Conserve some energy in your kitchen with a few simple cooking tips!
Cooking at home is a great way to make sure you know what’s in your food, to save a little money, and to reduce food-related waste. Even home kitchens can use a lot of energy, though. From simple tips and tricks to energy-saving appliances, there are lots of ways you can reduce your kitchen-related energy use.
Here are some cooking tips to help you save energy without giving up deliciousness.
1. Use that toaster
The last thing you want to do when it’s hot outside is stand over the stove or turn on the oven. Not only is cooking at the stove no fun in balmy weather, but it heats up the whole house. Rather than have your air conditioning battling the stove’s heat, you can cook with your toaster oven to save some energy and some money this summer.
You can really cook anything in the toaster oven that you can cook in the regular oven, as long as you can fit it in there. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on whatever you’re cooking, since times can vary slightly, but most oven recipes will work just fine in the toaster oven, like:
- Vegan Quesadillas – Whip up a batch of vegan queso, then pile the queso onto a tortilla with some fresh spinach, top with another tortilla, and toss it into the toaster oven instead of turning on the stove.
- Pita Pizzas – Spread some cashew basil pesto onto a piece of pita bread, and top with vegan or dairy cheese and your favorite pizza toppings. Toast until the pita gets nice and golden brown.
- Make Cookies – Mix up a batch of your favorite cookie dough, but instead of baking dozens in the oven, bake up just a few cookies at a time in the toaster oven whenever you want them.
- Roasted Veggies for One – Some fresh veggies like okra, potatoes, and onions in a small, oven safe bowl. Roast them in the toaster oven for an hour or so, stirring every 15 minutes until they’re golden brown.
- Spring Salad with Toasted Nuts and Baked Tofu – Toss together some spring greens, diced tomato, and avocado with your favorite vinaigrette. Top with nuts toasted in the toaster oven and tofu baked in the toaster oven. To bake the tofu: cube it up, toss it with a tablespoon or two of vinaigrette, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes in a small oven safe dish, stirring once.
2. Cook in Batches
It takes a while for that oven to heat up or the pan to warm, and all that time you’re losing energy. You also lose energy when you open the fridge and freezer over and over. Batch cooking to the rescue!
Instead of cooking one meal at a time, make some time on a weekend day to cook a few big batches of food all at once, then wrap up individual- or meal-sized portions to heat up when you’re ready to eat. You’ll save time and energy, and it’s much easier to resist the urge to eat out when there are tasty things in the fridge and freezer that you can just heat and eat!
3. Plan Ahead
Like I mentioned above, opening that fridge door over and over is a waste of energy. Every time you open the refrigerator or freezer, you’re letting cold air out, and it takes more electricity to return it to a good temperature for food safety.
It may seem crazy, but it’s a better idea to open the door once for a little bit longer while you pull everything out than to open and close the door over and over. This way, the cooling unit only has to crank up once to re-cool everything. Next time you’re cooking up a meal (or several meals at once!), read over your ingredients list and pull everything out that you need before you get started to reduce your energy usage.
4. Let it Cool
As you’ve probably figured out, leftovers are a great energy-saver. Eating your leftovers reduces waste and energy consumption, and having that easy meal handy makes you less likely to go out to eat.
So, you cooked up a bunch of food, and it’s all stored and ready to go into the fridge. Wait! When you put hot food into the refrigerator or freezer, it has to do double duty: keeping all of the food at a safe temperature and extra work to bring that hot food down to a safe temperature. Rather than putting up leftovers right away, let them cool to room temperature before you store them. Your energy bills will thank you!
Worried that you’ll forget that your food is waiting to go in the freezer or the fridge? I’ve wasted quite a few leftovers by forgetting that they were cooling on the counter. D’oh! My trick now is to set a kitchen timer for 30 or 45 minutes. That’s enough time for the food to cool, and when the timer goes off, it will remind you that you have leftovers cooling on the counter. Hurrah for technology!
5. Use the Sun
You don’t have to turn on the stove, oven, or even the toaster to do some types of cooking! In the warmer months, you can use the power of the sun to do a little cooking and conserve some energy at the same time.
I’ve got two favorite sun-powered cooking tips for you:
1. Make sun tea. Put a few bags of tea and plenty of water into a container with a lid. Seal it up, and put your jar out in the sun to make a batch of tea without boiling a drop of water. Steep for a few hours, or until the tea is just the right color when you shake it up. You can drink your sun tea warm fresh off of the porch or let it cool and serve it up iced with a slice of lemon. Yum!
2. Dried fruit. This only works on the hottest days – when the temperatures hit the triple digits for a few days. Mark’s Daily Apple has some great tips on how to make sun dried fruit.
Image Credit: Cooking photo via Shutterstock