Friday, 20 April 2012

Frugal Friday (20th April )

In yesterday's post, I wrote about the home made salad dressing that we all enjoy (and which indeed we were pleased to have with our salad for today's tea). That dressing, as are many others, uses apple cider vinegar to give it a pleasant tang and to bind the other ingredients together. Apple cider vinegar is created from the liquid of crushed apples which is fermented and then has acidic bacterias added to it which remove the alcohol formed by the fermentation process and convert it to vinegar (apple cider, which is alcoholic, is also made this way. We don't drink alcohol, so when a recipe I use calls for cider, I will use either apple cider vinegar, or apple juice, as a substitute).

Apple cider vinegar can be used for a number of other purposes around your home as well as to create tasty salad dressings and as a useful condiment in other recipes. Many of its other uses are as cheap alternatives to more expensive options and so I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some of these for today's Frugal Friday post.

Please note - we are neither vets nor medical experts. If you decide that you would like to use apple cider vinegar to benefit the health of either your pets or yourself and your family, please do as we did, and check with your relevant medical professionals beforehand. There are some conditions, such as diabetes, in which the regular addition of apple cider to the diet might be harmful.

One of the main uses that I have found for apple cider vinegar in our home is as an antibacterial additive to our birds' drinking water. Just a tiny drop (barely a milileter) is enough. Research shows that apple cider vinegar has a protective effect on the health of aviary birds, and can assist with their digestion. We have found this to be proven when we started introducing it to our birds' drinking water after one of them developed polyuria which our vet could find no cause for. The polyuria cleared up after about a week on apple cider vinegar, and it has never returned. We continue to use it on a weekly basis now for our birds, and they all enjoy good health and vitality, which I like to think may be contributed to by the addition of the apple cider vinegar to their drinking water.

I also like to use it as a general cleaning agent in the birdcage and surrounding area. As well as being antibacterial, apple cider vinegar is also an effective anti-fungal agent, which is an important consideration when cleaning the area where you keep your birds, as the mould spores of aspillergum can be fatal to pet birds. In additition, because apple cider vinegar produces less fumes and is generally less toxic than commercial aviary cleaning agents, it is far less damaging to the delicate respiratory system of birds, which is an additional benefit.

Of course, it isn't only our feathered friends that benefit from the use of apple cider vinegar as a cleaning agent! As a general household cleaner it has the advantage not only of being environmentally friendly, but also very effective - and cheap too! If you have a blocked sink, pouring a cupful of apple cider vinegar (or any other - I normally use white vinegar for this purpose, as it's much cheaper) and half a cup of soda crystals down the drain will unblock it without introducing lots of potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. It's a great all-purpose cleaner, and a drop added to the water that you use to clean windows with will give them extra sparkle.

I also like to use it to clean my crystal flower vases for the same reason, as it is gentle but effective, and it's great as a final rinse for the glass doors on our cooker - it really degreases them and makes them shine.

If you like to use home made washing powder or detergent, it's worth knowing that you can use apple cider vinegar (or once again, white vinegar) as a frugal and environmentally friendly fabric conditioner. I use one capful with a few drops of essential oil, and really and truely you cannot smell the vinegar when the laundry comes out the machine - in fact instead, it has a lovely fresh scent as if it has been dried outside. I don't find that it is quite as effective at scenting our clothes as regular fabric conditioner but it does seem to get them just as soft - and keeps the static away just as effectively. It is much cheaper, so if you are trying to make savings with your laundry I would certainly advise having a go at this - though personally I have never found home made washing powder to be as cost-saving as the home made conditioner is (the cheapest store bought washing powder works out at less, per cup, for us than the home made variety).

There are various health claims made for apple cider vinegar which you will find very easily on the internet just by entering it into your search engine. Some of these claims are likely unsubstantiated by any solid medical research but I know several people who believe that drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar daily has helped their ailments - in particular, digestive problems, and arthritis. I have not found this to be so for me (I have arthritis in my right hip) but that is not to say that it won't work for everyone. If you do decide to give it a try I would strongly recommend that you use a straw to drink it with as it is extremely acidic and regular drinking of it could cause damage to the enamel of your teeth. It will also probably be less easy to taste - good luck!

I do know, from childhood experience, that apple cider vinegar added to the water used to rinse your hair after you have washed it, will bring a beautiful shine to it. Rinse afterwards with lots of plain water - unless you don't mind smelling like a fish and chip shop!

And of course that brings me to the very best purpose of all for apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is the perfect condiment for a bag of hot, salty chips (fries - though English chip shop chips - especially ones in the North East of England, where we are from, and where fresh fish is caught locally every day - are absolutely nothing like fries from anywhere else. They are big, thick, not at all greasy, crisp on the outside and fluffy within, and very moreish indeed. For perfect authenticity, of course, it should be malt vinegar - but any vinegar will do - and they should be eaten outside, ideally on a pier overlooking the sea)! Mmmmm! Even if you don't want to try any of the suggestions I've given above, do try a dash of vinegar on your chips if you haven't before!