Today’s News:

Oil hits 2-1/2-year high, then pulls back on Gaddafi rumor; Gold hits record peak, silver at 31-year high on Libya; U.S., European stocks turn lower on rising oil prices

By Walter Brandimarte

NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) – Crude oil prices jumped to a 2-1/2-year peak and gold hit an all-time high on Monday as investors worried that widening unrest in Libya could spread to other oil-producing nations in the Middle East. Rumors that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was seeking a deal with rebels caused oil to erase some gains. But U.S. crude prices remained more than 1 percent higher, trading around $105 a barrel.

READ MORE On REUTERS: GLOBAL MARKETS-Oil, gold hit records, stocks fall on Libya

Gas Prices Hit .51 Per Gallon

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. gasoline prices on Monday rose a penny to an average of $3.51 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. A week ago, gasoline cost $3.37 a gallon. A month ago, it cost $3.12 a gallon. Gasoline sold for an average of $2.75 a gallon one year ago.

READ MORE on MARKETWATCH.COM: Gas Prices Hit .51 Per Gallon

International Home and Housewares Show Update

In Chicago, Pantone LLC, an X-Rite company (NASDAQ: XRIT) and the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, today announced PANTONE® VIEW home + interiors 2012, a trend forecast containing the nine most directional color palettes for home furnishings and interior design in 2012.

“PANTONE VIEW home + interiors 2012 is the road map to color for 2012, which is filled with interesting new directions,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Some paths lead to exhilarating tones that encourage the prospective buyer to forge ahead into adventures with novel color combinations, while others invite them to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, relax and consider the more classic hues in a different kind of mix. The continuing challenge and goal will be in keeping the consumer visually engaged by blending the playful with the practical. To reach that destination, color is the compass.”

READ MORE on THINKGLINK: International Home and Housewares Show Update

10 Ways to Cut Down on Escalating Food Prices

I got this terrific list from Andrea Woroch, a food expert who is helping consumers make really smart food buying decisions.

According to the United Nations, global food prices hit a record high in February due to upward-spiraling gas prices and stockpiling by importers. These factors are hitting the already volatile cereal markets. Wheat, corn, sugar and edible oils have seen the sharpest price increases in the last six months, with a relatively smaller increase in rice. Produce has already skyrocketed, with prices expected to rise by roughly one-fourth to one-third in the next year.

Such price increases and the resulting extreme poverty are partially credited with recent public unrest that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and sparked further unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

So what’s an American consumer to do? Here are Andrea’s 10 ways to combat rising food prices:

1. Shop Warehouse Stores
Not all prices are better at membership stores, particularly if you tend to go overboard, but there are some really good deals to be had. Look for great buys on perishable items and shop towards the end of the day, when department managers want to unload extra inventory.

2. Use Coupons
Now’s the time to get in on the extreme-couponing trend, particularly since there are so many ways to access them these days. You’ll find coupons online in both Internet-code or downloadable (IP) form.. Mobile coupons are as close as your cell phone. CellFire is a great source for grocery savings. Don’t overlook the coupons that print out with your receipt at the register. Known as Catalinas, these coupons are targeted towards the purchases you’ve made that day. Some stores, like King Soopers, also allow you to stack manufacturer and store coupons for additional savings. Not all supermarkets allow you to stack, however, so check first.

3. Hit Dollar Stores
Whether you cruise the narrow aisles of Dollar General or hit one of the smaller chains, dollar stores offer “ka-ching” savings on boxed, bagged and canned goods. Make sure you check the expiration dates, however.

4. Use Grocery Store Rewards Cards.
These loyalty cards have become a necessity to access store sales, but they also have another benefit; You can download online coupons directly to your rewards card and the savings will be taken off at the register. Visit the rewards-card pages of such supermarket websites as Safeway and Food Lion to find these manufacturer coupons. Some rewards card also provide gas savings when you buy groceries. At times, King Soopers has taken up to 10-cents off each gallon you purchase at their pumps when you spend $100 or more in their store.

5. Buy Generic
By and large, store-brand generics can be much cheaper than manufacturer products with the exact same quality. In fact, generics come off the same assembly line before being slapped with separate labels so skip the brand name items.

6. Use Discount Gift Cards
Shop websites like GiftCardGranny for discount gift cards from Kmart, Walmart and other major chains that sell food goods and produce. Paying just a portion of the card’s face value gives you an instant savings on your grocery needs.

7. Make A List
Avoid impulse purchases by making a list before you leave home and sticking to it when you hit the store. Knowing specifically what you need also helps avoid duplications of products you already have at home.

8. Plan Your Meals
It’s a lot easier to make a list when you have a plan. Creating a weekly menu also helps you avoid quick trips to the supermarket that end up costing you more in many ways. For last minute meals, create a gourmet dish at a deep discount by buying meats, produce and other food items that are on sale at your local grocery store.

9. One-Stop Shop
Save gas, time and money by shopping stores like Target that allow you to buy everything on your list within one visit.

10. Avoid Out-of-Season Produce To every vegetable and fruit there is a season…and a better price.
Squash are cheaper in the fall while asparagus can be a bargain in the spring. Wait until prices are at their best and plan your menu around seasonal produce to save big.

READ MORE: Get more great food-buying tips at AndreaWoroch.com

Rent Your Child’s Toys Instead of Buying Them

Toygaroo.com, an innovative new toy rental company, has launched its online service, which will help families save money and go green by not having to throw out their old toys.

Toygaroo, which has a similar format to Netflix, allows families to provide their children with a steady rotation of high-quality toys that can grow along with them. In addition, Toygaroo will be featured on the March 25 season premiere of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a show that allows entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to successful investors.

“Any family with children understands the toy cycle. Parents buy a toy their child wants, they play with it for a few weeks and it ends up sitting in a toy bin or cluttering the playroom until the next garage sale,” said Nikki Pope, company spokesperson. “With Toygaroo, these problems are solved, saving parents a lot of money in the process.”

Each year, the average family with spends about $2,400 on new toys. However, Toygaroo members with two children can receive up to 48 toys in a year for less than $560. Plans start as low as $35.99 for a shipment every other month, with the average shipment being worth over $120. With over 300 hundred toys to choose from, free shipping and convenient FedEx delivery, Toygaroo is the perfect program for any parent with children under the age of six.

READ MORE: Toygaroo.com

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