I love to kick off the new trading week by looking at companies that have just raised their dividends. A company that's easing up on its pocketbook probably has improving fundamentals to back up that generosity.

Readers of the Income Investor newsletter service can appreciate that kind of thinking. Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher over the past week.

Let's start by toiling the soil with Medtronic (NYSE:MDT). The medical-products specialist came through with a healthy 50% boost to its dividend. Shareholders will now be receiving $0.1875 a share every three months. Can things get better? Sure. The company has now propped up its rate for 22 consecutive years. The distributions have tripled over the past six years.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) also rang the dinner bell for yield-hungry shareholders. The casual-dining giant behind Olive Garden and Red Lobster topped off a better-than-expected earnings report with a meatier payout. The restaurateur's new quarterly rate of $0.20 a share is an 11% improvement. Now that is an after-dinner mint.  

General Mills (NYSE:GIS) is another booster. The cereal and foodstuffs giant -- which at one time owned Darden, oddly enough -- is filling shareholder milk bowls with a $0.43-per-share quarterly dividend. That represents a 10% upgrade from last year's rate.

General Mills has paid uninterrupted dividends for 109 years. Rival Kellogg (NYSE:K) upped its yield two months ago. Does this mean that the cereal industry is recession-resistant? It may, though the industry isn't entirely immune from the economic hiccups. Rising food costs find General Mills passing expenses on to its spoon-slurping consumers, just as Kellogg has experimented with smaller-sized boxes.

Finally, we have Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) charging up its payouts. The consumer-electronics superstore's quarterly distributions are climbing by a penny to $0.14 a share. That may not seem like much, but let's give the chain time. Even though it started paying dividends just five years ago, it has consistently come through with annual increases. Electronics retailers such as Circuit City (NYSE:CC) and RadioShack (NYSE:RSH) sport higher yields, but Best Buy is in the best position to grow those quarterly checks in the future.

Subscribers to Income Investor can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. The newsletter service singles out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what's being recommended these days? Give the service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that to get an increase will be your interest.