13903388778_5b429faf5c.jpgThere's something fun and magical about the holiday season that serves as a welcome break from the usual grind. The downside, however, is that once the holidays are over, it's back to reality. That means hitting the gym again, rethinking your budget and, if you're looking for work, embarking on an aggressive job search.

While hiring tends to slow down significantly during the holiday season, once the new year kicks in, companies tend to start looking for new employees. In fact, January is one of the biggest hiring months across major businesses and industries.

The reason is simple: Many companies' hiring budgets refresh once the new year kicks in. That, coupled with new projects and initiatives, means January is a great time to capitalize on job opportunities. Here's how:

Have your resume and cover letters ready to go by the start of the new year. You may prefer to focus more on the festivities than tweaking your resume and writing cover letters, but the key is to be ready to go come the start of January so that you can jump on those new job postings. While you'll probably have to tailor your cover letters to the specific opportunities you're applying for, you can start by putting together some strong basic letters and adjusting their contents accordingly as you go.

Update your LinkedIn profile. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, create one immediately. And if you do have one, make sure it's as up-to-date as your resume. According to a 2014 study by Jobvite, LinkedIn is the top social network used by recruiters to find job candidates, so be sure to take advantage by keeping your profile current.

Look for jobs daily. January is when the hiring frenzy tends to get into full swing, which means you're likely to see new jobs posted every single day. If you're serious about snagging one, commit to searching on a constant basis. This means checking general career sites like Indeed.com and Monster.com, plus reviewing the career pages for the companies you're most interested in working for.

Network like crazy. Many companies encourage employees to refer qualified candidates for open roles. If you're serious about landing a new job, now's the time to reach out to your contacts and put the word out that you're available for hire. Don't be afraid to exhaust your social and professional networks, as the more people you communicate with, the more opportunities you're likely to find.

Check in with recruiters. Remember that headhunter you met with a couple of months ago? Now's the perfect time to touch base. Most recruiters are eager to start the year off on a strong note, which means getting candidates placed right off the bat.

Read up on your dream companies. You know that company you always dreamed of working at? Now's the time to research it thoroughly. After all, you never know when a job might get posted, and you'll increase your chances of getting hired if you approach the interview process already prepared.

Of course, just because January tends to bring more job openings doesn't mean you'll find one right away, so don't get discouraged if you're still looking come month's end. Remember, too, that companies need time to review and respond to all the resumes they get, so while it's best to be prepared, you may be looking at one of those "hurry up and wait" situations. You may need to strike that ideal balance between being patient and persistent, but with any luck, you'll land the perfect job early on to start 2016 off right.

Photo by Flazingo Photos via cc

4230510165_9c986dea54.jpgThe holidays are an exciting time of year. The good food and even better company make the anticipation for the holiday season all the more worthwhile. That is, until you open your wallet.

The pain of financing gifts for your family and friends sure can put a damper on your holiday cheer more than your uncle's bad jokes. But, there is a way to enjoy the holidays and keep your bank account intact (as for your uncle's jokes, well, you're on your own).

Make a Plan
The key to controlling your spending this year is to make a plan. Determine how many people you will be buying gifts for and the amount you are willing to spend on each person. Keeping track of people and prices will help you to keep your budget on track.

Start before the Snow Falls
To avoid holiday prices -- and a mad dash to get gifts on time -- start planning before the holiday season rolls around. Think of potential gifts for your loved ones all year round to keep ahead of the game and to snag sweet deals.

Try Your Hand at Homemade
The best gifts are the ones that take time to piece together. What better way to show your love for someone than to make them a gift from scratch? Tie blankets, mason-jar goodies and other knickknacks can easily be turned into one-of-a-kind gifts that won't leave you scrounging for this month's rent.

Participate in a Gift Exchange
Secret Santa and White Elephant gift exchanges are around for a reason. It's the perfect way to still give (and, let's be honest, receive) gifts without having to buy for multiple people. Plan a gift exchange with a group of friends or family so you only have to buy for a few people. To save even more, set a dollar amount everyone must stay under. You save money and get a holiday treat. Everyone wins.

Don't Go Overboard
It's easy to feel like you need to purchase multiple gifts for people -- but you don't. Take your time, do your research and give one gift that really suits the person. No one likes to receive five mindless gifts. Do your homework and hit your loved ones with a thoughtful gift that they'll be sure to love.

It's the Most Wonderful Time to Say No
So all of your friends want to exchange gifts this year, and a group of coworkers would lik to swap gifts for the holidays, too. News flash: You don't need to buy gifts for everyone in your life. Suggest starting a holiday tradition of doing something fun -- like checking out a movie your group has been dying to see or making dinner plans at that new restaurant downtown instead of exchanging gifts. That way, you can spend quality time with the people you care about without the sting of overspending.

Remember the True Meaning of the Holidays
If, despite your best penny-pinching tactics, you still find yourself strapped for cash, just remember the real meaning of the holidays is to spend time with family and friends -- not to give and receive presents. If you just can't fork out the money this year, be honest with yourself and with your loved ones -- you'll feel better and they'll understand. Besides, we all know that it's truly the thought that counts.

Photo by jayneandd via cc

14222252894_16e2958be6.jpgThere's a crisis brewing in our country, and many of us are caught up in the thick of it. Students these days are borrowing more money than ever in their quest for higher education. The latest data reveals that 69 percent of 2014 graduates took out loans in order to attend college. Of those who borrowed, the average take-home debt pile was $28,950, up two percent from the previous year.

There are so, so many problems with these statistics. For starters, those who borrowed money for college didn't just turn to federal loans, which at least come with a number of flexible repayment programs. Many students had no choice but to borrow money from private lenders to attend college -- a good 17 percent of 2014 graduates, in fact.

It's Going to Cost You
The problem with private loans is that they tend to come with higher interest rates and far less flexibility. Federal loans, by contrast, allow borrowers some wiggle room -- especially when outstanding student debt represents a ridiculously large chunk of their income. There are also forgiveness programs for federal loans. Granted, you need to meet specific criteria to qualify, but if you're a teacher in an underserved district, for example, you may be eligible to have your federal loan balance forgiven. Similarly, if you work in the public service field, you may able to wipe out your loan balance once you've made a certain number of payments.

Those who borrow money from private lenders aren't quite as lucky. Plus, when you take out private loans, there's a good chance you'll wind up with a higher interest rate than you would with a federal loan, thus dragging out the repayment process even further.

Here's the other really disturbing piece of the puzzle: Students these days are borrowing over 50 percent more than they were 10 years ago. Those who graduated college in 2004 came away with an average outstanding student loan balance of $18,550, compared to $28,950 for last year's class. Believe it or not, that translates into double the rate of inflation.

Campaign Strategies for Student Debt
The problem is so bad that student debt is actually taking a lead role in presidential campaigns. With Americans owing a cumulative $1.2 trillion in student debt, today's leading candidates are taking a strong stance on student debt.

Hillary Clinton believes that the government needs to intervene before the crisis gets worse. If elected, Clinton would pledge $350 billion over a 10-year period to make college more affordable. Under her plan, the federal government would provide grants to states offering free tuition at two-year community colleges, as well as those pledging to help students attend four-year colleges without having to take on debt.

Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, introduced a bill earlier in the year that would make public colleges free for students. Under his bill, the federal government would cover the majority of tuition costs, leaving individual states to pay the rest. The federal portion would be covered through tax increases on investment firms.

Republican Chris Christie wants to reform the student loan system, particularly in regard to low-income borrowers. He also wants colleges to be held more accountable for their rising costs. And while Donald Trump is no stranger to making money, he believes that the government should not be profiting off of college students who have no choice but to take out federal loans.

Either way, until someone steps in or this crazy college bubble bursts, next year's students are going to have a very tough decision to make: Forego their dream schools, or prepare for many years of nagging loan payments. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

Photo by COD Newsroom via cc

Now that you've decided to start searching for graduate programs and have possibly found a few you'd like to apply to, you may have noticed that the application process is a little daunting. Each university has specific expectations and requirements, so it's important to follow the right steps when submitting your applications.

Remember these tips as you dive into this exciting process:

Know Who the Program Is Looking for
Be sure to research each universities program requirements before you submit an application. For example, Clemson University clearly states its graduate admission requirements like grade point average, experience and test scores. But requirements often range past the basic list of essentials. You'll want to tailor your application materials to highlight some of the program's main objectives, values and culture, along with how you feel the program is the right fit for you.

Set an Application Budget
Let's face it, applying to graduate school is expensive. By setting a budget, you can compare application fees and the travel costs for visits and interviews. You can even start planning ahead for potential moving costs if you know that graduate school will take you out of your current area.

Seek Professional References
Weeks prior to submitting your application, seek out professional references to write you a positive recommendation. While your grandma and best friend would probably have a laundry list of nice things to say about you, it's now time to take a look at key people you've worked closely with throughout your prior experiences. This could be an organization advisor, employer, professor or professional mentor. Provide them with the basic information on your program, a resume of your experience and a copy of your personal statement. Check out this article about how, when and who to ask for a recommendation letter. Just don't forget to send a thank you note to your recommender because as much as they would love to talk about how great of employee or student you are, they're probably taking time out of their day to do so.

Organize Your Materials
Each school will require a different set of materials for you to submit along with your application. Transcripts, resumes, test scores, recommendation letters and a personal statement are common with most programs. This application is going to contain all of the information that will either get you into the program, or not. Don't let typos or silly mistakes affect your admission chances. Have someone else proofread each piece you submit to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors, and submit everything at once so you don't run the risk of leaving anything out. Since most applications are now submitted online, you shouldn't have to worry about any postage costs.

Ace Your Interview
Interviewing for graduate school is not like an interview for your average job. How you articulate your educational background and transferrable skills is essential. You're choosing to take the next step with a new degree, so show passion for why you've chosen this university as an important step in your life. USA Today notes some additional interview-acing tips that include remembering that you’re always being interviewed. From the moment you step foot on campus, each student, faculty member and university employee you interact with could end up having a say on whether you're in or out. Stay professional, calm and collected during your visit, and try to see if you can picture yourself succeeding at this university.

If you organize well and go in with a plan and confidence, applying to graduate school can become the first step toward achieving those life-long dreams.

Photo by Stewart Black via cc


6147952584_7e2fb3ce69.jpgOne of the best parts of traveling is getting to experience all sorts of new cuisine. This especially holds true if you're visiting a city known for its fine dining and unique culinary offerings. Here's the downside though: Eating out is expensive, and if you blow too much of your travel budget on meals, it can limit your ability to do other things while you're away or, worse yet, leave you with a massive credit card bill you can't pay once you get home.

Here are some tips for keeping your food costs to a minimum:

Make Your Own Meals
It may be tempting to treat yourself to nightly restaurant meals, but most restaurants are said to charge as much as a 300 percent markup, which means you'll almost always pay more to eat out as opposed to cooking at home. If you rent an apartment, house or cabin with a kitchen instead of a hotel room on your next trip, you can prepare some of your own meals to avoid dining out every night. As an added bonus, there's a good chance your rental will be cheaper than a hotel, so you'll save money there too.

Find a Hotel Room That Includes a Mini Fridge and Microwave
If you can't find a rental or would just rather stay at a hotel for convenience purposes, try to find a room equipped with a small refrigerator and microwave. This way, you have the option of storing and reheating restaurant leftovers instead of throwing them away and paying for full meals the following day.

Book a Room Where Breakfast Is Included
Some hotels offer free breakfast as part of your nightly room rate. However, don't make the mistake of overpaying for the convenience of having breakfast on-site. When you shop around for hotels, compare the rates of those that do and do not serve breakfast to see where the difference lies. If you find that you can book a room for $100 without breakfast versus $120 with breakfast, it pays to go with the cheaper room and buy your own no-frills breakfast for under $5. But if you find that the cost to have breakfast included is only a few dollars more, it might pay to add that $5 to your nightly rate, fill up on a good meal and save money by not needing such a heavy lunch.

Try Street Food
Though food trucks and carts are more ubiquitous in some cities than others, many offer quality meals at affordable prices. When you buy your food on the street instead of at a restaurant, you don't have to worry about tipping a waiter, and the cost of your meal will most likely be less to begin with.

Pack Your Own Snacks
It's natural to get hungry when you're out and about doing awesome touristy things, but buying snacks on the fly from newsstands or corner shops can cost you. Instead, stash some energy bars or trail mix in your suitcase before you leave, and dig into your supply as needed while you're away.

Look Into Online Restaurant Certificates
Sites like restaurant.com allow you to purchase certificates to local eateries at a discount. Though these certificates do come with certain restrictions, if you're visiting a new city, it pays to see what kind of deals you can snag.

Unless you're taking a truly food-centric vacation, there's no need to spend tons of money on meals while you're traveling. Besides, the less you spend on food during your next trip, the sooner you'll be able to take another one.

Photo by John via cc.

2253126009_5d2ef41758.jpgAre you thinking about continuing your education? About halfway through my undergraduate career, I decided that yes, I did want to continue on the path to graduate school after talking with my mentors and peers. After I finish up my undergraduate work, I will begin to pursue a master's degree in higher education administration with the goal of eventually becoming a university administrator.

But finding the right graduate program isn't always an easy task. In order to ease the process, having several resources and strategies available to you can help to narrow down your options.

Here are a few tips to jump-start your search:

Do Your Research
Regardless of the degree you're seeking, it's important to research several aspects of the programs and universities you're looking into since this is where you'll be living for the next few years. Websites like gradschools.com and Peterson's link prospective students to programs based on their preferences in university size, program curriculum and professional development opportunities.

When I search for graduate programs in higher education administration, I look to the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) graduate program directory or the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) directory of graduate programs. If you're able to find a professional association within your field, utilize the resources they have available to find the right fit.

Stay Organized
When reaserching different programs, you'll quickly realize there's an abundance of information across many platforms. With so many moving parts to keep track of, it's important to stay organized. Creating a spreadsheet with all of the necessary information about your favorite schools will help you keep it all in one place. My spreadsheet includes application due dates, fees, special requirements (such as necessary Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores) and each program's website. If you're able to keep this updated throughout your search, you won't lose track of important dates and will have an easier time navigating through the process.

Create Your Own Timeline
Try not to let the many dates and deadlines associated with applying to grad school scare you. When you create your own application timeline, pick a date to narrow your search down to your top five or six institutions. Set similar goals for completing your GRE, finishing your resume and personal statements and acquiring letters of recommendation. Iit's also important to look ahead to potential interview dates, as they may overlap between schools.

Ask Questions
Grad school may only take up a few years of your life so try to make it a unique adventure. Ask specific questions about the culture of the community within the program and the university itself. Learn about the local area and see what's going on in the areas surrounding the campus. Seek out research opportunities that the university may offer, and take special notice of any available assistantships. Familiarizing yourself with the program will help not only help with your decision-making process, but can help prepare you for your interview, too.

Connect With the Right People
Find current grads, faculty and alumni to discuss their experiences. Are there unique opportunities that they've had? What tips do they have for your application process? Have phone conversations with program directors to introduce yourself and truly get to know the ins and outs of the program. I've had success using social networks like Twitter and the Future Student Affairs Grad Students Facebook group to build my network.

Getting started with your grad school search doesn't have to be hard. Stay on track while exploring all of the available opportunities by using organizational tools. If you're confident grad school is right for you, then it's time to get started on your networking and research.

Photo by Jeff Ozvold via cc.

6510934443_8bd2942b79.jpgLet's be real: One of the best perks of getting married is the copious amount of gifts you'll receive to mark the occasion. And while there's nothing like cold, hard cash in your pocket, some people prefer to shower their friends and loved ones with non-monetary gifts. It's for this reason that wedding registries have become so popular in recent years. Rather than sit back and see what creative (think: useless) gifts their friends and loved ones can come up with, most couples instead opt to register at well-known retailers like Macy's and Bed Bath & Beyond so that they can essentially choose their own gifts.

If you've never registered for wedding gifts before, it goes something like this: You and your soon-to-be spouse arrive at the store of your choice, at which point you're given a "must have" checklist that's 17 pages long and a nifty hand-held scanner that's super fun to use. You're then free to roam the aisles looking for the things you'd like other people to buy for you. When you see something you like, you point your little device in its direction and scan its barcode to your registry.

Now let's go back to that "must have" list for a second. Any store you go to will try to sell you on the fact that you do, in fact, need 472 distinct items in order to build a life together as a couple. Don't believe that for a second. Yes, you probably do need some basic cookware, and there's nothing wrong with trading in your worn, ratty bath towels for a fluffy new set. But there are certain popular registry items you almost certainly don't need, such as:

Fine China
Yes, it's elegant and lovely to look at, but at $100 or more a plate, you could practically trade in that set of dishes for a down payment on your first home. Besides, you know the rule with china: The second you use it, something will break, whereas your $3 bargain-store plates from college will last till you're old and gray.

An Oversized Stand Mixer
Who wouldn't want a powerful, colorful stand mixer? They're handy and fun to look at. But unless you're truly an avid baker, you probably don't need one. At $350 or more a pop, you can buy a dozen or so kitchen gadgets that you're far more likely to use.

A Fancy Coffee or Espresso Machine
There's nothing like waking up to the smell of brewed coffee, but you can easily find a quality coffee maker for $100 or less. There's no need to make someone spend upward of $250 on a fancier model.

An Expensive Duvet Cover
Here's the deal: Fancy duvet covers are a scam. They almost always need to be dry-cleaned, and for $300 or more, you'd think they'd at least come with a blanket. Register for a cozy comforter instead.

That Beautiful but Ridiculously Pricey Crystal Vase
Rest assured: The beautiful flowers your spouse buys you twice a year will look just as pretty in a regular vase. And this way you won't want to cry if you accidentally knock that vase over and break it.

Remember, the more non-essential items you put on your registry, the more you'll distract your would-be gift givers from the things you really do need. When building your registry, pretend that it's your own money you're spending, and from there, see which items are really worth asking for. You may be surprised at how little you need to make your new home complete.

Photo by asenat29 via cc


As I was purchasing my $5 Starbucks coffee at the end of my junior year of college, it hit me: After graduation, I'd be in $10,000 worth of debt. I still didn't know what kind of job I'd have, or how long it would take me to find one. More importantly, I needed to find a way to pay off my debt before the interest started accruing.

I managed to land a great job after college. But in order to save some money, I decided to take on the ultimate challenge of moving in with my parents for the summer.

While it wasn't always easy to live at home, I was determined to pay off my student loans before the grace period ended. I had six months to make it happen, and here's how I did it:

Save Half Your Paycheck
In 2014, the median income of a college grad with a bachelor's degree was $45,370, according to the National Associate of Colleges and Employers. I fell within the 25th percentile, earning just under the average. Even though I made a little less than my peers, I was still able to save my goal amount by stashing at least half of my paychecks (made possible by my parents' hospitality). If my paycheck was $1,300, I would save $1,000 and the $300 would go toward my bills. My goal each month was to save $2,000. After five months, I'd saved $10,000 and was able to pay off my loans before my first bill was due.

Find Free Hobbies
You might think this made for a pretty mundane summer, but I found fun by trying hobbies that were free. I started yoga and practiced Pilates from the comfort of my home. And a library card gave me the freedom to read all summer long without costing a dime.

As for nights out with friends, try to limit yourself to specials and deals. This will save you from spending unnecessary cash on over-priced entrees.

Start Saving in College
I didn't have a decent college job until my last semester of college, but I knew plenty of people who worked through college to pay off their loans. A friend of mine made $12,000 in one summer by waitressing at an upscale steakhouse. She sacrificed a social life, but my friend and others like her are proof that it can be done while in school.

Get a Second Job
This sounds crazy, but maybe you landed an internship after college, or your loans are more than $10,000 (the average student loan debt is upwards of $30,000), and you need easy money. Try freelance writing, graphic design work or tutor kids on your favorite subjects after school. For a job that allows more flexibility, try creating a Care.com account. You'll be surprised at the amount of people located near you who are looking for a dog-sitter or someone to help tidy up their house.

Existing Options for Recent and Future Graduates
Most grace periods last between six to 12 months after graduation, and according to StudentLoanBorrowerAssistance.org, payments can be postponed if a borrower qualifies. Options like the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan determines your student loan payment by looking at what you actually earn and can afford to pay, which can be beneficial if you find yourself living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Whatever your situation may be, it's possible to climb out of debt, but the best advice I can give is to be proactive and think ahead. Chances are you won't need to defer your loan payments and you might even be able to make one big payment before the first bill is due.

Photo 401(k) 2012 by cc.

20977991858_bb429acfc4.jpgYou'd think it would be the other way around, but these days, some millennials are learning the hard way that it's up to them to school their parents on the importance of saving for retirement. While those who are new to the working world are used to the idea of putting money into a 401(k), that's not necessarily the case for our parents.

Back when most of our folks entered the workforce, many companies offered pensions (though plenty didn't) provided that you stayed on board for a certain number of years. But when the economy tanked in 2008, many long-term employees our parents' age lost their jobs and a portion of their retirement benefits.

The promise of Social Security benefits has also been a factor in folks approaching retirement neglecting to save on their own. While it's true that Social Security probably won't run out in the near future, even the maximum benefit is not enough for most people to live on -- hence the need for a separate source of income during retirement.

Unfortunately, those approaching the end of their working years don't seem to be up to speed on the importance of putting money aside for retirement. According to a recent Bankrate poll, a whopping 36 percent of Americans are neglecting to save for retirement, and of those surveyed, over 25 percent of those aged 50 to 64 have yet to start putting money into retirement accounts. Furthermore, the average American aged 55 to 64 has just $103,000 saved up for retirement -- which may seem like a lot, but it's not.

If you're worried about your parents' financial health in retirement, it's time to sit them down for a talk. Here's how to do it:

Ease into the conversation. Money can be an awkward thing for parents to discuss with their children. Rather than catch them off guard, give them a heads-up about the pending conversation.

Ask questions, but don't press for specifics. Your parents may not want to reveal how much they do or don't have saved for retirement. You don't need to talk numbers, but you can -- and should -- try to get a sense of whether they're actually saving enough.

Bring data to make your case. If you want your parents to take retirement savings seriously, you'll need to present them with some numbers to convey the importance of ramping up their 401(k) or IRA contributions. For example, a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2014 will need $220,000 on average to cover medical expenses throughout retirement. Do some research to help your parents see the light.

Offer to help. If your parents aren't financially savvy and you know a thing or two about investing, it never hurts to give them some guidance. Perhaps their portfolio isn't properly balanced; or maybe they're missing out on key tax savings. Don't be afraid to show off your knowledge if it can work to their benefit.

Be respectful. Just as you didn't like it when your parents tried setting curfews or enforcing house rules, so too will your parents not enjoy being told what to do. When you have the talk, be courteous -- but also be realistic.

When all else fails, play the guilt card. If your parents really aren't taking their retirement savings seriously, play up the extent to which you're worried about them. Tell them it keeps you up at night. That'll get them.

No matter what approach you take, if you're concerned about your parents' lack of retirement savings, don't put off that conversation. The sooner you get involved, the more time they'll have to get back on track.

Photo by Nancy via cc

890670192_a700b694f0.jpgFor busy on-the-go workers, students and parents, fresh and affordable produce can be difficult to come by. However, you can now get a box full of delicious goodies delivered straight to your door by utilizing what's known as a "farm-box subscription." Farm-box subscriptions offer consumers another way to get their fruits and veggies that doesn't involve going to the grocery store. Unlike Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), which (usually) require an upfront fee of a couple hundred dollars for 20 weeks of food, farm boxes are a pay-as-you-go weekly subscription that doesn't have to be from one particular farm, though sometimes they are, and subscriptions can be stopped at any time.

When I lived in Phoenix, I subscribed to the Sunizona Family Farms box (though there are several in the area). The prices for different-sized boxes were $15 for a petite box (for up to two people), $22 for a small box (up to four people) and $30 for a large box (up to six people). The standard box's contents varied based on availability and season, but custom boxes were offered as well if there was something someone was specifically craving.

What's In the Box?

Currently, the farm box I subscribe to is through Door-to-Door Organics in the Chicago area. Like the Sunizona farm box, Door-to-Door offers a variety of boxes in order to meet your families' specific needs. The bitty box starts at $26.99, the small box at $35.99 and so on. Deliveries are either weekly or every two weeks, they can be put on hold if you go out of town and you can chose your delivery days. In addition to produce, Door-to-Door has other products such as baked goods, meat and fish. You can also find non-GMO and local foods through their website, too.

A recent box I received contained two avocados ($3 each), lettuce ($3), kale ($3), a zucchini squash ($3), a green bell pepper ($3), a yellow squash ($3), a red bell pepper ($3) and three bananas ($3). Note: Prices aren't listed individually, so I divided $27.60 by each type of item. Each avocado was listed separately in the order.

Curious, I went to my local Whole Foods to compare prices. Avocados were four for $5 (on sale), lettuce was $2.99, kale was $2.99, zucchini and squash were each $1.99 per pound, green bell peppers were $1.79 per pound, red bell peppers were $1.49 per pound and bananas were .77 cents per pound. Although the grocery-store produce was less expensive, the items weren't necessarily local like five of my farm-box items were. Plus, farm boxes don't charge for delivery, so you're saving on gas and time.

Other Things to Consider:

  • You should be prepared to cook at home more in order to use all your veggies. Start with a box that is smaller than you think you'll need to test whether you actually can finish the produce before the next box arrives.
  • Consider whether you want a standard box or customizable one. A standard box might bring you veggies you aren't familiar with and might not know what to do with -- for the adventurous home chef!
  • You'll likely still have to go to the grocery store to get things not available in a farm box, or you might select a company that offers more than produce.
  • There are often incentives to signing up, like receiving $10 off your first box, or even getting one free.

If you'd like to add more fresh produce to your meals, search for farm-box subscriptions in your area, or at sites like Serious Eats, which provides a run-down of the various services provided by state.

Photo by thebittenword.com via cc