Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Apple Butter Recipe

I love apple butter. It has a flavor that rivals no other. Apple butter is also expensive, running anywhere from $3.50-5.00 a pint in this area. That adds up.

I happen to have an apple tree. Now, I admit over the past few years it has been neglected. It is overgrown and the apples are buggy. I plan on doing a major trim job on it this fall after the leaves are gone. In the meantime I was tired of letting my apples go to waste.

Not very pretty are they? Definitely not something I just want to take a big bite out of. However, they are perfect for making applesauce, and apple butter! Many of the issues are surface deep and disappear when peeled. So lots and lots of apples - $0. Not everyone has this luck, however check your local orchards. A lot of times you can get "scratch and dent" apples for a fraction of the price.

So peel and chop I did. For a couple of hours.

The angle makes it hard to tell, but that is 6 quarts of peeled and chopped apples. Believe it or not the prettier apples tended to be yuckier on the inside than the uglier ones.

To the chopped apples I add 5 cups of sugar. This costs me about $0.70. I then add about $0.05 worth of pumpkin pie spice (easier than playing games with a balance of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and so on. You may feel otherwise.

Put a lid on the crockpot, turn it on low.

This is what it looks like after 6 hours of cooking.

And after 12 hours it looks like applebutter! A little lumpy, but nothing a handheld blender can't work out.

I puree the applebutter until smooth, then leave on warm with the lid off for another 2 hours to make sure all the liquid is cooked off.

In total, for $0.75 I made a little over half a gallon of apple butter. That should take me right through next apple harvest season. Hopefully, next year my apples will be a little nicer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cutting cleaning costs

I love the smell of a clean house. I have 4 animals that have complete access to the house, so I vacuum and mop daily. It's the only way to keep up with the shedding, and that lovely doggy odor. Dishes need to be done 1-2 times a day and don't even get me started on the laundry. So I have developed some time and cost saving things that I do.

I dedicate an hour a day to cleaning. That is it. I am a full time student, I homeschool my kids, and my daughter is on the swim team with daily practice. I don't have time to play around. The only exception is after dinner cleanup which takes another 15 minutes or so.

I have two pre-teen girls. I make up a list of all the rooms, and each room has 3-6 tasks which are divided up between the three of us. There is also an extra 3 tasks to make sure things like cleaning out the fridge and dusting and baseboards get done at least once in a while. An example would be
Living Room:
1. Pick up floor
2. Clean off furniture (this includes couch, table, piano, shelves and so on)
3. Vacuum and mop the floor

The girls take turns picking what task they want to do out of each room. I take what is left. Cleaning time is cleaning time. This cut down the whining, complaining, and the time it takes me to clean the house.

Now, as for cleaners. One thing I use is Simple Green. I bought 1 gallon of the concentrate and I have been using it what feels like forever. I bought it for $8. I use 1/4 cup in a bucket. I start with kitchen counters, tables and so on, then move on to bathroom and floors. I can clean my whole house with it for $0.13 a day. It is also non-toxic and biodegradable.

For kitchen counters after meal prep I do bring out the big guns. I do buy the 409 antibacterial spray but it only requires a few sprays to make sure my counters are bacteria free. I use this on the toilet seat, flush handle and the bathroom faucet as well because I am not sure how well the simple green kills things. Either way a bottle costs me $2.50 and lasts at least a month which is a cost of about $0.08 a day.

For the tub to get rid of soap scum I use baking soda. It's completely natural, works better than comet or other powders and only takes a few minutes if I keep up on it. I can get a box of baking soda at Aldi for $0.49 and it will clean the tub a dozen times, so it is a cost of $0.04 a use.

I swish the toilet with the brush daily, but I also have well water so once a week I have to deep clean it. I dump in 2 cups or so of white vinegar, which I buy at Aldi for $1 a gallon. I let it set for an hour, swish with the brush and flush. Voila, no buildup, and a total cost of $0.13 a week.

Windows can also be done with white vinegar, which is another $0.04 a week, if that.

If you have any other cost, or time saving ideas, please feel free to share. I finally have a system down and my house is cleaner than it has ever been.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quality versus Price

There are a lot of things I have learned over the years about shopping. The biggest one is that quality will save you money in the long run. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for, and if one can use a pricier item for a longer period of time than a cheaper item, the pricier item becomes cheaper per use.

My big item example. I use my vacuum for everything. I have carpet, hard floors, rugs and furniture. I have ceiling fans, surfaces that collect dust and too many animals that shed. After using a number of cheap and expensive vacuums, I have to say it was worth every extra penny to purchase my Kenmore. It has the long hose and extension I need for dusting. I can turn the beater bar on and off easily when I go from carpet to hard floor. It is powerful enough to pick up dog hair and cat litter from anywhere which is vital in my house. I also know from my last 15+ year old Kenmore that they last a very long time. I know I sound like an ad, but I have a point. I paid $200 for my Kenmore. It isn't the "best" one available, but it had the important features I wanted. $200 is still a lot of money when you are living on a budget. However, before this I went through a $40 Dirt Devil, a $60 Scunci, and a $120 Eureka. The dirt devil lasted a year. The scunci lasted less than 6 months. The Eureka lasted 2 years. On average, I was running $40-120 a year on vacuums and quite frankly, not one of them worked as well as the Kenmore I had before, which I got when it was 10 years old, and I put another 5 years on it before it was no longer worth it to fix it.

Now, I don't know many who need $800 top of the line vacuums, but a mid line will save me money in the long run. If this vacuum runs for 10 years, I will have spent $20 per year on a vacuum. That is way below my current batting average.

The same principles can be said for a number of smaller items. Cheap scoopable cat litter can not be used as long, and does not clump or block smells like some of the leading brands. It ends up being cheaper for me to buy Tidy Cat or Fresh Step on sale with a coupon than to get the dollar store cat litter. CFL bulbs last much much longer than traditional bulbs. I have not changed a light bulb in over 2 years. Even without the energy savings, the CFL bulbs end up being cheaper.

There are things that store brands are great for. I am all about getting the best deal. However, sometimes getting the best deal means paying more money now to get the savings later.