Life

Back-to-School Shopping: 5 Stress-Free Tips for Your Family

As you think about getting your family ready for back-to-school shopping, you may feel like there's a lot to remember and feel a little stressed. But, with a little planning, back-to-school shopping and organizing doesn't have to be stressful and can actually be relatively care-free – maybe even fun for your family! Let me share some ideas to get your family involved in the back-to-school process.

1. Get the Whole Family Involved

The process of planning, organizing, and shopping for back-to-school doesn't have to fall on just one person. While it may seem easier for either mom or dad (or both) to purchase back-to-school clothes and supplies with little input from the children, getting the whole family involved is a good thing. Children will learn responsibility, the value of their clothes and supplies, and can take pride in being part of the decision-making process when picking out their items. As a parent, you get a little helping hand through delegating some of the responsibilities – an all around win-win! 

2. Plan Ahead 

One of the best things you can do to prepare for back-to-school time is plan ahead. I like to take inventory of clothes and supplies my kids have in the home that can be re-used for the next year. For example, younger kids like my third-grade daughter could easily use scissors, rulers, clipboards, and even pencil boxes that are in good condition. Sometimes at the end of the school year, teachers also return labeled school supplies that were not used, so I save those for use the next year and save myself a little money.

A great resource you can use to plan ahead is the Classrooms by Walmart tool on Walmart.com. This great online tool can help you find school supply lists from schools all across the nation, and if you choose, you can purchase those school supplies online for a super convenient option to help you save time!


3. Shop Early (But Not Too Early!)

It's good to shop a little early, especially for back-to-school supplies and perhaps clothes. The trick is to avoid shopping too early, so your children don't outgrow the new clothes before school begins! However, shopping early will help you bypass some of those last-minute crowds in the store and will give you greater selection on the shelves.

4. Take Advantage of Sales Tax Holidays and Walmart’s Savings Catcher

Many states offer sales tax holidays where state sales taxes are not collected on clothes and school supplies (up to a certain dollar amount). This helps stretch your dollar a little further and can really help save you money when purchasing back-to-school items for multiple children, especially when combined with Walmart's already low prices! Plus starting August 4, Walmart’s Savings Catcher will be available nationwide. Just visit Walmart.com/SavingsCatcher, enter your receipt number, and if a local competitor has a lower advertised price, you get an e-gift card for the difference.

5. In the Store: Divide and Conquer

When my family goes back-to-school shopping, my husband and I typically like to take the "divide and conquer" approach. We split our list up and decide ahead of time what each of us is responsible for. Perhaps he will be in charge of gathering up a few basic school supplies and choosing clothes for our 3-year-old son, while I help our daughter choose and try on clothing. What’s even better this year is that Walmart has new store maps that help you navigate through the store, finding just the supplies you need. Take it from me; consider dividing up when in the store to help you get through your back-to-school shopping quicker!

Hopefully you'll find these five simple back-to-school tips will help make this year's back-to-school season a little smoother for your family! What other tips can you share?

All photos © Melanie Edwards/modernmami™

Melanie Edwards is the founder and editor of modernmami™.com, an award-winning lifestyle blog, and a proud member of the Walmart Moms Program. Originally from Puerto Rico, Melanie now resides in the Tampa Bay area of sunny Florida with her husband of 11 years and two children. Connect with Melanie on Twitter at @modernmami.

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Business

#PattiPie, New Cobblers and the Evolution of Our Bakeries

When Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie hit Walmart stores last fall, the demand for #PattiPie became so high we could barely keep enough of them on the shelves.

As a merchant for our fresh bakery, this was exciting news. It proved that the work by Kinna Thomas, our senior buyer of cakes and pies, and our entire team to provide premium goods baked with high-quality ingredients was not going unnoticed.

It also proved that taking the extra time and effort to think outside of the box whenever we’re developing bakery goods makes a real difference to our customers. Taking it to the next level for this holiday season, Kinna was reviewing Ms. LaBelle’s cookbooks and stumbled across one of her famous cobbler recipes. We knew how important it was to hit the mark perfectly.

After testing and trying out the product, I’m excited to announce that together, we’ve cooked up three premium cobblers in peach, apple and mixed berry flavors for #PattiPie fans to enjoy, starting Sept. 2. Not only are they packed full with quality fruit, they’re baked with two crusts – one on top and one on bottom – to ensure that sugary crisp bite.

Knowing that most cobblers on the market today are frozen, we worked to find the right supplier to create a unique fresh version. Turns out we had the right company with us all along: Twin Star Bakery out of Houston, who currently makes a number of decadent items for Walmart, including oversized sandwich cookies and specialty dessert cakes. As a matter of fact, the cobbler expansion will bring over a hundred new jobs to their factory.

In addition to the cobblers, we’re also bringing Ms. LaBelle’s apple pecan cake and sweet potato pound cake to select stores. The sweet potato pound cake was a joint venture to with a small Philadelphia business, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique. We will offer this delicious Southern-style treat in select stores in the Northeast.

The success of Patti’s sweet potato pie – and the resulting expansion of her personal recipe-based product line – is just one example of how we are working to transform our fresh bakery offerings through innovation. We are so proud to offer amazing new items across our entire bakery. Just last year, we added about 60 new items and we continue to innovate. Today, more than half of our items are prepared in our stores, and we’ve enriched our teams across the country with bakery technicians who’ve been training and helping our store associates to ensure everything comes out exactly right. On top of that, we’re simplifying our processes so that we can bake many different items at one temperature, allowing us to produce more fresh-baked goods for our customers every day.

It’s a sweet time to work in Walmart’s fresh bakery, and we’re excited to see our customers’ reactions as we work to deliver every ingredient just right.

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Life

From Lanterns to Lions, Ringing in Chinese New Year

Feb. 8 marks the start of Chinese New Year, China’s most important celebration for families. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is a weeklong public holiday during which families celebrate a year of hard work and wish for good luck in the coming year.

Those shopping in our stores in China see lots of Chinese New Year decorations and traditional foods stocked for this busy time. For readers who aren’t in China, here’s some background on the celebrations.

Traditional Family Meals

Before the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, people all over China travel to their hometowns to unite with their families and decorate their homes in red — a color that symbolizes good luck and joy — and prepare for Chinese New Year celebrations. The night before the Chinese New Year, we prepare a feast made up of symbolic foods:

  • In Chinese culture, a fish course represents wealth in the future, while peanuts signify longevity and good health.
  • Some food symbolism in Chinese New Year dishes is more visual, such as hot pot, which involves simmering meat and vegetables in a round pot at the center of the table. The shape of the pot represents perfection and satisfaction.
  • Dumplings are an example of a food with a more historical tie because they resemble the gold currency — Yuanbao — used in ancient China. Today, dumplings are still thought to signify wealth in the coming year and are a delicious treat stuffed with different fillings.

Celebrations

Like with New Year’s Eve in the U.S. and other western countries, Chinese New Year involves staying up late. We light firecrackers at midnight, a tradition that dates back to ancient folklore. Though the New Year is a cause for celebration now, legend has it that Chinese villagers used to stoke their fires with bamboo to keep away a terrifying, sharp-toothed monster that arose from the sea at the end of the lunar year to prey on people and livestock. Now, we use firecrackers to celebrate the new year and also scare off any bad luck that might be on the horizon.

Celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival, where people gather to admire the illuminated lanterns (some floating, some carried by children, some fixed as decorations) and guess riddles written on them. On New Year’s Day, people also watch lion dances, in which participants don elaborate, mythical lion costumes that seem larger than life — and eat rice dumplings.

One of our family traditions is for children and grandchildren to wish elders in the family good wishes for the new year and, in turn, the elders will give children a red envelope of money for good luck and to buy toys and books.  Children often sleep with the red envelope under the pillow to bring good luck throughout the year.

The Year of the Monkey

This year is the year of the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. People born in the year of the monkey are believed to be energetic, witty and mischievous. I look forward to greeting the year of the monkey surrounded by my family and enjoying the snacks and festivities that come with the celebrations. No matter your Chinese zodiac, may the New Year bring good fortune to you and your family!

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Opportunity

One Walmart Associate’s Path to the Pentagon

Since 1997, Luke McCollum has lived somewhat of a double life, holding careers at both Walmart and the Navy Reserve.

While a retail role and a government job may seem like an unlikely pairing, he says the blending of both worlds is what has prepared him well for an exciting next step: Navy Vice Admiral, where he’ll serve as the Commander of America’s Navy Reserve Force. This is no small promotion – President Barack Obama had to appoint him to the role.

While this means Luke will be leaving Walmart’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to work solely at the Pentagon, he says Walmart is a big reason why he’s able to take this new step. Why?

“Working here has made me a better Navy Reserve officer, and vice versa,” he said.

As vice president of Walmart’s logistics services, one of Luke’s duties is to oversee new distribution centers coming to life across the U.S. – from picking the location, to seeing it all in action with excited associates. He most recently experienced this with a new fulfillment center in Chino, California, and a new distribution center in Mankato, Minnesota. To Luke, it was exhilarating to see everything unfold, knowing that this would help serve customers better and provide new opportunities for our associates.

While his work and processes at Walmart are different than those at the Navy, he’s found common ground at both organizations in dealing with the large, complex and unpredictable. “In the Navy, we can never get comfortable because it’s always changing,” he said. “It forces us to think differently and strategically. We have to do a lot of that at Walmart, too.”

What Luke enjoys about both of his teams is their desire to learn new things. “I would be sitting in senior meetings in the Navy, and they would ask me how Walmart would solve a problem. The same happened in my Walmart meetings,” he said. “They have the appetite to change and grow. Both have had to evolve over the years. At Walmart, we try to understand how our customers have changed and how we can operate better to serve them. The Navy is no different. They serve a customer, too – the American people and the men and women on active duty.”

Having a really strong support system at home and at work is what has helped Luke hold down two careers. He gives a lot of credit to his family. When most people are heading home for the weekend, Luke has to get on a plane to the Middle East or the Pacific for another full work week. With a 24-hour flight back home and jumping right back into Monday, he doesn’t have much downtime. “You have to know what’s important because you can’t do everything,” he said.

Why do two jobs? For Luke, it’s all about the people. He thrives on seeing people do things they didn’t know they could do. “One of the definitions of leadership is to define reality, provide encouragement on the way and say thank you in between,” he said. “I’ve gotten to do that in both organizations.”

Luke is honored, humbled yet excited to take on this new job.

“I’ll miss my Walmart team, but my experiences here have prepared me well to take this next step,” he said.

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Community

When Disaster Strikes, Associates Provide Real-Time Relief

When forecasting warned that record rainfall could be coming to Louisiana, a team at Walmart’s home office did what they always do when severe weather is imminent: Pull together the right people to prepare for help.

Because there are about 30 Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations in the Baton Rouge area where the flooding eventually hit, the company’s Emergency Operations Center had a responsibility to local associates and communities. Logistics, operations, and merchandising teams assembled quickly, first mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana and ramping up shipments of diapers, bottled water and other essentials.

While some stores and clubs closest to Baton Rouge did have to close their doors because of flood damage, most have reopened now. Ensuring that corporate functions and teams on the ground can work together to make that happen is at the heart of the EOC’s role.

Formed in the early 2000s following 9/11, Walmart’s EOC was established to support associates and local communities in times of need. Whether it’s securing generators to restore power to facilities or acting as a call center so that associates and community members can locate and assist one another, the EOC is the hub that helps Walmart locations provide a sense of normalcy when disaster strikes.

With the recent Louisiana flooding displacing thousands of people from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $1.5 million to organizations making a difference on the ground. Learn more about those efforts here.

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