You've seen the little tubs of spreadable butter in the dairy case of your supermarket. In fact, you may purchase them because they're just so convenient. And if you watch your prices, you know the typical "spreadable" could almost be considered a luxury item.
Most spreadables are part real butter, part canola oil. Others have olive oil or some kind of an oil blend. What all of these spreadables have in common is that they remain perfectly soft, even while refrigerated.
Today, I want to tell you how you can make your own spreadable butter for half the price.
One 8-ounce tub is the equivalent of two sticks of butter. Spreadable butter runs from about 30 cents for store brands to 50 cents for name brands — per ounce. Curiously, butter costs just about the same per ounce (30 cents to 50 cents), unless you buy it in bulk at Sam's Club or Costco, while canola oil comes in as low as 5 cents an ounce.
The ratio of butter to oil in a good spreadable is 2 parts butter to 1 part oil. That can bring the price down to around 25 cents an ounce. Since I don't pay full price for groceries (I wait for things to go on sale whenever possible), I make spreadable butter for around 15 cents an ounce. Your mileage may vary.
Making your own spreadable butter is so easy that it's nearly embarrassing:
Place two sticks (1 cup) of room temperature butter into the bowl of your stand mixer (or any bowl if you use a hand mixer). Using the whip attachment, whip the butter until it is smooth, about one minute. Add 1/2 cup of your oil of choice (I prefer canola oil because it has a very light flavor and smooth texture). Whip on medium-high for another minute. That's it. You're done.
Store your spreadable butter in the refrigerator in a clean container with a lid. Finally, a good use for all of those spreadable butter tubs you've been hoarding!
If you buy both ingredients when they are on sale, you really can make your own spreadable butter for about half the price of the commercial brands. And as a bonus, you know exactly what's in it.
On a similar note, here's a letter from a reader inquiring about another route to soft butter.
DEAR MARY: Several years ago, I visited a friend and was introduced to an item that allows you to keep unrefrigerated butter soft and fresh until consumed.
The butter somehow stayed in a top container that was then suspended over a container of water. I don't know the name of this thing nor where to buy one. I want to get one as a gift, but I have never seen one since my visit. Can you tell me what it is? — Lyn
DEAR LYN: You are describing the Original Butter Bell Crock by L. Tremain. I have one, and you are right to recall it as being quite ingenious.
Modeled after the original French butter crock, a Butter Bell keeps butter fresh and spreadable for up to 30 days without refrigeration — no odors or spoilage. Here's how it works: You pack softened butter into the lid. Fill the base with cold water, and place the lid upside down into the base. The unique design keeps butter soft and fresh, using water as an insulator. The key is that you must change the water often — every day or two at the most.
Other manufacturers have produced their own knockoff versions of the Butter Bell based on the same principal, some of which are cheaper and, I should add, to mixed reviews.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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