Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to make a conscious effort to conserve energy when cooking and baking, and make it a habit that lasts longer than this week.
As always, I’ll help you out with some practical steps. Most of these are so easy, it only takes a little brain power to remember them when it counts.
- Cover your pots. It always kind of amazes me that people would boil water in a pot without a cover. Holding the heat in makes the water boil faster, so you can (a) get going with your dish sooner and (b) avoid paying for heat that goes into your kitchen instead of into your food.
- Don’t overdo the burner. Your pot/pan should fit your burner. If you have a little pot, don’t put the flame on high, because the fire around the outside of the pot is just a waste of energy. If you have an electric stove, make sure your burner isn’t bigger than your pot.
- Don’t overdo the heat. Once water boils, it doesn’t get any hotter. When you’re boiling your pasta, potatoes, or even your homemade yogurt, turn the burner to medium or so (as low as it will go and keep the boil) for the duration of the cooking. Your spaghetti doesn’t need to be at a rolling boil, you know!
- Maximize long cooking sessions. If you make dry beans and cook them for 4-8 hours or simmer your chicken stock for 24 hours, make sure you have a lot in the pot (at least a pound of dry beans – freeze the leftovers! – and two chickens if you can fit them). Once you start adding up the cost of the cooking fuel/electricity (especially electric!), you have to make sure you’re still being frugal by making your own.
- Bake at the right time for the season. If you have a regular baking time during the week, try to make it happen in the mornings in the winter to utilize the residual heat from the oven to heat your home. In the summer, turn the oven on in the evening so you can make use of the cool night to let your kitchen cool down and avoid fighting with your air conditioning unit quite so hard.
- Fill your oven. When you put something in the oven that doesn’t take up a lot of space, like one loaf of quick bread or a small casserole, try to think of other things that could fill the space at the same time. Maybe the bread and the casserole can go together, or you could bake potatoes while you make granola bars.
- Make a baking line-up. If you can’t quite get everything in your oven at once, you can do like I do with my granola and granola bars and bake them one after the other. I try to do this a lot with muffins and dinner. When I’m meal planning, I schedule oven meals on days when I know I’ll have time to prepare some batter for a breakfast treat like Banana Flax Muffins.
- Timesaver: Bake efficient cookies. When baking cookies, put your oven racks on the very top and very bottom. Use three cookie sheets (cover those aluminum ones with parchment paper first!) and put the first on the bottom rack for half the baking time. When the timer beeps, move number one to the top rack and put number two on the bottom. Set the timer for half the time again (i.e. if the cookies should bake for 12 minutes, each increment is 6 minutes). Take number one out (they should be done) and move number two to the top, putting number three in on the bottom. Repeat!
Added Bonus: You don’t have to put cookie dough on super hot cookie sheets, and you’ll finish your cookie baking in less time this way, too!
- Clean your oven without waste:
- Don’t put aluminum foil on the bottom of a gas oven to catch drippings. The foil blocks the heat that the oven is trying to produce.
- Try to avoid using the self-clean feature, which puts out really high heat for about two hours. Here’s my easy, safe, no-energy oven-cleaning technique.
- Don’t peek! You lose 25-30 degrees that your oven then has to make up every time you open the door. Just use the window and light to check on your baking. Also be ready to put in or take out when you open the door so it’s not open any longer than it has to be.
While it’s true that you’re not really going to save very much money or energy by conserving cooking fuel (pennies, let’s be honest), I still think it’s important to be conscious about these choices:
- Habits of wastefulness are always worse than habits of conservation
- God accepts our carefulness with His creation wherever and however we manage to accomplish it. I believe He honors the little steps we take as well as the big ones.
- Pennies are pennies, and I’d rather save them than waste them!
- Most of these steps take so little effort, it’s silly not to do them.
- Every bit of energy saved has to help the earth in some way. If we ALL conserve cooking energy, it will make a bigger impact.
To really make a difference in your gas or electric bill, however, focus on home heating/cooling, lighting and laundry. That’s where the biggest bucks are spent. In the kitchen, the dishwasher takes first place. Here are some tips for conserving energy with your dishwasher.
Gas Appliance Note: I came across some disturbing information about gas stoves (and dryers, water heaters, furnaces: they can contribute significantly to indoor air pollution, emitting carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. If you have gas appliances, please vent the kitchen while cooking and see Healthy Child, Healthy World for tips on reducing gas pollution in your home. I’m thinking I am going to cook my chicken stock for fewer hours next time, partly because of this information and because I want to see if the will “gel” better with about a 6-hour cook. (See the comments at this post for a recent conversation about stock-cooking time.)
Source: Some ideas came from this post on Saving Electricity.
Coming this week:
- Packing a Healthy Lunch, Part Two: Healthy for the Earth
- Safe, Green, Low-Cost, No-Energy Oven Cleaning Methods
- Analyzing Aluminum in Antiperspirant: Hazard or Hoax?
photo source from Flickr.com
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.