Is Energy Efficient Cooking Possible on a Budget? | First Choice Power

Is Energy Efficient Cooking Possible on a Budget?

Welcome to Energy in Your Twenties! This series will help college students, recent college grads, and young professionals prepare for their first experiences with an electricity bill. Whether it’s figuring out how to choose an electricity provider, how to curb your roommate’s excessive electricity use, or how to make homemade dishes without cranking up your energy usage, this series will tackle the questions and obstacles people face during the first couple of years of paying their own electricity bill.

It’s common sense that cooking for yourself instead of trying out that trendy new restaurant can save you money. What might be less well-known are the ways you can also save even more money while cooking at home! You don’t have to buy all-new appliances for your budget friendly and energy efficient cooking efforts. Follow these five tips instead!

1) Create an Energy Savvy Kitchen

Is Energy Efficient Cooking Possible on a Budget? | First Choice Power
Take the time to learn how to organize your refrigerator to make it energy efficient.

You don’t need an energy efficient refrigerator to help save energy in your kitchen. Instead, ask these two questions as you become energy efficient in the kitchen:

  • Are your refrigerator and freezer filled to maximize energy efficiency?
  • Are your appliances unplugged when not in use?

Your refrigerator and freezer work more efficiently when they are organized and filed correctly. Cramming the refrigerator with too much food can inhibit air flow and cause your refrigerator to overwork and use more energy. Keeping a freezer too empty can do the same. Learn how to organize your refrigerator to help it lower your energy usage.

Remember that blender in the corner you use once a month for a morning smoothie? Unplug it. Keeping it plugged in when not in use will consume 1.5 kWh over a year, costing about $2.00. While $2.00 might not break the budget by itself, leaving all your small kitchen appliances plugged in will add up. It’s simply more energy efficient to plug in an appliance only when you need it.

2) Fall in Love with Your Slow Cooker

Is Energy Efficient Cooking Possible on a Budget? | First Choice Power
You can buy a slow cooker for as low as $20 to help you lower your energy usage when cooking.

The slow cooker just might be the energy efficient MVP of the kitchen budget. It uses less energy than traditional methods of cooking like ovens and stove tops, is easy to use, and can even save you money on your grocery bill.

A typical slow cooker uses about .7 kWh of energy over eight hours, whereas an electric oven uses about 2-2.2 kWh an hour. That translates to about to energy savings of at least 50%. So while your oven is one of the most expensive appliances in your kitchen, the slow cooker uses only slightly more energy than your average light bulb. Additionally, because it doesn’t put off heat like an oven, so you don’t have to adjust your air conditioner down to offset the heat from the oven.

Beyond being merely energy efficient, the slow cooker is an incredibly low maintenance and versatile form of cooking, as you can easily prepare recipes ranging from soups and baked potatoes to this lemon pepper buffalo chicken. Simply pick out the ingredients, prep the vegetables and proteins, and throw them into the slow cooker. When you leave for the day, turn it on and come home to a delicious meal. It’s that simple.

The slow cooker can also save you money on your grocery bills. Since it cooks food with low heat over a long period of time, it helps to retain moisture and keep meat tender, allowing you to buy cheaper cuts of meat without sacrificing on taste. So plug in this energy efficient cooking device and enjoy a tasty meal while saving on your grocery and electricity bills.

3) Your Microwave is Your Friend

Is Energy Efficient Cooking Possible on a Budget? | First Choice Power
You’d be surprised by all that you can cook in the microwave!

Using the slow cooker from Tip #2 does take some forethought. So if you aren’t the type who will remember to prepare everything eight hours before you are ready to eat, the microwave may be your energy efficient cooking appliance of choice.

Like a slow cooker, microwaves use minimal electricity, but it cooks much more quickly. A microwave on high for 15 minutes will use about .4 kWh of energy and cost about $.03. And since most microwave recipes call for less than 15 minutes of use, this  makes the microwave a budget-friendly and energy efficient appliance. And let’s not forget that your microwave can cook most anything from crispy bacon and steamed vegetables to this flaky salmon. 

4) Follow the “Goldilocks Rule”

Cooking for one? Follow the Goldilocks’s Rule to limit wasting energy when cooking your dinner. The rule basically states: “Minimize the amount of energy needed by matching the cooking area to the size of the meal.”

For example, if you’re cooking only a couple eggs for yourself, use the smallest pan and the smallest burner to limit the amount of energy needed to heat up the pan. If you’re cooking one filet of tilapia, use the toaster oven instead of using the large oven.

5) Get Creative

Is Energy Efficient Cooking Possible on a Budget? | First Choice Power
Friends are good. Spend time with them. Cook for them. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.

Learning energy efficient cooking techniques shouldn’t be limited to the type of appliance you are using. There are plenty of opportunities to get creative in the kitchen and save money and energy. An easy method would be recipes that require no heat like overnight oats, chicken or tuna salad, and mixed green salads.

We’re also big advocates for sharing meals with friends and roommates, including taking turns with the shopping and cooking. This helps to limit food waste and helps to save energy by minimizing the number of appliances in use. It also guarantees a great evening enjoying a home-cooked meal with friends.

So whether it’s using the microwave, unplugging that blender, or turning on the slow cooker, these energy efficient cooking tips can help you to cut back on your electricity usage in the kitchen and stick to your budget.

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Ginny Walters is a recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in Latin. When not in the office, she enjoys stretching her legs in a good workout, trying new recipes in the kitchen, or continuing her quest for the perfect coffee shop with the best latte.