One day I was cooking with my then 13-year-old daughter and I was directing her with the preheating of the oven, the order of dishes going into the oven and other cooking “rules” that I have picked up and use consistently. She has always been one to ask questions, and this started an entire conversation on why I do things in the kitchen a certain way.
Mostly the reasoning I gave focused on three things: Energy Savings, Time Savings, and Wasting Less Resources.
Energy Savings: This is basically a result in money savings. Whether you have electric or gas appliances, there are ways to save on the energy use, and therefore the cost, of each appliance.
Time Savings: Even if you enjoy cooking like me, there’s only so much time you can devote to being in the kitchen preparing meals. Finding ways to shave off minutes will still give you good food for your family but also give you some time for other enjoyments.
Wasting Less Resources: I addressed the resources of energy (money) and time above, but I also like to try to waste less of pretty much everything: Less food waste, less purchasing required of supplies, and less throwing stuff into the garbage.
My brain always thinks of ways to make things more frugal, more efficient and less wasteful, and these are the tips I use in the kitchen on a daily basis to do just that!
1. In the cool months, open the oven door a bit (in a safe manner) after it has been shut off. This allows the leftover heat to escape into the room and give a boost of warmth during chilly weather. (And during the hot months, leave the door closed so it doesn’t heat up the room even more!)
2. Turn off the oven and stove top burners a few minutes early. This can be done for many dishes that won’t affect the final turnout. Foodslike casseroles or skillet meals probably won’t be affected by turning off the heat source and letting the residual heat finish the cooking.
However, delicate recipes and pastry recipes, such as cakes or breads, might not turn out just right so consider testing on these types of recipes when you’re not having a special meal with them!
3. Use the whole oven. I have started making double batches of whatever I’m making so I can fill the oven. This gives me a meal for another night and can be popped into the fridge or freezer or even given away to someone who needs some help.
If I’m planning a supper that uses the oven, I will plan side dishes that also can be cooked in the oven. For example, when I’m roasting a chicken, I will often bake potatoes and do a vegetable casserole at the same time. Again, using up all of the space in the heated oven gives you more cooked food for the same energy use.
4. When baking items that require different temperatures, first bake the one with the lower temperature and when it’s finished, raise the oven temperature and bake the next item. The oven is already warmed up for the second round.
You can also try finding an in-between temperature and cooking both dishes at the same time. This works best for less finicky dishes, like breads and cakes or other pastry type foods that require a precise temperature.
5. Try to use the oven or stove top only a few days each week. Make extra food on these days and use smaller appliances as needed when reheating foods the rest of the week. The oven and stove top likely use more energy than these smaller appliances.
6. Use the most energy efficient appliance when cooking. Ovens generally use the most energy, followed by the stove top. Smaller appliances like microwaves, slow cookers, and electric skillets use less energy. Using these smaller appliances also helps keep the kitchen cooler during the warm months.
7 Let foods thaw in the refrigerator. While the microwave can be used to defrost foods, letting foods thaw out naturally in the fridge saves energy. (And I think the food tastes better!) Using thawed foods also allows for shorter cooking times than cooking food that is still frozen.
8. Cover foods in the oven. Using aluminum foil is the usual go-to, but I came across a tip of using a cookie sheet as a cover in the oven. This has saved me so much money by not buying aluminum foil! This is a fabulous use for older cookie sheets that have become discolored or that have warped a bit. Not to mention covering dishes helps keep splatters from the oven walls so it’s easier to clean.
9. Reheat foods efficiently. Use the most energy efficient appliance for the type of food you’re reheating. Some foods do well in the microwave while others are a better texture after reheating in a toaster oven. Other foods do well just sitting out and coming to room temperature before eating or heating up.
10. Clean those appliances regularly. Make it a point, put it on your schedule or cleaning lists, to clean every kitchen appliance, both big and small, on a regular basis. Cleaning ovens, stove top and small appliances, such as microwaves and toasters, will not only help the appliances be more efficient when using but it can help extend the life of the appliances.
What tips do you have to reduce energy costs or increase time savings when cooking?