The holiday season has arrived and, for many of us, it means spending more time with family and friends. Naturally, no gathering would be complete without enjoying our favorite holiday foods! It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Census Bureau reports that December is the biggest month for grocery sales. Unfortunately, holiday food and gifts can be rough on the household budget. Home energy bills can also sting you in the pocketbook as the heating season cranks up. Whether you are preparing a feast for extended family or a romantic dinner for two, you can lower your energy bill with these simple cooking tips.
- Before turning on the oven, consider using a microwave. Some casseroles and vegetable dishes are well-suited for microwaving. Microwaves use much less energy than ovens.
- A convection oven is the way to go. By continuously circulating air in the oven, you can bake at lower temperatures and for shorter cooking times. Convention ovens use about 20% less energy than a standard oven. If you do not have a convection oven, consider upgrading when it comes time to replace your current one.
- Be sure to kick off your holiday baking with a clean oven. A clean oven is an energy-efficient oven. If you have a self-cleaning oven, start the self-cleaning process right after using the oven. This uses far less energy than starting with a cold oven.
- Avoid preheating the oven unless absolutely necessary. Foods with longer cooking times do not usually benefit from preheating. An empty oven is wasting energy.
- Keep the oven door closed while cooking. Opening the oven door reduces the temperature by around 25°. Use the light and make sure your oven door glass is clean so you can check on your food without having to open the door.
- Defrost food in the fridge rather than oven. This reduces cooking time and saves energy. Cover the any food you are defrosting in the fridge to reduce the amount of condensation it creates.
- Use glass or ceramic dishes for baking. They retain heat better than other materials and this allows you to cook at lower temperatures.
- Fill the oven with multiple items to make the best use of your energy dollar.
- Turn off the oven 10 to 15 minutes before the end of the baking time. This makes best use of the heat retained in the oven. Cooking at full temperature the whole time is like driving the speed limit until the exact moment you reach a stop sign! Just coast your oven like you coast your car!
Saving Energy on the Cooktop
- Copper-bottomed pots and pans are the best for cooking. They are extremely efficient when it comes to heat transfer and heat up quickly.
- If you have a glass cooktop, you want cookware with flat bottoms. The goal is to maximize the surface area in contact with the heating element. Warped pots and pans or those with grooves and channels reduce the heating area and require more energy for cooking.
- Select the right size burner to save energy costs. Using a burner larger than the base of your pot or pan is a problem as heat from the unused part of the burner is wasted.
- When using a gas or electric coil cooktop with reflective pans, keep them clean and shiny. They are designed to reflect heat back up to your cooking utensil and save you money!
- Use the lowest possible temperature setting on your cooktop. It is usually good to use a higher setting when you start cooking and then lower it once you get things going.
- Use lids – use lids – use lids! Lids greatly reduce cooking times. Consider cookware with glass lids if it is important for you to check in on how things are progressing. Also, lids are just as important for pans as they are for pots. Not all dishes are lid-friendly but consider using them when you can.
By following these simple tips, you can lower your home energy costs. You can even use the savings to pay for that gym membership in January!