How to cook, when energy prices are going mad? Small steps to save up on energy.

Summer, however unusually generous this year, must end at some point, hopefully somewhere towards the end of September (if we’re lucky enough). To my surprise, Autumn is usually so awaited by the British. Celebrated with colourful lights, pumpkin decorations and warm jumpers. They seem to love long dark Autumn evenings, making themselves cosy in front of their tellys, surrounded by moody lights with a cup of tea or hot chocolate. I’m not sure though, how many of us will be looking forward to this year’s Autumn and Winter. The world we live in seems to become more and more complicated with every year, surprising us with yet another revelation. Everything is more and more reminiscent of Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch, rather than normal life. And this year’s hot and sunny British Summer that we’ve enjoyed so much, ends with yet another (because in UK we’ve already had at least one energy price rise) price cap on default energy tariffs.

The current price cap is set at £1,971 until 30 September. The average bill was around £1,100 in the last few years, but bills have been rapidly going up. I won’t be deliberating here about the reasons for that but the fact is, that the British energy price cap is forecast to rise to £3,553 in October 2022, £5,387 in January 2023 and £6,616 in April 2023. Even now, the current price level is making life incredibly difficult for the lowest income households.

I’ve already heard from people that cooking from scratch soon will be too expensive, and it’s going to be cheaper to buy ready made supermarket sh**t, pardon – meals. What can I say? – I’m not the biggest advocate of living on processed microwaveable supermarket meals. You can survive for a moment feeding yourself like that, but in my opinion it is not the way families should be living on in XXI century. In any case if you want to live healthy and in good mental and physical condition.

How not to get carried away by panic and madness then?

How to plan wisely your eating habits, if you still want to eat healthy homemade food? How to prioritize energy spending? What to do, to save up as much as you can without feeling of humiliation when paying your monthly bill?

In this post I will try to give you as many tips as I know to help you reduce the cost of energy in your kitchen, without having to forgo homemade healthy meals. This basically comes down to the food you’re cooking and the way you’re cooking it.

A few simple cooking tips help save a small amount of energy here and there, but they all add up in the end. And more importantly you will have some sense of control, a feeling that you can still do something in this situation. Being more mindful of your cooking processes can reduce the amount of energy you use and cut your energy bills in the process.

First and foremost it’s a matter of priorities. And it might be different for you, for me and for each and everyone. Unless you’re a millionaire and energy prices don’t bother you at all. So each of us should decide what’s more important and where do you want to spend your money. Everyone has their own essentials. For me eating homemade, fresh meals is more important then watching tv, buying a new smartphone or spending money on my nails, false lashes etc. So my plan is to keep buying the best food I can afford and implement this tips in my daily cooking, to reduce my energy bills as much as I possibly can.

Please if you have any other ideas, how to reduce energy bills, feel free to share them in the comments and help others. For example I’ve never had a dishwasher, so I have no idea if it’s more efficient than traditional washing with your hands and hot running water. Also I never used pressure cookers, air fryers or different than electric types of ovens.


Things you can do to reduce your energy bills:

1. Use more energy efficient cooking appliance.

The most energy efficient is the microwave, but I DO NOT consider it as a cooking appliance (I don’t even have one). For me personally it’s more of a reheating appliance that I use when I don’t have another choice. Not to dwell too much on whether the microwave is healthy or not, it is absolutely unsuitable for cooking in my opinion. It does not distribute the heat equally around the dish, the “cooking” process cannot be controlled in it, and I generally cannot imagine cooking any meal in a microwave. If, on the other hand, you have more experience in microwave cooking (cooking, not reheating) then know, that it is a device that consumes the least electricity.

What I can recommend is a slow cooker – you can easily cook a big batch of food or a large piece of meat without breaking the bank. Slow cooker electricity consumption in the UK is typically between 100W and 160W. In comparison typical 10W energy-efficient light bulb uses 10 Watts to stay on for an hour. A standard electric oven uses 2500W (although older models might use as much as 5000W). So in this comparison you would need to use your 160W slow cooker for around 15 hours and 42 minutes to match just one hour with simple electric oven. Electric ovens with a fan though, uses little bit less energy. The fan circulates heat around the oven, creating an even temperature. Also if you use a fan you can easily lower the temperature for about 20-30°C. A standard oven gets very hot at the back, so the middle area of the oven is the temperature you set. Also a fan oven might not be 2500W constantly throughout the hour, it switches on and off as the temperature fluctuates to keep the set up level. Also keep in mind that oven first needs to heat itself – all the inside walls and large amount of air before it heats up the food. Slow cooker has lot smaller surface to heat up. Obviously everything depends also on the recipe. But slow cookers are perfect for one pot meals, stews, soups and big pieces of meat.

2. Speaking about slow cookers – consider making more one pot meals. Hearty soups, stews, casseroles – you will not only make them all in one pot using less energy to cook them, but you will also save up on washing the dishes. It won’t require washing multiple pans and pots, saving lots of hot water.

3. If you decide to cook in the oven, do as much as you can in one go to take advantage of the space and the heat. For example if I make fish and chips I use the oven to bake potato wedges and fish. It’s not only more healthy than oil frying, but also requires only one way of cooking. Instead of frying the fish and frying the chips, or baking the chips and frying the fish. There’s also less washing dishes and less mess.

4. Also if you cook in the electric oven you can switch it off about 10 minutes earlier than recipe requires. Temperature will remain more or less the same for at least next 10 minutes (obviously if you won’t open the oven) and let the meal cook properly. I do it almost all the time – works perfectly with lasagne for example – about 20 minutes of baking and another 10-15 minutes after I switched off the oven.

5. Defrost frozen food in advance. Cooking frozen or half frozen food double the cooking time. Defrosting saves you hustle and energy on defrosting in a microwave or under running hot water.

6. If you’re planning to cook large piece of meat, you could consider cutting meat it in smaller pieces, so it will cook much faster.

7. Always use a pan or pot right for the size of food you are going to cook or reheat. No point of wasting energy to heat a large pot or pan with little bit of food in it.

8. Also use the right size hob for your pan or pot. Small size hobs are best for small pots and pans, bigger ones for larger pots. Small pot won’t heat up better or faster if you put it one large sized hob.

9. Use lids on your pots when cooking – water for pasta will cook much faster if you place the lid on the pot. Simple habit of keeping the lids on your pans while cooking, will allow you to set a lower temperature on your stove while cooking and help decrease the energy use.

10. How many times you put on the kettle full of water when you need to make only one tea? Boil only the amount of water that you really need. Electric kettle averages at around 3000 W. Electricity is charged in Kilowatts per hour (Kw/h), to convert watts to kilowatts just divide by 1000. So 3000 watts is the same as 3 kilowatts, this means the electric kettle uses 3 kilowatts of electricity per hour.

3 kW Kettle capacity in litresAmount of energy to boil
Full kettle (2 litres)0.225 kw/h
Half-full kettle (1 litre)0.113 kw/h
https://checkappliance.co.uk/how-much-energy-does-a-kettle-use/

Let’s look at annual usage and costs now for the same kettle of water.

3 kW Kettle capacity in litresYearly energy usage
Full kettle (2 litres)164 kw/h
Half-full kettle (1 litre)82 kw/h
1 mug (330 ml)54.66 kw/h
1 cup (250 ml)41 kw/h
https://checkappliance.co.uk/how-much-energy-does-a-kettle-use/

You can easily calculate the cost of electric energy – the annual amount of kw/h times the price per kw/h (which increases too often, so my calculations here do not help much). But you can see the point, right?

11. Lower the heat when your food starts to boil. Usually cooking requires gently boiling or simmering, not boiling like volcano eruption.

12. If you’re using an electric hob, choose flat-bottomed pans and pots, so it’s in full contact with the ring and the heat spreads through it as evenly as possible.

13. Cook in bigger batches. Portions you don’t eat straight away can be chilled or frozen, and reheated or simply eaten cold. Frozen home-cooked meals are also a great alternative to fast food since they are often healthier and less expensive.

14. Consider switching to foods that doesn’t require cooking. Maybe that’s the best time to start eating more vegetables? They not only require less cooking time, but lots of them can be eaten raw. Including the ones you usually cook. If you want to know which veggies you can eat raw, check out this post. Also this post will help you to take advantage of the bits of veg that you usually put to rubbish. Freshly made salads will not only reduce the energy you need to prepare the food, but will also provide lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber to keep you healthy and strong.

15. Let the food cool down thoroughly before transferring to the fridge, or it will have to work harder to maintain the set temperature.

16. Defrost your fridge and freezer regularly, as it has to work harder when covered in ice.

17. Use glass or ceramic pans when appropriate. They enable you to decrease your oven’s temperature by 25°C and your meal’s will still cook just as quickly.

18. Avoid opening the oven while cooking. Your oven’s temperature drops about 25°C every time you open the door while cooking.

Each of this habits saves a small cost of energy, but if you implement all of them and combine them with energy-saving habits for other rooms, you will feel a change while paying your energy bill.

And what are your tips and ideas how to deal with energy prices? Share them in the comments below, and help others that might be struggling with paying their energy bills.

Source of knowledge:

https://www.beeco.green/facts/are-slow-cookers-energy-efficient/

https://checkappliance.co.uk/how-much-energy-does-a-kettle-use/

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