Spreadable Butter

We go through a lot of spreadable butter in our house because we love it. What we don’t love is the price. A large container from Land O’ Lakes, like the one pictured above, costs over $3.00 (usually closer to $4.00) for what amounts to about 3 sticks of butter and some oil. When butter is on sale you can get 4 sticks for $2. So I’ve been on a mission to make my own spreadable butter to save money.

Apparently the 3rd attempt is the charm as my most recent batch came out excellent – it spreads evenly and tastes great!

The first time I made it the oil taste was overwhelming. The second time I made it I used evaporated milk instead, as someone online had suggested, and not only did it look weird (although it tasted fine), it spoiled too quickly (within two weeks). It literally grew mold which was gross.

So here’s my guide on how to make spreadable butter the right way.

Note: The oil to butter ratio you want to use is 1/3 cup oil for every stick of butter.

1) Use a good canola oil. I always thought that all canola oils are made the same but on my first attempt I used Market Pantry canola oil and I was disappointed with the flavor. This time I used Wesson. BIG difference in taste. I love generic foods but in this case the name brand was better. It must be how it’s processed because I noticed the Wesson canola oil is much lighter in color than Market Pantry’s.

2) Use your favorite salted butter. In this case Target brand butter – Market Pantry – wins for me. It has a perfect creamy texture and the right amount of salt.

3) Remove your desired amount of butter from the refrigerator and let it soften.

4) Put the butter in a food processor and mix it up until smooth.

5) Add your oil slowly, while continuing to mix, making sure everything is mixed thoroughly.

6) Transfer to your desired container and store in the refrigerator.

The butter should keep good for three months which is more than enough time to eat it all, at least in this household!

Since I like to reuse containers, I found that 3 sticks of butter is the perfect amount to fill up the large Land O’ Lakes spreadable butter container. Just make sure to clean it out real good between batches.

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“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” – Bill Gates

I’m lazy. It’s true. But most people who know me wouldn’t label me as such because I get a lot done, both in my personal life and at work. My motivation? Laziness. I’d much rather automate a task than do unnecessary manual steps over and over again because I hate wasting time!

Case in point: there are files I have to download from my employer’s financial system which need to be manipulated in Excel via formatting and formulas before they can be used to create a wire transfer, and later, to enter and clear the invoices in the system. Each batch of invoices contains several of these files. It would take hours to manipulate each one manually. Or I could record a macro and run it on each file which takes less than 30 seconds. Now, creating the macro initially took a little time because you have to think about how to design the formulas to account for the fact that you aren’t sure how many total lines of data will be in each file, but once I got past that hurdle it was smooth sailing. Now I couldn’t imagine having to manipulate those files manually every week. It is a daunting enough task as it is but my laziness made it that much easier.

I have lots of spreadsheets and email templates set up to save myself time, as well as provide consistency in my work. I would feel disorganized and ineffective if I didn’t, plus like I said before, I really hate wasting my time on mundane tasks. The easier I can accomplish a task with the least amount of steps, the better.

What efficiencies have been born out of your laziness?

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X-Notifier

Do you have more than one e-mail account? I bet you do. I don’t even want to tell you how many I have because I realize it’s too many, but I use them for different purposes. In any case, there used to be a service where I could add all my email addresses and it would send me a single daily digest of all activity. Unfortunately that service moved away from tracking email and to dealing more with social media (and for the life of me right now I cannot recall the name of it).

Now I use a browser extension in Firefox called X-notifier. What I love about this service is that you enter in all your email addresses, along with your username and password, and set the interval of when you want the extension to check your email (which can be different for each account). An icon appears in your browser when new emails are available, and by clicking on it, the service automatically logs you in. So not only do you keep on top of your new emails, but you don’t have to constantly log into your accounts manually. It’s great and it makes having multiple email accounts so much easier because I never have to log into an account just to see if something new has arrived.

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Vacuum

This is our vacuum cleaner. It’s not pretty by any means. We didn’t even bother to take the sticker off the front when we bought it ten years ago! The plastic piece on the back that held the cord broke off last year which is why the cord is wrapped around it the way it is. It has seen better days, that’s for sure, but it still works like a champ!

I was pretty bummed when the cord recently starting coming apart; it was fraying at the point where it went into the cleaner. I was worried we’d have to buy a new vacuum and that did not make me happy because 1) it still works perfectly fine and 2) we have spare vacuum bags and a belt in the garage which we already purchased and likely wouldn’t work on a new model since ours is a decade old. Luckily my handy husband was able to open it up and fix the cord using tools we already had in the house. What a relief!

Think about the things you own that break. Do you instantly throw them away and buy a replacement, or do you try to fix them? Don’t get me wrong – we don’t all have the skills to fix every thing we own, but perhaps we know someone who does. I think it’s worth it to evaluate the costs between fixing and replacing things to get the most bang for your buck.

Plus, I’m not sure about you, but I get a little rush when we’re able to avoid extra costs by fixing something or finding a free solution. It frees up our money to spend on more important things instead of a boring old vacuum cleaner.

What things have you fixed instead of replacing?

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I hear printer ink is really expensive, but I don’t have much experience with that because we own a laser printer. Best purchase we ever made! For $200 we can print all the coupons we want (that’s mostly what we use it for) and rarely have to buy toner. In the time we’ve owned the printer, which is going on approximately ten years, we’ve purchased 3 toner cartridges (which cost $30 each). This is no exaggeration and we print stuff daily!

So unless you have a compelling reason to own a “regular” printer, I highly suggest opting for a laser printer instead. Heck, I’d recommend getting one in addition to your fancy color printer and only using the fancy one for printing photos or items that require full-color and use the laser for everything else. It will quickly pay for itself with all the savings on ink.

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One way I have found to save money on hair care, particularly coloring, is to do it yourself. I’m not talking about box dye kits, however.

I like buying the developer and color from Sally Beauty Supply. I learned many years ago that you don’t have to sign up to be a member to purchase products from their stores and since then I haven’t touched a boxed dye kit. Not only is my method healthier for your hair, it’s very inexpensive. A bottle of developer will run you $3-$5 and the color is typically $5 a bottle or less. Depending on how long your hair is you might have to buy two bottles of color but your maximum out of pocket expense shouldn’t exceed $15. You can’t get a coloring for that cheap at the salon, that’s for sure! And if you have an awesome husband like I do you won’t even have to do it on your own – he colors my hair for me.

Just an idea if you’re looking to save a little moolah but love to update your look.

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Xmarks

Anyone who leans on the OCD side of things such as myself probably has a lot of bookmarks in their web browser. How would you feel if your computer crashed and you lost them all? Personally I would be devastated after cultivating them for years.

Fear not, there’s a solution, and it’s called Xmarks. This free service is tied to your web browser and syncs your bookmarks on demand (and every time you close the browser) to ensure your bookmarks are never lost. You can access them online wherever there’s an internet connection and restore them should you need to reinstall your operating system and/or web browser (or even if you decide to use a new browser and want to easily add your bookmarks to it).

This service has saved me more times than I can count, like the time I somehow inadvertently completely deleted a folder full of bookmarks in Firefox. That’s because Xmarks keeps a history of your bookmarks so you can restore what you’ve removed from the browser itself. I love this service and highly recommend it!

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I just love a good deal! And I don’t mean “I love spending money on something I wouldn’t have otherwise bought just because it’s on sale” because that is not saving money, that is spending it. I’m referring, instead, to when there’s something you’re planning on buying anyway (whether you need it or just have wanted it for a long time) and you’re able to get a discount on it.

I’m a big fan on stocking up on everyday items when they go on sale but I like to stick to non-perishables like toilet paper, laundry soap, garbage bags, etc. as nothing irks me more than to waste food. So when it comes to food, unless it’s canned items that have a shelf life of over a year, I am careful not to stock up too much. But with other stuff I really go whole hog. For instance, last year Target had our preferred toilet paper on sale. In addition to the sale they were giving out $5 gift cards for every two packages of toilet paper sold and there was a “save $2 now” coupon attached to each package. In all we saved approximately $7 per package of toilet paper and we’re still working through our supply of it well over six months later. Sure, we spent a lot of money at once to acquire it but that’s an expense we’re not going to see again for quite awhile. These are my favorite type of savings because they are on things I would have bought anyway so it’s a win-win.

For things that one wants, such as a new TV, it’s not as exciting because it’s still money out the door that could easily have stayed in your pocket. For those such instances you need to weigh whether you can truly afford it (hint: if you’re buying it with a credit card that doesn’t get paid off in full at the end of each month then you shouldn’t get it), how long it will last, and how much enjoyment you’ll get out of it. Certain items can be considered an investment, such as a new suit to wear on interviews and/or special events, whereas others are pure enjoyment – that new smart TV you’ve been drooling over. There’s nothing wrong with buying stuff you want (and really don’t need) as long as you’re realistic and smart about it; just do your research! Amazon.com is fantastic for reviews even if you decide to buy it elsewhere. Camelcamelcamel.com tracks items sold at Amazon, Best Buy and NewEgg and provides a price history as well as allow you to set a price threshold and get notified by email when it has been reached. You can read more about CamelCamelCamel here.

I also highly recommend the wait and see approach. Many times when someone wants something they want it right away and thus end up spending more money than if they had been patient for awhile and waited for it to go down in price via a sale or temporary price cut. The added bonus here is that the anticipation sweetens the feeling when the item is eventually acquired.

In addition, try practicing feeling grateful for the things you already own. Just because you don’t have the latest, greatest device doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Too often people take their possessions for granted which results in them constantly wanting to acquire new ones to get that happy feeling again. But that initial feeling is fleeting, so if you train yourself to appreciate the things you have you’ll find yourself enjoying them more and spending less money at the same time. Before you know it you’ll have accumulated extra money in your savings account which gives you a peace of mind that trumps that high you get when you buy something new.

Try it, and feel free to share your strategies in the comments.

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