In an increasingly environmentally-conscious world where more people are caring about their consumption of all sorts of items and utilities, it’s important to share information about the best ways to be kind to the environment. Reducing the amount of energy used in homes is important because studies show that 16% of all energy is consumed in the food supply chain, whether that’s from growing, transporting, supplying, or cooking the food.
While much of that is from restaurants and large suppliers like grocery stores, there is still a lot that can be changed at the consumer level to reduce energy usage. The first happens outside of the kitchen and involves shopping at farmer’s markets where local farmers sell their produce, if possible. This cuts down on transportation costs associated with produce grown far away, often in other countries, and supports local growers in their endeavor to provide clean, ethically-sourced food. The following are tips to reduce energy use once you bring that locally-source produce into the kitchen:
- Soak ingredients ahead of time. Certain foods, like beans, lentils, oats, and nuts can be soaked overnight before cooking them in order to cut down on actual cooking time. You’ll save both time, energy, and money.
- Thaw frozen foods in advance. For foods that require several hours to thaw before being cooked, it’s best to plan ahead and put those items in the fridge the night before. This will eliminate the need for microwave defrosting, which not only worsens the flavor of food, but requires several unnecessary minutes of microwaving.
- Cook in large quantities. If you’re able, try to double or triple the quantity that your family can comfortably eat of a certain item for the next few days in order to cook larger batches in less amount of time overall. Separate the extra that you cooked and freeze that; you will thank yourself for this easy, defrost-able meal later!
- Use heat-retaining pots. Heat-retaining pots are becoming more popular, and a fan favorite is the Le Creuset line of pots. This cookware holds heat well, keeps food warm when on the table, and requires less heat when cooking.
- Cool foods fully before refrigerating. Though it’s a common practice in some households, many people put their recently cooked, and therefore still warm, food straight into a container and into the fridge. This is a bad practice because warm food warms the entire area around it, possibly heating up the fridge and causing it to work harder to keep the internal temperature low.
- Chop smaller. When you chop the vegetables and meat you’re cooking into smaller pieces, they cook faster and use less energy.
- Use a small pot on a small burner. When using a large burner, it uses a lot more energy than if you were to use a small burner. If you can, use a small pot on a small burner, but it’s not recommended that you use a large pot on a small burner because it will extend the cooking time.
- Put a lid on it. Putting a lid on the pots and pans you’re using to cook can help quicken the cooking time. With the lid on, heat is conserved and allows the food to cook faster.
- Use a slow or pressure cooker. These types of cookers use less energy, as much as half what would be expended on the stove, and slow cookers can go unattended for hours.
- Put as many things in the oven as possible. If you have to use the oven for one dish that’s on the menu, try to revolve as much of your menu as possible around using the oven. The more, the better, so you’ll get maximum use out of the heated oven and don’t waste energy by also using the stove top.
You can find more tips from the Zero-Waste Chef, Anne Marie Bonneau, who prides herself on using no packaging and no waste in the kitchen. Her blog helps other consumers lessen their food waste and, in this particular article, lessen their energy use in the kitchen.