Tips for Decorating Your Dorm Room

College Dorm room

College is back in session. Follow these tips to help decorate your college dorm room on a budget. (photo credit:

There is no question that college is more expensive than ever and that goes for tuition, room, board, books…..and decorating dorm rooms.  For the parents of today’s college freshman, college dorm décor meant buying special extra long sheets and a couple of milk crates to make their dorm room functional and maybe a poster or two to make it feel like home.  This is a far cry from the $900+ many college students are now spending to do up their dorm room according to Business Insider.

But you don’t need to go to these lengths to create a comfortable, cozy home away from home.   There is simply no reason to break the bank in order to get all the latest gadgets and ‘must-have’ items from that list you found on the internet.   With some thrifty thinking and a little creativity, you can get everything needed without having to take out another student loan.


  1. Know What You Can and Can’t Have

This is probably the most important cost saving strategy as there isn’t any point in purchasing something that won’t actually be able to be used, hung, or kept in the dorm room.  Colleges and universities have different rules about what students can and cannot have in their rooms so make sure you check the rules for the specific college being attended.  Do this as part of making the list recommended in #2 below.


  1. Make a List

This is probably the second most important strategy you can employ to stretch your dorm decorating dollars.  Start by taking any list you can find on the college’s website and then add anything else that is specific to you or your student’s needs.  Then go back over the list to make sure you haven’t included anything that isn’t allowed in the room.  Now go back over the list again and question every single item on the list to make sure it is necessary and that it will enhance the college environment.  Remember, dorm rooms are small and space will be at a premium, so less is going to be better.


  1. Shop the Sales

When you are ready to start shopping, look for the best price for each item on your list.  This may mean purchasing things online instead of buying them from local retailers.  If the college is far away, you may be able to save money by shipping online purchases directly to the school rather than paying to ship them to your home and then paying to transport them to the college.


  1. Seek Out Second Hand Stuff

There is no reason that you need to purchase new items when there is a good chance you can find most of what you need from second hand shops or on Craigslist.  Seek out second-hand options whenever possible to stretch your decorating dollars as far as they will go.


  1. Split the Cost

If you will be sharing space with a roommate, make arrangements ahead of time to decrease costs by splitting the expense of items you will both use like a mini-fridge or a television.


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Gastronomic Game Changer: Arizona Restaurant Week Returns Sept. 19-28

AZ restaurant week

Diners Encouraged to Experience all Arizona Has to Offer During 10 Nights of Exceptional Local Eats

Arizona Restaurant Week (ARW) will return this fall with 10 nights of incredible edibles, commencing for the first time on a Friday night. Arizona Restaurant Week, Fall Edition will be held Friday, September 19 through Sunday, September 28.

During Fall ARW, over 150 Phoenix restaurants will offer specialty prix-fixe dinner menus for $33 and $44 per person, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity unless otherwise noted.

“Arizonans can be proud of the wide expansion of local dining options and culinary genius the state has experienced during the past few years,” said Arizona Restaurant Association President and CEO Steve Chucri. “Poised for continued growth, Arizona Restaurants will gross sales just under 11 billion dollars, outpacing the country in new jobs, and employing over 265,000 people this year.”

Restaurant Week gives a twice-annual boost to these numbers as foodies get set to spend their dollars and celebrate the craft that is booming in our state.

Social Media will play an extra role this season, as diners will curate their own dining experiences through interactive promotions, contests and more.

Look for a special Instagram scavenger hunt and contest in partnership with Buick that will encourage diners to dine out at as many local places as possible and to capture their adventures using #TourARW.

This year Arizona favorites like Rusconi’s American Kitchen, Posh and Roaring Fork will join newcomers like Paul Martin’s, Southern Rail and Barrio Queen for this celebrated line up to savor. A full list of participating restaurants and menus will be featured here with an easy-to-use interface for searching for a favorite local chef, type of cuisine or restaurant wish list.

With a local food culture rich in tradition, James Beard Award-winning chefs, and the best cities in the West, Arizona is rich with home-grown flavors, top chefs, winemakers, authors, storytellers and food enthusiasts.

“Arizona’s food scene is thriving, thanks in no small part to trailblazing culinary chefs, mixologists, entrepreneurs, and restaurateurs who make certain that it never gets stale,” said Chucri.

Don’t miss a bite: check the website often as new restaurants and menus will be added as they become available. Until then, find out all the delectable details by following Arizona Restaurant Week (ARW) on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

About Arizona Restaurant Week: 

The most edible time of the year, Arizona Restaurant Week, is making its return Friday, September 19- Sunday, September 28, sending diners on a ten-day tasting tour of the state. Participating restaurants are not only known for their exceptional cuisine, they also spare no expense to give diners an extraordinary culinary experience. Arizona Restaurant Week’s goal is to position Arizona as one of the top culinary destinations in the nation by increasing awareness of the more than 8,500 dining opportunities available as well as stimulate business and revenue for restaurants throughout the state. Arizona Restaurant Week is produced by the Arizona Restaurant Association.



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Back to School on a Budget

back to school budget

Follow these budget saving tips for your back to school shopping (photo credit:

While many parents look forward to the start of the school year because it means getting back to a manageable routine, few get excited about the expenses that accompany back to school season.  Many families simply don’t have hundreds of extra dollars available for a new back to school school wardrobe and a stock of cool new school supplies.  But what parent doesn’t want the best for their child?  These tips can help you make the most of your back to school spending so that your child has everything they need to succeed without having to break the bank.

Back to School Clothes

While there is this idea that every child needs a bunch of new clothes in order to start the new school year, this may be an unhelpful hold over from our ancestors who only had two or three sets of clothes to their name.  Back then, children often did need some new clothes for school because last year’s clothes no longer fit or were worn out.

These days, most kids have more clothes than they actually need and back to school clothes shopping is a habit not a necessity.  To cut back on these costs, start by determining what, if anything, your child actually needs and go from there.  Some years they may have experienced a growth spurt that requires the purchase of all new pants, but most of the time you are likely to find they only need one or two things.  Stick to what they actually need plus one new outfit for the first day of school and save the money you would have spent on clothes for other expenses.

If your child does need new clothes, wait until the end of the back to school season, around late September or early August to shop when prices are lower.

Back to School Supplies

The other big budget item when it comes to heading back to school is school supplies.  Those mandatory supply lists can be long and costly but there are some things you can do to keep costs down while making sure your child has the supplies they need to succeed.

  1. Make a List

Before you head to the store, make a list of what each child needs for supplies.  This will help you avoid buying things they don’t actually need.  It will also ensure that you have a complete picture of what you need so that you can take advantage of sales featuring multiple items or other cost savings options.

  1. Search Before You Shop

Once you have your list, go on a supply hunt at home before you buy anything.  There is a good chance that some of the supplies you bought in previous years went unused and can be pressed into service this year.  Check children’s closets, desks, drawers, and old backpacks and anywhere else in your house school supply items are stored.

  1. Be a Bargain Hunter

Lots of stores will have sales and this is one time that it pays to be a price comparison shopper.  Once you know what you actually need to buy, search the ads for the local stores to find the best price on each item before purchasing anything.  Don’t forget to look at the office supply stores as well since they often have sales on back to school items too.

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The Importance of Soil

soil farming

Don’t miss these important facts about soil. (photo credit:

The U.S. Geological Survey recently released new maps that show what is in our soil.  This information is beneficial to both agriculture and public health experts because it helps pinpoint places where food safety issues might arise because of the composition of the soil.

The release of these new maps got us at Fill Your Plate  thinking about the important role soil plays in producing the food we all use to fill our plates.  The quality of the soil impacts everything from what kind of food we can grow to the cleanliness of our water.  It is the foundation of every ecosystem on the planet and these new maps increase our understanding of the natural variations in soil composition across the country.

One of the goals of this mapping project was to provide a baseline of the current status of the soil across the country. This baseline will allow scientists and other experts to monitor changes in the soil over time.  Creating this baseline will make it possible to determine if future changes in soil composition are naturally occurring or if they are a consequence of human habitation.   Without this baseline, it is impossible to determine if increases in certain minerals or chemicals in the soil are due to waste disposal practices or if they have occurred naturally.

The mapping project was a massive effort and more than 24,000 soil samples were collected from 4,800 locations over a three year period.  Sample collectors came from a variety of government agencies and universities and followed guidelines defining where soil samples could be sourced within pre-selected target areas.  According to these guidelines, soil samples could not be taken:

  • Within 200 meters of a major highway
  • Within 100 meters of any building or manmade structure
  • Within 50 meters of a rural road or street
  • Within 5 kilometers downwind of any power plant or smoke stack

As part of the collection process, sample takers obtained permission from any private land owners prior to collecting any samples.  The success of the project is partially credited to the numerous landowners who happily cooperated and allowed soil samples to be taken from their property.

Prior to the release of this study, much of the national scale data available came from a study conducted in the 1960s and 1970s that used outdated techniques and methodology.  Creating this baseline allows experts in a variety of fields spanning from agriculture to public health to understand how changes in the nation’s soil composition are occurring and how those changes impact our water, food supply, health, and future.   With a better understanding of how specific practices, types of pollution, or waste management practices impact the soil, policy makers will be better able to protect this valuable natural resource.

For more information about the Geochemical and Mineralogical Data for Soils of the Conterminous United States survey visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s report here.


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Apples, Apples, Everywhere….Arizona Apples


Be sure to try one of these delicious recipes using in season apples (photo credit:

Apple season is just around the corner and this year looks to be one for the history books.  Experts are predicting the third largest apple crop in U.S. History despite the fact that two of the primary apple producers, Michigan and New York, are expecting a lighter yield than normal.  The U.S. is expected to produce 260 million, 40 pound boxes this year which may send apple prices falling unless the major producer can arrange for additional exports.

Washington state, one of the top producer’s in the country is expected to produce 150 million, 40 pound boxes of apples this season which is significantly higher than the previous record for the state set in 2012.  It is this extraordinary Washington crop that has pushed this year into the top three of all time.  If New York and Michigan had experienced even a normal year, there is no question 2014 would be the year with the largest apple crop ever.

Here in Arizona, apples also have a strong showing.  Although not one of the major crops produced in the state, apple orchards are springing up all over the Southeastern part of the state.   This means you will be able to find apples at many of the farmers markets throughout the state beginning in mid-late August.

The apples grown in Arizona are known for their sweet crisp flavor and they make great additions to salads, snacks, and breakfast plates.  One of the great things about apples is their versatility.  They can be eaten as is, sliced, peeled and sliced, chopped, mashed into sauce, and they go with just about any dish at almost any meal.

As we head toward the autumn, make sure to take advantage of the huge crop to stock up on delicious, healthy, Arizona grown apples.  You can find them at the local farmers market or in the bins at your grocery store.    From apple pie to apple sauce, make this August all about apples with these delicious recipes featuring Arizona apples.








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