Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Sunday, November 22, 2015

"Good and cheap: Eat Well on $4/ Day"/ payday loans/ Donate items to Syrian refugees

 Nov. 11 "Good and cheap: Eat Well on $4/ Day": I cut out this article "Advice that's good and cheap" by Lois Abraham in the Edmonton Journal on Aug. 26, 2015:

TORONTO -- Thousands of people on a tight food budget have benefited from a thesis project by a former Edmonton resident.

Leanne Brown, who earned a master's degree from New York University in food studies, wrote a cookbook targeted to low-income people and Food Stamps recipients that she made available for free.

"Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day" has now been downloaded more than 700,000 times.

But Brown, 30, wanted to get "Good and Cheap" into the hands of people who might not be have access so she launched a Kickstarter campaign to self-publish it.

Setting a goal of $10,000, she was overwhelmed when she ended up with more than $144,000, enabling her to print 40,000 copies -- which she and her husband distributed out of their tiny New York apartment.

Workman Publishing has stepped in for the expanded second edition and agreed to the "buy one, give one" model -- for every book sold, a copy is donated to a non-profit organization working with lower-income families.

"Good and Cheap" is designed to help families, students and retirees with limited funds develop cooking techniques using whole unprocessed food along with practical advice like how to stock a pantry.

People on social assistance with dependents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet have so little time.

"While everything can be cheaper when you're cooking things from scratch your options are limited because you have to do things that are very quick and sometimes you come home at the end of your second eight-hour shift and you have to deal with the kids and get everyone to bed on time," Brown says.

"It's extremely difficult sometimes to carve out really truly enough time. It's different from the middle class who say they don't have time because of piano lessons and soccer and whatever."

She provides strategies for making large quantities of tomato sauce, dumplings, chili, pulled pork or zucchini chocolate muffins on days when there might be a few extra hours. These can be eaten throughout the week or frozen.

Brown -- who won the 2015 judge's choice award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in the food and drink category -- says she loves to help people understand the reason certain techniques are used so they can make a recipe and then adapt it using what's on hand, what's on sale or what's tastiest to their palate.

Brown's master tip is to buy flexible ingredients. At the store, think of several ways something can be used with pantry items at home.

Develop a pantry of basics -- buying in bulk and on sale -- with rice and other grains, dried beans, dry pasta, lentils, canned tomatoes, dried herbs and spices, then supplement these with eggs, butter and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
"That will allow you to have great variety in your diet."

Buy a bag of potatoes as needed rather than a few loose from a bin on each shopping trip, a bunch of carrots rather than a bag of baby carrots that can be double the price, a head of lettuce instead of salad mix and two-for-one loaves of bread (put one in the freezer).

Brown focuses many recipes on vegetables.

"When you have little flexibility in your budget, meat is really expensive. It's easy to just do a lot of cheap starches, but that's not particularly well balanced."
Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can be a good alternative to fresh depending on the time of year.

Brown prefers butter for versatility and the flavour it adds during browning. It can be used in baking and as a spread. Cheap oils and margarine provide little flavour.

Compare unit prices. Generally items are less expensive when purchased in bulk.
Drink water. Most packaged drinks are overpriced, loaded with added sugar and don't fill you up the way a piece of fruit or serving of yogurt do.

Buy plain yogurt in large tubs rather than individual servings and make your favourite flavours in your kitchen where you know exactly what's going into it.
Develop strategies around leftovers. Add vegetables and meat or beans to rice, put them in a pita or scramble them with eggs.

She explains how to doctor up basic toast with Asian greens, caramelized onions and cheddar or roasted vegetables and suggests ways to transform inexpensive popcorn with spices, oils and Parmesan.

Non-profit organizations interested in being part of the donation program for "Good and Cheap" can contact Canadian distributor Thomas Allen & Son at Requests will be forwarded to Workman Publishing.

Re: “NDP government to look at new rules for payday loans,” Sept. 28':

I cut out this article "End heyday of payday loans" by Graham Wetter in the Edmonton Journal on Oct. 9, 2015:

The Alberta government is on the right track with its review of payday lending.
A 2014 report by Calgary-based community economic development group Momentum, indicated “payday lenders charge interest rates that, when annualized, top 400 per cent.” The report also identified that 35 per cent of Alberta respondents use payday lending to help pay for daily necessities, despite working on average more than 40 hours per week. The high interest rates and fees charged by payday lenders coupled with repeated use, have created a concerning cycle of unsustainable debt for many Albertans. This is not responsible lending, and Albertans deserve better.

The renewed focus on the payday lending industry by the Alberta government is a good step forward in addressing unjust lending practices that often affect a vulnerable segment of the population. Further scrutiny by the Alberta government will help raise awareness of the inequities associated with payday lending and highlight alternative financial products and services available to help Albertans break this concerning cycle.

As co-operative financial institutions, credit unions believe we have a responsibility to provide Albertans with sensible alternatives to payday lending. For instance, Momentum has partnered with First Calgary Financial to offer the “Cash Crunch Micro Loan.” These micro-loans are intended to assist individual consumers break the payday lending debt cycle by offering flexible terms and fair interest rates. On a payday loan of $1,000 rolled over for 12 months, a customer can expect to pay annualized interest of almost 600 per cent, or nearly $6,000. In comparison, a First Calgary Financial micro loan of $1,000 would result in approximately $66 in interest annually. Albertans have far better lending options at their disposal than payday loans.

Offering alternative products to payday lending is only one part of the solution. Financial literacy is a key component in raising consumer awareness of the risks of payday lending. Credit unions believe financial institutions play an important role in ensuring Albertans are well-equipped to make informed financial decisions.

In-school programs such as Dollars with Sense, a collaboration between Servus Credit Union and Junior Achievement, Your Money’s Worth, promoted by Rocky Credit Union, and “real world economics’ partnerships with local schools and service organizations facilitated by Lakeland Credit Union, are a few examples of financial literacy initiatives sponsored by Alberta credit unions. Progress is being made on promoting financial literacy within the province, but much work still remains to further educate Albertans about predatory lending practices such as payday lending.

In Alberta’s current economic downturn, many families may regrettably find themselves in need of financial assistance. Therefore, it is important that Albertans understand their options and are aware that payday lending carries a high risk of further financial hardship, particularly when employment opportunities are scarce. Albertans do not have to resort to payday lending — we are fortunate to have access to a number of financial service providers in our province that offer better solutions toward secure financial well-being.

A recommendation for Albertans who may be considering a payday loan is to first seek financial advice from a certified professional. Credit union financial advisers are available to assist individuals that may be facing difficult times and will work with them to develop debt repayment strategies and savings plans. Tools for prudent financial planning and debt management advice are important to ensuring Albertans avoid the pitfalls of high-interest payday loans.

Credit unions believe the Alberta government’s concerns with payday lenders are well founded, and we applaud the government’s desire to review payday lending industry business practices in our province. Collaboration between government, community organizations, and mainstream financial services providers, such as credit unions, can lead to the development of innovative public policy solutions that will in turn, reduce Albertans’ reliance on payday lending.

Nov. 20 Donate items to Syrian refugees: I already put this on my Facebook status update:

If you want to help Syrian refugees in Edmonton, you can donate clothes and household items to St. Vincent de Paul Society. Call 780-471-5577 for pick up.


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