote at today’s prices for the use of funeral conveyances( hearses, limos, flower car(ts), professional services (embalming) and preparation of the body, the price of incidentals such as a public obituary in the local paper, floral arrangements, the mileage for use of funeral vehicles, fees for hairdressers, barbers (which you can send in, independent of using the funeral home’s staff), and professional staff.  An astute funeral director is starting a file for reference in your services making note of your wishes and desires and will ask question such as colors you like, any religious affiliations you might have, the selection which was available for you to view, which cemetery you would like to be interred, next of kin, who you would like to contribute to the planning.  Finally in this meeting, It should be disclosed, the interest rate and terms of any loans you take out and the percentage of down payment required to perform services.  Not all funeral homes will have an underwriter for loans so this is an expense you should be willing to pay upon death.  Funeral prices have an annual increase on average of three percent.  You can take the figures you’ve acquired from your visit and come up with a ball park figure of the amount of insurance or savings you need to lessen the burden on your loved ones.

I find that many people are unaware that you will have to pay something out of pocket when making loved one’s final arrangements.  Life insurance policies in full effect, there is still a good faith outlay of cash required while waiting on the policy to pay out.  Now might be a good time to clear up another terrible practice which sadly some of my cohorts practice.  This notion that a body can be held ransom until payment – sometimes in full – is rendered.  The funeral business is probably the only business where the funeral home has to conduct its services to completion while in consultation with interested parties for payment.  If a funeral home accepts your loved one, they must either be willing to transfer your loved one to another funeral home or complete the funeral and burial in a timely manner regardless of complete payment. Though you should never think a funeral home is a lender, this ploy to hold a body ransom is in my opinion extortion.  Practical conversation should be had between staff and responsible family members.

What happens if I die away from home? Will I have to be buried there?  Certainly not, but family will have to work with two separate funeral homes and an airline or train (in a select few instances) on returning their loved one home.  There will be many more steps to bring you home, including an autopsy being performed to determine your cause of death-mandatory as you aren’t a resident of that state.  Your body will be embalmed by the funeral home – cannot ship remains which haven’t been clinically preserved and those fees along with transportation of your body from the morgue to the first funeral home, and on to the airport are due the first funeral home, and are expected at the time services are rendered. Shipping fees to the airline or rail company are due and payable immediately and directly to the vendor.  Fees on the receiving end will include picking your body up from the airport and professional services rendered for your funeral at home.

I’ve not talked about burial expenses-physical digging up the ground at the local cemetery as those fees are generally dictated by the cemetery personally.  Most are willing to send a representative to the funeral home so that you can have a planning conference in totality.  There are some terms to familiarize you with such as grave opening and closing, vault, and plot size.  In its simplest terms purchasing a plot is a real estate transaction, and other fees will include services such as perpetual care. 

Cremation is another topic which I get a lot of questions from.  I don’t claim to be well versed on all religions, but I’ve fielded questions on whether or not a particular religion agrees with the practice.   I’ve not come across a religion which has opposed cremation as a proper disposal technique for human remains, however Judaism has tenants regarding burial in the earth which scholars debate when it comes to cremation or even a mausoleum.  Cremation is a more affordable option for families and therefore it is becoming more mainstream.  People want options with cremation as well and funeral homes are more accommodating in this area.   One option is direct cremation – This means the immediate family would be offered a private viewing within a day of death and then the body would be cremated.  The remains are returned to the family usually within 2 days of death at which point a memorial could be held.  Another option is to have a funeral service and then be cremated.  With this option, it’s important to talk to the funeral home about casket renting.  Yes…. Casket renting!  Just as it sounds, you can rent a casket for the service, after which it is returned to the funeral home and the body is then cremated and put in an appropriate burial container.   Cremains can be interred in a cemetery.  This is not something you can go and do on your own.  For instance, grandfather dies first, grandmother has decided that she wants to be cremated and placed as close to grandfather as possible.  You just can’t take grandmother’s cremains and sprinkle them upon grandfather’s plot, or even bury them there.  You must go through the cemetery to honor these wishes.

Donation of human remains to science/Organ donation – last but not least, what happens to your loved one when their body is donated to science, or for organ or tissue donation?  From a funeral standpoint, there is no difference in how one is treated.  We are mandated to provide a service for the body we receive.  Any changes to the body are done prior to the funeral home accepting remains.  As with any death, there might be instances where cremation is a necessary recommendation will assure that one will rest in peace.  Depending on where you donate your body to science, remains may be returned to you, in a cremated state after time, and this cremation is covered under the terms of the contract you have with the scientific entity.  This would be stipulated in any contract you would sign.  If remains aren’t returned, a clause will outline how remains are treated in a dignified manner and where a burial plot or final resting place will be located for family and friends to commemorate.  It is important to ask questions when entering into contract with any scientific entity on the dignified disposal of human remains after a reasonable length of time.

If you have any funeral related questions, please feel free to e-mail me, I’ll be more than happy to answer: Sharon Hudson –

Friday, March 1, 2013


March 1, 2013

In many recent posts I have mentioned the ap for my telephone called Grocery Tracker.  I cannot sing the praises of this application enough, I am absolutely in love with it.  The fact it was free didn’t hurt at all either.

I need to mention now I have NO affiliation with GroceryTracker or its developers.  I am simply a very pleased user of their product.

A little background here and then I’ll get into the features of GroceryTracker and how handy they are for my use.  Hopefully this post will help you know whether or not it would meet your own personal needs.

As long as I’ve had a household of my own I have been a person who purchases foods and household supplies on sale and in bulk, preferably with a coupon. I shop exclusively from a grocery list.  I also home can, freeze and dehydrate foods from my organic home garden.  I’ve always had a problem of keeping track what I do have on hand.  I have tried various ways to keep an inventory, but always found it difficult to set up and maintain.

As time went on I wanted to also do a “price book” for price comparison at various stores with it all being together in one simple to use form.  For awhile I used the Ishopare ap on my ipod, but as my ipod aged I found that I either didn’t have my ipod with me or the battery was dead when I wanted to do some price comparisons.  I  also found the need to type each item in on my computer at home an inconvenience, especially if I was gathering prices at the grocery store.  That meant writing down all the info, and then taking it home and typing it in.  Tedious and time consuming to say the least.  Who has time for that?  But it was still better than hauling around a 3-ring binder all the time.

When I got my smart phone I mentioned to dh that since it was an android phone that the Ishopare would not work on my phone and I could not find a way to transfer the data.  By this time the battery on my ipod was dead 99% of the time.  It simply would no longer hold a charge. 

My husband is an electronics junkie.  He loves all things electronic and so he set out immediately to find me an ap that would:

1.     Allow me to create a grocery list easily, that I could also send to him or my son easily with a click of a button.

2.     Create my menus.

3.     Input my recipes in and create a grocery list from those.  Checking what might be in inventory first.

4.     Let me easily inventory all our groceries and keep track of where they were stored.

5.     Do price comparisons.

6.     Do all of this with as little typing as possible, and gather the info in one movement or so at the grocery.

After much research my husband found Grocery Tracker and one other viable candidate.  I don’t even remember what the other one was, I do remember it was far more difficult to use than Grocery Tracker and why complicate my life while trying to simplify it.

Now as to why I think this ap is marvelous.  I have already mentioned it was a free download.  It is available for android phones.  This is a big plus for any budget minded family. After all who doesn’t have their phone with them at all times these days?

Now on to all the features this ap has:

SHOPPING LIST: We all make grocery lists and then when we get to the store discover that we have left it at home and have to search our memories to try and remember what was on it.  That is never a good thing.

Typing a shopping list on a phone, tablet or ipod is slow at best.  With this ap you can simply click on a stored list in the phone.  It comes with a basic list already installed in .  You can increase this list to as many items you would like by either typing the item in once, or SCANNING the UPC  then all the information will be added into the list for future reference.  I’ll talk more about the scanning in a minute.

When you need to add an item from your stored list to your shopping list for the next shopping trip you simply click on the amount column the number you need and it adds the items.  The electronic list also has where you can add notes about a specific item.  An example of this would be while we use various generic items in our home there are some we simply do not care for. An example would be generic raisin bran cereal.  None of us, not even our chickens, will eat it.  So I can add a note to the Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, the brand  we prefer, and that I’ve already scanned in that states:  No substitutes or do NOT get a generic and then whoever grabs the list will know not to ever get the generic version.  I can also add notes to do a cost comparison on sizes.  Example: Pinto beans, do cost comparison and get the size that is cheapest per oz/lb. Or other similar things.  You can add any note you want and since there are three of us that do the grocery shopping in our home this is a convenient way to leave notes for shopping items for each other.  More on sharing the grocery lists in a bit. An example of this type note would be yogurt: no  blueberry for S. M will eat blueberry.  So if my husband or I are picking up the yogurt for work lunches for S we know not to get him blueberry.

If you accidentally include something in your list while scrolling down or change your mind about purchasing it this trip you simply hold your finger on the item for a short while and the edit screen will pop up.  On this screen you can change the amounts, add a note and add that you have a coupon for it, or that it is on sale at a certain store.

You can also enter price comparisons for various stores on this screen.  Bye, bye separate price book!!!  Why carry a large notebook when you can do it in the palm of your hand? You can scan at home or in the stores in the same manner I’ll describe in a bit.

Because my phone is on me at all times I find it so simple to add items as I discover we are low on them.  If it is a previously purchased or inventoried item I can go to it immediately on my list to add the number I feel I need to purchase from the master list I’ve already created.

If the item is not on the list I click on the add button and then on the new button in the upper left corner of the screen.  In the next window I choose the category ie: pet products, spices and baking, etc. If a category is not pre-set you can add one and it doesn’t have to be groceries, it can be anything you normally buy and would like to keep track of.

Then I click the upc symbol and a rectangle pops up on my screen.  I hold my phone where the upc symbol on the package is squarely in the rectangle in good light and wait for the camera to take the photo automatically.  Once it does it will do an online search for the product and bring up a window that will fill in all the information of size name, brand, etc for you automatically—how handy is that?  If the product reads right then you click save and then update.  This will take you back to your shopping list and you then can add the quantity you want.

In the hundreds of items I’ve scanned for both shopping and inventory I’ve had a few that were “not found”, generally it is because I’m in the wrong category for the item, or the upc didn’t scan properly.  Repeating the process generally fixes that problem.

If the upc is correct and I’m in right category then I use the keyboard feature of my phone to put in the info for the item and then click save then update.  Quick  and easy.

No additional ap is required to use the scanning feature.

If you are like my family you generally shop at more than one store for certain items.  We purchase our milk at Sam’s Club, our bread at Wal-Mart,  our feed at one of two feed stores etc. You can create separate lists for each of these stores using the same master list to pick your items from. You are not limited on the number of stores you can list.  I have added online stores, such as Honeyville Grains to my stores list.

I use this feature often to create my errand’s day list.  I enter lists for each store or pitstop I need to make  on all the different things I need to do then I have a master list of everywhere I need to go all in one place.   Or I will use my calendar ap to make notes of where I need to go if many of the stops are for not list related items.

Because much of our grocery shopping is done at Sam’s Club and the two men do it on their way home from work I actually create two Sam’s Club lists, side 1 and side 2.  Then I send the lists to them via the “buddy feature” again more on this in a little while.  That way one can do one side of the store, while the other is shopping the second side and they meet at the self check out in half the time.

So that brings us to actually shopping with the lists.  Once you are ready to shop, you click the “shop” button on the upper right hand side of the screen.  A list of just the things you are purchasing that day will come up on the screen.  If you have previously entered the cost per item and that particular store's tax rate it will tell you what the expected cost of the shopping trip will be. If you are using Dave Ramsey’s envelope system and paying cash for your groceries this is a very handy feature in deed.  It will also tell you the coupons you have entered into the file .

If you want to have someone else do your shopping you can send them the list by clicking on the button in the lower left corner and then choosing either “send to buddy” or “share list” on the next screen. 

Send to buddy, means you send it to someone you have preset to receive the list and they have the ap on their phone as well.  By sending the list this way they will receive all your notes and info you have entered.

Share list has several options. Blue tooth, email, gmail, google:, messaging, social hub or Wi-Fi direct.  These options do not include your notes.

Back on the send to list that you choose send list from you can also choose from load list, clear list, save list, import list, reprice list, or move to new list (especially handy if you’ve decided to wait until another day or a different store to purchase an item.

The Buddy or  you will see on the new screen each item will have a small square next to the quantity you are buying and you tick that square off when you have added it to your cart.  If you find the item has changed price you can edit your list as you go along too. The total of what you have actually in your cart will be available as well.  This can help control impulse purchasing big time.

My husband likes to compare our total to the one at the register because it will often help him catch inconsistencies in pricing or remind him to stay true to the list.

Once you are home you aren’t finished with this list, because with a click of the “stock” button in the upper right side you can add the items you just purchased to your inventory!  How great is that?  It will also update your file on costs for you automatically if you have changed any while shopping, if you want it to.

That brings us to INVENTORY:

This is a dream come true feature for me.  Using either the keyboard function of your phone or the scanning as described above you can create an inventory of everything in your home. Even more importantly once you’ve put an item in from either the shopping list feature or the inventory feature it is available for all features on this ap.  No double entry.

Scanning is of course my favorite feature of the items because it fills in most of the boxes for me on this feature and there are a lot of boxes:

UPC, Category, Name, Brand, Primary Equivalent Products (substitutes), Size, unit/pkg, by weight, taxable, reorder below, inventory location, add inventory, inventory date expires, notes, default price, deposit, bulk split, perishable.  In the last purchase it has the store, date, quantity price, a place to list the stores.  There is also a place to list your price comparisons for up to 12 stores
If you are entering home preserved items you will need to enter the items manually using your smart phone keyboard.

Of course it is up to you to update your inventory when you remove something from it.  I handle this in two ways.  1) if it is me removing the item from use I do it as I pull the item out to use in that day’s meals.  2) I keep a clip board the two men can write on in my pantry.  When they simply make note they’ve done so.


Obviously this is for creating your weekly menus. You can plan out for up to six months at a time.  This works well for me because as those of you who follow my blogs know I am working on creating a year’s worth of menus. ( NOTE: sorry it's taking so long, to get the posts up, life has been busy.)  I’ve been developing these menus in Master Cook Deluxe and was hoping I could important those menus and recipes directly into this ap with the click of a button.  So far I’ve not found a way to do that, but give me time.  I will.

Having your recipes already in the Grocery Tracker actually makes the planning easier because while filling out your week’s menu you can click on the recipes to add them to your menu plan automatically.
This is as close as I have found so far as to directly importing my meal plans into this ap.

RECIPES: This feature works just like the features of just about every recipe/cookbook program or ap I’ve seen.  You fill in the various blocks of the recipe just as you do any other program. 

You can import recipes into Grocery Tracker in any number of ways.  I’ve not worked with this feature as yet, but it looks like I can either important my recipes from the Master Cook Deluxe program I use via a USB storage device.  I’ll post more on this feature in the future when I am more familiar with it. 

The thing I like about the menu planning and recipes section is I can use the inventory feature to check and see if I have the required ingredients on hand, if not add it to my grocery list and if I have entered my prices even estimate the cot of the week’s menu. 

COUPONS:  Have you ever been looking at the sales ads and tried to remember if you had a coupon for an item or not?  I know I have. 

In GT you enter your coupons by store, category, item, size, if it is stackable or you can double it, how many you have of each coupon, how many you need, the expiration date The type of coupon (ie bogo, off 1 etc) the amount, the sale price of an item, notes, the items regular price, price after coupon the total savings, the percent of savings, it will calculate the price qu7antity and sale for that quantity. Oh and did I mention it will do most or all of this by scanning the bar code on the coupon?

Then when you do your grocery list it links the coupon to the item you add to the list.  When there is a coupon available for the item you have on your list a push pin will appear on your list to let you know.

Because you can use Cell-fire coupons with GT it will either show a green push pin for a coupon that is available or a red one for a coupon you have manually entered.

So now that I’ve told you all I’ve recently learned about Grocery Tracker on my own I should mention there is a good online user’s guide

As you can see getting this all set-up may take you a bit to do, but it looks like to me that in the long run it pretty well answers all those requests I gave my dh for the ideal Menu planning/grocery shopping/inventory keeping ap. 

Jan who is currently inventorying her entire food storage system  as she cleans it up and organizes it in OK

UPDATE: Since I originally did this post I have found another feature I truly love about this ap.  VOICE COMMAND!

When entering a new item in the grocery list or inventory that you can't or don't want to use the upc option with you can tap the line for the name of the item and when the keyboard comes up there is a microphone button near the space bar.  By touching that it will activate the voice command.  You say the item and it will put it in the name line.
Repeat this action with the brand name line and the same thing will happen.  This is a truly wonderful discovery.  It saves me a lot of time each month.

Jan who says it does as long as you don't have a sore throat then some times you get amusing entries that you can easily delete in OK