Although home ownership brings with it a lot of benefits, there are times when the cost of maintaining those benefits can seem pretty high. Fortunately, it’s possible to control many of those costs with a little planning, organization, and research.

When it comes to choosing service providers, home improvement contractors, or even retailers of major appliances, it pays to compare prices, features, and guarantees. Whether you’re looking for a dependable swimming pool builder, a house painter, or a kitchen remodeling contractor, online customer reviews can provide valuable feedback and help steer you in the best possible direction. That, combined with a few other techniques for evaluating services and contractors, can help ensure that you make wise decisions you’ll be satisfied with for years to come.

Why Comparison Shopping Pays Off

If it seems too time consuming or inconvenient to get more than one quote for a major purchase or home improvement, here are a few compelling reasons to reconsider your position:

  • Significant price variations: Getting multiple quotes can help put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling household expenses. It’s all too easy to overpay on a product or service when you have no points of comparison. Even if you’re just saving $50, that’s hard-earned money that can be saved, invested, or spent on something else you and your family needs. It’s amazing how much of a price variation there often is between providers of similar services. When you rely on one contractor, retailer, or landscaper to deliver the most value for your money, you’re failing to look at the full range of choices. However, when you factor in other prices, customer service policies, payment terms, and features, then you’re giving yourself the information you need to make the most economical decision. In many cases, that can translate into hundreds of dollars of savings, enabling you to keep more money in your pocket or bank account.
  • Comparing features and benefits: Once you start comparing things like customer reviews, price differences, guarantees of satisfaction, and value-added features, then one contractor, service provider, or manufacturer may quickly emerge as the clear winner. When it’s an individual you’re considering, such as a handyman, house cleaner, or plumber, things like experience, references, attitude, and work ethic can also make a big difference in your level of satisfaction.
  • Knowledge is power: One of the advantages of reading online reviews, getting at least three estimates, and comparing different proposals is that you become more knowledgeable about what you’re going to be spending your hard-earned money on. This not only helps you make an informed decision, but it gives you the knowledge to communicate your expectations more clearly to the person or company who ends up getting your business.

One final benefit of comparing proposals and evaluating all the pros and cons of each offering is that you’ll never have to wonder if you overpaid for the product or service you’re getting — whether it’s home improvement, an HVAC installation, or a bi-weekly property maintenance service.

UnknownOkinawan Sweet Potatoes Compliment Summer Cookouts
Have you tasted purple sweet potatoes? Featured in area Asian markets and local neighborhood fresh markets, purple sweet potatoes, also known as Okinawan sweet potatoes, are quickly gaining in culinary popularity. Native to Central and South America, purple sweet potatoes were introduced in Asia and from there spread in popularity all around the world.
If you are lucky enough to find organically grown purple sweet potatoes: you are in for an incredible taste treat. Like other types of sweet potatoes, purple sweet potatoes can be baked, grilled, broiled, boiled, steamed or fried. Children of all ages love them mashed and seasoned to taste with butter, honey, maple syrup or brown sugar. Prepared this way, they are a fine side dish to serve with barbecued pork ribs.
A dicotyledonous plant in the family Convolulaceae, the purple sweet potato is a sweet-tasting, starchy root vegetable. All varieties of sweet potatoes grow from herbaceous, perennial vines. The sturdy vines exhibit large heart shaped leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers. There are dozens of different varieties of sweet potatoes. The smooth skinned tubers range in color from pale beige, brown, yellow, orange, red and purple. Sweet potato varieties that present pale colored flesh are not as sweet or moist as those with vibrantly colored orange, red or purple flesh.
Purple sweet potatoes obtain their brilliant coloration from anthocyanin compounds, the same heath boosting pigment that causes the purple coloration of red cabbage, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, and grapes. Over the past 40 years, Japanese sweet potato growers have developed several different varieties of purple sweet potatoes, primarily for use in the nutraceutical market and as a natural replacement for synthetic red and blue food dyes.
Exceptionally rich in natural color and nutrients, purple sweet potatoes are an excellent addition to a healthy diet, providing a good source of:
• Iron
• Calcium
• Dietary Fiber
• Complex carbohydrates
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin C
• Antioxidants from polyphenolic and anthocyanin compound
A 4 ounce serving of purple sweet potato contains only 130 calories yet offers 2 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber: nutrients and color are retained after cooking.

Savory Apple, Sweet Potato, Cranberry Compote
This sweet and spicy compote is a perfect accompaniment to grilled pork chops or barbecued ribs. The compote can be served alone, over ice cream or used as a delicious pie filling. Serve hot or cold.
Ingredients:
• 2 pounds purple sweet potatoes
• 2 pounds cored and peeled cooking apples
• 1 cup fresh washed and culled cranberries
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1-teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg
• ½ teaspoon cardamom
• 2 cups apple juice or non-alcoholic apple cider

Pre-bake sweet potatoes for 45 minutes at 325 degrees F.

Allow potatoes to cool. When cool, peel and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Combine sweet potatoes and remaining ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook at low heat until all ingredients are soft and tender, and liquid is reduced. Stir regularly while cooking to keep from burning.

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