If you cook at all, you likely have your go-to recipes and set routines, but have you ever stopped to consider that how you cook can save you energy? I know you’re thinking, “After the day I’ve had, I’m lucky I have food in the house, much less time and patience to stop and think about the way I cook.”  You are running late….again. Your deadline kept you late at the office. The kids have practice. You still haven’t picked up that prescription at the pharmacy yet….or the dry cleaning.  Ugh! Your spouse asks, “What’s for dinner?” and you have to bite your tongue. The only plan you have for dinner is to decide between carryout options. Ok, so…maybe not today, but soon, consider some of the energy-saving strategies below.  With a little planning, and some very simple choices, you can trim your energy bill just by thinking about how you cook.

Meal Planning Saves You Energy, Time, and Money

If you can carve out a few minutes during the week (maybe on the weekend), use it to plan your meals for the week. Meal planning can help you save on your utility bills, and save you time and money on your food budget.

Plan for leftovers

As part of that plan, make sure you include the use of leftovers.  You scoff, “My family hates leftovers!” Leftovers don’t have to mean repeating the exact meal two days in a row.  Planning for leftovers could mean cooking enough roasted chicken one night for a meat and potatoes meal, to be followed by chicken tacos the next, and maybe the remainder of the chicken stored in the freezer for a future meal.  By cooking a large enough quantity for several meals, you are not only saving yourself cooking time later, but you’ll save energy by not cooking separate, smaller quantities. Plus, planning for leftovers is likely to trim your food budget as well.

Include a no-cook night in your weekly plan

With a leftover main dish available, why not opt for a raw side dish.  Raw vegetables cut and paired with tasty dips can be a fun change from cooked vegetables. Or use some of that leftover roasted chicken to top a fresh entrée salad.  Or maybe try a hearty antipasto platter with some crunchy bread. By preparing no-cook meals, you’ll alleviate the need to expend household energy cooking. In addition, in warmer weather, by not firing up your range you won’t heat up your kitchen and force your air conditioning to work harder.

Schedule your baking/roasting

Find a day per week that you can use to consolidate your baking and roasting.  Let’s say you plan to prepare roasted vegetables on Sunday, you want to pre-cook chicken to shred and freeze for Thursday’s meal, and you’ve promised your daughter some cookies to take to her class.  While the oven is already heated, plan to cook them together if at the same temperature, or each in succession to save the energy you would have otherwise used to heat the oven multiple times.

Include one-pot meals in your plan

Rather than using the energy to heat an oven and multiple stovetops burners, for instance, why not plan a crockpot meal or a one-pot stovetop meal?  Also, consider using no-cook pasta that can cook in the sauce, rather than boiling separately.

Save Money by Picking the Right Appliance

Depending on what you’re cooking, you want to select the appliance that best cooks the food and uses the least energy. There are several appliances that can be used depending on what you are preparing.

Is a microwave best?  

If you are cooking a small portion or defrosting, a microwave is the best choice.  ENERGY STAR® states that microwaves use 30-80%  less energy than cooking with a full-size oven.

Crockpot cooking?

If you have an electric stove, a crockpot is a more energy and cost-efficient way to slow roast food.  Plus, set-and-forget convenience saves you time out of your day as well.

Toaster oven?  

If you are only cooking a small meal, a toaster oven is considerably cheaper than heating a conventional oven.  ENERGY STAR® reports that  toaster ovens only use approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the energy of a conventional electric oven.

Pick the Right Cookware to Save Money

Does your pot fit your burner?  

Make sure you use a pot or pan that is approximately the size of your burner.  If you place a small pot on a large burner, you’ll be wasting energy to heat the space around the pot rather than the food.  If you use a large pan on a smaller burner, it will take longer and unevenly heat your food. Avoid wasting energy by picking the pot and burner carefully.

Use glass or ceramic bakeware.  

By using glass or ceramic pans in the oven (rather than metal), you can decrease your oven temperature by 25 degrees for comparable cooking.

Put a lid on it.  

Use lids while you cook on the stove top to retain the generated heat, so heat doesn’t unnecessarily escape and waste energy.  

Other Easy Energy Saving Tricks in the Kitchen

Don’t pre-heat your oven.  

Unless you are baking, stop pre-heating the oven. Pre-heating isn’t necessary for a good final product and uses more energy than needed.

Keep the oven door closed.  

Your oven temperature will decrease 25° every time you open the door.  Instead, use the oven light and timer to track your food’s progress.

With a little planning and being mindful of how you cook, you can save energy, money and time. Looking for additional ways to save money? Be sure to visit Plymouth Rock Energy for more information on how to save on your monthly utility bills.