Homemade Applesauce Recipe – The Frugal Way!
If you follow our instagram, you may have realized that we LOVE to cook. We almost never go out to eat, and certainly don’t go out in our own city just the two of us. We reserve restaurant food for travel and socializing with friends and family. But in addition to not going out to eat, we also don’t buy very many processed foods (tortilla chips we will always buy you!) from the grocery store. It helps us keep our grocery bill low and gives us an activity to do together. And come mid-August sauce making commences. The tomatoes are ripe and plentiful, and two weekends ago our crabapple tree was ready to be picked! So here’s all the details so you too can make frugal homemade applesauce.
Year One of Frugal Homemade Applesauce
Free apples aren’t always the best for snacking on, so Mr. Kiwi hunkered down and began to make our first batch of frugal homemade applesauce. The first year we were limited to the tools found in your typical collegiate kitchen. he peeled the skin off of each apple with a potato peeler and sliced out the core with a tiny dull knife. My house had electricity included in the rent, so cooking the apples down was free!
Year Two of Frugal Homemade Applesauce
There was clearly some room for efficiency improvements from the year one method, so in year two we had moved (oh, no the free apple trees!), and we invested in an apple, peeler, slicer, corer* from a yard sale.
We have been making homemade applesauce since our time at Michigan Tech. As poor college students we (ahem, Mr. Kiwi) were the intrepid explorers on bicycle. Riding around your city on bike or walking the streets helps you to notice things that fade into the background when driving or riding in a car. One day he was riding and discovered an unattended apple tree. I believe it was part of the extensive hiking trails owned by the university, and it had been dropping fruit just to rot on the ground. Mr. Kiwi, being the frugal food lover he is (I swear he’s going to try eating freegan one of these months), proceeded to ride home to drop his stuff off and venture out with a backpack and grocery bags to fill with free apples! Once you notice one neglected apple tree many more pop into your vision. We harvested from six apple trees that fall! We didn’t have any special tools or ladder so we were limited to picking from the low branches.
Not to disappoint, we found an abundant supply of free apple trees to harvest from in our new (and current) city. The trees were all over campus and in the student rental area. To avoid being seen by the masses, thus revealing our crazy frugality (and to keep the apple trees a secret!) we harvested the apple trees under the cover of darkness.
The Era of Not As Frugal Applesauce
After starting our real “adult” jobs, lifestyle creep started to set in, and we moved out of the city center, so we had to drive to get anywhere we wanted to go. Time also felt more scarce since we were no longer students and were working 40+ hour/week jobs. This brought the first trip to the apple orchard. For $14 per half bushel (the size of a reusable grocery bag) you can pick your own apples at an orchard 35 minutes from our house.
The perk of picking your own apples at the orchard is we now had access to SO MANY VARIETIES! One year we made only honey crisp applesauce. Let me tell you that they are better to eat fresh than as sauce. And an added frugal perk is that you can eat as many apples as you want while picking (that’s about 10 for Mr. Kiwi and 4 for me). Fall is apple overload in our household.
While this isn’t the most expensive way to get applesauce it certainly demonstrates our moderate lifestyle creep. We would pick 2 bushels of apples for $56 to get eating and saucing apples. Not exactly free anymore, and I bet we wouldn’t spend $56 on applesauce throughout the year…
The Current Frugal Homemade Applesauce Route
While we had been going to the orchard to get our applesauce apples, we were neglecting the crabapple tree in our very own backyard! These apples aren’t so good to eat fresh off the tree, but once they are cooked into a sauce they are quite tasty.
We bought our house in 2014, and our frugal fail is it took us until fall 2016 to start using the trees grown 100′ from our patio. Now Mr. Kiwi heads to the backyard with our trusty little giant ladder and picks as many apples as he can reach.
Then the fun begins. We have upgraded again to a foley-food-mill (one of the best wedding presents we received). This means we can just halve or quarter the apples, put them in our giant pot, add an inch or so of water, and then deal with the stem and seeds at the end. We cook the apple water mixture for 2 hours, then process with the food mill. into another pot. From there we freeze the sauce in quart size jars or ziplock bags and freeze. After they are frozen solid in our normal freezer they get transferred to the basement chest freezer and are busted out and enjoyed throughout the year. We have found them to be great work potluck contributions since most people love homemade applesauce.
Cinnamon is the one addition to the frugal homemade applesauce, other than the little bit of water added to the pot to help the apples start to soften. We add it to about half the batches, and then ad more to our bowls as desired when we eat it!
Now that we have our system down, it’s an exciting reminder that our favorite season (fall) is about to be in full swing. We still head to the apple orchard every year with our friends, but pick a more modest amount of apples to eat fresh.
Our homemade frugal applesauce is a nice reminder of the lifestyle deflation we have incorporated into our FIRE journey. Even though we never got too spendy, we had plenty of room for improvement. It’s one of our favorite pack traditions!
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