How to save energy (and money) in the kitchen
The energy we use to cook and store our foods at home is not something we often consider when looking at the sustainability of our eating habits. Sure, the growing and transportation of our food has the biggest overall footprint, but the way we cook is something we can each have an impact on, and every bit we can do helps.
The major kitchen food-based activities involve cooling things down (in fridges and freezers) and heating things up (with kettles, ovens and hobs). Cooking typically accounts for 13.8% of the electricity used in UK homes, with freezing or cooling food requiring a further 16.8% of the electricity used on average (https:// energysavingtrust.org.uk/blog/top-five-tips- save-energy-kitchen#_ftn1) So that’s a big piece of the pie.
Here are some easy ways I try to save energy in the kitchen:
— Try to cook in one pot/pan/tray and use one heat source (hob/oven) when you cook. It’s not always possible, but it’s a good challenge
— Cooking in huge batches by food producers is much more efficient than individual cooking at home. From tinned/jarred chickpeas to pre-roasted peppers and ready-made stock, easy ready-to-use cooking solutions can actually be more energy-efficient, as long as they are packaged in recyclable packaging (tins are highly recyclable).
— Heat water in a kettle, rather than on the hob (unless you have an induction hob which boils water very quickly and efficiently). You can transfer it into a pan once it’s already boiled. I like this as it also speeds things up.
— Only use as much water as you need – boiling extra water takes more time and energy and is wasted.
— Pick the right hob and the right pan for the job – a bigger hob will take longer to heat up and a bigger pan will need more water to fill it if you are boiling. Fill your pans – a pan filled only one- fifth of the way is 80% less efficient than a full pan.
— Make sure the pan covers the hob. If there is space around the edge, wasted energy will be escaping.
— Always cover your pans – water will boil faster and you will use 8 times less energy to heat your food.
— Turn off the heat a couple of minutes before your food is fully cooked – particularly if you’ve got an electric hob, as they take some time to cool down and will continue to cook. Soups and stews work perfectly like this.
— Steamers are great for cooking several things at once on one heat source.
— If you are cooking in your oven, think about what else you could cook while it is turned on. For me it’s a tray of roast veg for the following day’s lunch. Or toasting nuts, seeds or breadcrumbs to top pasta (these will store for up to 2 weeks in a sealed container). Or even making a loaf of bread.
— Use your common sense on when to preheat your oven. Most modern ovens take 5–10 minutes to preheat, and most recipes ask you to preheat at the start of a recipe which means the oven is ready and wasting energy long before you need it. This is a new habit for me and I am really surprised how effective it is.
— Think about how you cut your food. Sounds basic but the smaller you cut it the quicker it will cook. Of course, sometimes small pieces are not what’s needed but it’s good to bear in mind.
— Don’t open the oven door repeatedly – you’ll let out hot air and waste energy. If you can, take a look through the glass door instead.
Fridge and freezers
— Never put hot food directly into the fridge or freezer. It will raise the overall temperature of your fridge and it will have to use more energy to bring the temperature down again. Allow the food to cool on the side before refrigerating it.
— Don’t hold the fridge door open for extended periods of time, as it’ll have to work harder to lower the temperature afterwards. Keep your fridge at 5 degrees Celsius or less. On average, we keep our fridges at 7 degrees Celsius, which means our food goes off sooner.
— Make sure new appliances you buy are energy-efficient – all new appliances have a rating from A+++ to G. The Energy Saving Trust has lots of info on this and can tell you where your appliance sits on the scale.
— If you are considering buying a new hob, opt for induction as they are more energy-efficient.
— Slow cookers, microwaves and pressure cookers are all super-efficient ways of cooking. I don’t own a microwave and would never do proper cooking in one but if you own one then it can be an energy-efficient way to heat up food.
— Reducing the number of pans you cook in will reduce your pile of washing up, save water, cleaning products and time.
— Using a washing-up bowl in your sink to catch water is a super easy way to avoid waste.
— Generally, an energy-efficient dishwasher will be more eco-friendly than hand- washing, though there are a number of factors which affect this. If you use a dishwasher, do not rinse with water first (unless you have something particularly stubborn) as then you are using water twice; most modern dishwashers are very efficient at cleaning.
—Most importantly, make sure you use a green-energy provider. This will mean all your electricity is coming from green sources, not fossil fuels. It’s super easy to switch and there are lots of providers. It’s much more energy-efficient, not to mention sociable, to cook for more than one person at a time. Even if it’s just me at home, I will cook for 4. Batch cooking is so much more efficient. I always double a soup or stew recipe and keep the remainder in the fridge or freezer for meals later.