Cash for Refrigerators – Are you going to upgrade your appliances?

The government is set to begin a $300 million cash-for-clunkers-type federal program to boost sales of energy-efficient home appliances. It may have an impact on the environment and provide a glimmer of hope for beleaguered makers of washing machines and dishwashers, but it's probably not enough to lift companies such as Whirlpool and Electrolux out of the worst down cycle in the sector's history.

Beginning late this fall, the program authorizes rebates of $50 to $200 for purchases of high-efficiency household appliances. The money is part of the broader economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year. Program details will vary by state, and the Energy Dept. has set a deadline of Oct. 15 for states to file formal applications. The Energy Dept. expects the bulk of the $300 million to be awarded by the end of November. No need to worry you won’t have to hook up a U-Haul to drag in your old appliances – trade ins are not required for this program. "These rebates will help families make the transition to more efficient appliances, making purchases that will directly stimulate the economy," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement announcing the plan. Only appliances covered by the Energy Star seal will qualify. In 2008, about 55% of newly produced major household appliances met those standards, which are set by the Energy Dept. and Environmental Protection Agency.

The money can't come soon enough for the home appliance industry, which is mired in an unprecedented sales slump that began when the housing market cooled in 2006. Since then that slump has worsened considerably. Shipments of washers, dryers, refrigerators, and ovens dropped 10% in 2008 and are down 15% through July, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. "It's brutal," says Raymond James (NYSE:RJF - News) analyst Sam Darkatsh.

The leading appliance makers have felt the pinch. Whirlpool of Benton Harbor, Mich., which controls about 40% of the U.S. market, has seen its sales drop 20% through the first two quarters of this year. North American shipments for its Stockholm-based rival Electrolux, meanwhile, have dropped for a dozen consecutive quarters. Both companies have laid off hundreds of workers, and General Electric (NYSE:GE - News) mulled shutting down an entire refrigerator plant earlier this year until deciding to keep it open with a reduced workforce.

Not surprisingly, appliance makers cheered the news. Electrolux spokesman Tony Evans calls the federal program a "great opportunity to encourage consumers to replace their old appliances." Lately, cash-strapped consumers have chosen to repair, rather than replace, hobbled dishwashers and other water-intensive appliances, according to industry analysts. Electrolux says it is readying "aggressive" marketing programs that will run parallel with the rebates, and it's reasonable to expect appliance makers and retailers will devise additional discounts to amplify the rebates' appeal. "We will be ready to go when the new incentive programs hit the market," Evans said.

Unlike the popular, $3 billion cash-for-clunkers vehicle program, which ends on Aug. 24, there's no guarantee that hard-hit consumers are prepared to plump for new washers, stoves, and fridges. The federal outlay will piggyback on rebate programs for energy-saving appliances that have existed for years in more than 25 states, but which have largely failed to spur demand. Home improvement retailers like Home Depot (NYSE:HD - News) and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW - News) have also offered deep discounts on big-ticket appliances lately, with little impact.

"The cash-for-clunkers (program) had a discernible value proposition for the consumer, because he knows how much his (clunker) is worth," says Darkatsh, the Raymond James analyst. "With appliances, there is no trade-in. You can walk into Home Depot and get a great deal on a home appliance any time you want one. Why would it drum up sales now?" Laura Champine, an analyst with Cowen & Co. (NasdaqGS:COWN - News), agrees. "I'm not sure if it will be as powerful as cash for clunkers because there is something compelling about that $4,500 discount," she says. "Also, a new car is more fun than a new dishwasher. So I'm not sure if it will be as much of a driver, but any driver is welcome right now."

The recession's ability to blunt the program's impact was underscored by a call made on Friday to the California Energy Commission to discuss its approach to the rebate program. The entire state office is on unpaid furlough each Friday in August; no one picked up the telephone.

Are you planning to purchase new appliances? Will the Cash for Refrigerators program entice you into the showrooms?

This post was inspired by a recent article in NewsWeek by Matthew Boyle


Speaking of lemon basil and strawberries...

Summer gardens are brimming with the fruits of labor.

A friend gave me a bushel of lemon basil from their garden. The scent of lemon basil is so refreshing, one whiff and you are transported to peace and serenity. Did you know that basil is more than just the main ingredient in pesto, but it contains many healing properties? The eugenol component of basil's volatile oils has been the subject of extensive study, since this substance can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX). This enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil qualifies basil as an "anti-inflammatory" food that can provide important healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.

Creativity is needed when you receive such a large amount of lemon basil; here are a few quick serving ideas:

** Combine fresh chopped basil with garlic and olive oil to make a dairy-free variety of pesto that can top a variety of dishes including pasta, salmon and whole wheat brushetta.

** Enjoy a taste of Italy by layering fresh basil leaves over tomato slices and mozzarella cheese; drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to create this traditional colorful and delicious salad.

** Adding basil to healthy stir-fries, especially those that include eggplant, cabbage, chili peppers, tofu and cashew nuts will give them a Thai flair.

** Purée basil, olive oil and onions in a food processor or blender and add to tomato soups.

** Enjoy a warm cup of invigorating basil tea by infusing chopped basil leaves in boiling water for eight minutes.

Not only is basil plentiful, but so are the strawberries.
Nothing refreshes like a fruity granita on a hot summer afternoon. This Strawberry Granita is a favorite and easy to make.

Fresh Snow Capped Strawberry Granita

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
8 teaspoons heavy cream 1

Wash, hull, and slice the strawberries. Place sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Toss the strawberries with the sugar; let stand for at least one hour at room temperature, or up to four hours in the refrigerator. The strawberries will be very juicy.
Puree the strawberries their juices and the lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Process until crushed. Working in batches, press the puree through a fine sieve to extracts seeds. Pour

Pour mixture into a bowl or large tub; ideally the mix should be no deeper than about 1 inch. Freeze until solid, at least 1 hour.

Remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving. Using a sturdy scoop or spoon mound granite into goblets and cap each wth a trickle of cream. The cream will solidify, semi frozen, like a snowcap on a pink mountain. Serve quickly before has time to melt

** Granita looks fantastic if served in wine or martini glasses. Moisten rims of 6 martini or wine glasses with water; dip rims into some sugar, and then add the granita. This recipe was inspired by a post in


Best Mom Advice

MSNBC and Dailygood teamed up and asked their followers to share their best Mom advice.

Here are my favorites from the list - they hit home because my Mom passed along these tidbits of advice to me. I am honored to have the opportunity to pass them along to my daughter.

"If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all."
"Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. They'll wash clean."
"Work before play."
"You can if you think you can!"
"Keep your chin up. It's not the end of the world."
"Life isn't always fair."
"Never lie, cheat, or steal."
"Never be too proud to ask for help when you need it."
"You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Now that's sound advice and it can make you healthy, wealthy and wise!

What advice from your Mom do you follow?


30% off - Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic

All Shopping Moms,
Thanks to Kathy at $30 Dollar Weekly Grocery Challenge we can use this coupon to get 30% off of all purchases at Gap, Old Navy or Banana Republic. Good through August 2nd. So hurry and get your shopping on!