Eating healthy, staying wealthy

Eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean an endless rotation of ramen noodles and boxes of macaroni-and-cheese.

“Healthy eating really doesn’t have to break the bank,” says Carol Dombrow, a registered dietitian for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “Once you know what to look for, you will realize that eating well can be inexpensive, easy and quick.”

Carol shares some tips for healthy dishes on a budget:

• Keep healthy staples, like legumes, whole-grain pasta and herbs and spices on hand.

• Always shop with a list and a plan. Download the Health Check Recipe Helper app at heartandstroke.ca/mobileapps.

• Buy seasonal vegetables and fruit and check out the frozen and canned lower sodium varieties.

• Cook healthy meals in batches and freeze.

• One-pot meals, such as stews, chili or soups are a great way to get your nutrition, while stretching your budget.

• Check your cupboards and refrigerator before going shopping.

• Check for coupons and the weekly flyers for deals on healthy items.

• Eat before you shop. This will help you avoid buying foods not on your shopping list.

For more information on healthy recipes and tips, visit healthcheck.org.

The perks of today’s baby boomer communities

Older Canadians work longer, live longer and consider retirement as their life’s reward to be relished, not as a time to slow down. They want the financial freedom to do the things they love, and they want to remain independent and active as long as they can.

The first set of Canada’s baby boomers turned 65 in 2011; by 2026, the number of seniors is expected to reach about 7.8 million. This means changes for the real estate industry as more boomers downsize and the number of residents living in active retirement or age-restricted lifestyle communities rises.

Anne and Bernie Bruneau have been living in one such lifestyle community since 2009. Country Meadows in Wasaga Beach, ON is a land lease community open to residents age 50 and older owned by Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities Inc., the largest residential and recreational land lease community operator in the country. “Land lease allows those who are retiring or downsizing the opportunity to own a home at a much reduced rate,” says Andrew Blair, Parkbridge President and CEO. “Homes in Wasaga Beach tend to cost 22% more than a home in one of our communities, which frees up more disposable income to spend or save however they wish.”

The convenience of community living is another benefit. Anne and Bernie retired in 2002 and became part of the “6 and 6” set – spending six months in Canada and six months in South Texas. After seven years, they decided it was time to put down roots and buy a permanent home so they returned to Ontario and began the search. “Our number one priority was to have a community atmosphere because we had gotten used to living that way in Texas and we enjoyed it,” says Anne. “You’ve got a built-in social life and we had no doubt that we’d make a lot of acquaintances, but even more long term friends. If you knocked on anyone’s door, most of them would say that they like community living, that they’re glad they moved.”

Residents of Country Meadows share amenities such as the clubhouse, pool and 9-hole golf course, while organized activities include every type of card game imaginable, yoga and ladies fitness, pool and snooker, shuffleboard and once or twice a month, dinner entertainment. And impromptu events are always springing up. “We have a front porch and a rear deck and the private deck activities have become fabric of the social life,” says Anne. “It’s a great way to enjoy the fruits of your labor, after the 35 or 40 years you’ve put in working hard.”

Courtesy of Newscanada

10 questions for the builder of your energy efficient home

(NC)-Do you want to know if your new home is energy-efficient? Here are some questions to ask your builder:

1. How do I know your homes are truly energy efficient?

2. Since all builders must meet the requirements of the building code, what makes your homes different from other builders’ homes?

3. How do your building techniques reflect the latest developments in housing technology?

4. What steps do you take to improve the energy efficiency of the homes you build?

5. Can you predict what my energy costs will be?

6. What makes your homes more environmentally friendly than others?

7. Do you participate in the Government’s  energy efficiency initiatives for new homes?

8. Do you affix a government-backed energy label to your home?

9. Do independent, licensed professionals inspect the energy efficiency of your homes?

10. Do you build homes that receive an EnerGuide rating of 83 or higher or its equivalent?

If you aren’t getting the answers you want, then you better think twice about your builder.

Courtesy of Newscanada

How to turn must-do home improvements into things of beauty

When it comes to home improvement, you can spend money in two basic ways: on things that make your home look better and things that make it function better. Under the first category, you’ll find all the things you want to do, like replacing narrow casement windows with a lovely bay window. Under the second, falls all the things you must do, like replacing those drafty windows with something more energy-efficient.

When “want to” and “have to” meet, they create the opportunity to make a smart buying decision – and choose an upgrade that will look good and improve the livability of your home. The key to making smart home improvement decisions is to recognize these opportunities and take full advantage of them.

Here are a few “have to” improvements that have the potential to turn into a good-looking, energy-efficient, enjoyment-enhancing “want to.”

Replacing the hot water heater.

You probably don’t care what a new hot water heater looks like sitting in your garage or basement – or wherever it resides in your home. But the right replacement water heater can help your house achieve a lovely shade of green. High energy-efficiency water heaters can help reduce energy usage, thereby trimming your energy bills and your home’s environmental impact. Solar water heating systems take the beauty a step further by using the power of the sun, collected through low-profile solar panels on the roof, to heat water – at a monthly savings that’s about 80 percent less than the cost of traditional heaters.

Getting some light in here.

Do you really need a bunch of scientific studies to tell you that a home filled with natural light just feels better? Probably not. Illuminating your home with natural light is a smart buying decision on multiple levels. First, you don’t pay to power the sun. Second, natural light delivers a host of mood-enhancing benefits. If you have the wall space, by all means add some windows.

But for rooms where a window is impossible (like a powder room) or where you don’t want to sacrifice privacy (like a master bathroom) a tubular skylight is a good alternative. Some are easy enough to install that a seasoned do-it-yourselfer could accomplish the task. They cost less than traditional skylights and bring natural light to hard-to-light areas like closets, hallways and other small spaces.

Getting some air in here.

Just as natural sun is good for your mood, ventilation can be good for your health. An Energy Star qualified venting skylight is a great way to passively vent stale, moist air from inside your home, especially from baths and kitchens. While some skylights are “fixed,” those that do open can be controlled by a remote to open when you want fresh air and close when you want to retain warmth. They can also close automatically in case of rain. In addition, they introduce free light into your home. Adding blinds – also remote-controlled – can help you better control the amount of sun a skylight admits into your home. And blinds are not just functional – you can get them in colors and patterns to complement your decor while increasing energy efficiency. Compared to other venting solutions, a skylight is a relatively low-cost, great-looking way to address ventilation issues while adding drama to a space. Log on to http://www.veluxusa.com to learn more about skylights.

When one door opens …

Beat up, weathered garage and front doors not only look bad, they can be a source of air leaks that make your heating, ventilation and cooling system work harder. Exterior doors aren’t something you buy every day, but they can have a big impact on how your home looks and on its energy efficiency. They can definitely be a smart buying decision if you opt for doors that not only look good, but are also highly rated for energy efficiency. If you’re not sure how to choose, look online, where you’ll find guides for buying garage doors and front doors.