Tight Budget? Ways to Save on Gas and Transportation

April 29, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Felicia Logan
flogan@smu.edu

The economic downturn has hit just about everybody in the pocket, and college students already have plenty of things to be concerned with as far as their studies go. As gas prices continue to balloon, students are looking for ways to save money. Riding the DART, walking, carpooling, bicycling and using websites that provide information about where to find the cheapest gas are a few options that may help students pinch their pennies.

DART is the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system, which operates buses, light rail commuter rails and on-call shuttle services, throughout Dallas and 12 of the city’s suburbs. An annual pass costs between $650 and $1,200, depending on what type of pass is required for commutes. However, SMU gives students a helpful and hefty discount.

“The contract between SMU and DART states that if you are an enrolled student, you are entitled to purchase a DART pass for a one time fee of $5,” says SMU’s Park ‘N Pony office supervisor Rita Zech. Although she could not provide specific numbers, “The number of students riding DART this year is definitely up,” she says. Shana Ray, a sophomore majoring in communications, says riding the DART is cheaper and more convenient than having her parents chauffer her. Living off campus makes it necessary for her to commute.

Many students live on campus, though. Sean Casa, a senior majoring in advertising and English, has a car, but prefers to walk. “I live on campus, and generally, I avoid driving unless I have to, just to save a little green.” Casa enjoys the walk from campus to Snyder Plaza and back. Eve Hay also lives on campus and has a car, but the junior advertising and psychology major shares rides with her friends. When she and her
friends want to go somewhere, they “pile up together” and carpool, says Hay. She says it’s an easy way to save on gas. Of course, riding a bicycle everywhere is also an efficient gas saver. SMU junior Emmanuel Van Hulst rides just about everywhere. It’s not only cost efficient, but a fun leisure activity, as well.

The average price of gas in Dallas is $3.83 per gallon today. Utilizing Websites like www.gasbuddy.com, www.dallasgasprices.com, and www.fuelmeup.com can help students find the cheapest gas available in their immediate area, follow trends, changes in price, and compare prices to the national average. Searches can be refined by mileage, zip code, and gas grades, too.

With the current economic downturn, its pays to find ways to save. Look for alternatives, instead of breaking the bank. As it’s often said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Most students already know that every penny counts.

What Sets Whole Foods Apart

April 14, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Felicia Logan

John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods Market Inc., has consistently been inconsistent regarding his company’s successful and savvy rise to the top. The fast-growing health-food retailer has branded itself as a one-of-a-kind establishment that sells sought after organic, high-quality gourmet products. However, over a period of time, the company got away from its roots and became more of a high-end grocery store.

“We sell all kinds of candy,” Mackey, now co-chief executive, told The Wall Street Journal back in 2009. “We sell a bunch of junk.”

Catering a smorgasbord of “junk” to its epicurean patrons has been quite lucrative for Whole Foods, though.

Founded in Austin, Texas in 1980, the company is the ninth-largest chain of food stores in the United States, with 300 stores that can also be found in Canada and the United Kingdom. It ranks number 284 on the Fortune 500 list and posted sales of $9 billion in its 2010 fiscal year. In the first fiscal quarter ending January 16, the company’s sales rose 14 percent to $3 billion, giving the chain a 15 percent increase in gross profits and a net income of $89 million. The current basic earnings per share is $0.51, which is a 59 percent increase from last year’s $0.32 per share.

During the first quarter earnings conference call, Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer at Whole Foods said, “From a financial perspective, we are well-positioned to reaccelerate our new store growth. Our new stores are performing well. Our strong top- and bottom-line performance, along with our capital expense discipline, has resulted in consistent cash flow, lower debt and a very healthy balance sheet.”

Mackey, a vegetarian for more than 30 years and a strict vegan for the last 6, decided it was time to get back to the retailer’s original concept. Keeping in step with health-conscious consumers, Whole Foods Market Inc. kicked off its Health Starts Here program on January10, 2011. It’s a healthy prescription of practical tools which include education, wellness resources, the company’s personal brands of food and other products to ensure success. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standard of the four basic food groups is part of the program’s initiative. In addition to meat, dairy, grains and fruit and vegetables, it offers a tweaked and more refined protocol, consisting of whole foods that concentrate primarily on fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts that are nutrient dense and contain healthy fats. In effect, these are strategies Whole Foods implemented at its inception, and is reemphasizing its core values to help its customers get the most from their food.

As Mackey told The Journal, “We’ve decided if Whole Foods doesn’t take a leadership role in educating people about a healthy diet, who the heck is going to do it?”

The company’s ideas are probably very appealing to Angel Edwards, a loyal Whole Foods customer for many years.

“Getting organic, quality food at fair prices, and this Health Starts Here program, fits right into what I have to do for myself for personal health issues,” she says. “I shop here because they support the things I support. I love fair trade and helping others help themselves.”

Helping others help themselves works well for Whole Foods employees, too, who already receive a 20 percent discount. In February, the company established a voluntary employee incentive program that will award them with an additional 10 percent discount if they pass an in-store screening process that will evaluate their blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and use of nicotine.

Having employee incentive programs and an employee-friendly environment is one of the reasons Fortune magazine has recognized the company on its list of the best 100 companies to work for 14 consecutive years. The retailer ranks 24th this year, and the magazine lauded the company for “supporting healthy lifestyles of its Team Members.”

Aaron Geilhausen, a Whole Foods manager at the new Park Lane store, says, “My favorite thing about Whole Foods is having fun while I work. One of our core values for our employees is to work more efficiently, enjoy what we do and have a good time.”

The company’s phenomenal success is attributed to it being America’s First National Certified Organic Grocer, and the largest vendor of organic and natural foods. Its commitment to catering to the health concerns of its customers is what sets the company apart from its competitors.

State Fair Food: Not For The Faint of Heart…Or Stomach

October 4, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By Natalie Blankenship, Laura Cook, Nicole Jacobsen, Felicia M. Logan, Allison Prenger, and Kyle Spencer
Posted by Elizabeth Lowe

Editor’s Note:
It’s Fair time in Texas – whip out the deep friers! SMU student journalists set out during the State Fair of Texas’ opening week to do heavy investigative work. Their questions: Which fried food is the best-of-the-best in the Lone Star state? And how many corndogs, frito pies, and the like can one eat in a single Fair day?
For the classier side of Fair life, check out our article on Fair wine.

Feature writing students chow-down with Professor Karen Thomas at the Texas State Fair. (PHOTO BY FELICIA LOGAN / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

The day started out with six students and six empty stomachs.
The mission: to taste all the fried foods the Texas State Fair has to offer.

To our avail we found that just because it’s fried, doesn’t mean it’s gold(en). Some of the more wacky foods include fried beer and fried butter (note: no one was brave enough to try the latter). Everything is fried but the kitchen sink- well maybe next year.

So bring your bank accounts, your economy sized bottle of Tums and your appetite and saddle up partner!

Corndog Classic

Ok, so you’re not feeling adventurous right off the bat to try foods like fried beer and grilled gator, and your stomach is looking for a food that’s familiar and oh-so-good. Well look no further State Fair fans, the scrumptious Corny Dog is here to satisfy your taste buds.

Brought to Texas by Carl and Neil Fletcher in the late 1930’s, the corny dog has been around the fair longer than most. A hot dog on a stick is coated in corn meal then fried revealing a golden cardiac nightmare that is heaven.

The dog however is on the pricey side, costing a whopping 9 tickets or $4.50. But with the many varieties such as foot-long and jalapeño and cheese you won’t even notice your wallet getting lighter as you’ll be too busy in utter bliss.

P.S. A more affordable “Dollar Dog” is available.

High in the Sky with Frito Pie

Next to the corny dog, Fried Texas Frito Pie had to be one of the best things your taste buds have ever experienced.

They come in little packages of goodness that resemble the shape and color of a hush puppy. However, the inside of them is very different, and significantly better.

The inside of Fried Texas Frito Pie is like a bowl full of Texas spirit. It is warm, melty, and oozing with cheese. One taste and you’re done for. Two, and you might as well just die and go to heaven. The chili filling is just that good.

And that might be the best way to describe it- and petite chili bite. Wash it down with a fried margarita, and you my friend have got yourself a meal.

Bite-size chili bites, or frito pie, were a hit at the State Fair of Texas. (PHOTO BY ALLISON PRENGER / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

The Good, The Bad, The Fried Libations

Fried food is a staple of the Texas State Fair, but fried beer, margaritas and lemonade?

These three thirst quenchers take fried food innovations to an entirely new level. Imagine biting into an over-salted, cold piece of ravioli. If that doesn’t sound disgusting enough, add cold, bitter beer oozing into your mouth.

The biggest challenge comes three seconds later as you attempt to chew and swallow the watered down, salty mess. For those brave enough to try the award winning, most creative treat, beware, awards are not always distributed to recognize greatness.

Fortunately, the fried libations redeemed themselves as the day progressed. Fried lemonade reminds one of biting into a warm lemon-flavored pound cake. The gooey ball was topped off with a lemonade glaze and powdered sugar and “lemon zest.” A nice, refreshing treat compared to the sodium-enriched corndogs and fried Frito Pie.

Last, but definitely not least, the fried frozen margaritas received two thumbs up.

Brought to you by Desperados on Greenville, the sweet and salty treat contained funnel cake batter that is soaked in lemon/lime margarita mix and tequila then served in a margarita glass rimmed with salt. More margarita mix is added to the glass before the treat is topped off with a dollop of whip cream.

P.S. To purchase fried beer or deep-fried frozen margaritas, all fair-goers must present a valid ID proving they are of legal drinking age.

Fried Gator or Rubber?

Grilled alligator usually tastes like moist, baked chicken, but this grilled alligator leaves one’s mouth hot and salty and much to the imagination. It tastes more like well- marinated leather. If you like to chew on heavily seasoned rubber bands, this entrée is for you.

Fair Delicacies – Texas Style

Menu Reads “Fried Texas Caviar.” Keyword: Texas.

Don’t go expecting exotic roe, or fish eggs. Texas caviar is simple nicely seasoned, fried black-eyed peas.

Appearance-wise, they bare a striking resemblance to baby beetles, however they actually taste similar to corn nuts. For the health-conscious connoisseurs, this one gets two thumbs up.

All Things Dessert

Chocolate lovers—get ready for an explosion of bittersweet chocolate.

A small donut-looking fried ball, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and resting in the middle of a whipped cream moat, the fried chocolate appears as soon as you take a bite. The chocolate is on the inside- it’s rich, and it’s bittersweet. The perfect amount of chocolate, but you can only have one.

The creamy mixture of warm chocolate and the powdered sugar on the outside is sure to please even the chocolate-obsessed.

The only con? It’s pretty small for the price you pay- $5. Pro? You will consume less and you will avoid a stomach ache.

One of the most normal sounding fried desserts at the Fair is the fried peaches and cream.

A perfect plate of peaches and cream - Texas Fair style. (PHOTO BY NATALIE BLANKENSHIP / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Large Georgia peaches are battered, breaded and fried, then served with whipped cream, a raspberry sauce and last but not least, a butter cream dipping sauce. The end result is reminiscent of a peach cobbler.

The fried peaches are the perfect sweet treat to share, as four peach slices are included with a single order. For those a little skeptical of tasting one of the fair’s many outrageous fried goodies, the fried peaches are the perfect icebreaker.

At ten tickets per order, the fried peaches are one of the more expensive dishes, but they rival the classic funnel cake in popularity and are a southern fair staple.

Customers around us ordered all the fried sweet stuff you can possibly imagine. Fried chocolate, fried s’mores, fried cookie dough and fried PB & J. The sweet and buttery smell of fried food filled the air, and the lines kept growing and growing.

A rather large woman stepped up to order one of each item on the menu, speaking with confidence as if she was a seasoned Texas State Fair fried food eater. Fried chocolate with a side of French fries? Not for me.