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Mouthy Money’s regular contributor, Shoestring Jane, offers you her guide to how to save energy and money while you cook.
With energy prices being so high, I have certainly been keeping a close eye on our smart meter.
There is no doubt that it shoots up if we have been using the oven. So, how can you save money and energy as you cook?
What alternatives are there to using your oven?
In fact, there are multiple ways to save money and energy as you cook. Some will require an initial investment, whilst others are very low cost or use kitchen items you already own. Here are some ideas.
If you have an electric oven, you may already have considered using a standard slow cooker instead wherever you can.
I have had my slow cooker for a number of years, and it makes great stews and casseroles in particular. In fact, you can cook all kinds of things in your slow cooker, from porridge to baked chicken to jam!
Slow cookers are very energy efficient. They can be left to cook all day, but will only use the energy of a standard lightbulb.
However, even cheaper than a plug in slow cooker is a ‘hay box’, a highly insulated container in which you place a cooking pot with its boiling contents. By insulating it, traditionally with hay – hence the name – the hot food continues to cook slowly.
This old idea has been updated by a South African company making the Wonderbag. I have one of these and it’s very effective. Although at around £63, it is an investment.
If you can’t afford this, it is possible to make your own Wonderbag. I have heard of people using old sleeping bags and duvets to very similar effect.
Apart from slow cooking, though, anything you can do to speed up the cooking process will make it cheaper.
Foods cook up to 70% faster in a pressure cooker, saving both time and energy. They also require less liquid and retain more nutrients.
I remember my mum using one in the 1970s. It was absolutely terrifying and we were always ready for it to explode at any moment. However, the design of pressure cookers has improved since then.
Some, like the Instant Pot, do multiple jobs, working as a slow cooker, steamer and saute pan, as well as pressure cooking.
Instant Pots start at around £90, with cheaper pressure cookers available from £50.
Air fryers have taken off in recent years. People are attracted to the idea of cooking healthy, crispy food with minimal fat.
However, a major benefit of air fryers is that they get hot very quickly and circulate the hot air. This allows food to cook evenly and get brown and crispy, whilst also reducing the cooking time required in a standard oven.
Since investing in my air fryer, I only use the oven when I have several dishes to cook at once or when I am feeding a crowd.
It can be used to cook meat and fish, makes fabulous chips and roast potatoes and is great for warming things up without them going soggy. You can even cook an omelette in the airfryer.
Most of us have microwaves in our kitchens. If you are anything like me, you use them for warming things up or cooking the odd ready meal.
However, now could be the time for microwaves to come into their own. They are quicker and use significantly less energy than an electric oven.
I admit that you won’t get crispy roast chicken from your microwave, but, according to these recipes from BBC Good Food, you can whip up a vegetarian chilli, a chocolate mug cake or a quick curry.
If you have a set of stacking steamer saucepans, make sure you use them. Put your potatoes in the bottom and your veg on top so that you only use a single gas or electricity ring. If we have a fish dinner, the whole thing can be done in the steamer. We get the potatoes going first, then add vegetables to the middle layer and the fish on top.
Halogen ovens have been recommended by many members of my Facebook group as another energy efficient cooking device worth consideration.
According to this article, “Halogen ovens will consume 75% less electricity in comparison to conventional ovens. Since the lamps halogens oven use are more efficient, they will also cook faster, reducing the working time, thus energy consumption, even more.”
You can cook pretty much anything you would in a traditional oven, making halogen cookers a worthwhile investment. They start at around £45, so won’t break the bank either.
What else can you do to save money and energy as you cook?
There are other small and simple actions you can take to save money and energy as you cook. Putting lids on pans to bring them to the boil more rapidly is another trick.
Cutting your ingredients smaller means they will cook more quickly.
Defrost food before cooking to reduce the time required.
If you enjoy a baked potato, you can start it off in the microwave for ten minutes, before finishing it off in your air fryer or oven to get a crispy skin.
Only boil as much water as you need in your kettle. If you are making one or two cups of tea, measure the water out. If you do accidentally boil more, transfer the remnants to a flask to use later for drinks, cooking vegetables or washing up.
When you do need to use your oven, cook multiple items at once to make the most of the energy you are using. For example if you are making a cake, bake two or three and freeze some.
With energy prices still on the increase, it makes sense to save money and energy as you cook, and a bonus is that using less energy is good for the planet.
Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.